Frequently Asked Questions: Identity and Sexuality
"So when are you going to become a real boy/girl?"
You may not realize this, but this question is incredibly offensive because you're implying that the person isn't already a "real boy or girl." In reality, their gender identity is real and legitimate regardless of what the person was physically born as. Gender and sex are separate things. What you're actually trying to ask is "So when are you going to get corrective surgery to become physically male/female?" which, while still a private matter, is much more appropriate. It would be polite for you to wait until you get to know the person before asking a question like that, but at least you're not going to offend them right off the bat! Remember that all transwomen are women (or girls or ladies or whatever they prefer to be called) regardless of their current physical bodies, and all transmen are men (or boys or guys or whatever they prefer to be called) regardless of their physical bodies. I feel like a broken record sometimes restating these things, but there's still many people out there who confuse sex and gender!
"If you're gay, why don't you just stay a boy/girl? Wouldn't it be easier?"
To answer the question simply, no, it wouldn't be easier because you're ignoring the bigger half of the problem.
I've personally gotten this question several times, and each time it's like a slap in the face! Sexuality and gender/sex don't always go together. There's no reason someone shouldn't be gay just because it would possibly be slightly easier in general society to be straight. I would never willingly lie to myself and be a girl when I'm not, just to get men. I would be wrecked with self hatred and be uncomfortable 24/7, just like I was before I came out as trans. Plus many transfolk who can't transition (or are having a hard time transitioning) get suicidal. This is a really ignorant question. It's showing that you aren't paying attention to the fact that someone is transsexual. You're only focusing on their sexuality. If anything, their transsexuality is a bigger deal because it often requires years of therapy, hormone treatments and surgery to fix, whereas sexuality doesn't. Remember that the person is transsexual, and it's not related to their sexual preferences in any way. Trans people, just like cis people, can be gay, straight, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, and their sexuality can fluctuate with time.
"Who would date you?"
I've gotten this question before too, and heard of plenty of transfolk who have been asked this. By asking this, you're assuming that no one is going to find transpeople attractive just because they're not stuck on either side of the bullshit gender binary. You're forgetting that bisexual, homo/heteroflexible and pansexual people exist! There's lots of people who are attracted to transfolk of all sorts, believe me, I get hit on plenty! Even some straight people date and have intimate sexual relationships with transfolk.
"Which bathroom do you use?"
Most transwomen use women's restrooms and most transmen use men's restrooms. However, depending on how well they pass, where they live and how comfortable they are, they may try to not use public restrooms at all, or only use family/unisex restrooms. Most transfolk refuse to use the restrooms according to their born sex. It's embarrassing and incorrect. I don't know why you would need to know this except out of pure curiosity, but just assume that the person uses the restroom they're "dressed" to use (the gender they identify with and present as is the restroom they use).
"If you're female and you're attracted to men, doesn't that make you straight?"
This is similar to the "wouldn't it be easier to stay a boy/girl" question, and again, no, it doesn't. You're missing the huge fact that transsexuality is still involved, and that sex and gender are separate. Your sexuality is usually defined by the gender you identify as, regardless of your physical body. A lesbian transwoman isn't a feminine straight man, and a gay transman isn't a butch straight woman.
"When did you decide that you were trans?"
Most transfolk will say that they have been trans from birth, it was only the discovery of it that took some time. I feel very strongly this way. I definitely believe that transsexuality is something that happens from birth, not something that "becomes a thing" later in life, and it should never be viewed as "just a phase." To answer your question in short, transfolk don't "decide" that they're trans, they discover it, and it happens at different times for everyone. Often it's discovered during the mid and late teen years when a lot of self-discovery is happening.
"What's your REAL name? (they mean your birth name)?"
Never ask this. Ever. It's none of your business and most transpeople will never tell you what their birth name is, and whatever name they go by is their real name. If you know someone's birth name, never ever tell anyone else unless you have strict permission to do so. This is often a quite embarrassing subject and it is completely unnecessary for you to ask, especially if the person has had a legal name change. If you're making arrangements with a transperson where you need their legal name for a document, ask them to write it in themselves instead of asking. It's just more polite.
"Oh I heard from _____ that you're trans?"
