**Trigger warnings: Links to news articles discussing transphobic violence, harassment, and rape.**
After writing “A Call for Cisgender Action,” I got an overwhelming response via email and social media. A mother of a trans* child, educators, and activists contacted me with questions and feedback. The response prompted me to spend a lot of time pouring over gender-related blog posts and Tweets this week. Most of my information about gender topics comes from staring at a small collection of books and online news aggregates. So I tend to miss out on currently trending topics. During my search, I noticed a lot of attention surrounding #fuckcispeople, a hash tag that popped up around mid-August (Yep, I know I’m late to the party).
I think Cisnormativity’s article about the history of this hash tag has a spot-on analysis of how rage can induce change, even if many people misunderstand the hash tag’s intentions. Blogger Patience Newbury wrote of #fuckcispeople, “It burnt through a fraction of pent-up abuse, trauma, and anger experienced by people who are trans and gender-non-conforming, at the hands of people who are cis.”
As a queer person of color, I understand why someone would want to use a hash tag like this. As a cis person, I am not offended by the hash tag, because I can reflect on many instances in which I have unquestionable privilege due to my cis status. Sometimes an angry or abrasive approach is necessary to open people’s eyes and express urgency.
I decided to make my own list of cis-privileges after looking through these Tweets. As I progressed through the list, I found myself becoming angrier and more uncomfortable, imagining what it would be like to face these pressures on a daily basis. While I don’t believe that speaking from a position of anger is always the most effective way to get a message across, it still can be deployed toward a positive effect. I wrote this to explore how rage and disruptive language have a valuable place in changing our culture’s approach to gender.
A List of My Cis Privileges
- No one questions me when I use “she,” “her,” or “Loraine” to describe myself.
- If a journalist writes about me, they will make an assumption about my pronouns that I will be comfortable with. The media will not question or debate my pronoun or name usage, as news publications did with Chelsea Manning.
- I don’t have to worry about people from my past “outing” me or subjecting me to shame or ridicule.
- I have not been kicked out, abused, or disowned by family members because of my gender identity.
- If I go to prison, I will be sorted into a women’s facility, unlike prisoner and rape victim Dee Farmer.
- I don’t have to use medical documentation to prove whether my gender identity is “in progress” or “complete” when acquiring a passport.
- I am not subject to derision or violence after introducing myself with my desired name or pronoun in everyday environments, such as schools, bars, churches, businesses, or at home.
- My friends and family members are not maimed or killed in hate crimes due to my gender identity.
- I feel comfortable asking sales associates for help when searching for gendered clothes. As a cis person and as a woman, it is generally acceptable for me to wear both “male” and “female” garments (pants, suits, dresses, etc).
- I don’t have to worry about which bathroom or dressing room to use.
- I can shop in the women’s section of a store without getting strange looks.
- People don’t make remarks about the gender marker on my paperwork when they see me in person.
- My insurance company doesn’t flag my record or exclude treatments because of my gender identity, expression, or hormone usage.
- Bouncers at nightclubs do not stare at me or make hostile remarks because of the gender marker on my ID.
- I can use a public restroom without worrying about derisive remarks or violence based on my gender expression.
- I am not kicked out of women-only or lesbian spaces because of my gender expression or passability.
- If someone expresses romantic interest toward me, I don’t have to worry about violence when they discover my gender identity.
- When I try to find dorm housing, I will be sorted into an all-girls room without question.
- Gendered sports teams will not question my physical abilities based on my gender identity or sex.
- Strangers, family members, and colleagues don’t ask me intrusive questions about my genitals or medical history.
- I am less likely to suffer from social anxiety or body dysphoria.
- My voice matches my desired gender identity.
- I do not have to alter my appearance to pass as my chosen gender in public.
- I am more likely to find employment. I don’t have to worry about losing my job because of my gender identity or presentation.
- When I die, my family and friends will not try to misrepresent my gender identity, silence my identity, or erase my history.
I’m pretty sure there are similar lists out there, but I tried to think of issues that have immediacy within my own life. It will probably be impossible to really finish this list, since cis privilege is entwined with everyday “given” standards. If you are in a position of leadership or influence, please take these privileges into consideration while making decisions. Hopefully, by acknowledging these privileges, we will be able to work beyond taking these freedoms for granted.