Ask me anything (no, really)

I had to make sure I wasn’t in some kind of quasi-Twilight-Zone-dream when, for the first time, more than one person has asked to pay me to make an appearance to talk about trans stuff.

While there’s no shortage of information pinging around in my brain at 12,429,231 km/s, I’m not necessarily equipped to know what y’all weirdo cis people actually want to know about. I have forgotten what it was like to not know.

So, in the context of “people are throwing modest sums at me to talk about trans stuff,” what kind of trans stuff would you attend if it were being offered at a conference?

Don’t worry about asking offensive questions since offensive questions may be a topic unto itself (that’s a content warning, trans readers).



  1. blf says

    This has been mentioned before (at poopyhead’s, as I recall), but some people — including, at one time. myself — were confused as to what cis meant, and, based on context, presumed it was an insult, or at least a jibe / snark. Based on this, I would suggest clearly explaining the terminology, and preferred terminology, and perhaps even using cisgender (at least initially).

  2. Czech American says

    @blf — For quite a while, I was afraid to say the word “cis” out loud because I had only ever seen it typed and wasn’t sure how it was pronounced.

    @Shiv — My biggest question is “What should I read?” This may not be helpful.

    Another question perhaps more in the spirit:

    What do you think is the most important thing for cis people to try to understand about the trans experience?

  3. anat says

    Perhaps explain the different ways people use to transition. That transitioning doesn’t mean a specific set of actions in one particular order.

  4. martha says

    I’ve wanted for a while to say thank you, because you and people at FTB in general made me feel more comfortable than I might have been when my gay daughter began hanging around with trans and non-binary people and a lot of new pronouns and terminology entered our lives. It helped a lot to have heard it all before and to have been turned on to Robot Hugs and Assigned Male and so forth.
    I put your question to my daughter because she’s probably closer to the age range of your conference-goers and she mentioned this Robot Hugs comic about dealing with the intersection of trans-ness and mental illness and said she would go to hear about something like that.
    I guess I’d go to listen to anything that shed light on parenting trans or maybe-trans kids. I was at a meeting once where I heard the parents of some of my daughter’s friends trying to understand how to respond to their children’s requests for hormones and it seemed like none of us, including the gay woman leading the meeting, had enough context or information to know how to make a good decision there.

  5. fusilier says

    As someone who is Straighter than Quality Control in a Ruler Factory*, I find it impossible to imagine what trans people go through. Yes, I’ve seen superficial local-news stories on little Ethelbert saying “No, I’m Ermintrude and I’ve always been Ermintrude.” but in those cases, Mom and Dad always support their child ( as they should.)

    What _internal conflicts_ exist to force someone to make such a transition – from Roberta to Robert or vice versa – given our societal pressure to not change?

    James 2:24

    *TM a poster over at Poopyhead Myers’ blog ;^)

  6. blf says

    For quite a while, I was afraid to say the word “cis” out loud because I had only ever seen it typed and wasn’t sure how it was pronounced.

    Come to think of it, I still don’t know the “correct” pronunciation. I don’t worry about it too much as I have some odd, not always deliberate, pronunciations anyway, further confused by (now) living in French-speaking-land, but yeah, it would be helpful to know the preferred / consensus pronunciation.

  7. AMM says

    A common question is “how are we supposed to believe that trans women are really women and not woman-wannabees or something?” (For some reason, I don’t hear “why are trans men really men?”)

  8. AMM says

    Re: the pronunciation of “cis”:

    One slogan I’ve heard is “down with the cistem,” which is pronounced exactly like “down with the system.” “cistem” refers to the cis-normativity in society.

    BTW, if you’re a chemist, you already know how to pronounce “cis”, and you know it’s the opposite of “trans”.

  9. AMM says

    Totally off-topic, I know, but:

    I’ve always wanted to popularize the term “cissies” for cis people, by analogy with “trannies.”

  10. Pierce R. Butler says

    As a materialist, I think people are the product of their genetics * their environment.

    If a person has (say) a Y chromosome and has been raised as a boy, where does this deep-rooted “self = (say) female” perception come from, if you exclude (say) the soul concept?

    (Yes, I could, maybe, mostly thanks to bloggers such as our esteemed host, give a tentative partial answer to this one – but she writes so clearly about such points I would rather see her response.)

