Gender Reassignment Questions: Curiosity Is OK, Insensitivity Isn't
So She Once Peed In The Woods - Who Cares?
Anyone who identifies along the LGBTQ spectrum has inherent challenges, not the least of which are the questions that come with being attracted to a member of your own gender, but for those who identify as trans, it would appear that John Q. Public needs to reinstall his sensitivity chip.
This first occurred to me in early February when Gender Revolution aired on National Geographic. I found out, while writing about how great the documentary was, that Katie Couric had actually been really insensitive a couple of years ago while interviewing Laverne Cox and Candis Cayne, two noted transgender activists and actresses. While hosting her talk show (which has since been pulled), Couric asked about things like their transition surgeries and specifically about their genitalia.
She'd gotten raked over the coals for it, and rightfully so. We tend not to ask each other about our genitals, so why ask a trans individual? Mercifully, she recognized her lack of sensitivity, and she conducted thorough research through work on the documentary Gender Revolution, which was a telling glimpse into both the science behind gender identity and the social facets of it. It was really a positive experience to watch someone of Couric's stature come forward and honestly confront her lack of knowledge about gender and sexual identity in such a powerful way.
Now, Caitlyn Jenner - once Bruce Jenner - has come forward to talk openly about her gender reassignment surgery. While it's great that the Olympic medalist wants to discuss such a personal matter so openly in an international forum, and make no mistake, she is commanding international attention because of her stature as an Olympic athlete and as a very public figure, she shouldn't need to.
Can't she just go pee and be left alone about it?
Under ordinary circumstances, that should indeed be the case. There shouldn't be any question about where she uses the bathroom, or anything like that. In fact, no one should care about what parts she has under her dress but her - and any partners that might come into her future.
She also noted that it was a "complex decision," but at the end of the day, she decided to go forward with the surgery.
"It’s just a penis," she said. It has no special gifts or use for me other than what I have said before, the ability to take a whiz in the woods. I just want to have all the right parts. I am also tired of tucking the damn thing in all the time.”
Fair enough, but why does everyone think it's their business to know about it? Jenner understood that people are going to have questions, and so she decided to speak out about it, but how fair is that to her?
The answer is simple - it just isn't.
She's Got The Right To Privacy
What We Forget
What we so often forget with public figures is that they are regular people, like us, but with far more money. We tend to feel that they have lost all right to privacy because we are in general a voyeuristic society. That doesn't make it right or wrong; that's simply the way things are.
However, when we have degraded to the point where we need to know things about celebrities' private lives right down to their genitalia, there's a problem.
It's great that Caitlyn Jenner wants to be open about what's happened, though she makes it clear that this is the only time she'll bring it up. I think she deserves all the credit in the world for that. However, what the heck is our problem that this needs to be brought up and discussed in the first place?
Look around - we've got kids like Gavin Grimm simply fighting for the right to use the bathroom that corresponds to his gender. In Jenner's case, because she was so visible to the public before her transition, people seem even more fascinated with her now. Good for her that she's decided to use her visibility to draw attention to a range of transgender rights and issues.
Should one of those issues, however, be an open discussion of a transgender person's genitalia? The complex surgery they go through in order to have the genitals belonging to the gender they identify with?
Would we want to be having this conversation if Caitlyn Jenner was our sister, brother, wife, mother?
We forget that she's got a right to privacy, as the rest of us all do. Her celebrity status doesn't make her immune to that; we need to respect her openness on the matter while still respecting that she has the right to keep that most intimate part of herself knowledge for herself and her current or future partners.
Wouldn't that be what you want for any one of your family members?