If it wasn’t for the varied experiences of trans people I wouldn’t think about it at all. If it wasn’t for some of the things I hear people say that pour all kinds of crap on the validity of trans identities I wouldn’t think about it. If it wasn’t for people such as the group who shouted out at me today “Have you got a dick?” I wouldn’t think about it – and really these days groups such as those don’t make me feel bad for anyone except them.
Transgender genitals. They’re a bit dull. Cisgender genitals are pretty boring too. If you’re reading this it’s almost a total certainty that I have no interest whatsoever in your genitals. If you know transgender people well you will also know that the most boring thing about them is the anatomical features between their legs. Even if a transgender friend is currently in hospital under the surgeon’s knife, their anatomy is far less interesting than anything else about them.
Why would it be more interesting? Why objectively should it be of interest at all to anyone who isn’t in a sexual relationship with them or who isn’t supporting them in that aspect of their transition? When I was accosted today I hadn’t been thinking about my genitals. Unsurprisingly. I’d been thinking about the archives I’d been looking at during the day, and what I needed to do at home before going out again to a choir rehearsal. Far more interesting.
In fact, whether you’re transgender or cisgender that’s objectively something quite dull about you. Subjectively it’s more interesting – because of what it means to your life, your rights, your social experience, and how you get treated by individuals and societies. And in other countries because of what it means to whether you as a person are even legal or recognised.
Nobody gets abused for being cisgender. They do for being transgender. Every day, even in somewhere as cosmopolitan and accepting as Newcastle, trans people get abused for being trans. Verbally, socially, religiously, sometimes even physically. Every single day. And when you’re trans you meet people who think discussion of what’s in your knickers is open to everyone. You also meet people who think that what’s in your knickers means you are not who you say you are. You meet people who tell you you’re a fraud and out to trick them just by saying you exist and are not suffering a form of gender-based insanity.
You encounter people who say “If it’s got a penis it’s a man. If it’s got a vagina it’s a woman.” They accept no other possibility. They say someone like me is deluded. A woman with a penis? Impossible, they say.
And if you don’t like my woman’s penis well that’s fine. Just don’t think about it. Don’t worry your head or heart over it. You don’t have to have any close encounters with it.
Just don’t tell me that I’m someone else because you can’t get your head round a woman having a penis or a man having a vagina. At that point it’s you who needs to change, not me. You need to change a belief that erases the validity of trans people and our identities. I don’t need to change who I am.
Fortunately, most people who read this post will agree with me. Most people around me accept trans people and believe us when we come out and tell the world who we are. Those that don’t, make life hard. Those that don’t, contribute to the high rate of suicide attempts for trans people trying to be themselves in a world where it can be very difficult. Bluntly, people who don’t accept trans identities contribute to our deaths. They are killing us. Indirectly, perhaps inadvertently and by proxy, they are killing us with their ignorance, prejudice, and fear. Every time someone says “Penis = man” they perpetuate a culture that continues to destroy lives. And that has to stop.
Yes, transgender genitals are boring. That’s what I think. But people’s attitudes to them can and do contribute, indirectly and sometimes directly, to increasing the suffering of a vulnerable and often attacked section of the population. For that reason, I will continue on occasion to talk about them even though they’re the least interesting thing about us. Dull, dull, dull!