The Question of Genitalia

How many times a day do strangers ask about your genitals? How many times a week, a month, a year?

“So,” he breathes, scanning my body, clad in a dress and stockings, “what do you have… down there?”

The bus rattles over a pothole, shaking me back and forth.

“That’s um really not uh a polite question to ask,” I stammer.

My face turns crimson red, I can feel it, the heat of shame and exposure flooding up to my forehead. Why do strangers feel that they own the information of my body? Why do they perceive that as their right?

“Yeah, but…” he said. But you’re a deviation from the norm. But transwomen are supposed to be a matter of public record. But, are you okay for me to screw, to fuck, to fantasise about, to masturbate over?

“I’ve not had an operation,” I answer.

“Those are real?” he asks with a wave of indictment at my breasts.

I am violated by the words, exposed by them. I meekly nod, my blush burning hotter, deeper.

“Nice,” he says. The compliment of reduction. The praise of the attribute rather than the whole. The word ‘nice’, innocent enough, a pleasant thing, used as a whip of control, of subjugation. I did not exist to him as another human in all the complex multifarious meaning of humanity, but as a set of sexual and social status objects, a fetish or a taboo.

I will later say to others “that’s impolite to ask,” and drop it there. Or ask pointedly if they want to have sex with me, to reflect the awkwardness of the question back to them, to make them confront the invasiveness of what they’re demanding of a stranger.

But now, on the bus, I just blush and squirm, and lay myself bare, because I don’t know a better thing to do. I am at the mercy of strangers, hoping that they will just accept the presentation and move on. Hoping that the cues alone will say that I am a woman. And hoping, fiercely hoping, for a day that I might be left alone. That no one on a bus would ask me what’s between my legs. That I could ride over the bumps and through the sluggish traffic to therapy, unmolested by the insistent curiosity of strangers- left in peace from their avarice to know the secrets of my body.

Since this website is not a public bus, and I’m putting myself out there to educate the general public (to what degree I can) about transgender issues, please feel free to leave a comment with a question you would like answered either about the transgender community or my own personal experience as a transwoman. Thanks for reading!

11 thoughts on “The Question of Genitalia

  1. You are such a beautiful writer, Beatrice! Thank you for your bravery. Thank you for your gorgeous, painful words. Thank you for your courage to bless this world time and time again with your inner and outer beauty.

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  2. Each time I read this, my heart breaks open at the invasiveness with which you’ve been confronted. You, my dear friend, are full of amazing grace and poise. Thank you for sharing your vulnerablity and experience in the interest of educating others. You are a fiercely brilliant writer and beautiful woman. I love you.

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  3. I told Nan that the narrative choices you made in this piece are stunning. You are a writer ❤
    Thank you for sharing and helping us to understand a little better. It's a generous gift to the world.

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  4. I never knew quite how to express my own experiences facing the insanity of others thinking they have the right to question my body in public as if everybody is in agreement that it is a norm :/ Thanks for your true expression!!

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  5. Dear Beatrice, I am a big, tall woman with very short hair. All my adult life, I have been called “sir,” by various people even when my hair was long, and people—-men—-stare at me without smiling and without saying a word. I wonder sometimes why we want to know the sex of a stranger, as if we need to constantly make order of our small worlds. I notice that the sex and breed of one’s dog is of extreme importance to people when they stop to chat on the street. Babies are dressed for our convenience in blue or pink, or with those silly headbands with flowers. We people are such sexists! Thank you for your writing about this sensitive subject. Thank you for saying what you think as well as what you say when asked these outrageous questions. I met your mother in Mexico years ago and still just love her, and you through her. Please do carry on! Many thanks. Libby

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  6. I know you know that your being trans does not inherently obligate you to educate cis folks, but we’re all better for it. So, thank you.

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  7. Oh, Bea, I was transported into your mind when I read this story. I felt you. Thank you for being courageous and resilient. Teach us.
    Thank you Brave Heart.

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  8. I love you Beatrice!! Thank you for helping so many to be more aware and sensitive. You make the world a better place by your beautiful presence.

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