“Politely inquiring”

Someone wrote…

Asking me if I am a man is just politely inquiring if I have a penis.

What’s your experience?

And what are you thinking about gender right now?

Posted by on February 15th, 2010 at 08:00 am

Category: your voice 19 comments »

19 Responses to ““Politely inquiring””

  1. Tanya Duval

    I was tabling for a charity at one of our local PRIDE functions when a lady came up to me and asked “may I ask you a question?” when I said ok thinking it would be about the charity, she asked “are you a woman or a man?” My answer: “yes I am.”


  2. Chris

    You are so right. Except it isn’t polite because it’s a way of asking something rude. There’s no way they would need to know, unless they’re trying to get you into bed. People think it’s one or the other, even other queers. It makes me mad!

    To Tanya: I choose “none of the above”.


  3. Ruth

    I had a couple of teen boys pointing and chuckling at me (MtF) on the bus the other day; I finally asked them if their mothers had taught them it was rude to point, and if they have a question, they should ask it.

    They stared at each other for a few beats, then the taller one asked, “Do you still have your d–k?”

    I replied, “Did you ever grow yours? Ask a rude question, expect a rude answer, boys. Try again, politely?” But they stayed silent the rest of the ride to the subway station…


  4. Shay

    Exactly. I keep thinking that. It’s nobody’s business what set of sex organs you have except yours and the person you are in a sexual relationship with.


  5. Mercury Mars

    questions about one’s sex should be met with – if you’re polite- an inquiry if their navel is an “innie” or an “outie”, something equally as pointless, none of your business, and irrelevant. see also mother’s maiden name, current color of underwear, and status of circumcision.


  6. Anonymous

    You rock Ruth. Way to go.


  7. Amari

    I always get this question from customers at my workplace…It gets sooooo friggin’ annoying! What business is it of yours to know what I have between my legs?!

    Next time I get asked this ridiculous question I’m just going answer back with some some dumb ish like “I’m half killer whale and half leprechaun”
    That should kill their curiosity


  8. nick

    I suppose that’s true.
    But then, some men don’t have a penis and some women do.


  9. Alaina

    I disagree…If I ever ask (which I don’t, now, unless I’m drunk, because I’ve learned a lot on this site!) I ask to find out how the person identifies.


  10. Keanan

    I know if I asked (which I never would) it would be for pronouns. The questions that should be asked (more than are you a man or woman anyway) is what pronouns do you prefer and/or how do you identify?

    These are good answers that I will have to keep on mind the next time I am asked.


  11. Anonymous

    “She fixed her blue eyes on me and elbowed her friend in the ribs. I pretended to be fascinated by my thumbnail and hated myself for caring about what I knew was going to happen next. Ten rows away all three girls held their heads together and giggled, still trying to catch my eye.

    “But five rows away, the redhead peeled her lashes back from her eyes and sat up straight. She dropped her magazine and grabbed her armrests in horror. Her mouth gaped open. She stared shamelessly at me, and then leaned over and covered her face in her hands. Her girlfriends leaned in to see what was the matter. She whispered something to them and they plastered their mouths with their palms. The redhead made pretend gagging motions.

    “I was right beside them now, and could hear them.

    “‘That is the grossest thing I’ve seen all year. Oh my God, what is it? Does it have boobs? You look. No I’m not looking, I feel totally sick. You check, Colleen, you were the one who thought he was cute. Was not. Were too. Oh my God, I can’t tell what it is.’

    “My face and ears were on fire. Did they think I couldn’t hear them? I calmly put my right hand on the seat back in front of them and leaned into their row. I placed one word in front of the other, in an orderly fashion.

    “‘Why don’t you just ask IT what IT is? Maybe IT is a human being with ears, and feelings. Why don’t you just ask IT what IT is? Maybe IT can talk, too, and maybe IT will tell you. Go head, ask IT. Because IT is standing right here.'”

