A number of my trans friends and non-trans allies have been tweeting and reblogging last week’s BuzzFeed post by Sarah Kasulke and Chris Ritter, “Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Transgender People But Were Afraid To Ask,” with the subtitle, “It’s cool, we know you have questions.”
It’s been a struggle to explain exactly what bothers me so much about that piece. I’ve taken a stab at explaining the general problem with these two pages, A Skeptic’s Trans 101 and Before You Reblog, but I haven’t addressed the BuzzFeed post specifically.
The first problem with Kasulke’s post is that it’s not everything you always wanted to know about trans people but were afraid to ask. It’s just the latest version of the same old trans dogma dressed up as a Q&A. Here are some things she focuses on that are just not burning questions in people’s minds:
- Should I say “transgender” or “transgendered”?
- What do all these fancy words you keep using mean?
- Am I a horrible person for being skeptical of this true inside gender you claim?
- I haven’t heard nearly enough about hormones from trans people. Please tell me more!
- There are genders besides boy or girl?
- Are drag queens transgender?
- Should I use the pronouns you clearly want to hear, or the ones I want to say?
- Do people ever get upset when someone calls them “it”?
- Should I call trans people shemales?
No, the things that everyone always wants to know about trans people are more like this:
- Are you a man or a woman?
- So you’re gay?
- Have you had the surgery?
- What happens during the surgery?
- How do you have sex?
- Are those real?
- How do you hide it?
- Why would you do this to yourself?
- Isn’t there some kind of therapy for this?
- Can’t you just be a butch lesbian?
- What does your mom think?
- What do your kids call you?
- Is your wife really okay with it?
- Can I have sex with you? Not because I like you, but just to satisfy my own curiosity and then move on to a real woman?
- What is your real name?
I’m not saying that anyone deserves answers to these questions. But the genius of David Reuben’s original book Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (but Were Afraid to Ask) is that it took a topic where there was so much shame and prudery, chose questions that were actually in people’s minds, and answered them without moralizing. It was a breath of fresh air after the tedium and taboo of what had passed for sex education before.
Kasulke and Ritter’s piece reads more like the books that Reuben was reacting to. It’s full of moralizing, shame and taboo. If someone’s afraid to ask “what’s your real name?” how are they going to feel after reading Ritter’s slide? Despite Kasulke’s subtitle, she clearly doesn’t think it’s cool to have questions like that, and she’s not going to answer them.
I’ll tell you what: I’ll answer your questions. If you read my Skeptic’s Trans 101 and still have questions, poke around on the site a bit. If you still have questions, email me. And if you see a post like Kasulke and Ritter’s, please check my list before you forward it.
Update: Two weeks after I posted this response, Kasulke (now Calvin Kasulke) posted “17 Questions Trans People Are Tired of Hearing.” I don’t know how much BuzzFeed paid him, but I’m still waiting for my cut.