November 10, 2012

Questions and Curiosity: Things NOT to ask transwomen and transmen!

by butts

Many people have a lot of questions for transpeople. It's an interesting subject that doesn't come up too often in most people's lives. What questions are ok and what questions are offensive? It's fine to be curious, just don't be rude!

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!