Trans*forming the Dialogue
I am participating in Trans*forming the Dialogue, Simmons College’s Online MSW Program’s campaign to promote an educational conversation about the transgender community. By participating in this campaign, I will be offering my perspective on what TO ask and what NOT to ask trans*people.
I was recently contacted by a representative of Simmons College, a private women’s college in Massachusetts, to participate in their campaign focused on the trans community. I was more than happy to provide some of my personal insights as someone who is in the middle of the gender spectrum and part of the broader trans community.
When thinking of questions one should not ask a trans person, I became a bit conflicted and had to split this topic into two. This is my own personal opinion, but when a close friend wants to ask a question, and their intention is coming from a genuine place, I don’t mind fielding any question. I’ve had some deep and personal conversations with a handful of very close friends, which were rewarding in the end.
Where things get tricky is when you are dealing with strangers, co-workers, people who you are friendly with but aren’t super close to, and some family members. In these situations I think there are some questions, which can lead to hurt feelings. And sometimes it’s not even a real question, but a snide comment disguised in a question. For example:
You’re not going into that bathroom, right?
Maybe you’re out, having a drink with some friends, and some stranger or casual acquaintance makes a comment basically telling you which bathroom they think you should be using. This is a very touchy issue in most places.
You must like guys, right?
Making assumptions on ones sexual orientation just based on what they are wearing is just no good.
What have you got down there?
Oh, come on! I would be shocked if I ever heard this or anything close to this. It just reminds me of the interview that Katie Couric did with Carmen Carrera, where she was asked several times about whether or not she had SRS, and no matter how many times Carmen tried to pass on the question, Katie kept asking. Since then, many of those working in news/media have learned that there are boundaries around personal issues/questions that should be taken with care.
Now for the questions one should ask.
What kind of stereotypes or misconceptions would you want to help break?
I think a question along these lines can help spark a conversation on the types of stereotypes and misconceptions that are often applied to those in the trans community. Having these conversations can help open up people to the idea that there is a large diversity within the broader trans community.
What kind of positive experiences have you had?
There are a lot of positive experiences I’ve had after accepting and being more honest about myself. Sharing these stories can have a positive impact on others, especially when talking to family and friends. Just about everyone can relate to the idea of self acceptance, and talking about these positive and happy experiences can help people of different backgrounds relate to one another. We all seek happiness and fulfillment, what’s wrong with that?
How may I address you?
I’ve had some people ask me this question and I’m always happy to explain how I see myself and how someone can address me. There is no shame in trying to clear up any confusion.
Much love to all,