Transgender questions 101

Some questions just aren't appropriate. Photo credit: Janis Williams

I came out as transgender four-and-a-half years ago. To this day, when I come out to people, they sometimes ask questions.

Very personal questions.

From comments about my appearance to questions about my body, it’s apparent when people don’t understand something they forget about boundaries.

Just because someone comes out and tells you they are trans doesn’t mean you are entitled to know every detail. But some people don’t seem to know this.

So this is a short rundown of what you shouldn’t say or ask a trans person.

Surgery

Not every trans person feels the need to have every surgery (top surgery to remove breast tissue, facial feminization surgery, bottom surgeries), or any at all.

“Have you had surgery?” is not an appropriate question.

The curiosity is understandable, it’s pretty amazing what surgery can do for the lives of trans people, but it’s a private matter and isn’t something to be questioned.

It also isn’t necessary to have surgery to be trans.

Genitals

I’ve been asked about my genitals by various people, whether it’s friends or classmates or friends of friends. Do you have a penis? How do you have sex? Do you get a period?

I don’t understand the fascination with my privates.

If we’re getting into bed together, then we can have this discussion. If we aren’t, then it really isn’t any of your business, and your interest is, frankly, kind of weird.

It’s also an invasion of privacy. People don’t just go around asking about what is in someone’s pants, and I doubt anybody has ever asked you which set of hardware you’re carrying.

Pause for a minute and think how it would make you feel to have someone ask you this question.

Uncomfortable, violated, vulnerable.

This is how a trans person might feel.

Washrooms

The washrooms trans people use are a big deal for some reason. I’ve been asked which washroom I use and I don’t understand why it’s so important. In recent years, gender free washrooms have become a topic of discussion, but that still doesn’t mean this is a question to be asked.

Trans people use the washroom for the exact same reason other people do, so why do you care which one a trans person uses? It isn’t like we’re having secret meetings in there about how we’re going to take over the world.

What’s next? Do you want to know where I get groceries? Shop for clothes? Go to the dentist? You probably don’t care. So why is it important what washroom I use? Trans people just want to use the washroom in peace, like everyone else.

Sexuality

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Definition from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cisgender Photo credit: Screenshot from Merriam Webster online

I’ve been asked by many people “so you date lesbians?”

No, lesbians are attracted to women. I am not a woman. You asking me whether or not I date lesbians is like me asking a football player if they like to play croquet?

The two aren’t at all related.

If you are a cis-gender man and you date a transgender woman, that doesn’t make you gay. If you are a cis-gender woman and you date a transgender man, that doesn’t make you a lesbian. Trans men are NOT women, and trans women are NOT men.

When you assume I, as a trans man, can only date lesbians you, in turn, are saying I’m not really a man.

Objectification

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Definition from the Canadian Oxford dictionary. Photo credit: Jasper Myers

Then there’s the issue of trans people being fetishized. Statements like “I’ve always wanted to try being with a trans person” are not cool. We are not sexual objects, we’re people. Stop making us the focus of your personal sexual fetish.

I want to end this by stating I do not speak on behalf of every trans person in the world, and each trans person is different. Some are more comfortable than others with answering certain questions. Be sure to ask each individual what they’re comfortable talking about, and be respectful.

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