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Don’t You Think it’s Odd No One is Asking You About Your Genitals?

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.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock.

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139 comments

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4:17PM PDT on May 19, 2014

This page is VERY glitchy, will try again, Julia B said Since this is a recognized issue, it may save a lot of anxiety for all if transgender individuals simply declared, legally, one or the other. "Both" is not an option, sorry.

I'm sorry too. I usually try and reply carefully and politely when I see things like this but this is an ignorant post and this past month I've just seen one ignorant post too many. There have NEVER only been two genders, or two sexes. Science acknowledges at least 7 and it does not care that you don't; neither do I. You also say till an XY can give birth etc, nice for for excluding every woman who is unable to have children for the 'crime' of not being a woman in your bigoted thesaurus. Some people ARE born 'both' or 'neither' or in the wrong body for their gender. It's medical fact, not a choice, not a fashion. Did you even take Biology at school?
Penis does not equal being abused or raped (and no I don't have one not -guess what?- it's any of your business). While I saw you shared an experience of that nature and I'm sorry you went through that, nobody should go through that. But trans/trans*/ gender neutral people are NOT going to the loo to abuse, they are going because they NEED THE TOILET. ABUSERS go to public loos to abuse and sorry but over 8 out of 10 of those are cis hetero males.

4:10PM PDT on May 19, 2014

Hi Julia B "Since this is a recognized issue, it may save a lot of anxiety for all if transgender individuals simply declared, legally, one or the other. "Both" is not an option, sorry.

Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/dont-you-think-its-odd-no-one-is-asking-you-about-your-genitals.html#ixzz32CpNewjW
"

9:54PM PDT on May 18, 2014

Thank you.

12:00PM PDT on May 17, 2014

I'm glad I read past the lengthy opening of this article and got to the comments of Leslea and Daniel--they made the point succinctly and better than the author of the article.

6:54AM PDT on May 17, 2014

thanks

2:03AM PDT on May 17, 2014

@Sarah M.: I also have no interest in whether or not the person in the stall next to me has a penis, as long as she identifies as a female. What the author of this article dismisses too readily, however, is that gender identification has any roots in biological makeup. This is simply not true. When an individual identifies as a member of the sex opposite his/her assigned gender, this is likely due to genetic/biological factors as well. The LGBT community should have won that round by now, but the author of this article is still making gender identification sound as if it is environmentally determined, ultimately, to the detriment of transgender persons. And, I am not ready to overlook the (yes, documented) risks involved to women and children in unisex facilities. I'm in my 60s, and sexual assault happened to me twice in a restroom during my youth and young adulthood. No damage done, but it was frightening, and in each case the predator had to make an effort not to be seen by anyone as he hid behind or just around the corner from the restroom door. Unless there is security in each public washroom, I can see vulnerability to assault increasing if unisex restrooms become the norm. A legal identification with one gender or the other, and the right to use the corresponding facility, seems to me the only solution.

9:20PM PDT on May 16, 2014

Jack S. thank you for your sensitive, heart felt contribution to this discussion. Next time I need to relieve myself, I will look for your mouth.

12:32PM PDT on May 16, 2014

All these LGBTs and pro-LGBTs out there and their circling activists should demand the governments of this world to start building restrooms for all those who don't know if they are male or female to avoid such confusion from now on.. If LGBTs don't know what gender they are then someone should do something 'rapido' to help these poor people who are very much gender-confused in my opinion.-

7:53AM PDT on May 16, 2014

@Julia B: I would consider myself quite a modest woman in sexual terms. I prefer my skirts, pants, and sleeves long most of the year, virtually never display cleavage, and am actually more likely to opt to use a ladies' room where the option is available, despite my strong advocacy for the availability of gender-neutral facilities.

But a big part of my personal 'code of modesty' includes NOT spending my time in the bathroom seeking to learn about the details of the genitalia of the person in the next stall. So what do I have to feel uncomfortable about if the person in the next stall happens to have a penis? I do not see it. It is not on public display.

What's more, gender tests for going to the bathroom in public only make it more likely that I will see someone else's genitalia when trans or intersex people are denied sanitary bathrooms and forced to choose between relieving themselves in the open, developing bladder infections, or soiling themselves.

Now that WOULD offend both my modesty and my basic humanity.

1:11AM PDT on May 16, 2014

Very interesting article.

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