Snarky answers to invasive questions transgender folks get asked way too often

There are a bunch of presumptuous questions that transgender people get asked all the time by folks with no business asking about our personal lives. Many of them are based on acceptance of the compulsory gender binary and the belief that the gender we were assigned at birth is our “real” gender. Asking such questions without permission packs the dehumanizing and othering assumption that transgender folk have a responsibility to educate cisgender folk. Being in the position to be educated about someone else’s identity is a form of privilege, as those with the most power are not asked to explain their life experience since it has been posited as the norm.
Getting asked inappropriate questions framed in a way that completely erases one’s identity over and over again can get incredibly exhausting and frustrating. That’s why I absolutely love the below video, “2 Hot Transsexuals Finally Give Some Answers!” Charles and Red respond to a number of these questions in a hilarious way that reveals the problematic assumptions that go into asking them in the first place. My personal favorite answers are to the question “Are you a man or a woman?” but it’s all fantastic.
This isn’t meant to imply that cis folks shouldn’t try to learn more about trans issues, but there’s a difference between learning about a group’s experience and concerns and asking about an individual’s personal life. There are limits to what’s appropriate – being trans doesn’t mean we don’t have boundaries.There’s a better way to go about educating yourself without making members of the community you’re trying to understand feel like crap in the process.

“Who’s your pronoun!”
h/t to love-and-organizing at Amplify.

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67 Comments

  1. Posted August 7, 2009 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    hah I’m pretty sure he lives in San Francisco

  2. http://openid.aol.com/percat6
    Posted August 7, 2009 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    “I’m going to go with option Sie.”
    Loved it!

  3. http://openid.aol.com/percat6
    Posted August 7, 2009 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    What’s funny is that I recently got into an argument with someone who said that women’s rights should be pushed into the corner until racism is eliminated.
    Because, you know, clearly we can’t work on both these issues at the same time.

  4. pepper
    Posted August 7, 2009 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    WHY WHY WHY is happilymarriedinohio still allowed to post here? I am sick to death of seeing her ridiculous trans phobic comments or the redacted evidence of her hatred. This should be a safe place for all members of the feminist community.
    The response to happilymarriedinohio is making me question ever coming back to feministing.

  5. Sabriel
    Posted August 7, 2009 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    I think that it is hard to ban people from commenting. I mean yes, you can ban one account, but that person can make another one and then put the same display name in, and they’re back in business. It’s possible that the mods have done everything they can do. Please don’t leave!

  6. Anacas
    Posted August 7, 2009 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    A quick google yields enough Trans 101 material (try the search terms “Trans 101″, for example) that I’m pretty confident there’s no shortage. Trans 101 stuff is inherently of limited utility for real learning anyway; it’s a good start for terminology in order to read other things but I don’t think most people learn much else from the terminology scattershots. For anything past that I think people are better off reading the more complicated stuff even if it confuses them at first. And I’m not really crazy about the community post you linked, unfortunately, though I guess I’m glad there’s an outlet for it in the community.
    I wrote a long comment in another thread on this post that, alas, had too many links and is caught in spam-land. But in particular if you’re looking for Trans 101 the Sylvia Rivera Law Project’s is a pretty good one, so I’ll link it again: http://srlp.org/node/123

  7. Anacas
    Posted August 7, 2009 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    A quick google yields enough Trans 101 material (try the search terms “Trans 101″, for example) that I’m pretty confident there’s no shortage. Trans 101 stuff is inherently of limited utility for real learning anyway; it’s a good start for terminology in order to read other things but I don’t think most people learn much else from the terminology scattershots. For anything past that I think people are better off reading the more complicated stuff even if it confuses them at first. And I’m not really crazy about the community post you linked, unfortunately, though I guess I’m glad there’s an outlet for it in the community.
    I wrote a long comment in another thread on this post that, alas, had too many links and is caught in spam-land. But in particular if you’re looking for Trans 101 the Sylvia Rivera Law Project’s is a pretty good one, so I’ll link it again: http://srlp.org/node/123

