Curb Your Ignorance: What NOT to ask a Transgender Person

16 Jan

Laverne Cox

If you haven’t yet heard of Laverne Cox, let me put you on:

  • First African-American transgender woman to produce and star in her own television show.
  • Current star of Orange is the New Black
  • Transgender Advocate
  • Master of shutting down ignorant questions

Recently Ms. Cox appeared as a guest on Katie Couric’s talk show alongside transgender supermodel and TV personality Carmen Carrera. When Katie talked to the women about the question of genitalia (asking why many transgender people don’t like when you ask about their genitalia), Laverne magnificently explained why those types of questions are not okay.

She says (at 2:20 in the video),

“That preoccupation…objectifies trans people and then we don’t get to deal with the real lived experiences. The reality of trans people lives is that so often we’re targets of violence. We experience discrimination disproportionately to the rest of the community and our unemployment rate is twice the national average…When we focus on transition, we don’t get to talk about those things.”

While Laverne spoke I was taken back to a few months ago at my Ms. magazine internship. I was assigned to fact-check a piece on International Transgender Day of Remembrance. The day is set aside annually to memorialize people who are killed because of hatred and prejudice toward transgender people.

While fact-checking, I printed out the statistics of trans* people who were murdered. The printer kept going and going, and eventually I had to add more paper. When it finally stopped, I held a thick stack of paper, with names, ages, and the gruesome details of thousands of murdered people. A 13 year old stoned to death in Brazil, a 22 year old choked with a chain and set on fire in Wisconsin, another woman stabbed and beheaded in Mexico are all included on the list.

As Laverne explained, the seriousness of the situation is overlooked when people ask trivial questions (And why would you ask anyone about their genitals? That’s just not acceptable in most settings).

Yes I know—some of us uninformed cisgender people like to ask a lot of questions. But sometimes our curiosity is unappreciated. It sort of reminds me of the times ignorant Argentines asked if my skin was harder because it was darker than their own. I would roll my eyes, shake my head and let them touch the skin on the back of my hand (which happens to be baby soft, fyi). Questions like that one and the ones posed at trans people about their genitalia serve to “other” the person on the receiving end of the question. It’s like questioning someone’s humanity while using yourself as the standard.

Knowing some of my readers personally, I’d like to acknowledge that some of us have certain prejudices towards transgender people. Yet, we can’t be all for women’s equality and racial equality and then stand against transgender people who share similar experiences that we face: discrimination in the workplace (and every other place), disproportional targets of violence, and just all around rudeness from ignorant folks.

Anyways, for informing people about the severity of these issues and shutting down unwanted questions about transgender people, Laverne Cox is AWW’s  Super Woman of the Month.

Thank you Laverne

If you’d like to be a better trans* ally, I’d suggest you hear more from transgender people. As a cisgender woman, I can only say so much and I do not have the lived experience. So check out these related posts written by transgender women:

13 Myths And Misconceptions About Trans Women
Trans Etiquette 101: No Offense, But That’s Offensive

One Response to “Curb Your Ignorance: What NOT to ask a Transgender Person”

  1. milf webcam amateur March 28, 2014 at 1:04 AM #

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