No My Bits Aren’t Your Business or Your Trans Advocacy

Recently I read the en(Gender) post,”Guest Author: Zoe Dolan, When Political Correctness Hits Below The Belt.” Helen Boyd states in an introduction to the piece:

Here’s a controversial piece from Zoe Dolan, lawyer, author, and friend, in a smart piece about why, when it cones to dating – amongst other things – talking about genital surgery is important.”

If this piece was a post strictly concerning intimacy and talking to a potential partner in frank terms about sex with a trans person, then I’d agree it was a “smart piece.” Unfortunately it does not stay within the boundaries of negotiating intimate relationships. The post opens up with:

The conversation goes like this:

Him: Do you mind if I ask you a personal question?

Me: Yes, I have a vagina. Yes, I have a clitoris, and also labia majora and labia minora. Yes, I feel sensation and I can have orgasms — both vaginal and clitoral. And yes, I self-lubricate; but who ever said no to a little coconut oil?

Him: Wow. That’s amazing. Thank you for being so open. I’ve been curious but afraid to ask.

First off, what’s the context of this hypothetical concersation? Dolan doesn’t give lay out a scenario in which the questions are asked. Is this man a potential lover that you’re on a date with? Is this question being asked by a co-worker that is “just curious?” The context matters.

Dolan continues, saying:

I’ve written before, and I maintain: my view is that there’s no shame in the human body. We all have one.

Nevertheless, a politically correct script of deflection dominates public discourse when it comes to sex change surgery. This condescension shames people into believing that questions arising out of natural curiosity are somehow overly intrusive, and that inquiring about the medical aspects of being transgender is wrong.

First of all, there’s an assertion underlying here that trans bodies are surgically created bodies. Dolan repeatedly conflates M2F transsexuality and transgenderism. Trans bodies can be surgically created, synthetically created through hormone therapy, or by winning the genetic lottery. Dolan is correct that there should be no shame in talking about the human body, but context matters because respecting a person’s body matters. Context matters because a right to personal privacy matters.

Recently I met this anonymous fella at a music show:


He told me that he thought trans women were women and he respected them. He then asked me if I’d had “the surgery.” I’d literally known this guy for minutes. He also informed me that I needed to smile more. I’m in a long term monogamous, committed relationship. I’d given him no signs that I was interested in him in any way. In this context, this man was being disrespectful.

I don’t and haven’t ever publicly stated the state of my genitals, because I don’t believe that’s something I personally feel the need to share or that should be up for public consumption. If you ask me about the state of my genitals when I’ve not expressed an interest in you, you’ve crossed a boundary and are being disrespectful. Some similar violations of privacy and personal boundaries/space without consent are:

  • Women that are visibly pregnant being “belly touched.”
  • White people touching an African American’s hair
  • People with physical disabilities being “helped” without being asked

Dolan states:

While the privacy that others may choose deserves respect, there is fallacy in the proposition that everyone should know better than to pursue understanding of a subject to which they have yet to be exposed.

After all, I myself had no idea what sex change surgeons were capable of these days until I asked and found out. So how can I hold regular people to a higher standard and expect them to know what I, as a transgender person, once did not?

Indignation exacerbates at least four problems created by muzzling discussion of sex change surgery. First, silencing talk about the procedure undermines its medical necessity for many of us who identify as transsexual. In the United States, we are now required, like anyone else, to carry medical insurance; yet, although more and more insurers are developing policies that cover transgender genital surgery, many have historically excluded coverage for an operation they deemed “cosmetic.” Tell that to a transgender person wincing every time they have to go to the bathroom, weeping at their body in the shower or the mirror or trying to explain their sex to a potential intimate partner. 

There’s no muzzling of discussions of sex change surgeries. If one is interested, they only need a web browser to educate themselves. I hate being so repetitive, but again it’s context of the inquiry that is disrespectful. Trans people should not be asked to educate cis-gender (not transgender) people, with their own bodies as the curriculum of that education.

Sorry, I’m not your trans101 sex education doll.

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