On Being Cisgendered
You might think there isn’t a ton to say about being cisgendered. It’s easier. It’s more widely accepted.
First, what is being cisgendered? It simply means that you identify with the gender you were assigned at birth. So, for example, I am a cisfemale. We use the term “cis” at a contrast to “trans”, because without it, “cis” becomes the presumed norm and “trans” becomes the Other; just like we presume heterosexuality, we also presume cisgendering.
But that, of course, is not always the case.
Obviously I’m not going to come out railing against cisgendered people. That would not make any sense. But being cisgendered does come with privileges that you should be aware of, so that you can check them.
I. Clothing works for me, more or less.
- I am a size and shape for which clothes I feel comfortable wearing are commonly made
- There are clothes designed with bodies like mine in mind.
- If I am unable to find clothing that fits me well, I will still feel safe, and recognizable as my gender
- If I have a restriction on what clothing I will buy (e.g. vegan, allergy, non sweatshop), I can expect that specialty stores will have them in my size/shape.
II. I can generally assume that people will know which pronouns to use for me.
One of the ways to check your cisprivilege is to identify your pronouns when you are talking to people. If you look at my bio on my tumblr, for example, I state that I prefer the pronouns “she” and “her”, and when I am giving presentations I sometimes start with “I’m Randi, I prefer the pronouns ‘she’ and ‘her’”, especially if I’m made aware that this is necessary. I’m working on doing it more.
People act like it’s strange that I do this because I am cisgendered. But that’s because there is a presumption that those pronouns are correct. And that, right there, is cisprivilege.
III. I expect that I can receive medical care.
- I expect that no one will refuse me medical care based on my gender expression or gender identity
- I expect that there will be medical professionals who are trained to help me and will not be confused by my anatomy
IV. I never have to worry that I will choose the wrong bathroom, or that there will be consequences for me if I choose incorrectly
V. I never have to worry that I will be kicked out of my apartment because of my gender expression or gender identity.
VI. I also never have to worry that I will be fired because of my gender expression or gender identity.
VII. I never have to worry that I will be assaulted, or more violently assaulted, because I do not meet people’s gender expectations.
VIII. I never have to worry that a court will rule against me in a child custody hearing based on my gender expression or gender identity
IX. I never have to worry that my ID will not match my gender expression, causing confusion.
X. I never have to fear interactions with authority figures because of my gender expression
Cispeople, I am not saying that we are in the wrong just for being cis. But I am saying that being more aware of these privileges means that we can become allies in the fight to help correct these problems. In Washington DC, it is now against the law to refuse healthcare to someone based on the fact that he or she is transgendered but this was not always the case. It was not until a patient was refused help by both an EMT and later hospital staff and died, resulting in a massive lawsuit, that DC changed its policies. These kinds of changes ARE attainable, but obviously it would be better for everyone if people didn’t have to die to make that work.
So be aware. Realize that cisprivilege exists. You don’t have to apologize for being cis, just like I would never expect someone to apologize for being trans. But the trans community is by and large one of the most discriminated-against in the US, and if we can help at all by realizing where the gaps are between how we are treated and how they are treated, it could help us lead to some positive changes.
Like the title of this blog is meant to suggest, one chromosome-~-the genitals you are born with-~-should not dictate who you are. And we shouldn’t let our society get away with defining people by that standard, or discriminating against those who identify differently than our society expects them to.