Cis Appropriation and Other Speshul Snowflake Deeds
This post was originally published Sept 17, 2009 here.
I’m sure you’ve all read up on the silliness from some well known trans folk on cis as a term. I’m certainly sure you’re aware of the entitled privileged cis folk who whined about it (like white people crying about being called white. What the fuck, people?). I’m sure you’ve seen the folk who have spoken against this cis oppression enabling foolishness (including my very angry, snarky self).
Cisgender, as detailed in the posts addressing this garbage about it being a bad or useless term, is simply a means to create discourse regarding transgendered people that doesn’t other the fuck out of us. Yanno, because beforehand it was trans vs. normal. Because we know how well that goes for people, right? Right.
The whole reason why we have this word is to give us a way to describe the privilege attached to folk who aren’t trans without going “normal people privilege! Not-freak privilege!”
So when people attack its existence, or insist it’s weaponized, I tend to find them… well… absurd. Either that or they are fighting their darnedest to escape from any responsibility of owning their privilege (for the cis folks) or fighting their darnedest for those delicious oppressor cookies, which are apparently enough to even make Kate Bornstein, Monica Helms and Autumn Sandeen sell the fuck out to the cis folk. Also I’m fairly certain that there’s head patting and free coffee for selling out. I can’t be sure though because I’ve never sold out to the oppressors before. And I plan to never do so. (If I ever do, please firmly kick me in the ass, I will need it at such a point of awfulness)
But sometimes, well, sometimes we have a Speshul Snowflake. Someone so sparkly, so darn important, someone who (thinks they) get it so absolutely and wonderfully well, that they just can’t understand why their Speshulness is not included! Enter the Speshul Snowflake land of Helen Boyd.
Apparently, if you’re a partner of a trans person, you know exactly what we’re going through, 100%, no take backs, nu uh totally take backs, no I called it first no take backs, fine you’re a jerk. Did that sentence seem silly, to you? Well it might be because the sentiment itself is unbelievably silly.
But hey, if you don’t want to go to the link, just read in this here quote box:
Telling me, & other partners whose lives are profoundly impacted by the legal rights / cultural perceptions of trans people, that we are “not trans” implies that we are also not part of the trans community. I’ve been saying for years now that we are. When trans people are killed, harassed, not hired, fired due to discrimination, denied health care, etc. etc. etc., their loved ones suffer along with them. Their families, their lovers, their kids especially. We are not just “allies.” We are vested, dammit, & a part of the trans community, so when “cisgender” comes to mean, or is used to mean, “not part of the trans community,” we are once again left out in the dark.
I’ll tell you all what, I’m going to be a fool and give her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she doesn’t understand how marginalization and privilege work. Lots of folks don’t. In fact this kind of stuff tends to be mid level sociology course work, so chances are you won’t have exposure to it unless you do some AP sociology classes in high school or take at the very least a basic sociology course in a community college (and actually that isn’t sarcastic at all, sociology isn’t required for many degrees and a lot of folk can’t go to college. So really, I won’t hold it against someone for not knowing, I will merely inform them) or have a background in the activist community and have dealt with the language before.
Marginalization applied to a given group is not applied to another group. Group 1 is marginalized. Group 2 is privileged. The marginalization of group 1 can have secondary effects on group 2. This is not the same as the marginalization. This is simply a ripple effect. You, as a partner, are not experiencing your partner’s pain. Unless you’re some kind of emotion psychic. In which case, good Aspects, hide yourself, the government is searching for people like you to create super soldiers out of!
At worst, you are experiencing the pain of seeing your partner hurt. And that sucks. Undoubtedly. You may also experience some personal backlash, say if your partner loses a job for being trans and you both have to tighten your belts. And that sucks too. But you didn’t lose your job. You haven’t been denied medical care for having a mixture of structures on your body. You aren’t objectified by hundreds of fetish following chaser guys who care more about touching your genitals then they do about your feelings (on top of the set of het guys who fetishize all women). You won’t get murdered for having a penis. You won’t get beaten to within an inch of your life because you accidentally dropped your voice a little in the wrong place. You won’t get exploited by manipulative people who know trans folk are vulnerable and scared and then raped and not be able to go to a single woman’s shelter because you’ll be turned away.
Basically, you being a partner? Doesn’t fucking make you trans. It doesn’t let you understand how that feels. You experience it, at best, through a proxy and a lens. And that ain’t experiencing it.
Oh it gets worse. Because you see, she actually teaches about cis privilege and trans marginalization. So that benefit of the doubt I gave her? Yeah that was silly on my part. She’s trying to make an assessment and a claim built on nothing more than “I WANT A PIECE OF THE PIE TOO!” Because for some reason, apparently, a pie filled with nails, broken glass and thumbtacks that we are force fed by society looks so appealing to her.
If you read around a bit, you’ll see that Helen has a very inaccurate view of how cis is used. Apparently we use it like a curse and we equate cis to being cissexist. This is categorically bullshit. You know what I use cis for? Not trans. That’s it. That’s what cis is. Cis is aligned together. Trans is aligned apart. So if your gender identity and assigned sex are aligned apart then you are trans. If not than you are cis. It is not a weapon, it is a classifier, used for discourse only.
Like I said in my other post, I do not introduce hypothetical cis woman Candace as, “This is my Candace, she’s a cis-woman” and no one should introduce me as, “This is Kinsey, she’s a trans woman.” The word is not for common day to day use. In common day to day conversations I am a woman with no fucking qualifiers attached.. Just like any other woman, cis or trans.
To me, when a cis person criticizes the word cis it means one of two things. They either don’t get the concept of privilege, othering and safe discourse (and that is normal and I work to help them figure it out in such a case) or they want to not have a word that means not trans. And that comes down to them being privileged selfish assholes who want to be seen as normal and default and have us be “those other people”.
Helen comes across as a brand spanking new one though. Someone who doesn’t like being told she isn’t trans because omg she has a trans partner. And is maybe slightly variant in her expression. OMFG. That is some serious unique snowflake traits right there.
Now I can understand some confusion regarding cisgender vs. cissexual. Cisgender is purely gender vs. sex and cissexual is gender identity vs. sex. So Helen could very well be transgender, if she’s got some gender expression going on that isn’t very mundane and is notable to get a response from cis society. Yes, if this is the case, she’ll face at least some minor trans oppression. I can bet you though, that she is cissexual. That her GI and body match. That she possesses no bodily or role dysphoria related to her sexual structure or gender.
Of course if none of that applies to her, then she’s cis, no matter how unique and sparkly her snowflake ice crystal edges are. And this goes for the rest of cis folk. Don’t appropriate the trans realm. You only hurt us when you do that. And that makes you a shit ally.
Note: “This is my Candace, she’s a cis-woman” should be “This is my friend Candace, she’s a cis-woman”. I really ought to proof read more. XD
Go here to read the comments on the original post.
Filed under: activism, rant | 27 Comments
Tags: appropriation, cis, fuck this fuckery, kyriarchy, linguistics, privilege, transgender