  8. Anacas
    Posted August 7, 2009 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    A quick google yields enough Trans 101 material (try the search terms “Trans 101″, for example) that I’m pretty confident there’s no shortage. Trans 101 stuff is inherently of limited utility for real learning anyway; it’s a good start for terminology in order to read other things but I don’t think most people learn much else from the terminology scattershots. For anything past that I think people are better off reading the more complicated stuff even if it confuses them at first. And I’m not really crazy about the community post you linked, unfortunately, though I guess I’m glad there’s an outlet for it in the community.
    I wrote a long comment in another thread on this post that, alas, had too many links and is caught in spam-land. But in particular if you’re looking for Trans 101 the Sylvia Rivera Law Project’s is a pretty good one, so I’ll link it again: http://srlp.org/node/123

  9. Anacas
    Posted August 7, 2009 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    A quick google yields enough Trans 101 material (try the search terms “Trans 101″, for example) that I’m pretty confident there’s no shortage. Trans 101 stuff is inherently of limited utility for real learning anyway; it’s a good start for terminology in order to read other things but I don’t think most people learn much else from the terminology scattershots. For anything past that I think people are better off reading the more complicated stuff even if it confuses them at first. And I’m not really crazy about the community post you linked, unfortunately, though I guess I’m glad there’s an outlet for it in the community.
    I wrote a long comment in another thread on this post that, alas, had too many links and is caught in spam-land. But in particular if you’re looking for Trans 101 the Sylvia Rivera Law Project’s is a pretty good one, so I’ll link it again: http://srlp.org/node/123

  10. Anacas
    Posted August 7, 2009 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    A quick google yields enough Trans 101 material (try the search terms “Trans 101″, for example) that I’m pretty confident there’s no shortage. Trans 101 stuff is inherently of limited utility for real learning anyway; it’s a good start for terminology in order to read other things but I don’t think most people learn much else from the terminology scattershots. For anything past that I think people are better off reading the more complicated stuff even if it confuses them at first. And I’m not really crazy about the community post you linked, unfortunately, though I guess I’m glad there’s an outlet for it in the community.
    I wrote a long comment in another thread on this post that, alas, had too many links and is caught in spam-land. But in particular if you’re looking for Trans 101 the Sylvia Rivera Law Project’s is a pretty good one, so I’ll link it again: http://srlp.org/node/123

  11. kisekileia
    Posted August 7, 2009 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure. I said in my abuse report that she has a history of transphobic derailing and should probably be banned. I hope the mods act(ed) on that.

  12. kisekileia
    Posted August 7, 2009 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    Hmm, okay. Maybe in situations like this you could solicit transcripts from readers of the site? (E.g. post with the original video: “If you are able to make a transcript of this video to assist hearing-impaired Feministing readers, please send it here: xxxx@feministing.com.”

  13. kisekileia
    Posted August 8, 2009 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    Update: Jos replied to my abuse report with the following: “Thanks for reporting this. I deleted the comment. We’ve had a lot of tech issues over the past few days, but happilymarriedinohio is either banned now or will be very soon.”

  14. Laurel
    Posted August 9, 2009 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    Heh, what a great video! Unfortunately necessary too. Cis people (I am a cis woman myself) who cannot understand something so simple like Trans folks deserving as much respect as the rest of us, should not be demanding respect in turn. The Trans community does not owe them a damn thing.
    As an aside, someone should do a sex worker version of this. Perhaps a spoof on a university class talk…where they seem to think it is appropriate to ask questions like ‘do you shave your vag?’ or ‘do you like it up the butt?’.
    Any takers?

  15. samwhise.dreamwidth.org
    Posted August 10, 2009 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    I’m an unemployed student with nothing better to do, so I’m working on a transcript as we speak! Where should I put it when I’m done?

  16. samwhise.dreamwidth.org
    Posted August 10, 2009 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    I’m seconding the Questioning Transphobia (http://questioningtransphobia.wordpress.com/) suggestion. Her blogroll is full of other good places. Google is also your friend. For the love of God don’t go around asking random trans people. And don’t stick with Feministing as your only source of trans-related information.

  17. Dykonoclast
    Posted August 11, 2009 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    Last I checked he was livin in Boston. Haven’t seen him in a while, though.
    But yeh, this vid rules.

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