Wow, most people have no idea how rude and embarrassing this is. First of all, never ever out a transperson without their permission. This is often humiliating and at times very dangerous! If you hear someone say "oh, _____ is trans" remind them that it's really rude to out people, and don't ask any further questions. If a transperson wants you to know, they'll tell you. Don't ask about it.
"Can I see pictures of you as a girl/boy?"
Why do you need to see pictures of us before we were able to start presenting as our preferred gender? This is none of your business and it's really embarrassing! If you're in a close, friendly or intimate relationship, this may be something silly they'll share with you, but this is often a very private subject. I know that I personally hate when people ask this and have gone through great measures to make sure that there are no photos of me online where I'm presenting as a girl, or even photos where I blatantly just don't pass. They're really humiliating and are from a time in my life where I was horribly depressed and miserable. I don't want to see them again either. Please don't try to get around this question by asking things like "Can I see your ID card?" or family photos or anything else like that.
"Do people like, ever beat you up like they beat up gay people?"
I am super lucky. I was born and raised in a very liberal place where GLBTQ folk don't get harassed often. But not everyone is so lucky. Transfolk get harassed, beat, and sometimes killed over their transsexuality by ignorant, hateful, transphobic people. So no, I haven't gotten beaten up, but yes, it does happen. There's actually a Transgender Day of Remembrance for transpeople who have been killed.
"If you don't have your bathing suit, why don't you just wear (one for cis people such as a bikini for transmen or trunks for transwomen)" or "Why don't you just wear a dress/suit for this event and go back to cross-dressing later?"
Questions about making exceptions with our chosen clothes can get really weird. I've personally gotten a lot of them. First of all, it's not cross-dressing if we fully identify as the gender we're presenting as. Secondly, no, if I forget my bathing suit and we want to go swimming, I will never wear a bikini or other girl swimsuit, even if no one else is around. That's absolutely humiliating. If you're a woman, imagine being asked to wear men's swim trunks and no top out in public where people will view you and refer to you as a man because of your dress, regardless of your identity as a woman. Or imagine the opposite if you're a man. Sounds awful doesn't it? Even jokingly, it's harder on transpeople because we can't just laugh at what we're doing because of our physical bodies. A man can wear a bikini and just laugh at it like it's a joke, a transman can't. He will be seen as a woman and his female body will be exposed and presented in a way that can be scarring. The same goes for transwomen being asked to wear men's clothing, and transmen being asked to wear women's clothing. It's degrading. Please don't ever ask us to do something like this.
"You don't look like a boy/girl. Why do you even try? You're much cuter as (your birth sex)!"
If you'd like to completely enrage a transperson, this is a great question to ask. Just because someone currently doesn't look like your binary definition of their preferred gender doesn't mean they aren't trans, or shouldn't be trans. How someone is born physically, genitalia, shape and looks wise, has nothing to do with whether they should transition or not. Transsexuality and gender dysphoria are mental disorders, not optional plastic surgery choices. The vast majority of transfolk don't give a damn how cute they are as a boy/girl (whatever their birth sex and raised gender were). They are still trans. That's not going to go away. Transsexuality isn't a choice, just like any other mental disorder, and it can be cured by transitioning. We're cute as we are!
"You're trans? That's disgusting. God made you a man/woman and you should stay that way."
Please don't try to push your religious beliefs on us. It isn't going to change the fact that we have a mental condition! We may even be religious ourselves!
Frequently Asked Questions: Our Bodies
"You want a vagina/penis? Don't lesbians want penises/gay men want vaginas too?"
I don't know where this even begins to make sense or how someone thought of it. No! Gay doesn't mean transsexual, but transsexuals can be gay! Most lesbians and gays are cis, meaning they are comfortable with their bodies the way they were born and don't wish to become the opposite sex, no matter how they present. Being super butch, even binding, doesn't mean that a lesbian wants to become physically male. A gay man wearing panties, dresses and makeup doesn't mean he wants to be female. Again, sexuality, sex and gender are all separate things. There's a T in GLBTQ because it's different!
"So how big is your dick/penis/cock/shlong/peewee/peepee/other ridiculous penis slang?"
