- What is your ‘real’ name
Whenever I introduce myself, I get asked this question a lot.
The question implies that my ‘dead name’ is the ‘real’ name and that the name that I have given myself cannot be ‘real’. (A ‘dead name is the name that a trans person was given at birth, and that they no longer use. The name could still be in their legal documents since name-change in Kenya for trans people is still not an easy process)
- How do you have sex?
We do not ask cisgender people how they have sex. Why does it change when it comes to trans people?
Being asked about my genitals is uncomfortable. I often do not respond and just ignore it.
If it comes from a potential partner who wants to know from a point of being informed then we can talk about it so that they do not claim they were ‘trapped’ in a relationship with a trans person. Otherwise, people should stop asking trans people such sensitive and offensive questions.
- Why are you transitioning?
Questions about why someone is transitioning are not appropriate. Every transgender person has a different journey and experience, and our transitions do not look the same.
Some trans people only take hormones, others only do surgeries and there are those who do both. Some non-binary people can also choose to transition.
Let people transition to the extent that they want to.
(Transitioning is the process of living as one’s gender and not the gender at birth. There is social transition such as telling one’s friends about being trans, asking them to use your new name and pronouns, and dressing as your gender etc. There is also legal transition which involves legally changing one’s name and gender marker to reflect their current gender. Lastly there is medical transition which involves using hormone therapy and gender affirming surgeries to align one’s body with their gender identity.)
- What if you regret transitioning?
There is a small percentage of people who detransition (which is okay too). However, asking trans people this question fails to acknowledge the current status of trans people in the country. Accessing transition hormones and surgeries is not easy in Kenya at the moment. Instead of worrying about whether I will change my mind after transitioning, we should first seek to ensure there is access.
The question shows a lack of respect for the trans person’s identity and is a projection of personal beliefs on what one thinks is right or wrong.
- Kwani ulikata matiti? (Did you chop off your breasts?)
When I bind, people make comments about my chest such as if I chopped off my breasts. The question is quite invasive. (Chest binding is using constrictive materials to flatten breasts, mostly done by trans men and transmasculine folks)
It is an attempt to police our bodies- how we look, dress or present.
Transgender men and trans masculine people should be able to explore their masculinity and express it how they want.
Policing comes with pressure to present in a certain way. Most people have a picture of how they expect trans men to look like, often based on how cis men look. We have different bodies and we all cannot have a muscled gym body. When a trans masculine person does not look that way, their identity is questioned.
Theo, Trans man
- Assumptions that I am lost
Just because my identity does not make sense to you does not make it invalid or not real.
- What is going on in your pants?
Why are you asking?
Whenever someone asks me this question, I ask them why. Why do they feel they need to know such intimate personal details about me? When they answer then we can delve into their reason.
If it is someone that I am getting intimate with, then I would make them understand that I am trans.
- Using wrong pronouns
I find it offensive when someone uses the wrong pronouns.
If it is someone who is not aware of my pronouns, I will correct them and expect that they adjust to the right ones.
In some work-related conference, I wrote down my pronouns but a facilitator kept misgendering me. It put me off and I could not concentrate in the meeting anymore.
- You have evil spirits
I have been told that I have evil spirits for being transgender.
- How do you know if you are really transgender?
This question is rarely from a point of understanding. The person asking the question focuses on trying to revert my gender to the one I was assigned at birth. It is invalidating.
People need to understand that our identities are about how our brains are wired.
You cannot make a transgender man ‘think like a woman’.
- Have you undergone a mastectomy?
Not everyone requires surgery.
This question invalidates trans men who have not had that surgery, or those who are planning to get the surgery. It seems that if I have not had that surgery then I am not ‘qualified to be a man.
Everyone’s journey is different. Some people are okay with their bodies the way they are.
(Mastectomy is surgery to remove breasts)
- Do you have a penis?
What is your business with it?