In my previous post (link), I talked about asking underrepresented people the right questions. An important thing to remember here is that no one is obligated to educate you. As a trans women, I have enough to deal with already and there are times when I just can’t handle another ignorant person. But I personally do place a high value on being open with these issues and want to help people understand. That isn’t the case for everyone though, so just enter these conversations aware that you are the one asking for the favor and that for many trans people (myself included) this stuff can involve a lot of trauma that you are asking them to relive through your questions.
So here are some questions I would have wanted to be asked:
What has been the most difficult part of being a transgender woman?
Trans people face unique difficulties (that you might not expect) and when we gloss over that fact, we are removing an opportunity to address the important problems. Unknown issues will remain unsolved issues.
What has been the best part of coming out?
This serves as a contrast to the previous question, because life as a trans person isn’t all doom and gloom. For me, coming out has been probably the best (and most difficult) thing in my life. So I am excited to talk about how amazing life is and to give hope to trans people who are still afraid of coming out.
What do you wish society understood about transgender people?
We have very little representation. When we do, it is usually just tokenism or sensationalism. There is a incredibly wide range of experiences by trans people that society generally misses out on.
What could our community do to be more inclusive?
Many people who are aware of the difficulties faced by trans folk are not sure how progress can be made. So I think it is best to just ask the people facing those issues.
What climbs are you excited about?
There is a lot more to me than just a woman that is trans. I am a climber. I also have a job. I have hopes, dreams, relationships, and family. And I really love chocolate. Basically, I am a whole person. Not recognizing that I am a multi-dimensional human contributes to tokenism and makes me feel not valued.
So there are the questions that I think would have been more appropriate and interesting. But that is just me and each person has different thoughts and priorities. If you are in an underrepresented group, I would love to hear about the questions you wish you were asked. Please leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bonus Round: Here are some questions I do not like being asked.
Have you had “The Surgery?” (and other questions about my body)
It is generally considered rude to ask random people about their genitals. A good rule of thumb is if it would be inappropriate to ask a cis person this question, it is probably inappropriate to ask a trans person that question. So think about asking a cisgender person if they have had/wanted labiaplasty. Yeah, I don’t like being asked those questions either.
And if you are focused on my physical attributes, you are thinking about the wrong thing. My body is like the least interesting thing about me. There are way better questions to ask.
How did you know you were trans?
The biggest reason I don’t like this question is because it can create harmful stereotypes/expectations. Because there is so little representation of trans people to general society, a single narrative becomes the only narrative. So if I said “I knew because of X”, and another trans lady just coming out could be faced with skepticism if the way she knew was “Y.” Our society unfortunately has constructed rules about being “trans enough”, and this question can reinforce those rules. I (and too many of my friends) have faced criticism and skepticism because our individual experiences didn’t match “how trans people were supposed to be.” I want to do all I can to make sure that doesn’t happen to my fellow trans siblings.
Tell me about your life before you became a woman
Ooooh, there is so much I hate about this question. This is probably one of the more offensive things you can say to me. I would rather you ask about my genitals. (Don’t do that either) First off, I became a woman the same way a cisgender person becomes a woman; that’s how I was born. Remember, “trans” is just an adjective (like “tall”) and that trans women are real women. And asking about my life before I transitioned can be kinda traumatic for me, it focuses on an act I had to play instead of the real me, and makes me feel “othered.” So, just don’t.