Don’t You Think it’s Odd No One is Asking You About Your Genitals?
I do not regularly get asked about my genitalia. Isn’t that odd?
How is the world supposed to know if I’m male or female if I’m not required, at a moment’s notice in a “let me see your papers” sort of way, to give a graphic description on the state of my sexual organs and my reproductive capabilities? I mean, I am in possession of a passport and a number of bank accounts, and yet I have never once been asked to doff my trousers in order for the authorities to carry out any sort of gender confirmation.
It’s not just the government that is dangerously lax in this area, though. You won’t believe this, but people have never stopped me on the street in order to confirm that, yes, the baritone of my voice is genuine. How can I be trusted then to access the appropriate gendered facilities, like public bathrooms, if people don’t know what’s between my legs?
Are we not, therefore, running the risk of dangerous situations in public accommodations whereby, by some ill fated chance, a poor, nosy member of the public might happen a glance over the restroom stall or behind the curtain of the cubicle in which I’m changing (because I’m the modest sort and, I don’t know about you, but find public accommodations to be about as appealing as any one of the circles of Hell) and they should get a peek at my sunlight-deprived necessaries. Why, that would be just so offensive as to warp all sense of reality.
This is ridiculous, isn’t it? But it’s the standard that is currently being applied to Maryland’s historic transgender rights law. PFOX, among other groups, are leading the charge to put this bill on the ballot so that a concerted group of anti-trans folk can try to clip what should be a basic human right: accessing public facilities without having to justify your gender.
Another thing: seen as how we all seem very concerned with what it means to be a “real” man or “real” woman, for instance when writer Janet Mock was quizzed about exactly when she “became a woman” by Piers Morgan earlier this year, I suppose I really should take some sort of test — you know, to confirm just how manly I am because, no, it’s never been asked of me before and I’m rather puzzled by that fact. Though, what standard should we use?
It can’t be anything as crude as being sex assigned at birth by a breathless attending doctor who has barely scanned my nether-regions because, as we know, this can be terribly mean. An inch too short in the male member department, a lack of testicle heft and some unforgiving doctor labels you penile deficient, soon lobs off the necessaries, and sends you home “a girl.” Then begins the slow and psychologically damaging work of undoing this mistake (and make no mistake it can be nothing short of torture) — year after year of returning one’s physical appearance to the gender that, had anyone just waited to ask, you would have demonstrated by grace of time and through your own free agency.
Sadly, that’s a reality for many people who are born with what are often classed as indeterminate genital characteristics, and in some places in the world, including in the USA, it’s still happening today.
Well, it’s all in our genes though, isn’t it? I hear that a lot when it comes to talking about whether transgender people should be given common human respect. The notion that you can change what’s on the outside but the genes will always out. “They’ll never be real women, because their genes say otherwise.”
Yet we privileged masses who are lucky enough to roughly comport with the sex we were handed by our doctors and parents at birth are never asked to take a genetic test so as to confirm to the world that, yes, that stonking great big guess made at the beginning of our lives with no insight into who we actually are as people, is indeed on the mark. Maybe there’s good reason for that, though. You see, we might have a little secret of our own.
Our patchwork of chromosomes is terribly unreliable in this area. You might think it’s as neat as XX and XY but, sadly, no. Why, you could be sitting next to an XXY on the bus and be entirely unaware of the extra letter. They’re not required to wear a sign or anything. In fact, unless you’ve had a particular test for it, you yourself might carry one of these slight deviations. So what about our manhood or womanhood? Well, I’ve always identified as male, so the world is kind enough to agree.
Those on the religious right, and their enablers who don’t confront these notions, trot out false concerns about (near to nonexistent) sexual and physical assaults in public bathrooms — even though studies say those who are trans are far more likely to suffer this ill fate than mostly any other demographic, in addition to the joblessness and homelessness that prejudice means they also suffer — even though we wouldn’t subject birth-sex aligned people to what activists are now rightly calling gender inquisition.
In this light, we know that these so-called concerns are all blatantly prejudiced and offensively ridiculous If we’re not prepared to discuss our genitals every single time we have to confront a gender assumption — from gendered changing rooms in our gyms to filling out a form and checking the gender identifier for a bank loan — we need to stop expecting those who were forced to have later-life gender confirmation to justify their identity.
Quite simply, and in the overwhelming majority of cases, there’s no good reason why it should be our business what gender someone identifies as at all.
Photo credit: Thinkstock.