My son and I swap stories. When my son’s peers or parents I know find out he is trans, we are both often asked about his genitals. Asking about a minor’s genitals is creepy. It is often not an honest question and sometimes feels like a fetish. This has been the case for years. I’ve a less polite response than my son does.
Who is doing the asking? I wish I could categorize it. Conservatives? Liberals? Christians? Atheists? Yes. About the only common ground I can tell you is all of them are white and they all live in the redlined burbs.
Here is a sample of how it goes. I will use the parental experience first:
Parent: So your child was born a girl or…..
Me: The term you are looking for is assigned sex. His assigned sex was female but his gender identification is male.
Parent: I do not understand.
Me: Sorry. Let me break it down without the lingo. The sex put on his birth certificate when he was born was female. Assigned sex is the sex they put on the birth certificate.
Parent: Ok. Got it. (The following are variances of questions) So. Does your child have a vagina still? Will he get a penis? Does he have a penis? Do you need a penis for the name change? Does the hormone therapy affect the vagina?
In other words, they essentially lean forward and say, “Tell me about your kid’s junk!”
If they are a parent I push back lately. The response now is as follows:
“Well, I need you to do me a favor first. Can you describe, in detail, your daughter/son’s penis/vagina? I wanna know more about your child’s genitals.”
They often find the question creepy and tell me so as they get uncomfortable. I tell them that is how I am feeling being asked questions about my son’s genitals. Sometimes the response is a respectful and genuine apology. Other times, they tell me it is different. I ask how is it different? Because my son is not cisgender? That makes it appropriate to ask about the genitals of a minor?Most of the time they get it at that point. Not always. Once I received this reply from a parent I thought a friend. “Well, your child isn’t normal and mine is. Let’s just be honest about that. This isn’t normal so it’s okay to see how far that abnormality goes. So the question about your kid’s genitals is valid.” I placed some money on the table for my share of the lunch and left. This was an act of mercy for both of us.
Now my son. He gets the same question. Do you have a penis or a vagina? His response is always the same. “Did you just ask me about my junk?” He gets one of two responses. It is either an apology or it turns aggressive in tone and it is made clear that in their eyes he is a freak or different.
This question used to hurt us, but now we just roll our eyes and it also gives us a great indicator as to whom we are dealing with. Sometimes you have someone with honest questions, who despite having a world of information literally at their fingertips to proactively understand this issue better, meet someone connected with the trans community and uses that as a moment to become enlightened. It is a respectful conversation with a few foot in mouth moments. Other times, you are dealing with someone who has no filter and almost seems titillated by certain things and believes it is all right to ask about the genitals of a minor.
When I talk to adult friends that are trans women, I have learned this question gets worse. A few have told me that may of the people who claim to want to date them are mainly interested for some strange fetish. They are not seen as a woman with a personality and a heart and a soul, they are a reminder of someone’s favorite search term when surfing porn.
The moral of this story? Please do not ask people about their genitals, especially if they are a minor. Please do not ask a parent about their child’s genitals. If you accidentally do this rather inappropriate thing and they say it is inappropriate, respect that.
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