Q: I am a straight woman, and I was set up on a date with a man. We got along well initially, but I grew concerned about how evasive he was about his past. I did some sophisticated checking online - I do research professionally - and discovered that he is a female-to-male transgender individual. I then ended our relationship. He and I live in Orthodox Jewish communities. (I believe he converted shortly after he became a man.) I think he continues to date women within our group. Should I urge our rabbi to out this person?
A: Changed religion and sex? I feel emotionally exhausted if I get a new sport coat. But although this person behaved badly by not being more forthcoming with you, he is still entitled to some privacy. You should not prompt a public announcement about his being transgender.
There are two questions here: What must close companions reveal to each other? And what may they reveal about each other to outsiders?
Getting to know someone is a gradual process. I might panic if on a first date someone began talking about what to name the nine kids she's eager for us to raise in our new home under the sea. Premature disclosure can be as unnerving as protracted concealment. But as partners cultivate romance, and particularly as they move toward erotic involvement, there are things each should reveal, things they would not mention to a casual acquaintance: any history of STDs, for example, or the existence of any current spouse. Even before a first kiss, this person should have told you those things that you would regard as germane to this phase of your evolving relationship, including his being transgender. Clearly he thought you'd find it pertinent; that's why he discreditably withheld it, lest you reject him.
As things stand, you have every right to talk this over with friends. We are entitled to discuss the most intimate aspects of our own lives - or what are friends for? But you may not distribute handbills around the neighborhood or ask your rabbi to announce this from the pulpit. Even when the clothes come off - especially when the clothes come off - we expect discretion from our partners. Few people (except perhaps the bitter foes of Tommy Lee or Paris Hilton) want sex tapes, or even vivid verbal descriptions of their sexual peccadilloes, posted online. And that goes for being transgender. We rely on our friends and even more so partners to respect our privacy, even if the relationship sours.
Free tickets put travel manager in a bind
Q: My wife oversees travel for a midsize firm. In this capacity, but on her own accord and after normal business hours, she attended a free informational forum hosted by a group of airlines. About 1,000 people attended: travel agents, meeting planners, etc. Twelve prizes were awarded in a random drawing, and she won the grand prize: two round-trip tickets to Japan. Her company has no policy about this. We would like to keep the tickets but not if her integrity will be second-guessed. May we?
A: Your wife should err on the side of caution and not take anything of value from a supplier. Accepting a gift, even when won by chance, from an airline that would like to have her company's business can create an awkward relationship and raise uncomfortable questions about her integrity.
There is a mitigating factor: This event was sponsored, and the free tickets were presented, by a group of airlines rather than by a single carrier that your wife might be tempted, even unconsciously, to favor. It is unlikely that a freebie-fueled affection for airlines in general would induce her to book flights when she would otherwise have sent people by bus or stagecoach or subterranean mole car. But given her delicate position, she'd do better to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest. At the least, she must disclose her winnings to her supervisors and get their green light before she packs her bags.
This column originally appeared in the New York Times Magazine. Send questions and comments by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.