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January 22, 2014
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January 23, 2014

Boi Problems 102: What’s in a Name?

A pencil sketch of a trans man binding his chest

Drawing by Subsprachgefuhl

What NOT to say to a transgender person

Curiosity is a dangerous animal (after all, it did kill our beloved cat), but it is a natural predator that we’re all prone to. The first thing we do when we meet new people is ask questions because we want to get to know them, but they’re simple questions like, “What’s your favorite color?” or “Who’s your favorite band?” It’s nothing too personal because after all, you’re just breaking the ice; but that entire pretense seems to fly out of the window once people find out that you’re queer.

As trans folk, we encounter this more times than not. Cisgender people are either excited or affronted that we’re different and most of the time, end up being completely insensitive to the fact that most of us are uncomfortable with that.

When I was first evaluated at Whitman-Walker Health, I was told that being trans meant being an educator and I’m okay with that, but there are things you just should not say.

“I’ve never met a trans person before!”
While this may be true, there’s no actual way of knowing that. The beginning stages of medically transitioning are awkward, but that’s because it’s essentially a second puberty. You would never be able tell if someone was trans unless they told you. Not to mention the fact that not everyone chooses to medically transition. We don’t look any different than other people, and by saying this; it separates us from the rest of society thus perpetuating our second-class citizenship.

“What’s your real name?”
By my “real” name, you mean my government name? That’s a need to know basis. I am so tired of hearing this or any variation of this question. My name sounds masculine, and because I don’t match up to typical gender stereotypes, cis people feel the need to ask so that they feel more comfortable defining me.

People have come up to me countless times and told me they don’t like the name I chose, which is then promptly followed by a list of names that they think are suitable names because all of sudden they feel like they have entitlement on my life. I chose this name because I like the name. It’s really simple, I promise.

“Why do you want a sex change? You’re so pretty!”
There’s a compliment in there somewhere, I think. On the list of things I cannot, this statement is pretty high on that list. So according to this response, in order to be trans, something bad must have happened. I’ve been damaged or my self-esteem is so low that I can’t possibly think of myself as attractive. You can’t wrap your head around the fact that I’m trans because I have a physically appealing female body?

In her column, Femme Problems 104, Katy Ray spoke about similar remarks made to femme lesbians by straight men. My sentiments are the same. Gender is not black and white and being “pretty” has nothing to do with how we feel inside or whom we’re attracted to.

“So, you’re straight now?”
What? No I’m not straight now and your matter-of-fact tone doesn’t make it true either. How can you preach marriage equality by passionately protesting, “Love knows no gender!” if you can’t even grasp the concept of gender identity and sexual attraction being two separate issues?

I feel like this is a little more tame considering its nature and the context of transitioning, but it’s still the wrong type of thinking; just like thinking every cis person is straight on sight. I found that after coming out as trans, my attraction to men became more apparent. My attraction to people is fluid. There’s no rhyme or reason. It just is.

Just something to consider next time someone comes out in confidence because if gender is really a non-issue, why is mine such a big deal?

<< Boi Problems 101: The Ma’am Conundrum | Boi Problems 103: What’s in a Name Part  II >>