Thursday, September 27, 2012

Stop Asking About Our Genitals

Mike is an 19 year female to male transman. He is currently studying psychology at The Evergreen State College between making quilts. He someday aspires to be a social worker, and in the mean time, he wants to fix the fact that not everyone is born with an inherent right to be themselves.

I want a t-shirt with a pop-up feature. When people who don’t know me approach and try to start a conversation, a little alert window would show up. It would say CONGRATULATIONS, you are interacting with a transgender person. In order to continue this conversation you must read and agree to the terms and conditions. I want this t-shirt because everywhere I go, including most queer safe spaces, I have to educate people about trans* issues and etiquette. I am tired of having to educate absolutely everyone that interacts with me. Especially since most of the stuff that I am asking people not to do is part of basic courtesy. Most people don’t tend to ask total strangers about their genitals. Apparently, exceptions are made for those who are particularly curious. And for a while, didn’t mind and saw it as my duty, to educate people about the trans* community and to be something of a diplomat or an ambassador; a wonderful and extraordinarily naive attempt to better the world.

    But now I am tired. I am tired of educating the ladies in my quilt guild about gender roles and the transition process. I am tired of fielding questions about my genitals from everyone, as if that was the only thing that mattered about my transition. I am more than tired of educating medical professional after medical professional about what it means to be trans* and having to fight the system in order to get basic health care. I’m tired of being told how to be a man, as if I needed help or tips or training to understand how to be who I already am. I’m tired of having to educate people about how crappy the system is for a trans* person and hearing their surprise at my lack of rights. They don’t understand the realities of the way that I live my life, because they don’t need to. I want to rest, to get away from people who don’t know better and who need to be educated.

    I can’t. My entire existence is a process of educating people about trans* issues and the gender binary, because people have never been exposed to trans* issues. Most of the media is sensationalized, focused on titillating the audience. There are so many opportunities to educate people about respecting the lives and privacy of trans* people, but they are botched or screwed up in an attempt to entertain. I am more often than not, the first interaction with the trans* community people will experience. People thus assume that I can somehow represent the whole of my tiny (0.3% of the population) and marginalized community. It makes me feel like some sort of circus animal, forced to parade around for people holding whips, kept alive only by their benevolence. It makes me mad, that mainstream culture and the people in it are so unwilling to educate themselves. Instead, they ask me invasive questions.

This is the unfortunate reality of oppression and trying to live as an out trans* person. It is not, apparently, enough to oppress people, kill them, leave them in perpetually poverty, deny them live saving medical care, and continually portray them as less than human in the media. Then, when you encounter such oppressed people in everyday life, you must ask them all kinds of ignorant questions, because your culture both refuses to treat them adequately and gives you absolutely no place to encounter them in a respectful manner. It is enough to drive anyone batty and require terms and conditions for even small conversations.

    The conclusion to this rant is quite simple. Don’t ask people questions that aren’t any of your business. It’s basic courtesy really, and yet almost everyone that I have encountered seems to forget it when they encounter me. People want to be spoon fed their information, and need to be educated up to a certain point in order to understand that they need to go seek out their own information. The media either won’t or can’t, because it is much easier to continue to entertain and placate the masses. All in all, there is a rather large mess that needs to be fixed before I will no longer have to educate everyone that I encounter.

For bonus points here is my list of terms and conditions for my t-shirt. Do not ask me about my:
  1. Genitals
  2. Birth name
  3. Sexual orientation/preference
  4. Anything you wouldn’t feel comfortable asking a cisgender person you know as well as you know me.
  5. Do not tell me how to be a man/woman/other. I have more experience being me than you do.
  6. Do not enforce gender roles or stereotypes about my behavior
  7. Respect my pronouns
  8. Let me pee in peace.