I’ve been thinking all day about what I would write about and I kept coming back to one word; Gender. Earlier this week I became involved in a discussion about the use of the prefix, cis and how some find it offensive. This lead to questioning the meaning of “privilege” and “gender” as they are being used in the discussions about Trans* rights and transphobia. I don’t think those last two were intended to be part of it, but they did come to my mind as I read not only the article which started the exchange but another article as well.
I am not going to link to the second article though I am going to talk about some of the things the author brought up. Normally I wouldn’t do this, but something occurred in the comments which for me invalidated anything useful which might have found its way into the original post. to not be too cryptic I am going to share the comment and response and let you make up your own mind.
Please note, I am not including the names of anyone involved in this discussion, I am providing the following only to share something I found personally objectionable.
I entirely disagree with the premise of this article. I see this perspective as transphobic and has very little understanding of trans and gender theory. I wish I had more time to articulate all of my points, but perhaps I will have to come back later.
1. The underlying argument that trans/cis is a mutually exclusive binary is false. There is a whole spectrum of gender queer identities in between these two labels. These terms are used to describe the difference between those who, upon being referred to as their assigned gender, do not feel an uncomfortable and uneasy sense of identity and those who do. That is to put it very simply. Of course many people feel feel themselves all over the gender spectrum when it comes to presentation (many people identified in the comments here as butch dykes) but the underlying difference that makes one cis is that they still feel comfortable with their perceived genitalia defining their pronouns. If anyone reading this article and agreeing with it has ever had a conversation with a trans* person, you might have a less fucked up perception of these terms.
2. This article seems to believe that by acknowledging cis-privilege, this is erasing male privilege. Once again, THESE ARE NOT MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE. The idea of intersectionality understands that there can be different types and levels of oppression that overlap. It’s complicated! That’s okay! Yes, women in this society are at a disadvantage to men. But this fact does not negate the struggles that trans* people face every day as well. To not be recognized as being the gender they identify with, and have to read fucked up articles like this, is a constant struggle. So even though cis-women don’t have the same privileges as cis-men, being cis is still a huge advantage over being trans*, where people are constantly telling you that your identity DOES NOT EXIST. Transwomen still face disadvantages in terms of privilege as opposed to transmen.
3. That whole tangent about sexual violence is completely missing the point. Do you realize how much sexual violence trans people endure? From strangers asking about what’s in their pants to rape. Don’t assume that sexual violence is a “woman” thing.
3. Don’t even get me started on the fucked up comment “Jacqueline S. Homan” made above. Really? You’re going to hate on transwomen because they have the wrong biology to you? Can you even understand what it’s like to be told the way you want to be referred to and how you want to present isn’t a valid identity?
I am a queer cis-female. I don’t have the same background as someone who is trans* to properly articulate that experience, but I’m not about to read shit like this and let it slide. Who the fuck are you to police other people’s identities?
Where I have a problem is with the response.
Now maybe I’m bing over sensitive here, but I found this not only personally offensive, but bigoted and transphobic as well. As I said, with this single paragraph she completely invalidated anything else she may have said, right or wrong.
The general premise of the post was that using the prefix “cis” was offensive because it implied privilege which doesn’t exist. That indeed, women cannot be thought of as being privileged within the context of a male dominated society. That gender is not a social contract as much as it is a “socially constructed power hierarchy” designed to enslave women. Since men and women cannot exist within the gender binary equally, then they cannot be seen as the same in regards to “cis” privilege.
Now I admit this is an over simplification of the argument made, but this is a very lengthy post and I could spend weeks just going over what was said and picking it apart, but for me this really wasn’t the point. I found it a motivator to do my own research, to learn for myself just what forces are at play within the context of society and the gender binary.
There was a lot of time and effort put into thinking all of this out, but there is something about it which just doesn’t feel right. I agree one can make the argument for hierarchy within the gender binary, but to say that those who stand in the mainstream of what is considered “normal” as defined by the majority don’t benefit from that is a little naive, even if the case can be made that such benefits are less than those enjoyed by males. i also feel that the author has made an effort to not understand the discussion from the other, “Trans*” side and has instead sought to frame the discussion from a point where she and like minded people can seek to make themselves into victims not just of a society which punishes women for not being men, but also of so called “Transgender wrath.”