Or “Is it any of my business?”
When traversing the land of LGBT knowledge, we cis folks may find ourselves lacking. We might not know the right word or phrase. We are curious about a certain subject or how one feels about a thing. And while we may be well-intentioned, we may not realize that 1.) there are certain things that are just none of our damn business and 2.) there may be a better way, as well as a time and a place, to ask.
In her article Transformations: Transgender 101 – the Dos and Don’ts, Melinda Harris says the following:
“When interacting with transgender people in any setting, the most important thing to remember is to respect each person and their identity and experience. The important thing is how they feel inside – not how they look outside – just as we all hope that people will treat us according to who we are and not how we appear.”
Melinda says that although we may be curious, one of the first things we should ask ourselves before asking questions to our potential new friend is “Do I really need to know?” If the answer is “Probably not,” then don’t ask. If you are that curious, there are other places to find answers (All hail the almighty Google). In other words, let’s remember not to treat anyone like a bug under a microscope, but as a person.
Imagine this person is your grandmother’s best friend. We’ll call her Eleanor. Would you ask Eleanor about her genitals? Of course, you wouldn’t! (At least, I hope you wouldn’t. Not on the first meeting!) Would you ask her if she takes hormones? Would you ask about medical procedures? Would you ask Eleanor if she is a man or a woman? Or if she used to have a different name? No, you’d “be polite,” just like your mother used to whisper harshly at you under her breath as you were walking into your grandmother’s house.
In the end, it’s really that simple. Be polite to every Eleanor you meet.