By Trishula Ma Oswald

Our sex and our bodies are private matters. What’s going on in my pants and what I do with my body is, in fact, none of your business.

I get why we don’t always like to talk about our trans bodies. We bemoan the questions that follow a low-key coming out. What does it look like now? What did it look like before? Are your partners into it? How do you have sex?

I know I don’t always want to discuss the details of my body. Particularly when these questions come at inappropriate times. Like when I offer my pronouns to a new colleague. Often these questions carry the tone of complete bewilderment. I feel marginalized, othered, different, strange and weird.

I also understand the curiosity. I am often curious. I once asked a friend what sex was like with their trans girlfriend. She responded in a soft correction, “Like normal.”

These questions come from a place of pure ignorance. Westerners are told throughout their our lives that they we exist in a strict gender and sexual binary. This monochromatic view limits not only cis people from an awareness of the range of experience, but it also stops our quietly closeted selves from knowing that our genders and bodies are valid.

Be gentle in your curiosity.

These questions, although born of an imposed ignorance (not your fault), can be triggering (kind of your fault). Like someone reminding us that we are unusual. These questions can sound like society telling us how VERY DIFFERENT we are. The ignorance and curiosity behind these questions can reinforce internalized transphobia. Remind us trans people that trans people have been viewed as “rare,” and unable to conform or identify “correctly,” with the bodies we are born into. Sometimes we’re forced into a teaching moment when we really just wanted a hot chocolate.

Questions about our bodies can trigger internalized transphobia. If someone opens up about their body to you, be kind. Just listen. Validate and normalize our experience. If you can’t think of anything to say, you can reflect our language to show that you’ve been listening. That you honor our vulnerability.

Don’t ask more questions. Ask the Internet!

I do feel it’s important to talk about trans experiences. Knowing that sex and gender are separate spectrums helped me come out to myself. Learning the vocabulary helped me name my trans-ness. I hope this helps you, too.

Our bodies, trans and otherwise, are all unique.

Think about all the vulvas you’ve seen. Haven’t seen many? Go look at some. I’ll wait.

There are many ways our characteristics can combine and shift through our lifetime. There are so many ways we change our bodies to fit a physical idea of ourselves. Trans bodies are not monolithic.

There are many forms our bodies can take when we are born. There are more than two ways our primary and secondary sex characteristics develop. A person with a penis may have a uterus. A person with a vulva may also have a penis. One out of every 100 children born in the world are intersex, meaning they’re bodies don’t conform to the strict categories of “male” or “female.” Having a body that is outside of “male” and “female” is totally natural. There’s a book about it.

People who are intersex might identify as a binary gender, as male or female. They may identify as trans or cis or non-binary. That all depends on their experience with the gender assigned to them at birth. They are not necessarily transgender.

We present ourselves in this world according to whatever feels right. Sometimes we use surgery and injections, sometimes clothes, sometimes exercise. You know, just like real housewives.

Some non-binary people and trans men have top surgery, which usually means removing the mammaries from our chests. Some people who have breast cancer also get that surgery. If we’re not ready or interested in surgery, but want a flatter silhouette, we wear chest binders. We reduce the visibility of or remove our breasts to gain a more masculine or androgynous legibility.

Some of us sport a packer in the front of our boxers for that extra masc bulge. You can get a packer in all colors and sizes and circumcisions. Some of us opt for phalloplasty where skin is taken from our arms or thighs to create our penis.

Some trans men would like tampons in the men’s restroom. Or, you know, gender neutral restrooms that are stocked with tampons, q-tips and mouthwash. That would be awesome. I would like that, too.

Some ladies tuck, which means putting our dicks back and between our legs and butt cheeks. Testicles can go back there too, or upfront or inside, it all depends on the girl. This give the pubis mons more prominence and your crotch looks super cute in those panties.

Some ladies get surgical vulvas and vaginas. Some ladies have vulvas and vaginas from birth. Some ladies have flat chests and penises. Some ladies have breasts and penises.

Some men have breasts and vulvas. Some men have breasts and penises. Some men are intersex. Some women are intersex.

Some non-binary people are intersex. Some non-binary people have breasts and penises. Some non-binary people have flat chests and vulvas. Some non-binary people have bodies others call “female,” or “male.” Our bodies are exactly what we say they are.

We all have butts! Some people put padding to build out a more Jessica Rabbit shapeliness. Some get implants to get bigger butts. I’ve heard cisgender women do that, too.

Some of us take hormones and hormone blockers to redistribute the fat or muscle of our body so that people read us as more masculine, feminine, or androgynous.

Some of us don’t want to change our bodies. Some trans people believe medical transitioning is done for the sake of cisgender people. That it lets us translate our genderqueer experience into a visual language for the benefit of people who have never questioned the identities assigned to them. We might feel like surgery or hormones are another form of conforming to the binary.

Some of us want to change our bodies. Some of us want to be seen and treated in a way that aligns with our gender. Many of us want people to assume the right pronouns and feel that medical transition will facilitate that experience. Some people seek medical transition to bring our bodies in line with a way we want our bodies to look.

I know some transphobic people say that to change our appearance without actually altering how we can reproduce is “unnatural,” and doesn’t count as actually changing our gender and therefore is, I dunno , a sin?

We humans change our appearance regardless of gender and gender expression.

Besides the recent medical and cosmetic surgeries we’ve developed, humans have done this for millennia. We alter our bodies with tattoos, piercings, gages, plus whatever the fuck Pilates and Powerlifting does. We imagine ourselves different than we are and bring that vision into reality. We think about it and then make it happen. It’s a very natural part of the human experience.

You might like different names for your body. Whatever helps you feel connected to your physical vehicle is exactly what you can do. Your body is the only gift truly given to you. Your body is the only thing that is always only yours.