Questioning: Gender & Privilege

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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.


 

you significantly failed to engage with my critique.

 

Identity. A subjectively claimed and constructed IDENTITY is not an entitlement. This is the fatal error in the framework of your presumed “political correctness.”

 

I am not ENTITLED to be treated according to my IDENTITY as Miss Piggy. Otherkin are not entitled to a space at the animal shelter; males in dresses are not entitled to enter sex-segregated space for females. White people who love fried chicken, watermelon, and rap music are not ENTITLED to have their “trans black” narratives privileged by the NAACP or to airtime at Black Panther meetings. Do you get it yet? Association with stereotypes DOES NOT EQUAL authenticity.

 

No individual is ENTITLED to membership in a group that society does not coercively place them in.

 

As I carefully explain in the post, oppression is a function of EXTERNAL (not internal) PERCEPTION. Plenty of transwomen PASS AS STEALTH. Many more butch dykes and gender non-conforming females get treated NO BETTER than non-passing (as “target sex”) “trans” people. CIS is a useless concept for describing social dynamics.

 

Transwomen still face disadvantages in terms of privilege as opposed to transmen.

 

Yeah. I agree! Again, another place you are missing the big picture. The “disadvantage,” as you call you it, is created BECAUSE the sex-roles of “man” and “woman” are NOT EQUAL. Transwomen are LOSING social status by moving from the male TO the female social class. Transmen GAIN social status by escaping the female caste and moving to the male social class. This is basic: “gender” is a HIERARCHY.

 

No one is forced to read this article.

 

I put the offending part into bold. 

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.” 

14 thoughts on “Questioning: Gender & Privilege

  1. left a comment about such thing…there is indeed spectrum and not binary with regard to gender expression…however cis privilege is just a sad fact. sure, women don’t enjoy the same social hierarchical position in the patriarchy as do men, but cis women enjoy privilege over those who are not cis. hands down, without a doubt.
    even within the gay and lesbian communities, cis people have a ‘leg up’ as it were compared with their gender variant or transgender fellows. even to the point of at times excluding especially trans-women from “all women” events.
    gender expression is indeed a gradient spectrum from those like my daughter who must undergo surgery to be whole, to those who simply don’t follow ANY gender rules and ascribe to none of the categories. but cis is cis.
    just as white people might not like it that they enjoy privilege over people of color in our still not quite post-racial society, the overwhelming tendency of societal paradigms to oppress exist. there’s only so many ways to skin that cat

    1. A very complicated subject. The hardest part is when some of the people who insist on being part of the discussion also insist on refusing to come to the table with an open mind and a willingness to learn.

  2. I am really surprised. I am 55 and always been a friend and supporter of the LGBT community, and never would I have thought that I would be insulted by Transgender women. Never, I am just hurt. Reading these articles that you have linked, I have have felt attacked for being a biological woman. I am certainly not saying you Kira. Just wow, I can’t read it anymore. I think it is just an argument I am going to stay out of. I wish everyone joy, happiness, acceptance, peace & love. I hope everyone has peace & unity of a oneness consciousness.

    1. I’m sorry you found this hurtful, I just wanted people to be aware of where this argument seems to be going and speak to my own misgivings about what I had read.

      I thought it best to not link directly to the post in question as I thought it more trouble causing than helpful. There is a feeling to it which sets my nerves on end.

      I will say this, I do not feel what was said reflects the thoughts and feelings of the majority of people. There are however, those few who, like a certain rabid church in Florida, seek to hurt others through words and actions. Who are so intolerant of anyone different from themselves they cannot understand that they are more the problem than those they rant and rage against.

      Understand, the post in question was not written by someone in the Trans* community, though the first comment apparently was, and it was to that comment that the author was responding when she made the statement which I highlighted in bold.

      1. I understand that the hurtful comments that were re-posted here were not from a Transgender woman. I read all the articles you have posted and linked, so really my comment was from the overall issue and things I have read. Its okay because I know it is not your feelings, we are friends and sisters.
        Peace & love,
        Sindy

      2. After I replied, I was worried I had misunderstood your comment and I think I did. In trying to avoid potential confrontation, in not providing a direct link to the post in question, I wonder if I didn’t confuse the issue further.
        I felt and still feel that articles like this do more harm than good, even if they are able to provide an incentive for someone to find the truth for themselves.
        Isn’t better to simply treat one another with respect and understanding? As you say, we are all friends and sisters.

        ((Hugs))

        Kira

  3. I love me a good academic-styled argument. The only thing I don’t get about the whole trans/cis discussion in general is how it was decided to use “cis” to designate males and females who identify with their officially assigned sexes (read: reproductive organs). Other than that little quibble, I get it. I can’t imagine feeling that uncomfortable in my own skin, but I understand those who do. I know that transgender people are real, they are not pretending or faking, that they have genuine physical and psychological issues. I’m on the trans*folks side.

    My other real problem comes from the way the whole damn world likes to conflate sex and gender. They aren’t the same thing. Sex is biology–XX or XY–and some trans*people are born with the wrong sex. I’ve read articles about the horror stories of how doctors used to decide at the birth of hermaphroditic children which sex they ought to be (btw, they usually decided female and removed any traces of male genitalia). But gender is the social construct of masculine and feminine, of how you present to the world. Some trans*people don’t want to have the physical changes (mostly surgery), but still need to present as the opposite gender. That’s a wayyyyyy oversimplified version of the situation as I understand it. But the important part to remember in all these discussions is that sex and gender are NOT the same, even if most people want to lump the two together. I’m a woman, comfortable enough with that, but I’m not girly; many of the ways I like to dress and move my body can seem very masculine. I don’t fit many of the traditional stereotypes for feminine people.

    Either way, I’m glad I read this today. I don’t know if I contributed anything new to the conversation, but I put in my two cents (and aired my favorite language peeve).

    1. Anytime you or anyone takes the time to share thoughts, it is helpful if for no other reason than it shows a desire to understand, which too many people in the world just don’t want to do.

      For the average person, viewing gender and sex as the same seems to make sense since they both match as expected in their heads. The idea that for some this is not the case just seems ridiculous.
      Then again, it wasn’t all that long ago that many of these arguments were made in regards to sexual orientation. It will take time and education to change the perceptions of people who have had no reason to think about the issues which are so important to those who live with this every day and those who support us.

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