    Also – how do you sort out the drag-queen/transwoman distinction/overlap?

  11. anat says

    Pierce, one hypothesis is that it has to do with the hormonal environment that the embryonic/fetal brain was exposed to. We know the brain has receptors for sex hormones, but we have very little idea what hormones do in the pre-natal brain. But we do know that many maternal hormones cross the placenta – steroid hormones cross any biological membrane, and they include androgens, estrogens, but also glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids. It is possible that maternal stress floods the fetus with glucocorticoids that bind the ‘wrong’ hormone receptor in the fetal brain. Or something else along those lines. (Typically corticoid receptors bind one type of receptor strongly, but they also bind other receptors weakly. If the level of hormone is very high the weak binding is enough to elicit a cellular response.)

  12. anat says

    Also to Pierce: Remember that the textbook version of biology is an idealized over-simplification. Biology in real life is extremely messy due to the existence of thousands of moving parts.

  13. Adam says

    Sorry, if this has been asked before elsewhere. I’d say I have a few questions but I’ll try and limit it to one for now. I guess my main question would be:

    Would it be accurate/inaccurate to say that a trans-woman has, at any point in her life, been the recipient of male privilege? If not, why not? If so, are there any circumstances that it might matter?

    My initial assumption would be that, prior to transitioning, the people around her would see her as male and treat her as such, with all related cultural baggage. I’m not saying this in anyway mitigates the painful aspects of the trans experience, I’m just wondering if it’s right or wrong, or if it matters.

    I apologise if that’s phrased badly.

  14. Adam says

    I suppose the other things on my mind, based on one of your previous posts, would be to disentangle the terms gender variant, and gender dysphoria. Are they the same as gender-nonconformal and a specific form of body dysphoria?

    I apologise if I’m using these terms incorrectly/ignorantly.

    Basically, it seems like a lot of the “panic” regarding the treatment of trans children comes from the assumption children, who do not conform to their perceived genders traits, are being defined as trans and then shoe-horned them a box and a life that may not fit. If I’m understanding your previous posts correctly, there is a distinct difference between simply not-conforming to your gender roles and being trans. Also, that this difference is known and incorporated into the way that medical professional (should) treat children, ergo panic is over nothing.

    Is there a way to make this distinction that dumb, cis-people, such as myself, can grapple with? One that avoids the typical oversimplifications? If you could strip away all of the parts of the trans-experience that are linked to not conforming to cultural gender tropes, what is left?

    Or am I asking for a pet unicorn that breaths fire but is perfectly house-broken?

  15. Siobhan says


    All excellent questions. I won’t reply here since I’m planning a presentation & long-form posts for the blag.

    Thank you everyone for the questions so far. Please keep ’em coming.

  16. chigau (ever-elliptical) says

    Why is it important to back-date* the change?
    *Sorry. I can’t think of a more accurate term. Vocabulary failure on my part.
    i.e. change the birth certificate.

  17. Siobhan says


    Why is it important to back-date* the change?

    Most government bureaucracies rely on birth certificates as proof documents in support of ID amendment, meaning the only way to get accurate ID under such systems is to amend the birth certificate.

    The issue could be sidestepped if a government bureaucracy didn’t require the birth certificate to amend ID. Under such a system I couldn’t care less about what my cert said. But where I live, I can’t get my healthcare number, passport, or social insurance number updated without it.

  18. chigau (ever-elliptical) says

    If you (anybody) change your name do you change your birth certificate?
    I’m sure that my mother’s birth certificate is in her maiden name, other ID is in her married name.
    Ya think maybe there is a double standard at work here?

  19. anat says

    Some belated additions that occurred to me:

    I find it fascinating that social transitioning on its own helps with gender dysphoria. What does that say about the cause of dysphoria? (If the ‘phantom limb’ analog were accurate I wouldn’t expect it to work. Or am I totally mistaken?)

    Is there any difference between transgender individuals who were raised with strict gender roles vs those raised with less strict ones? Do the latter find it more difficult to realize they are in fact transgender? Or find it more difficult to get parents and others to realize it?

  20. anat says

    The issue with birth certificates is especially important if one plans to immigrate – you might be able to change documents without changing your birth certificate, but then you move to some other country, and if you want to make your status permanent you might be asked to establish your identity from birth.