While there has been improvement in media treatment of trans people over time, there are still some media — and others — who aren’t quite there yet.
Based on actual questions asked of trans people over time, here are a few case studies about day-to-day yays and nays — with some touches of exaggerated humour.
1. What’s your real name/previous name?
Um, my legal name is Sally so it’s my real name.
Has anyone ever asked a woman with a wedding ring, “So, Mrs Mary Smith, how should we address you? Are you really Mary Jones? Mary Brown?”
For many trans people, the name from the first part of their life can be a reminder of painful experiences. To use a wrong name also can be interpreted as a denial of a trans person’s real identity and possibly be vilification.
It is also totally a trans person’s call re pronouns, whether the pronouns be masculine, feminine or gender-neutral. If in doubt, please ask, never assume.
2. What type of underwear do you wear?
The relevance being … ?
3. How do you go to the toilet?
A good response is “Gee, if Mum didn’t toilet-train you when you were three years old, how have you survived all your life?”
Seriously, again — relevance?
4. Have you had the chop yet/Do you have a cock and balls?
Has anyone ever walked up to a (say) 55-year-old non-trans woman and asked, “Have you had your hysterectomy yet?”
A response given by a quick-witted trans person to a (presumably) non-trans male who asked about the cock and balls was “So, how big is your cock?” The person who asked the question did stop and think!
A person’s genitals are their business, the business of their partner(s), possibly the business of a potential partner and possibly a treating doctor.
Seriously, think first as to whether a question is invasive or crude before asking.
Now this may or may not apply to all trans people. The thing to remember is that a trans person is an individual first and foremost, not a curiosity object or a guinea pig.
Overall, the best guideline is one of dignity and respect. Further, this can be taken as
“Would it be appropriate to ask a question of a similar nature to someone who is not transgender?”
Dignity and respect.
INFO: Sally Goldner is VGLRL treasurer and TransGender Victoria spokesperson.