Queer Queries

Trans folks are asking: How should you deal with questions about surgery?

For whatever reason, people often feel entitled to trans folks’ personal medical histories. But how do you elegantly dodge the question, and — more importantly — how do you let them know their question was inappropriate?

That was the question on the mind of a trans person whose cisgender father kept getting asked about their transition.

“I am a trans person. My dad is cis,” they wrote in a post on Reddit. “He talked to me the other day about the fact that A LOT of people ask him if/what surgeries I’ve had. This makes him very uncomfortable. He doesn’t wanna talk about my private bodyparts with friends/work friends/strangers.”

“He asked me what he should answer, and I didn’t really have a good answer,” they continued. “Wtf do you say to such a question? And why do people feel so comfortable asking such intimate questions?”

Other trans folks were quick to chime in with two major strategies. One: twist the conversation to uncomfortable humor, making them reflect on the invasive reality of their question.

“In my case I ask, ‘Why are you asking about an old lady’s genitalia?’” one commenter shared.

“When people ask me if I’ve ‘had the surgery’ I always act oblivious and say ‘well, I got my wisdoms removed recently’ and just keep talking about non-trans related procedures,” another shared.

“I tell them that they can find out if they fund an OnlyFans for me,” suggested a third.

The other major strategy is more educational (and confrontational): letting them know in no uncertain times that their question was inappropriate and not something they should ask again.

“Use it as a teaching moment to teach them it’s not really an appropriate question to ask anyone,” recommended one commenter. “I usually say something like ‘that’s kind of a personal question, I don’t really know you that well.’”

Another said the poster’s father “should express that discomfort and ask them how they would feel if someone decided to rudely inquire about their child’s genitals. These are not questions worth being polite about, it’s an incredibly rude question.”

A third commenter said they should “turn it right back and call out invasive, rude, and inappropriate behavior”: “My go-to response to questions like this is ‘Wow. That’s a really inappropriate question. I’d never ask that of a friend, let alone someone I don’t know at all.’”

“The correct answer here is: ‘Why do you think that’s any of your business?’” offered another. “Or even the Miss Manners version: ‘Why do you need to know?’”

“‘Why are you asking what my kid’s genitals look like?’ will IMMEDIATELY shut anyone up,” pointed out a third. “Because it’s a f*cking creepy thing to ask.”

That still leaves one big, question, though: why are strangers so obsessed with what’s in trans people’s pants? One commenter offered a nuanced explanation that gives cis folks the benefit of the doubt.

“People are generally just curious, usually in an innocent way, and they truly don’t understand how unbelievably inappropriate it is. To some extent, they don’t see us fully as other, normal, people,” they wrote. “Some people are genuinely just that ignorant. They don’t know those social norms, even though it should be common sense, because it hasn’t been taught to them yet.”

“The downside is that because they’re adults, they take corrections harshly — even if you are polite about it,” they continued. “They’re fascinated by us, and they don’t handle that fascination in a healthy way. You know how you have to teach kids not to point at people? Same/very similar thing.”

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