Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

I was talking to a transwoman yesterday who was concerned that people would ask her if she had bottom surgery.

(We used to just call it surgery, before the rise of transmen, but you could always tell transsexual separatists who didn’t want it called genital reconstruction surgery (GRS) but rather sexual reassignment surgery (SRS) as if somehow, genitals were all there is to body sex.)

“So what do you say when someone asks you?”

“I say something like ‘Do you fuck your wife?'” she answered.

Oy.   I get the premise of this answer, but it’s so aggressive.

It’s our tone of reply when we get put in a pressure spot that tell people how comfortable we are in our own skin.  And it’s our own comfort that takes the tension out of interactions.

Kids know this.  If they find a tease that gets under another kid’s skin, they will push on that over and over, just to amuse themselves and the crowd by making the other kid squirm.  Don’t squirm and you disarm them.

What do we want to tell people about surgery?   I want to tell them that they have no right to know.

In his book, A Whole New Life,  Reynolds Price talks about the way that people thought they had the right to know about his cancer, to ask intimate questions they would never ask of people who were able bodied.  This intrusion was seen as caring, but he experienced it as gawking, as the entitlement of the normies towards freaks.

So I think of answers that go to that point, but don’t make me look touchy or uncomfortable.

“Did you have surgery?”

“Why?  Are we going to end up in bed together soon?”

Answer flirtatiously and let them face their own questions.  And if they say “Maybe,” you can just say “Well, we can talk about it on our third date,” with an impish smile.

“Did you have surgery?”

“No, I don’t want to be rude.  Let’s talk about your genitals first!  Are they normally sized?”

Or maybe get to the heart of it with a classic etiquette response.

“Did you have surgery?”

“My mother told me I should only discuss what’s in my panties with a doctor or a lover.  Are you one of those?”

I think the basic premise of this answer, that genitals are only important when they are important, and not in the wide world, is real and important.  Our gender isn’t about our genitals, it’s about our choices, and getting surgery doesn’t change who we are.  Just bopping a male over the head and giving him GRS will not make him a woman, nor will hormone changes.  My father was testosterone free for the last twenty years of his life after treatment for prostate cancer, and it didn’t change who he was.

I once told a nun “I assume you haven’t shown your genitals to anyone but a doctor since you took your vows, and you’re still a woman.”

We are not defined by the shape of our pee-pee, we are defined by the shape of our heart.  That’s my argument about non-consentual gendering, and I’m sticking by it.

I’d really like every transperson to follow the don’t ask, don’t tell code about the current shape of their genitals.

I know that’s not going to happen, because many transsexuals feel that they spent a bundle on their genital modifications and that should give them the right to brag about them.  After all, why pay as much as a new car and not be able to show it off?

There are still many transsexuals who believe that there must be magic in GRS, that it really is a sex-change, and they will be treated differently on the plane ride home from it than on the plane ride before.    TBB saw a lot of this when she worked in Trinidad taking care of post-op people.

You get GRS to support your own changes, to reflect the changes inside. Surgery can be empowering, supporting a move to deeper change.  TBB has often said that the best thing about her surgery is that it stopped family from trying to convince her to go backwards, untied the tethers others thought they saw, making it clear she had made a leap.

It’s true that some see GRS as the point where the doctor signs your body as being officially transgender, giving some medical credibility, but should we really let the medical profession own the whole idea of who we are?  Shouldn’t we own that ourselves?

And every transperson should know that aftermarket genitals just aren’t a functional as original equipment, be it a hole or a pole.

As long as some need to brag, then a refusal to answer about surgery will be seen as an admission that you didn’t have surgery, and that’s a bit sad.

But in the end, it’s our tone of reply when we get put in a pressure spot that tell people how comfortable we are in our own skin.  And it’s our own comfort that takes the tension out of interactions.

And that’s why I suggest that ladies and gentlemen just don’t talk about their privates in public.  Share them only with intimate companions, not by wearing a too short skirt.

Your genitals don’t define who you are, your choices do.

Tell your doctor everything.  Then they can help you better.

And with a lover?  Then choose to be hot, whatever you are rocking at the moment.

But in the office?   Gracious, confident, comfortable and discreet is always a good choice.   Don’t ask, sure, but you don’t tell.  Show others you had the ultimate trans surgery, pulling the stick out of your own ass.

That’s the choice that supports gender liberation.