“But I Was Just Curious!” The Fail Of Invasive Questions
This post has been crossposted as a guest post at Questioning Transphobia here.
There was an incident a few weeks ago. It didn’t happen to my face but it still was a direct invasion of my privacy.
First, some background: If you don’t know me, I’m polyamorous. I date, love and am intimate with multiple people (or well, I would be if I had the energy to find a second partner. That and I’m still recovering from an abusive ex partner). My partner is also poly, they (my partner is nonbinary, hence the pronoun “they”. I swear to god if any grammar cop feels like whining about that I will comment shred with no mercy for degendering and drop you in the spam queue so fast you’d think your name was “meat in a can”) are dating me and a guy currently. This is referred to as a pivot branch poly relationship. Pivots among groups of three are also commonly called V poly because of the V shape of the dating connections. Normally what we do is triads, where all three date each other, but I’m not into my partner’s boyfriend in that way. He’s a good guy, puts effort into stuff regarding our disabilities, our poverty, my partner being a nonbinary trans person and me being a trans woman, and puts a lot of work into the family-like nature that me and my partner tend to have for poly groups, even in pivot or zig-zag poly relationships. Still, he screws up sometimes, as many cis, abled folk do.
He asked my partner what size penis I have.
I’m not going to go into the why of it. In the end, reasons and intent doesn’t matter, what matters is the harmful results. My partner read him the riot act before they told me and he’s worked his ass off to make amends, apologized and hasn’t screwed up similarly since so you don’t need to worry about my well being around this guy. Now, if you’re trans, chances are you know exactly why his question was fucked up and transphobic. If you’re cis, it’s a safe bet that you’re now fairly confused. Allow me to provide some enlightenment. Do try not to get your underwear in a twist over the snark.
My genitals are none of your damn business. They never have been, they never will be. No, I don’t care how curious you are. No, I don’t care about how interesting you find us. No, I do not care how much you care for/try to help/are attracted to/are interested in/feel like you’re an ally to us. They remain, steadfastly, none of your business.
It isn’t just my genitals. Every part of my body is intensely outside of the zone on the Venn Diagram that shows what your business is. In fact if you made a Venn Diagram of your business and my body, there would be no overlap, just two spheres hanging out together platonically, almost prudishly, no touching (see figure 1).
And every time your business’ sphere touches my body’s sphere, the latter slaps the former and tells it to fuck off. Too bad your sphere doesn’t learn. And therein lies the problem. Cis people seem to have a hard time grasping the concept that my body is none of their business. This applies on a ton of other intersections, not just being trans, which really shows this blatant disregard for our personal space and privacy in the name of “curiosity”, “interest”, “inquiry” or whatnot for what it is: a symptom and an example of marginalization.
I often ask cis people whether or not they would make inquiries regarding the genital states of other cis people, the bodies of other cis people and so on and so forth without knowing them really really damn well and having that sort of open relationship where that talk is encouraged. Very few do and they always have some sort of half assed excuse or silly rationalization for it too. And of course, those other intersections come up too, where cis men ask privacy invading questions of cis women, abled folk ask privacy invading questions of people with disabilities and so on and so forth. This is likely applicable to nearly every single intersection imaginable. But when it comes to being around people just like you*, you’ll find that burning urge to ask questions that invade and strip privacy fading away (*you being cis people, but it applies to really anyone who happens to be a privileged ass).
Invasive questions aren’t just annoying, uncomfortable and awkward for trans folk. They’re oppressive. They contribute to the idea that we don’t deserve privacy, that our bodies are public property and public knowledge. And since one is subconsciously stripping us of the basic level of agency of being able to keep our genitals, medical history and other parts of our body private, it’s a lot easier for them to do it and still feel like they have a claim to the word “ally”. It’s also harder to address the issue without a whole bunch of cis privileged whining (although really, are we ever spared cis privilege whining based on the type of call out? I can’t think of a single type that doesn’t pull the “BUUUT I DUN HATE YOU, I HAVE TRANS FRIENDS!” or “I SWEAR I’M NOT TRANSPHOBIC, SERIOUSLY. I’M AN ALLY” from the failtastic types that won’t own their privilege). They’re also dangerous. Cis people often ask them without thinking about who they’re around. A good chunk of cis people seem to really like killing, doing general violence unto or at the very least acting shitty to trans folks. Might be cool to avoid asking your stupid invasive question in a mixed crowd that may contain someone who wishes to harm people like me. Actually, would be cool not to ask your asinine invasive question at all.
