I never thought that pronouns could save me like this.
I am genderqueer and still keep my she/her pronouns because I didn’t really feel like bothering with them. I knew their value to others and respect that and use whatever pronoun someone tells me they are, but they were never a big deal to me personally. And so…I never thought that pronouns could save me like this. I went out on a date and when people ask me about it I say she this and she that and I know that they all think that she is woman even though she really means trans woman. That is how she identifies after all – trans woman. And I want people to know about her, who she really is. I wish that when I said she people’s mind didn’t default to female-bodied woman. But, it does, and that is why, like I said, she has saved me. Because she has saved me from the pain of that question that will inevitably come, FIRST no less, out of all of my non-queer friends’ mouths…you know…something about her genitals…does she still have it?...with all of the hormones can she get it up? Seriously? Yes. Seriously I get asked these. And I know that this is nothing new. But it is new to my personal experience. When I hear these questions, I feel pain and as if she is being exposed in ways that she should not be, that she has become a sexual object to people and all I want to do is tell them about the walk that we went one. Eight miles. In spring. With butterflies. And Bunnies. Yes, really bunnies. And cardinals. And no mosquitos. That’s right, no mosquitos. And she knows which plants we can eat. And they want to know about her genitals….
I am sure by now that you are well aware of the Cox, Carrera, and Couric trans-genitals fiasco. So I won’t go though it blow by blow, but I did come across an interesting blog that was written in response called “To Talk Or Not To Talk: On Genitals, Being Transgender, and The Curiosity of Others” by Juli Myers. She doesn’t understand why trans people are so upset about the genitals question. She thinks that the curiosity on the part of non-trans people is natural and she doesn’t have a problem answering questions about her genitals. She does “not understand the demonization of people who are finally trying to understand” trans when they ask questions about genitals. Although though she claims that the choice to answer is individual, she claims that “the asking - and honest answering - of these questions is neither objectifying nor disempowering, and open, carefully crafted answers will always go a long way towards helping people truly understand the process.”
I am not sure that I am entirely on board with this view. While I don’t demonize and think that others should not demonize question askers and there is nothing wrong with curiosity or good answers, there is something to be said for tact and past history. If people are REALLY that curious, there is a plethora of good, valid information online that is accessible twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Now, I realize that everyone doesn’t have access to the internet, but I think that in my community, this is not the case (claiming my privilege). But besides this point, it is really a matter of kairos and decorum. Kairos is a rhetorical term that means the right time to speak or act as to be most effective; the curious need to ask timely questions. Is it a good time for you to ask me about the genitals of a trans woman that you don’t even know after I tell you that we went out on a date? NO. Decorum is another rhetorical term that speaks to the good taste and propriety of the rhetorical act. If a speaker does not follow decorum, the audience doesn’t trust them. For example, if a rapper didn’t dress like a rapper and/or speak like a rapper when they go on stage to perform then people aren’t going to trust them as a rapper. They will doubt their ‘rappy-ness’. Same would go for the POTUS if he didn’t go through the pomp and circumstance; wear little American flags; and red, white, and blue all of the time people would think something was wrong. When people ask me these probing questions, I feel like I don’t want to trust them as a human being. I know this sounds harsh, but the truth is that it just feels so disrespectful.
These questions wouldn’t be asked of a non-trans person and people might say that that is because people aren’t curious about what is down there, they already know - apparently. Look, I am not against the question altogether, but I want you to know about me and my relationships and experiences first, can we talk about how amazing the date was first please? Can you not wait until several months later or say something like, I have a sensitive question that I have looked into, but need to talk to someone about, can you tell me about the biological process of transitioning? Honestly, I don’t think that this is really about curiosity. I can’ say for sure what it is really about outside of curiosity, but this is what I think…
People think that they can ask any question of things, and they think of trans people as things, not people. This is really the only thing that I can come up with. And I don’t say this to demonize, but rather to illuminate an internalized social idea of that which is deemed by society as strange and uncommon is a science experiment to be examined and exploited instead of a sacred autonomous being to be respectfully explored.
And I can only imagine how much more devastating the question might be for her.
And is it right for me to hide behind her pronouns?
Honestly, it doesn’t feel right.
But I do it.
To keep from the pain.