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The fallacy that there is no cis-privilege
As a cisgendered person, I know that I have privilege. Hell, I have privilege in a lot of aspects of my life.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the Kyriarchy and how I fit into it and I can say as a cisgendered person – there is cis-privilege. Many people (*coughTERFbrigadecough*) would have you believe it doesn’t exist but – it does.
Rehashing the simple explanation by the glorious blogger Kali, the Kyriarchy is a “model for understanding privilege/oppression in a three-dimensional complex, rather than in a linear spectrum“. The world isn’t black and white. It simply cannot be divided in privileged and non-privileged but measured by who has more privilege in the location they are residing. I don’t mind being referred to as a “cis” person. The term “cis” is latin meaning “on the side of” whereas “trans” means “opposite of”, this is accurate as my sex and gender identity are aligned.
I am a white, cisgendered person who was born female. I am a gay person who has chosen to have visible tattoos and piercings. I am an atheist and a skeptic with an invisible illness, I have been to university and obtained a degree and I am physically able bodied.
Tons of privilege.
I have more privilege as a white person over a non-white person, I have more privilege as a cisgendered women over a trans*person. I have less privilege than a white man and less privilege as a gay person. I have more privilege as an able bodied person but thanks to modern society, my invisible illness is rendered – well invisible and therefore not taken seriously. I’ve been university educated and am not poor. I have less privilege as an atheist but I live in Australia and we have some pretty nifty anti-discrimination laws against discrimination so no-one really gives a shit about my atheism.
Further to that – not only was I born female but my genetics have endowed me with “feminine” (softer) body features. Some women I know who were born female, don’t have this. Their facial structure is what would be considered “masculine” (prominent jaw line and cheekbones etc). This presents a lesser privilege for anyone with that body structure who identifies as a woman.
The fact that I have advantages in my life – due to certain aspects of myself – over others does not however negate the fact I have disadvantages in my life due to certain aspects of myself. Some cisgendered people it seem to think that recognizing they have levels of privilege means their disadvantages will be forgotten – this is simply not true.
Examining the list of 30+ examples of Cisgendered Privilege, I can see what my privilege does for me in Western society:
Please comment below if you have any additions or revisions to make!
Use public restrooms without fear of verbal abuse, physical intimidation, or arrest. I’ve only had a few incidences of idiots telling me to get out of the women’s toilet because they looked at me from behind with my short hair and assumed I was a man, this isn’t oppression – it’s a few fuckwits policing gender expression because – they’re fuckwits.
- Use public facilities such as gym locker rooms and store changing rooms without stares, fear, or anxiety. I can do this.
- Strangers don’t assume they can ask you what your genitals look like and how you have sex. I do get asked a lot about how I have sex as a lesbian but that has nothing do with me being cisgendered. People generally don’t ask about my genitals. I look enough like societies expectations of “woman” to move around the world without being asked that.
- Your validity as a man/woman/human is not based on how much surgery you’ve had or how well you “pass” as non-transgender. Again, I don’t have that.
- You have the ability to walk through the world and generally blend-in, not being constantly stared or gawked at, whispered about, pointed at, or laughed at because of your gender expression. Even as a woman wearing a three piece suit, I generally don’t get that and if I do – people aren’t vocal. People stare at my piercings and tattoos but that’s unrelated to me being cisgendered.
- You can access gender exclusive spaces such as the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, Greek Life, or Take Back the Night and not be excluded due to your trans status. I’ve never been excluded.
- Strangers call you by the name you provide, and don’t ask what your “real name” [birth name] is and then assume that they have a right to call you by that name. Nope, don’t get that.
- You can reasonably assume that your ability to acquire a job, rent an apartment, or secure a loan will not be denied on the basis of your gender identity/expression. I live in Australia and we have tons of nifty laws around discrimination but that doesn’t stop people from not hiring you based on an excuse that disguises their phobia. I’m not going to get excluded form employment or housing based on my gender identity – sexuality maybe but not gender identity.
