Talk about me if i like…

Contrary. That’s mostly how I’m feeling at the moment. In no mood to be lectured on the “right way” to do stuff or to “toe the line”.

Possibly last week’s conference on psychiatry had something to do with it. I got cross – and I’m still cross. About psychiatrists, mostly. I’ll write more on that later.

But I’m not a fan of having to conform, either. And even though the trans community, by definition, is pretty non-conformist when it comes to gender norms, it still has its own idees fixes and invisible lines that one crosses at one’s peril.

Maybe this one isn’t so much a trans-gression as something the cis world does and therefore a source for much harumphing amongst trans persons. It’s the old chestnut about being pre- or post- and discussing srs and, and… well, its about the inevitable curiosity that follows whenever someone non-trans learns that you are. Trans, that is.

cis obsessions

Much, much indignation about cis folk obsessed with the size, shape and nature of our genitals. And in there, somewhere, there is a real point. I mean, if someone is recovering from a hysterectomy, it is just not on to go up to her and ask how she feels about it. Or, if you want equal opps tastelessness, if I met a bloke with elephantiasis – a serious disease that has occasioned much music hall ribaldry over the years – I certainly wouldn’t start off the conversation by asking him about the size of his swelling.

So, yeah. There is a point in all this. You don’t JUST go up to someone and start asking about their genitals. Or if you do, you’re a rude and uncouth person and should be treated with well-deserved disdain.

contrary views

All the same, I’m not going to join in the general condemnation. Because, between friends, this is a topic of much curiosity and, if a friend was having any sort of surgical procedure, I’d be curious. Questions might range from the emotionally supportive (how are you feeling about surgery?), to the practical (are you coping?) to, yes, the slightly prurient (did it hurt? Has it left a scar?).

But there’s no general rule. I’ve lived with/gone out with women who have undergone all manner of interesting surgical procedures. Occasionally, I’ve asked: far more often, they’ve volunteered info, often far more than I wanted.

In respect of my own up-and-coming stuff, there seems to be a process that all who meet me on terms of friendship (from school mums to church mums) go thru. An initial curiosity. A bit of smuttiness (some of the funniest and also dirtiest suggestions around my srs have come from female friends) and then a normalisation. Jane will eventually have srs. So what. Big deal. (though I hope they’ll send a card when I do).

inappropriate curiosity – and anger!

That, at least, is the response from women: I have next to no close male friends, so I’m not sure what they’d say or ask. On the other hand, there are two circs where I think others bringing up surgery in any way is utterly, totally out of order – and deserves a slap. Literally, if I thought I’d get away with it.

One IS the pure prurience. The interest in your genitals, quoted on C4 by Paris Lees, as shown by strangers before any social permission to be friends has been granted. Nah. That’s improper.

And…going back to my leisure centre incident, the fact that someone who was trying to impose his view of the world on me, who had threatened me, could dare to raise in conversation that he knew my surgical status and that therefore he was entitled to mention it.


Bastard! Bastard! Bastard! I can still feel the shame and anger of that moment.

So-o…coming back down to earth. I don’t hold with the automatic “genitals is off-topc” view: but I do agree that raising them without (tacit) permission to do so IS wholly inappropriate and…well, as far as I’m concerned is more than justification for some serious pre-emptive nastiness.



4 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Tony Holden said,

    You say, “So-o…coming back down to earth. I don’t hold with the automatic “genitals is off-topc” view: but I do agree that raising them without (tacit) permission to do so IS wholly inappropriate and…well, as far as I’m concerned is more than justification for some serious pre-emptive nastiness.”

    I think the problem here, is that by posting about your own transition from one state to another, you give people an opportunity to feel that they know you. In that context and with what seem to be the social mores of the web, as it becomes more social, many people probably feel that you are giving them that tacit permission you talk about.

    • 2

      janefae said,

      Nah. I know what you mean. But there’s knowing and knowing. On the whole, most genuine curiosity doesn’t bother me, so long as its accompanied by sympathy.

      That’s maybe a difficult distinction to draw or define, so let’s just say i know it when i feel it. If i strike up a conversation with a woman on a train and we get on like a house on fire and we start swapping medical stories, its totally ok to discuss srs. And if i start a lengthy online debate with someone and there’s again, that degree of intimacy, yes.

      But just meet someone and they start in on the topic? Nah. No matter whether i’ve blogged it or not.

      And someone i’ve never met before uses my operative status as somehow or other a put-down or grounds for treating me in a particular way? Absolutely not.


  2. 3

    When people talk about or question the genitals of trans individuals they tend to presume that they know what the genitals of all the cis people around them look like. Statistically this is, as they say, bollocks (as is the assumption that everybody not directly identified as trans must be cis). I find this to be a useful starting point for addressing the problem. Often responses to queries about assumed sex are circular, and it’s amazing how many people think they can somehow see the chromosomes of strangers (or even their own) with the naked eye.

  3. 4

    kerri (australia) said,

    hang on this guy is a psychatrist, a health professional , he never got your consent to raise your surgical status, he should know better, whether you blogged it or not, theres boundaries in the health profession and this dude just crossed it, I would be pissed off too….(

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