What Not to Say to *This* Trans Person

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!


This entry was posted in Rants and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to What Not to Say to *This* Trans Person

  1. “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.)”

    This one made me lol. But so much truth….

  2. maddox says:

    OH one I have gotten more than once: “So are you like… a hermaphrodite?”
    … and “But you’re such a pretty girl!”

    On that note, there are certain spaces where such questions are allowed, such as a blog about being trans, or a forum where there is such discussion. Moreover, I would (personally) highly encourage interjection at such invasive questions and/or looks and point these poor lost and curious people to resources where they can satiate their curiosity. If they are indeed curious enough to care, they’re gonna look it up.

    Another thing that amazes me is how it is _such_ a faux paux to ask someone’s gender, but once it is revealed that they are a transsexual, then any decency gets thrown out the door.

    • Thanks Maddox for the post. That’s definitely an annoying question and comment you have received.

      You make a good point about where such questions are allowed. However, where they are inappropriate, the intensity of my responses have been correlated with how offensive the question was and how much I know/like the person. The question about sexual attractions might get a reply about how some trans men come from the lesbian community whereas some lived their lives as straight females (some even married with children) and how attractions can change during transition,etc. I won’t speak about myself because that’s validating an inappropriate question and I don’t want to encourage that.

      The questions about genitalia and surgeries either get the reply, “I don’t talk about my medical treatments,” or “That’s an inappropriate question.”

      As for your last comment, yeah, we become objectified, reduced to body parts. To be honest, I’m not sure that transsexuals in the media talking about their surgeries and genitals help the situation, as it might give the impression that all of us are willing to talk about these private things. People forget that, even if they think that’s the case, it should be up to us to disclose on our own and not okay for them to ask.

  3. Denise says:

    While shocked or more rather dismayed at the persistence of these questions I started wondering if there was some commonality. Would you please be so kind to tell me what percentages of these questions came from men vs women if you recall?


    • Oh, Miss Denise, good question!

      Almost all of those questions/comments came from MEN. The “crotch watch shots” also come mostly from men. Men seem to be interested in genitalia whereas women seem to be interested in who I’m attracted to, although I get the attraction question a lot from other trans people as well. Women have questioned me far more in the ladies’ room than men have in the men’s room, but that’s no surprise. The general question (#1) as to whether I will take hormones and have surgeries come from both men and women, both trans and non-trans.

  4. j says:

    I really wish everyone could have the opportunity to watch Calpurnia’s video. It’s the best one on the net. I learnt polite manners there. I had basic common sense about things not to talk about, but now that she told me the answers I dont feel the need to ask any more. I think most people ask because they need to be on the same page as you and need to feel secure about what their limits are with you. Trans is very new to most people. Either they ask, or grow up with misconceptions. The only time they will dig around for answers is if they know a transperson, like I did. otherwise they will be intellectually lazy and stick with the misconceptions. dunno whats worse. Sadly we are a very long way from getting teachers to educate in schools.

    I can imagine the women asking love life questions. Women are relationships oriented. Maybe some of them are dreaming of dating you.

    O god I’m not even editing myself. I cant. I’m sleepy. But I’m hooked on this van halen song. I am falling asleep on my key board but i cannot stop listening. I’d better go sleep. But let me listen one more time… Happy christmas.

    • Hi J. Good to hear from you. Thanks for your comments (and don’t worry about self-editing, heh)

      I think that some people don’t even realize the ramifications of what they are saying. They mean well and their intentions are good… but as the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. But I also believe that some people will not think twice about saying something to a trans person that they would never say to a non-trans person, which is what Maddox was mentioning above.

      One example – I was getting ready to transition socially and I was considering changing my first and middle names to just initials for a while and then later take new male given names. I have heard of other trans men doing this and the process appealed to me for a number of reasons. I mentioned this to a coworker and he said, “Well are you going to do this all the way or not?” – as if it was up to him to define what “all the way” meant or that I should even be expected to go “all the way” with my social transition. I asked him, “If a friend came to you and told you she was getting married and she decided she was going to hyphenate her maiden name with her husband’s last name and then later change it again to just her husband’s last name, would you ask her if she was going to do this ‘all the way’?” He admitted that he wouldn’t, and realized what he was doing: making a judgment as to what *I* should be doing that was correct in his mind (rather than letting me make my own decisions as to what I felt comfortable doing), a judgment that he would never have dreamed of applying to a non-trans person.

      So although I don’t disagree with you, that people want to learn about something they don’t know much about, i.e. transsexualism, that is absolutely no excuse for them to ask personal, invasive, rude questions. If they want their misconceptions addressed or want to increase their knowledge about trans people, they could just as easily ask me about trans people in general, rather than apply their invasive questions directly toward me. In my opinion, this isn’t about my limits as a trans person. It’s about being treated with the same dignity and respect afforded to non-trans people. There is a place between being “intellectually lazy” and disrespectful and thoughtless, and that’s being either responsible enough to do a little homework and go to the internet to get questions answered (or ask for reading material from the trans person!) AND/OR ask general questions that are not directed at the trans person. That’s my opinion anyway.

      And if women dream of dating me, they have a funny way of not showing it… 😉

      Happy Christmas to you too.

      • j says:

        Thank you for your thoughtful reply.. I think this is helpful :: ” If they want their misconceptions addressed or want to increase their knowledge about trans people, they could just as easily ask me about trans people in general, rather than apply their invasive questions directly toward me.”

        I hope that I never hurt anyone with an insensitive question. I do have a lot of curiosity about any and everything and used to ask a lot of questions and observe things aloud. Now we have the internet, so I can read all I want and get answers online.

        As for this that you say ….” And if women dream of dating me, they have a funny way of not showing it… ;)” I’m waiting to see what happens next after this remark. Pls keep me posted :-))

  5. j says:

    Not sure if this is the place to deviate a bit from the topic at hand… can you please do a blog article on ocular changes that occur due to hormones. I’m amazed at the effect hormones have on eyesight. Thanks and sorry to bring this up here. You can delete this entry of mine after you read it.

    • Good suggestion. Thanks for posting it.
      How about age-related ocular changes? Been dealing with that lately… bleh.

      • j says:

        Yes yes… add that to it… age-related ocular changes. No ones hormones remain the same level all their lives. I am now turning to younger people in the supermarket and asking them to read the labels for me. LOL. I never thought this day would come. LOL. I am hoping it is just because I have tired eyes from so much work. LOL.
        Thank you again for this blog that makes us think of different things.

  6. Becky says:

    Well, I did warn you I was coming right home to read this. (However, I did not google).
    #7 made me laugh. I think I might even make that suggestion to my husband who has that concern. Now I can offer him a cure. LOL
    And as for #11, I hadn’t thought to ask it….. but if you do, can you introduce me to his Mom??? 😉

    • Hah! You weren’t kidding!!

      Somehow I doubt that D. would take that suggestion. Balding ain’t so bad and is a hell of a lot better than the “cure” 🙂

      As for Chaz Bono (and his mother), well, I’ll keep you posted.

  7. Pingback: Bonfire | Thomas in Genderland

  8. TomCat says:

    Hello again,

    Thanks once more for an excellent post! I am new to blogging and just starting my transition and it seems that your site has articles related to many of the topics I want to cover on my blog. Just letting you know that I refer to this post in my latest: https://thomasingenderland.com/2016/05/01/bonfire/


Leave a Reply to j Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s