- You have the ability to flirt, engage in courtship, or form a relationship and not fear that your biological status may be cause for rejection or attack, nor will it cause your partner to question their sexual orientation. I do have this ability.
- If you end up in the emergency room, you do not have to worry that your gender will keep you from receiving appropriate treatment, or that all of your medical issues will be seen as a result of your gender. I do have this ability.
- Your identity is not considered a mental pathology (“gender identity disorder” in the DSM IV) by the psychological and medical establishments. My gender identity – no.
- You have the ability to not worry about being placed in a sex-segregated detention center, holding facility, jail or prison that is incongruent with your identity. Yes.
- You have the ability to not be profiled on the street as a sex worker because of your gender expression. Generally yes, though I have been asked a few times how much I cost (Hint: You can’t afford me). That’s not an identity thing but just people being fuckwits.
- You are not required to undergo an extensive psychological evaluation in order to receive basic medical care. Nope. Not anymore (based on sexuality).
- You do not have to defend you right to be a part of “Queer,” and gays and lesbians will not try to exclude you from “their” equal rights movement because of your gender identity (or any equality movement, including feminist rights). Nope I don’t. I’ve had to defend myself from idiots who think I’m “not queer enough” or “too queer” but you can’t please everyone and why should you have to?
- If you are murdered (or have any crime committed against you), your gender expression will not be used as a justification for your murder (“gay panic”) nor as a reason to coddle the perpetrators. My gender expression won’t be used – maybe my sexuality or appearance but not based on gender identity.
- You can easily find role models and mentors to emulate who share your identity.Yes.
- Hollywood accurately depicts people of your gender in films and television, and does not solely make your identity the focus of a dramatic storyline, or the punchline for a joke. Hollywood is pretty iffy about everything. I’ve seen women portrayed as jokes, as well as lesbians and trans*people. Trans^people have far less representative though.
- Be able to assume that everyone you encounter will understand your identity, and not think you’re confused, misled, or hell-bound when you reveal it to them. Yes.
- Being able to purchase clothes that match your gender identity without being refused service/mocked by staff or questioned on your genitals. Again yes.
- Being able to purchase shoes that fit your gender expression without having to order them in special sizes or asking someone to custom-make them. That depends on the foot and the shoe. I have weird feet.
- No stranger checking your identification or drivers license will ever insult or glare at you because your name or sex does not match the sex they believed you to be based on your gender expression. Doesn’t happen to me.
- You can reasonably assume that you will not be denied services at a hospital, bank, or other institution because the staff does not believe the gender marker on your ID card to match your gender identity. Again, doesn’t happen to me.
Having your gender as an option on a form. My gender is always there.
- Being able to tick a box on a form without someone disagreeing, and telling you not to lie. Yes, this happens. Hasn’t happened to me.
- Not fearing interactions with police officers due to your gender identity.Nope, hasn’t happened.
- Being able to go to places with friends on a whim knowing there will be bathrooms there you can use. There are always toilets I can use.
- You don’t have to convince your parents of your true gender and/or have to earn your parents’ and siblings’ love and respect all over again. Nope.
- You don’t have to remind your extended family over and over to use proper gender pronouns (e.g., after transitioning). Nope.
- You don’t have to deal with old photographs that did not reflect who you truly are. Nope.
- Knowing that if you’re dating someone they aren’t just looking to satisfy a curiosity or kink pertaining to your gender identity (e.g., the “novelty” of having sex with a trans- person). This has happened to me based on my sexuality but not gender identity.
- Being able to pretend that anatomy and gender are irrevocably entwined when having the “boy parts and girl parts” talk with children, instead of explaining the actual complexity of the issue (one “how-to” in the comments below). I don’t think I’ve ever giving “The Talk” to children.
As you can see – privilege happens on three dimensional levels, not on a linear basis. As a cisgendered person, I have a ton of privilege. I will never experience all of the things trans*people experience based on their trans*status simply because I am not trans*. Any cisgendered person who denies that is either an idiot or a liar.