To ask or not to ask – that is the question!

I stumbled on a really interesting video today. “How do you have sex?” And other things you shouldn’t say to a trans person. As per usual, before I say anything else, let me confirm that I’m 100% supportive of transgenders and have friends who have transitioned or are still in the process of. I love people for who they are and couldn’t care less what they’re defined as as long as they’re happy and confident about themselves.

With that in mind, I question this video and the article on a number of points.

Why can’t we ask these things?

Sure, I get it; when strangers ask these extremely personal questions it’s invasive and crossing some personal boundaries. But I don’t consider this trans exclusive. People ask me things about myself that are beyond what I’m comfortable discussing. Just the other day my neighbor asked me how I deal without the act of sex with my boyfriend being so far away, out of the blue. That’s private and none of his business. I’m not a trans person or even parade my sexuality around and I get this stuff thrown at me, so I fail to see why this can’t just be labeled “Things you shouldn’t ask any stranger”.

People asking you uncomfortable questions are a part of life.

Everyone will be asked questions they don’t know how to or don’t want to answer. This already happens to people who fit into the cisgendered heterosexual categories, so is it really that surprising when it happens to people who deviate from the norm? We’re still in a day and age where transsexuals and other non-binary people are fighting for equal rights and understanding. If you transition now, you will be subjected to questions because so many don’t understand. If you transition now, you have to accept that this is a part of society. It’s changing gradually, but is it realistic to expect everyone to just blindly accept it and not question anything?

Everyone is different, one person or one group does not represent the world’s population.

Gender is a personal thing with endless definitions, terms and conditions. There are trans people who have no problems with the term ‘tranny’, while other trans people find it highly offensive. There are trans people who did not get the surgeries to transition physically, and there are trans people who did. The list of variables is huge and it can be incredibly confusing on what is normal among trans people and what is not. Is it really surprising that people are curious and want to know intimate details because they’re confused about it? Why does that warrant offense?

The internet is NOT a good place to get information from in this matter.

There are places on the internet that have conflicting information. Because gender is so personal the shoes you find on the internet may not fit the person you’re speaking to in person (or, heck, even online!). Because some communities online are incredibly biased and on the extremist, sometimes hateful sides, they make poor resources to form an unbiased picture of what it’s like to be trans. If you’re a trans person, do you want someone to treat you and pretend to know things about you based on what they read online? Do you find that everything on the internet is accurate and applicable to you, personally? Chances are incredibly slim that you do not.

Someone asking you questions does not necessarily mean to insult.

What strikes me as hypocritical is that in one aspect, the community encourages “just ask politely so you don’t call someone the wrong thing and offend them”. On the other side, the community absolutely discourages asking every other question about transsexuals and transgenders. This is even more confusing for people to deal with and I’m not sure what they hope to accomplish here. Many who ask these questions may be doing it at an inappropriate moment (as strangers, wrong place, wrong time etc.) but I don’t understand how you can be angry with people who are trying to learn so they can accept you. “You can ask, but don’t be surprised if you get nasty glares or snide remarks in return!” How does this encourage acceptance? I’m really confused about this attitude. You can politely inform them you’re uncomfortable talking about this with someone you don’t know, and still offer some generic information about trans people that they can learn from without it being personal.

These things are only annoyances. Annoyances are part of life. I’m a 6’1″ cisgendered woman and it’s annoying as hell to put up with all the jokes and comments I get in regards to my height. It’s annoying when people ask why I wear heels despite being so tall for example, but that’s just how it is. It’s not harmful, it doesn’t devalue me, it’s just observation and inquiry that I got tired of after the hundredth time. I don’t feel questions such as “Which bathroom do you use?” are demeaning because there is no clear answer. Some places disallow transgenders to use the bathroom corresponding to their gender after all! And some people just don’t understand.

When it comes down to it, I think that this is something the trans community has to adjust their attitude towards. If we don’t educate ourselves online and outside of our own first hand experiences, we’re being insensitive by asking questions. When we assume things that are not in keeping with the individual we’re speaking to, we’re insensitive for making assumptions. Take your pick. We’re not superhumans. We’re just humans wanting to learn what your preferences are because the rest of the community does not speak for you!

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