And really, that’s what it comes down to. The questions? Not even remotely necessary. For one thing, if you’re looking for abstract or general info regarding trans people and our bodies, or how stuff works, there’s enough of us talking about our experiences online, our bodies, the process of hormonal changes and what it does and doesn’t do for us, etc that there is absolutely no reason for you to ask any single person who doesn’t invite you to ask them (or yell out the question to a group of trans folk, yes this has happened before).
Are you an internet user but you’re worried you can’t find these resources and blogs? Use this magical new innovation called a search engine. I hear Google is pretty cool as far as search engines go. Hell, we call using those wild search engines “googling” now.
Don’t have or use the internet? (You probably aren’t reading this post then, but…) Check out your local library and ask for resources on trans people. Don’t have a local library? Find an educator who can send you in the direction of resources. And likely no one reading this blog post right now lacks access to those things, so use those search engines.
Of course, then there are things you really just don’t need to know (unless we both think you should). At all. Ever. No, not even remotely. No seriously, shut the fuck up, you don’t. For instance, you don’t need to know how I have sex unless you plan on having sex with me and I actually want to have sex with you. Asking me how I have sex at any time that isn’t when you and I are discussing how we’re about to have sex so my dissonance doesn’t floor me and kill the mood (or if I have not explicitly invited you to ask) is not acceptable. If this isn’t quite clear enough then I’m basically telling you that beyond those two reasons you have absolutely no reason to know about how I have sex. At all. Ever. No seriously, shut the fuck up. Same goes for any other invasive question regarding personal stuff. Unless I say, “hey, I’m totally okay with answering so and so question” or “ask me anything, literally, I won’t hold it against you” or it is directly relevant to something we both have mutually decided it is relevant to, you have absolutely no call to ask it.
This should be common sense. It generally is, when people are with people who are just like them. Would you ask your cis neighbor (who’s the same race as you, has the same disabilities if any, etc etc) what her genitals look like? Probably not and you’d probably regard someone who did as a disgusting douchebag. Being that, yes, a person who asked that question would definitely be a disgusting douchebag, making your instinct there very accurate. Likewise, if you ask your trans neighbor what her genitals look like, you are now that disgusting douchebag (and perhaps several other different archetypes of douchebag) and no, us being trans doesn’t change that. In fact, it makes it a tad bit worse, considering you’re now engaging in oppression.
This whole not asking invasive questions thing? Yeah, it isn’t hard. It really, seriously isn’t. It’s actually less effort to keep your ignorant trap shut then spout useless, invasive questions that make us feel unsafe, gross, awkward, othered or even endanger us. It’s especially less effort to keep your trap shut than to defend your previous decision to invade our privacy with your oh so cat-like “curiosity” when we tell you that hey, that wasn’t cool, wtf. The best part is that I get that tone argument off the rails reaction from people even when I’m sweet as delicious gumdrop candy about the fact that they just treated me like less than a person. So if you really want to pull the “omg you’re being so ANNNGREEE about an INNOOOCENT question!” shit with me, do me a favor and just don’t bother. I tend to not approve of defensive privilege apologism and derails.
For those of us stuck hearing this blatant cis privileged tomfuckery (a far worse cousin of tomfoolery), there’s many ways to deal with this swiftly and snarkily (provided you feel your safety will be intact when doing so). My personal favorite is asking a ridiculously personal and absurd question in response like, “that depends, have you ever gotten anal from a horse?” Or and I really like this one, giving an absurd and ridiculous answer like, “well actually my genitals are a highly realistic golden statue of Jeff Goldblum holding a cigar and wearing a silver tiara. Priced at 40,000 USD.” (bonus points if you can convert the pricing to Pounds, Yen and Canadian on the fly). Because really, invasive questions not only don’t deserve an answer, they don’t deserve to be treated in a serious fashion. You can certainly answer them or treat them seriously if you want (and many of us feel an obligation or calling to educate, so I get how that goes) but me? I’m going to snark the fuck out of them and then when they inevitably cry their cis privileged tears (which would happen even if I was serious or did anything but cave and say,” sure you can invade my privacy all you want”) I’ll point out, “hey, if you don’t like getting a little sarcasm shot your way, don’t fucking ask invasive and asinine questions.”
Because really, it isn’t okay. I deserve privacy. My body is my own. Information about my body is my own. I deserve this just as much as any cis person. We all do. People damn well need to show it.
Filed under: personal, rant | 57 Comments
Tags: bullshit, cissexism, expectations, gender, kyriarchy, marginalization, privacy, privilege, transgender