Language is one of the most important tools that we have today, however, when it comes to the transgender movement, it is one of the most challenging aspects as well. There are times when people do not understand how the incorrect use of a single word such as ‘he’ or ‘she’ can trigger a person and ruin their whole day.
I understand that it is a bit hard for a cis person (someone who identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth) to understand the struggles of a transgender person (someone whose gender identity does not match with the gender they were assigned at birth) because of the lack of relatable experiences. I have come across many such instances when people, sometimes without even realising or intending to, ask a trans person such questions or say such things that are absolutely inappropriate and offensive. Even though asked with an innocent curiosity, such questions can be the stuff of a living nightmare for the respondent.
Although the effect of such questions might differ from one person to another, in general, it is best if you can be a bit sensitive and quench your curiosity from other sources such as Google and YouTube. So here is a list of 10 things that you should not ask a transgender man.
1. When did you decide or choose to be a transgender man?
Nobody decides or chooses to be transgender; it is who they are and how they were always. Sometimes people understand it early in their lives and sometimes it takes time for them to understand themselves. Some find the word or terminology to identify themselves at an early age while some find it at a later age. Howsoever, they identify themselves is never a choice or a decision. It is more of a discovery of oneself.
2. What is your “preferred” pronoun/ “preferred” name/ “preferred” gender?
I personally never understand the word ‘preferred’. I never ‘preferred’ any gender over another; it is who I was and who I am. My pronouns are that of my gender and they are not my ‘preference’. Similarly, my name isn’t a ‘preference’, it is simply my name. Just as sexuality isn’t a ‘preference’, gender, pronouns, and names are also not preferences. You can simply just ask a person’s name, gender, and pronouns in a respectful manner. However, in that context, you should always make sure that you have created a safe environment or the person you are asking feels safe enough to share that information with you because often there is a fear of violence in such situations. Also you can share your own name, gender, and pronouns so that the other person does not feel like an odd one out.
Although the effect of such questions might differ from one person to another, in general, it is best if you can be a bit sensitive and quench your curiosity from other sources such as Google and YouTube.
3. What kind of “treatment” are you getting or how can I do the “treatment”?
Any trans person, whether or not they opt for transition, is not sick and therefore does not need to get any sort of ‘treatment’. The correct word which should be used is ‘transition’ and not ‘treatment’. Using the word ‘treatment’ seems to pathologise the entire process of transition.
4. What surgeries did you have?/ Did you have all the surgeries?/ Have you completed your transition?
Every transgender man has a different level of dysphoria and according to it, they opt to go for the transition/surgery that they want, which, in every case, is no one else’s business but their’s. The word ‘complete’ also has different meanings for different trans men, i.e. one transgender man might be happy just with social transition, some may opt for top surgery, while others might choose to undergo bottom surgery as well. One can choose to go for as many or as little transition procedures and surgeries as one needs, to feel happy and satisfied within one’s body. Also, please note that these surgeries are expensive and not everyone can afford them.
5. What was your previous/dead/real name? Can I see your previous pictures?
Eh, no you can’t! Most trans men are not comfortable sharing their previous or dead name and pictures. There is no such thing as a ‘real name’. The name I tell you is real. Moreover, that’s a part of our lives which we have left behind and don’t want to remember or talk about it. Such things might be triggering for a trans guy, so please respect that.
6. Which bathroom do you use?
One where I can pee peacefully! I use the bathroom that matches my gender identity and where I feel comfortable. However, it is no one else’s business except mine.
Also read: Njān Sānjo Documentary Review: The Life And Thoughts Of A Trans Man
7. You look “too good” for a trans man/You look just like a “normal” male/ You look just like a “man”
What does this “looking too good for a trans man” mean? By using words such as “normal male” do you want to imply that trans men are not normal? Why won’t I look like a man? Of course, I look like a man because I am one. Such comments come out of the belief that trans men are not men and usually people get amazed by trans men who pass as a cis guy. The term ‘cis passing’ is usually used for the trans men who go for transition and develop cis passing features. Personally, I do not agree with the term ‘cis passing’, as it seems as if cis is some standard that we must meet in order to be a man. Every transgender man looks like the way they are supposed to be, not like anyone else. Furthermore, cis men come in all shapes and sizes. The same goes for trans men.
The fact that cis people are a majority while we go against the norm and are a minority doesn’t make us wrong. And if you just mind your language by taking care of a few words, try to be empathetic and compassionate towards your fellow trans folks, you might just pave the way for some beautiful, long-lasting human relationships.
8. How do you have sex?
You don’t go to any random person and ask them, “How do you have sex?”. So why ask such a question to a transgender man? No one’s sex life is anyone’s business. Most trans men like to keep their lives private. I personally don’t like to discuss my sex life with anyone unless I am interested in sleeping with them. It is just another way people fetishize trans men.
9. I can tell that you were a girl before
This comment is very transphobic in itself. Usually, people observe one or the other body part of a person, for example, sometimes people look at my hands and say, “I can tell you were a girl”. I have received this comment from cis people and trans people alike, and every time it has made me uncomfortable. Avoid saying such things to a trans guy as they can be intensely triggering.
10. Are you a lesbian or are you transitioning because you want to be with your partner?
Uff! No, I am not! I am not transitioning for my partner and neither am I a lesbian. I am a transgender man and it is my gender identity, not my sexuality. Transitioning is an expensive, irreversible, life-altering decision. One undergoes all those changes and surgical pain for one’s own happiness, not for the happiness of anyone else.
Also read: My Journey Of Moving To A New City: Experiences Of A Trans Man
These are a few things that you must keep in mind while talking to a trans man. I do not understand why cis people and trans people are treated differently when we are all humans here, and mutual respect and equality is the way to go. The fact that cis people are a majority while we go against the norm and are a minority doesn’t make us wrong. And if you just mind your language by taking care of a few words, try to be empathetic and compassionate towards your fellow trans folks, you might just pave the way for some beautiful, long-lasting human relationships.
Featured Image Source: The New York Times