I’m sure that the trans people reading this know all too well that one of the things people feel that they are able to do once they find out that you are transgender is demand some kind of proof that you are in fact genuine. Sometimes it can be subtle, perhaps well meaning, but others it can be down right rude and offensive.
We’ve all seen it, even if we’ve not experienced it first hand. Any time a trans celebrity appears on an interview at some point the presenter will ask a question about the persons body. From breast enhancement to bottom surgery, it eventually comes up. I’m sure some of you are familiar with the incident last year when television host Katie Couric went too far when interviewing transgender model Carmen Carrera and the backlash the host received because of it.
It’s not just trans celebrities who have to face these kinds of questions though, every trans person goes through it. It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, if you’re trans people want to know about your bodies.
I’ve faced a lot of questions like this myself, even from friends and coworkers. I’ve been asked what effects hormones will have on me, I’ve been asked if being trans means I’m gay if I’m attracted to men, I’ve been asked if I want to keep my penis. Whilst most of the questions I get asked face to face are coming from a place of concern or genuine innocent curiosity it’s still very insulting.
It seems to me that as soon as someone discovers that you’re trans that filter in their heads that tells them certain things are inappropriate disappears. Suddenly your medical treatment needs to be discussed, your sexuality becomes suspect and your private parts become public parts.
As bad as it is in real life though nothing compares to the level of invasive questions that I face on the internet. Whether it be Facebook, Twitter or OKCupid I’ve received literally dozens of messages from people that I don’t know that feel that I need to in some way validate my gender identity. Ranging from accusations of not being trans at all to demands that I show people pictures of my breasts to prove that they’re real.
I know that every woman, trans or cis, faces sexual harassment, that people will try and find any excuse to have people reveal their bodies. I’m not saying that trans women or myself are the only people facing obstacles like this, but where some women might be asked to show their breasts off to prove how big they are they can get through a lot of life without facing that. And I doubt that they’re told they need to show their breasts in order to be recognised as real women.
I’ve never seen a cis woman get asked what her genitals are like or if she’s planning to have any plastic surgery, but I’ve had it more times then I can count. I’ve had people ask to see my genitals, I’ve had people start conversations by asking how far into transition I am (before they’ve even said hello!), and in one case a guy messaged me on OKCupid and asked me when I had my last piece of surgery.
I know that trans people are uncommon, that most people will never know an openly trans person. Yes, you’ll meet trans people and never even know it, but the number of people who are openly trans that you will meet in your lifetime is small. But just because there aren’t that many of us, that you might think to yourselves that ‘I’ll never get to meet another one’ doesn’t mean that you should think that it’s okay to bombard us with personal and invasive questions.
We’re not some exotic specimen for you to examine, we’re not some mystical creature for you to learn all you can from. We’re people. We’re people that have had to deal with so much physical and psychological stress and turmoil just to have survived as long as we have. We don’t want to be treated as less authentic. We don’t want to be seen as alien or exotic. We don’t want to be your source of education. We just want to be able to live our lives and be who we really are.