    – Ivan Coyote, “Loose End”


  12. Anonymous

    Maybe these kinds of questions can be taken as an opportunity to tell people how we identify, even if they did not mean it that way. If we answer these kinds of questions straightforwardly, maybe it could help to open peoples’ minds about gender variance. If you identify as a man, couldn’t you simply answer “yes”, and if you identify as something else, simply say “no”?


  13. Sadie

    If I ask someone their gender identity or what pronouns they prefer I am not inquiring about their biological sex or what “parts” they have.

    As a cisgender person I feel it is imperative for me to respect the gender identity of gender variant individuals. I do sometimes ask people about their gender identity if I am unsure,to know what pronouns they preferred. If I asked you that question, I would not be “politely inquiring” about your anatomy, though I want to validate that this is probably commonly the case when you are asked this question.


  14. Char

    I would just answer maybe and ignore who asked me. Saying maybe is a good way to get out of having to answer any other questions (which may be asked), and to not have to bare your soul if you don’t want to.



  15. Char

    I say the above simply because:

    `Just because I am gender variant, doesn’t mean my life is on display.
    `Just because I stick out in a crowd and break your brain, doesn’t mean my life is on display.
    `Just because you may think my ignoring you represents what “others of my kind” will do, doesn’t mean I have to correct that thinking.


  16. William

    I’m trying to get to the point where I don’t pronoun someone until I’ve politely asked what pronouns they prefer. Rather than “Are you a man / woman?” a question that tries to provide its own answer, I’ll ask “What is your preferred pronoun?” or “How should I refer to you?”. It’s awkward, yes, and it’s taking effort for me (even as a genderqueer trans person) not to just assume pronouns but by asking this question of people whose gender presentation is relatively unambigious I am gently making them question their own assumptions about what pronoun other people might use. I’ve found a lot of “they”s and “No pronouns, thanks” by just doing this.


  17. Anonymous

    It’s hard to tell by looking at me which gender I might be. I wish that there was a polite way for people to ask me. I would so prefer to be asked rather than to be assumed, and assumed wrong. It would make my life SO MUCH EASIER! If they couldn’t tell what gender I was, they could just ask me. I could tell them. Likewise, If I couldn’t tell, I could just ask, and avoid making an error that might hurt feelings. It would help if there was just a simple way to express this too, without forcing people to ask. Maybe some kind of symbol or flag or color or whatever that someone could have the option to wear that said, hey! I’m a boy, girl, boy-girl, girl-boy, asexual, intersexed, whatever someone happened to be. Some clue besides clothing, which in this age the only truly gender specific item someone can wear is a skirt of some kind, and even then, it’s not all that uncommon among the art scene to find a guy who wears one just to shake up the status-quo or to cross dress for the fun of it. A guy in a dress sometimes still identifies as a guy! I understand how it can be painful to be asked, but isn’t it more painful to have someone just assume the wrong thing because they can’t figure it out? If I could just cut out the part of me that made me sad every time someone used the wrong pronoun, I would slice myself open so fast the blood would hit the ceiling. The single most difficult part of being who I am is figuring out how to deal with people who make the wrong assumption without coming off as a complete ass, or making them feel like one. Why should this matter SO MUCH? It shouldn’t. I might not be able to cut it out of me physically, but I am going to do the best I can to remove this weakness in myself. The world is full of mistakes, mean people, foolish rules, the only thing that will actually stop the pain for me, is to stop it IN me. I can’t change the world, but I can change how I feel about it. Maybe making the changes the world needs most will be easier once I stop caring so damned much about how it makes me feel.


  18. Lilybean

    A taxi driver asked me this. I just sternly and firmly replied “What’s in my pants is none of your business.”


  19. DOC

    If you say it is no ones business, then you should not be offended by someone identifying you incorrectly. And the question is “How do you identify”, not “what are you naturally”. It’s not rude at all.

    I’m in the service industry. When you work at a luxury hotel, it’s nice to be able to properly identify the guests you are working with.


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