This is just asking to get slapped! Never ever ask a poor translady this. This is even worse than walking up to an average cisperson and asking what their genitals are like because transfolk are often extremely self conscious about their bodies. We get enough grief from our own mental problems. Please don't ask invasive things like this. It is none of your business how big someone's genitals are, especially a stranger's! There is no good reason for you to ask this question unless you're in an intimate relationship with her, and even then, there's MUCH nicer and less offensive ways to ask. Most transwomen prefer to have their penises referred to as clits. If you're in an intimate relationship with a transwoman, make sure to ask her what she prefers her parts to be called.
"What's your bra size?"
Same with asking a transwoman how big her penis is, asking a transman how big his breasts are is equally offensive. Transmen bind down their breasts because they don't identify with them. They're highly dysphoric body parts and they are not your business.
"How do you have sex?"
Unless you're in an intimate relationship with the person, you don't need to ask this. Transfolk all have different preferences when it comes to sex, though I can't speak personally for transwomen. I did write an article about sleeping with transmen. Be sure to check out "Sleeping With Transboys: A brief how-to on sex with transboys" if you'd like to read more!
"If you get a penis, can you cum?"
For transmen, unfortunately, we won't have fully working testicles after SRS (sexual reassignment surgery) so we won't produce sperm or ejaculate. Modern medicine is very slowly advancing in this department and some successful total-transplants have happened in various countries, but it's not commonly practiced or perfected yet. It's our best chance at being able to produce semen. This isn't something you should ask a transman unless you're in an intimate relationship. It's pretty personal! Try asking Google if you want more information on the subject.
"After surgery, will you have a period/be able to have babies?"
Unfortunately for transwomen, SRS doesn't include adding a working uterus and ovaries, so no, transwomen will never be burdened with periods but they won't be able to produce biological children either, not with the current available surgeries at least. Transfolk after complete SRS are almost always sterile. Again, ask Google if you'd like more information.
"So don't they just sew on a penis? Won't you still have a vagina?"
This is a weird one that I've gotten before, and it shows that you have a completely misguided sense of anatomy! No, "they" don't just sew on a penis. Surgeons can take a few different methods to create a phallus on a transman. The pieces of the vagina are rearranged in the male pattern and put back together again, often with the help of some arm or leg skin for length/girth on the phallus. The clitoral nerves are put in the head and down the shaft (where they are on a biomale), the urethra is lengthened and connected to the head of the phallus, and the labia are formed into a scrotum to hold testicular implants. On a biomale, a penis isn't just the exterior portion. The shaft actually continues internally, back almost all the way to the anus. Feel a male's perineum while they're hard. The perineum will be firm too because it's the same type of tissue. The penis is also connected to the bladder, prostate (the gland that controls whether you urinate or ejaculate), arteries and the testicles. To just "sew on a penis" you'd be missing a lot of the other vital components of the male reproductive system. Like I mentioned before, full transplants have happened in various countries, but there's not much information on them and the procedure is no where near perfection, and from my understanding, most have been successfully done on people who were born male anyways. For the vagina part, many parts of the vagina are used to create the new phallus, but the vaginal canal may or may not be left intact. This entirely depends on the type of surgery that is preformed and the person's personal preferences. In most cases, the vagina is sealed while SRS is being done, but some choose to keep it. Everyone is different and chooses different options in their surgeries.
"So do you just walk into the hospital and tell them to give you a sex change?"
Thanks to that episode of South Park, I've gotten this question multiple times before. No, that's not how transitioning works. Transitioning takes years of discovery, hard decisions, and a lot of time and money. Transfolk start off by going through gender therapy to make sure that transitioning is the right path for them. If the therapist deems them ready, they'll get a letter to give to a doctor so they can get a prescription for estrogen or testosterone. Depending on where you live, there may be a different order to how your surgeries go. In some places (especially in Asian countries), all of the surgeries (top and bottom) may be done at once, completing a sex change entirely in one go. This includes breast implants for MtFs (if they desire them), top surgery for FtMs (removal of the breast tissue and reduction of the nipples) and bottom surgery (whichever method that particular surgeon performs). In western countries like the USA, you need to be on hormone treatment for at least 1 year to get top surgery. In some parts of Europe, top surgery is performed before hormones begin. So no, you don't just walk in and get the surgery done. Physically transitioning takes years, a second puberty, a lot of money, time, and pain. It's not a simple process.
If you have any questions that you think might offend a transperson, feel free to send me a message on Eden. I'll do my best to answer your questions as well as I can to satisfy your curiosity!