Is it ok to ask a transgendered person if they've already had surgery?


Ooof, this is a tough one.


Firstly, it's actually 'transgender' person, and not 'transgendered'. Putting the -ed on the end, makes it sounds like transgender is something that was done to us, as opposed to simply part of our identity. It's a bit tricky to explain. Here's an example: You say that someone is married, because they've been married. It's a thing that's happened to them. You wouldn't (hopefully) say that someone is 'gayed' if they came out to you, so the same applies to someone who's trans. Hopefully this makes sense?


Now, in regards to asking someone "The Question"... If I'm being honest, it's pretty much never okay. Even if it is a really close friend of yours and there is an intimate level of trust - asking them a question like that can be really triggering and harmful. And you definitely never want to ask that to someone you barely know. I've had that happen more times than I can count and it's suuuuper weird every time.


Consider this...

You're walking home after work (or school, etc.), and a complete stranger walks up, looks you up and down then stares you right in the eye and says. "So like... do you have a penis?"


Weird, right? That's exactly what it feels like to a trans person when they get asked "The Question".


Some of my favourite answers to this question that elicit a bunchof laughter in the room are:


*mock surprise* "There's a SURGERY for this? Tell me everything! Have YOU had the surgery?" (Everyone at my speaking event laughs at this point and realize how ridiculous the question actually is).


and


"Oh, you're asking about my genitals? Well, first you tell me what yours are like." (People typically laugh at this one too, and it dawns on them at this point that it really isn't appropriate to ask such personal questions).


My ultimate goal is to never shame anyone for asking questions. I also find that adding a bit of laughter to my events helps to transfer knowledge and create a feeling of safety and comfort in the room.


To summarize my very long-winded response here, is it okay to ask a transgender or gender diverse individual if they've had surgery?


Nope. Never.


It's never okay to ask. It's private health information that's not anyone's business.


A guideline I suggest to folks is to think before asking, "Would you be okay being asked the same question?" Most likely the answer is no!


- B



Just B Diversity & Inclusion Consulting

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B@justBconsulting.ca

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