Answering “is that a boy or a girl?”
Many trans and genderqueer bloggers have mentioned being asked “are you a boy or a girl,” sometimes by complete strangers. I’ve only been asked that question twice, and both times the inquirer was a very young child. However, I have noticed people asking each other about my sex –they probably only cared about my sex, and not my gender identity– as if I couldn’t hear them. Or maybe they didn’t even care whether I heard or not; maybe my gender ambiguity made me subhuman enough that my feelings didn’t matter anymore.
I wonder if it’s a cultural thing; I think most of the people who were asked to their face were from the US, or at least from English-speaking countries (of course, it wouldn’t be accurate to draw conclusions from only a few examples).
I think it’s easier when people attack you directly: I’ve managed to handle that in the past. But hearing people discuss my sex always leaves me feeling upset and downtrodden. I’ve never had the courage to stand up for myself. I can usually think up some responses, but only after the situation is past. I’d like to say something along the lines of:
“It’s a boy, and he has ears, you know. So knock it off.”
or, “Whatever I am, I’m a human being; so please stop talking as if I couldn’t hear you.”
Now I’m perceived as male all the time, so I haven’t had to go through this in a while. But school has already started and I’m going to have to use the locker rooms soon; probably the women’s room, since so many guys in the men’s room would know me. So I’ve prepared something to say to any girls who try to kick me out because they haven’t met me:
“You’re first year students, aren’t you? Well, I’ve been using this room for over four years now, so. Oh, and welcome to our school.”
It’s polite, but it establishes my relative authority on locker room use. And I don’t apologize for my presence: I won’t let myself feel inferior any longer. No one can make me feel inferior without my consent.
PS: After hitting Publish, I realized that I might be a jerk for invading women’s space. Not allowing myself to feel inferior doesn’t mean I can steamroll girls’ right to their private locker room (I don’t believe in gender-segregated restrooms, but I do have to abide by existing rules). I really don’t want to be an a-hole towards women; that was my biggest fear when I decided to transition. That said, I have a right to change my clothes somewhere, too; and lots of girls wouldn’t mind because they already know me. I think there isn’t a clear-cut answer to whose rights should prevail in this situation.
What do you think: how can I respect the girls and manage to change my clothes?