When I came out as transgender in 2009, I had to be diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder to be classified as a “true transgender individual.” Thankfully, that diagnosis was removed when the DSM-5 was published in 2013.
Although it may not feel like it due to recent political events, there has been an incredible amount of progression in the transgender community since then. Yet, I still get asked the same inappropriate questions several times a month.
I am only one transgender person and I do not represent the entire community. The following is based on my own personal experiences and, keep in mind when reading, I was around 15 years old when I came out. These were the types of questions people would ask me even though I was a minor.
In no particular order, these are my personal top five things you should not ask a transgender person.
1. What’s your “real name” (aka “birth name”)?
If someone says their name is John, you call them John. You don’t need to know someone’s birth name. It really is that simple, folks.
2. Did you have THE surgery?
There are two major problems with this question; first, it’s very invasive and personal and, second, this promotes the stereotype that all trans people MUST experience dysphoria and MUST medically transition to be considered transgender. Realistically, there are countless transfolk that cannot or do not want to transition. Please stop pressuring trans people to alter their bodies.
3. What bathroom do you use?
Unfortunately, this question has become even more popular because of the bathroom bill House Bill 2 that was passed in North Carolina last year. In summary, it means a person must use the restroom/changing room that corresponds to the sex on their birth certificate.
Just let me pee in peace. Seriously. Public bathrooms are anxiety inducing as it is. I don't want to be in there any longer than you do.
4. How do you have sex?
I get physically intimate with someone and we call it sex. That's it. Surprise!
But, seriously, do you intend to have sex with me and or a transgender person? If not, you don’t need to know. Any discussion about intimacy is a conversation you need to have after someone says it's okay to ask!
5. But I’m just curious! Aren’t you supposed to educate me?
Curiosity is never a justifiable excuse to ask crude, uncomfortable, and personal questions. It is not my job as a visible trans person to educate you. I'm also a very curious person. If I can take the time to look something up via Google or other resources, so can you. Otherwise, you’re not really curious – you’re just nosy.
If you only remember one thing from this post, let it be this: Before you ask a transgender person a question, ask yourself if knowing the answer will actually make a difference in your life. If you think you can go on without knowing, don’t ask. We deserve respect and privacy too.