Niki Fritz writes a wonderful post on dailydot.com that I hope many read. It is full of a ton of good stuff although I disagree with her about a few points that I want to write about here. To be sure, the trans* community, like other parts of the LGBTQ community need strong allies who care to learn and grow while they support LGBTQ issues. In other words, we need more folks like Niki. I hope she is open for some different perspectives. She writes:
But more often than not I, as a cisgender woman, was only curious about the physicality of the transition, from hormones to surgery to new clothes. I knew what my body looked like as a woman, and I’ve been fortunate enough to closely examine a few male bodies in my day but, to put it bluntly, I wanted to know what trans bodies looked like naked. When transgender author Janet Mock criticized Piers Morgan for asking her questions about her body, I felt defensive, as it felt like my own curiosity was being questioned. Of course, the world wanted to know. Of course, that is what a reporter would ask. Why was that not okay? But then as Morgan handled himself so egregiously, I saw something wicked spring up in his angry reaction and others’ hate-filled tweets. I began to feel like I was misunderstanding a community, and I felt that ping of ally panic—that feeling that as hard as you were trying to understand your privilege you had missed something huge and possibly hurt someone in the process. I began to ask myself: Had I been wrong to be so curious about the “trans” body? Was I guilty of the othering the T? Even though I was asking myself these questions, I already knew the answer was yes.
Slow down Niki before being so sure you were in the wrong. Truly some transgender women are making a big deal about how unacceptable it is to wonder about their bodies. And truly, as we grow up, our culture trains us to have shame about our bodies and our interest in other’s bodies. But in reality, it is a perfectly natural human inclination to wonder and be curious about bodies that are like our own as well as those which are not like ours. How many of us played a teen (or pre-teen) party game of showing our private parts to each other, often as part of a truth or dare type scenario? Our inquisitiveness is natural and normal! That doesn’t mean it is appropriate to be fixated on a trans person’s body. But our interest is in so many ways just natural human nature.
For sure, all of us want to be seen and appreciated for more than our bodies. Because of that, I don’t fault transgender women for being critical of interviewers who seem to focus only on the machinations of how they got to what their bodies are like now. Trans individuals deserve to be respected and visible as full human beings. At the same time, it is natural for us to be inquisitive about and want to understand those who are different from us. We see this often with anyone who is different in any way. People have questions for someone who is an amputee, someone who is blind, someone who is deaf. Many ways people are different.
I am not here to defend Piers Morgan. He can not be defended. But I’m not sure his motives weren’t acceptable even if not well accepted by his guest. And I’d go so far to say that he lost it and became unacceptable when he was shamed and accused of not caring to get to know the wholeness of his guest. I also think that every person, including every trans person deserves the right to either disclose or fail to disclose whatever they choose. It is acceptable for someone to say, “That question is off limits” or “I’m not willing to talk about that.” And their choice should be accepted unconditionally. Most all straight people and even many people within the LGB community don’t understand trans. For so many of us, our sexual orientation is tied to our bodies in some way, and for most all of us, we have been raised to consider gender and sex as interchangeable. Now we are learning they are not the same! Lots of unlearning is going on! So, for many people to come to accept trans persons means finding ways to understand them, and that includes understanding their bodies. That does not mean we have a right to what they want to keep private. But it does mean that many of us seek out ways to understand their relationship of their body and their inside and then relate it to our own understanding of our body and our insides.
One trans person who was somewhat critical of being asked about her body was Carmen Carrera who many came to know when she was on RuPaul’s Drag Race. She had a run in with Katie Couric about these types of questions. But recently Carrera did a nude photo shoot to raise money. Some called this hypocrisy. I don’t agree with that. I think we all have a right to choose how much we disclose and to whom. What is screwed up however, is how this gets turned around to blame the other person, like Katie Couric, or you or me, or whomever. Everyone- gay, lesbian, bi, straight- no matter how we identify has much to learn as we grow and accept fully transgender persons. But let’s stop blaming ourselves for having questions and acting inquisitive in very natural ways. And, let’s support trans persons who set boundaries around what they will and won’t discuss. Let’s couple our inquisitiveness about their bodies with an inquisitiveness about the whole of the persons. But let’s do it without blaming ourselves.