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a private matter

So Caitlyn Jenner has had gender reassignment surgery. Somehow she still looks the same and whether this occurred or not it changes nothing for the rest of us. Yet the speculation kept the tabloid media machine humming.

Has our opinion of her now changed as a consequence?

This interest in genitalia is coming from a curious public that barely comprehends what being transgender is all about because they have never questioned their own identity. It makes sense that it should reside between the ears and as transgender woman Julia Serano states:

“These are problems trans people often have to deal with in our day to day lives, if they haven’t had surgery, there’s something wrong with them.”

To which she adds:

“The most important factor that affects someone’s experience of gender is whether people perceive us as male or female and how they treat us and outside of the bedroom, it is very rare that a person’s genitals come into those split-second judgments one makes countless times a day”

It took me years to understand this distinction because as part of my refusal to accept myself I had bought into the idea that gender identity is only about physical sex. Those conservatives who argue along biological lines are suddenly stumped when the issue of intersex people come up who themselves must decide where they reside on the gender spectrum. The only possible answer is that this identification resides in the mind.

The fact is that transgender people know they are different from a very young age; long before any decisions about how to proceed are made.

Among the estimated 0.6% of the world that is transgender, it is a minority who choose to have gender reassignment. It is a private decision which should be respected and is as unique as each individual.

As part of the acceptance process of welcoming transgender people into society should be the idea that what their genitals look like is entirely a private matter.


  1. "The most important factor that affects someone's experience of gender is whether people perceive us as male or female, and how they treat us, and outside the bedroom, it is very rare that a person's genitals come into those split second judgments one makes countless times a day."

    I gotta hand it to Ms. Serano. I've always found her quite clever. But I think she's missing something.

    It's just not true that genitals "do not come into those split-second judgments." They are part and parcel of those split-second judgments in our culture. It is part of what people presume upon making those judgments, and to a certain extent, what we presume people are *communicating* about themselves. Perhaps as we evolved we started covering ourselves for various purposes, and we needed a way to communicate what was no longer visibly obvious?

    And as trans people, we are throwing a wrench into the gears of that communication. It startles even the most friendly potential allies as they try to understand us, and I do not begrudge them honest curiosity.

    The truth in Ms. Serano's observation is that even if people incorrectly infer how a person's body is shaped, they have not incorrectly perceived that *person.* We are communicating *who* we are, and we are not lying.

    Certainly, I think it's appropriate for any individual to say they would prefer the world not to have a conversation about the precise configuration of their genitals. (This seems strikingly awkward for trans and cis folk alike.) But if a celebrity would like to further the conversation by sharing their decision to have or not to have genital surgery, I think that's good.

    Though I would personally prefer that celebrity not be our community's village idiot. ;-)

    1. Touche on Caitlyn Jenner and as she also carries that awful Kardashian clan around like a yolk it doesn't help her cause. I would have preferred a better spokesperson and yet she shows us we are just as flawed as anyone else.

      I remember when Jennifer Boylsn first came out I didn't like her and still don't for different reasons. There's something of a haughty air that disturbs me. Oh well....


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