Gender Reassignment Surgery: How to Handle Awkward and Intrusive Questions

  • Eva G
  • Seattle, WA
  • 2 months ago

Many transgender people experience moments of awkwardness when confronted with personal questions that would never be openly asked of a non-transgender person. Just think of how you'd feel if someone (especially someone you barely knew) asked you about your age, your weight, or even your sex life. So rude and so not any of their business! 

Nevertheless, we're are still human and sometimes our curiosity gets the best of us. In a recent interview posted by the Providence Journal, transgender model Arisce Wanzer, along with two other trans women Janet Mock and Joy Ladin, opened up on how to handle these intrusive questions:

Have you had surgery?
Ladin: Asking intimate questions about someone’s body is the same whether that person is trans or not. So if you wouldn’t walk up to someone at a party and say, “Do you have one testicle or two?” you probably shouldn’t ask a trans person if they’ve had genital surgery.

What was your name before?
I usually challenge people by asking questions back. Just saying something like, “I don’t know why that’s relevant to our interaction with one another? Why is that important for you to know?” They usually don’t have an answer and realize how insensitive it was. They say that they’re curious and I say, “Well, curiosity can be great in terms of learning, but I don’t see how it’s relevant.”

Is it hard for you to date?
Wanzer: I think they’re interested in trying to pity you, but it’s just like dating for anybody. They think we’re so different. We are not aliens. We have normal dreams, normal aspirations. I’m very open. I put all my stuff out there, but not everyone wants to.

Here is what transgender and intersex advocate Ryan Sallans has to say about handling awkward questions:

What's the worst question you've gotten? Add your Q&A in the comments.

Source: Providence Journal

Comments (2)

A very educational and helpful video!
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LOVED the video!  

Most of the trans people I know, I know from social situations where we're doing things (games, choir,) and trans issues never come up since it's not appropriate to the context (much like talking about sexual preferences rarely comes up in context.)  I do have one closer friend where we've talked about all the more sensitive issues, since it was a confidant type of relationship.  But I think most people know no one personally, and have no opportunity to come to a deep understanding (and thus support) of trans issues.  I think some people who ask awkward questions are trying to come to a place of compassionate acceptance (instead of merely tolerance), but it requires some understanding.  Sometimes I feel like Janet Mock, for example, comes across as combative, and creates an antagonistic experience. I thought Ryan had an enormous amount of class and finessed the topics beautifully, presenting his advice in a style that just instills understanding, respect, and acceptance.  Obviously, if the questioner comes up with a sneer on their face, or a look of obvious disgust, then it might be a lot more difficult to be patient, but for friendly people, I think it's a good sign they want to interact and learn, and form a positive place for trans people in their mental map of the world.

My opinion.
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