I'm a generally-out trans woman (in that I make little effort to actively hide my trans status). I'm a rather public figure, being an assistant professor of mathematics. I involve myself in my community. And I don't really think I have "passing priviledge" right now, so I stick out. (though passing is a troublesome word, more on that elsewhere).
In what seems like a natural course of events, people ask me questions about my experience as a trans woman. Or rather, that's what I wish they would ask me about...
Questions to stop asking me
I'd sure love to never answer these questions again. My responses here probably sound condescending or rude, and I almost agree. Except that I've been asked so so so many times, so many of them are really personal questions, and really I just want to be left alone.
Q: I noticed there was something different about you...
A: What, that I'm a PhD mathematician? That I'm not from around here? Oh, that I look somewhere between masc and femme... I see where this is going.
Q: I've never met a trans person before...
A: I bet you have. I'm just the first one both that you clocked (suspected is trans and verbalized the suspicion to confirm) and also was willing to talk with you. We have no idea who's trans and who's not.
Q: When did you first know?
A: When did you first know? Question yourself before you question me.
Q: Have you had breast implants?
A: This is none of your business. I can't believe you just asked me, a woman, about my breasts. Wow.
Q: So those are your tits?
Q: Have you had ... The Surgery?
A: Have you had it? Leave me alone.
Q: Does it still work?
A: Really? Are we still talking about my body? Does yours still work?
Q: How long have you been on hormones?
A: I'm almost impressed you knew that HRT is a thing. Still not your business.
Q: What was your name before?
A: This is a very rude question. What, so you can call me by it? So you can have a touchstone to my former masculinity? I'm not telling you, don't ever ask me this again.
Q: Can I see a picture of you from before?
Q: Are you a man or a woman?
A: I'm going to scream for help now. We're done.
Except that I have a hard time ending these conversations. I just want to educate so badly. I'm a professor, and there are ignorant people who need teaching. But I mostly just want to live my life, and not have my trans status be such a focus in my interaction with the public. Nor do I want or deserve the burden of teaching every ignorant person Trans 101.
The common thread in these questions is their complete lack of understanding, respect, or introspection at even the most primary level, and the sole focus on my body, completely ignoring my daily or lived experience. All of these questions have been discussed at length in books, articles, youtube videos, and more, all by actual trans people. The answers are a google search away. Just look them up.
Come back to me when you're past primer level, and we'll have a much more pleasant conversation in which I don't feel near so belittled and objectified. Let's talk about experience, not body.
Better questions to ask me
These questions start to dig deeper, and ask me more about my experience as a trans person rather than a trans object of curiosity. I pose the questions from the cishet perspective. You should try to establish trust with me before asking these. It's a fine line between objectification and introspective curiosity.
Q: What was it like being raised as a boy?
Q: How has your relationship with women changed as you've transitioned? With men? With trans people?
Q: What parts of womanhood do you most strongly identify with? Which were the most suprising?
Q: What parts of manhood are you happiest to be done with? Are there any experiences of manhood that you miss?
Q: What's it like being part of an excluded and maligned group?
Q: Have you found community?
Q: What have you done to help others with a similar identity? How have you received help from others?
Q: What is dating like?
Q: How has your family life been?
Q: What can I do to help you and other trans people?
Q: What are some of your life goals?
Best questions to ask me
Q: Can we play a board game together?
Q: What's your mathematical research about?
Q: What's your favorite color? Food? Place you've been?
I am just a person. Let's relax away from me being primarily trans, k? We can still talk about it, as it is a prominent narrative in my life currently. I just want to be able to be a woman, a gamer, a mathematician, a lover, without always being trans first.