There are myriad posts and letters on the internet that were written to educate and enlighten non-trans people on how to (or how not to) speak to trans people. For example, Matt Kailey has a post on his blog Tranifesto, “Ten Things Not to Say to A Trans Person.”
I don’t want to reinvent the wheel here; however, some of the things that people have said to me recently have me wanting to inform the uninformed what not to say to a trans person when they meet one for the first time. Or even the second or third time.
But then I considered the possibility, however small, that something I might suggest not to say to trans people might be the very thing that another trans person might want to hear. (It’s not likely, but I can’t rule it out 100%.)
So with that in mind, I decided to address this from a more personal perspective and changed the title of this post from, “What Not to Say to a Trans Person,” to what you have already read above, “What Not to Say to This Trans Person.” I will frame my comments in the form of a letter…
Dear Non-Trans Person Who Doesn’t Know Me Yet,
When you meet me and find out I am trans, you might be surprised or curious about trans people and want to ask questions.
That’s perfectly alright with me and even understandable, but please keep in mind that my being a transsexual does not make me any less deserving of the respect that you would extend toward any other human being with regard to personal questions. If you wouldn’t pose a certain question to your grandmother, minister, dentist or mechanic, then you shouldn’t pose it to me either.
If you’re still not sure what I’m referring to, please allow me to provide some real-life examples of questions that people have asked me, but shouldn’t have:
1. What are you going to do? Are you going to take hormones and have surgeries? (Hormonal and surgical steps are part of a medical treatment for transsexuality and should be regarded as just as private as any other medical information that you wouldn’t ask anyone about.)
2. So, uh, what are your plans? Are you thinking of going “all the way”? You know… for the, ah, — “full monty”?
3. What exactly are you, anyway?
4. What’s your story?
5. Are you attracted to men or women? (This might seem at first like an innocuous question, but think about it — to how many people in your life would you really pose this question?)
6. It’s okay to be a masculine woman, you know.
(Okay, that’s not really a question, but it’s still annoying. Of course I know it’s okay to be a masculine woman – my hat is off to all masculine women. I just don’t happen to be a masculine woman, or any other kind of woman for that matter.)
7. Why would anyone take testosterone if they are going to go bald?
(Right. I see millions of men deciding to have their testicles removed and live as women so they can avoid the horrors of baldness.)
8. Don’t you know it’s a pain to have to shave every day?
(As though the only reason I would ever consider a medical transition is so I can have facial hair. Let’s forget about living an authentic life, as my true self, to be seen in the world as the man that I am. I can’t understand why someone would think shaving out-trumps any of that.)
9. Shouldn’t you be somewhere else? (Usually asked in a public restroom.)
10. Transgender people get married? To who?
11. Do you know Chaz Bono?
12. I’m assuming there have been some surgeries involved? (Do you sense a theme here?)
13. As a man, are you… well… “fully established”?
There are probably more I could add, but instead, while we’re at it, let’s also talk about certain behaviors that some people exhibit once they find out I’m trans. One of them is what a friend of mine, a trans guy, calls the “crotch watch.”
To those who feel that they have to shoot repeated glances at my crotch, whether you’ve just met me or have known me for some time — do you look at the ‘package’ of other people you meet or see? Honestly, what do you plan to do with that information anyway?
People who exhibit this behavior don’t even consider that they are so obvious that I (and everyone else!) can see them doing it.
And so, to anyone out there who has the urge to inspect my genitals simply because you know I am trans, grow up already and KNOCK IT OFF! Sheesh.
But hey, don’t take my word for any of this that I’ve written about here. There are other trans folks out there (including Matt Kailey, whom I mentioned above) who have expressed their frustrations over the inappropriate questions they receive.
Some can be seen in L. Weingarten’s photographic project entitled, “A Series of Questions” that provides a powerful visual statement on this subject.
Another would be Calpernia Addams, who has a video, “Questions Never to Ask a Transsexual Person” that, although amusing, is also shocking in its list of inappropriate questions that have been posed to her.
I could go on, but I think I’ve gotten my point across. If there is even one reader out there who, however well-meaning, has already asked similar questions or would consider posing questions like these to trans people and, after reading my rant, will now think twice and refrain, then this post was worthwhile.
Happy Holidays everyone!