Posts tagged ‘genderqueer’

Why Does the word “Cisgender” Offend You?

I keep hearing about non-trans people complaining about how offended they are by the term cisgender- which means non-transgender, a person whose gender identity “matches” the biological sex they were born with. I’m not clear if genderqueer people are considered cis or not, it’s a very broad term, so I suppose it may depend on the person. I consider myself *loosely* genderqueer (I’m a little old to be a tomboy…) but I do sometimes mention that I have cis privilege, if it’s relevant to the discussion.

I don’t understand why are they are so offended. I can think of a few reasons, but they are still bad reasons.

1) It’s unfamiliar, so it must be bad!  

If you don’t like unfamiliar words, get off the Internet. Hell just go jump in a time machine to a pre-literate age. ‘Nuff said.

2) It’s a term they didn’t choose, that’s being applied to them. I’ve heard my fellow pale-faced folk complain that “white” is offensive, and maybe it is in some ways, but did other people choose to call themselves Negros and Indians? No they didn’t! Cry me a river!

3) Because they’re “normal” or “real” men or women, and shouldn’t need a term to qualify that, gosh darn it! 

This is exactly *why* the term cisgender is useful, non-transgender gets awkward, it is intended to de-center so-called “normal” gender identity development into one kind of experience, rather than the standard one that other people are deviating from. It’s much like how in the autistic community, we’ve coined the term “neurotypical”. It’s not because we want to stigmatize being neurotypical- that wouldn’t help our NT friends and allies or ourselves, we just use it to point out that “standard” mental wiring shouldn’t be the standard for everyone to strive towards!

4) They first heard it in the context of “die cis scum” or other expressions of frustration and anger from transgender activists.

Part of the reason we need minority spaces (both physical and online) is sometimes members of minority groups need to express their anger and frustration with others who understand their experiences, without being judged by the majority group. Most people I find, who go through a process of politicizing or learning to be proud of a stigmatized identity go thru a sort of militant “Black Panther” like phase. Some people stay in that phase longer, others move on. It’s not OK to threaten violence (whether we mean it literally or not) against majority groups, however it should be remembered there is far more violence directed towards minority groups. Just because you first heard it in that context doesn’t make it a slur.

5) Maybe they’re insecure about their gender identity and super-defensive about it…

I’ve known trans people who were far more comfortable with their gender identity, bodies and sexuality than many cisgender people I’ve known. If you have such a reaction to the mere existence of trans people, maybe you should look at your own gender identity. Its something many us take for granted, and when we see other people who question their identity or don’t fit within pink and blue boxes it can be threatening to our worldview.

I also want to clarify that the words cisgender and transgender (or just trans) aren’t always necessary to put in front of woman, man or person. Most trans people just want to be people, men or women without any special qualifiers. Much like you!

(And there’s also non-binary folks who don’t identify as men or women, but this is enough to make some people’s heads explode, so I’ll save that for another day…)

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October 11, 2014 at 3:07 am 6 comments

Women-Only Space Does Not Mean Safe Space

I am really sick of the assumption by *some* feminists that women-only space is necessarily safe space. To begin with, I don’t want to have anything to do with all the transphobic crap that usually surrounds it, and furthermore even as a cis woman I don’t feel really welcome in the Girls Only Club. If these folks are so insistent on their narrow definition of womanhood, I’m sure at some point I’ll violate their pre-conceived notions. Too straight or too queer, too butch or too femme. Too something. I’m fine with participating in “anyone who IDs as a woman is welcome” spaces, but I do not go into them with the assumption that they’re automatically safer than spaces with men. 

I was never really a part of your “sisterhood” or “shared girlhood“, so save your cutesy speeches about sleepover parties and announcing when you got your period to your friends. I was That Weird Kid. I did have friends, growing up, but as I grew into puberty being a girl became less about having fun on my own terms- dressing up, having tea parties- as well as catching bugs and playing in the mud- and more about a list of obligations and rules that I had to follow. A few of these things I learned from my mother, who is a feminist herself and not inclined to push me into forms of femininity that weren’t my thing. But most of them were proclaimed and enforced with bullying, shaming, staring and shunning by other girls. In junior high, I got bored with all the fuss over makeup, clothes, diets, boys (really is anyone impressed by junior high boys?) and dances. I retreated to my books. Same with high school. Boys, for most part ignored me, but girls obsessively enforced “the rules”. 

After taking women’s studies classes in college, and observing how my experiences compare to other women, I’ve realized how much gender performance is part and parcel of faking being neurotypical. It’s suspected that women and girls are less often diagnosed with autism, or are labeled later in life because we are often better at passing as neurotypical, often by mimicking others, and just being quiet and withdrawn. My partner jokes that I have “male pattern autism”- I threw tantrums, I expressed loud opinions. My behavior was impossible to ignore, so I was labeled at fairly young age (at about 8 or 9) Anyway, I’ve gotten to the point that whenever I see a book or article, or hear a statement that “women think this way, communicate or develop this way” or whatever, I just think “That’s neurotypical women they’re talking about.” And most of the time whatever generalization was made doesn’t fit me very well, and may not even fit a lot of neurotypical women, but least of all me!

Now, I have indeed been bullied, harassed and sometimes abused by men but those experiences haven’t taught me that men, as a category of human beings are to be feared. I’m equally cautious with men and women in general social settings, though more cautious with men when walking down the street. 

So really, I ask you is really so much better for womanhood, girlhood, femininity or whatever to be defined and enforced by women rather than by men? I think the nastiest tool of the patriarchy is not the average man, but rather other women, even ones who call themselves feminists. We are our own worst enemy. I’m not letting off the men off the hook here, certainly they should be held accountable *as individuals* for their actions, but let’s not pretend we have this glorious utopian sisterhood. 

From transwomen and transmen, and cross-dressers and all manner of gender-diverse folks, I’ve learned that there are so many more options of who I can be as a human being, I feel more comfortable with being a woman in my own way *because of them* They are not in any way threatening to my identity as a woman. If they threaten yours, I think you’re the one who needs to work on having a healthy gender identity, one that’s based on being yourself rather than worrying about how other people identify.

August 29, 2014 at 1:29 am 2 comments

What is My Feminism?

So in my last post I discussed how there are many feminisms, and that my feminism may not be your feminism and that’s OK (and sometimes your feminism may not be OK) So how do I go about defining my feminism? You may be asking this question for yourself. Well, what are your experiences with different forms of oppression, and base your feminism on those experiences, while continuing to expand your understanding of others’.

*Disabled feminism- centers on the experiences of women (and men and other folks) with disabilities- both mental and physical, whether someone is born with a disability or acquires it later in life. Adults with disabilities often complain of being treating condescendingly, as incompetent eternal children- just as women (regardless of ability) often have. The question of career vs. marriage and family that middle-class feminists struggle over often seems equally out of reach to many people with disabilities. Women and girls with disabilities have had their reproductive and sexual choices taken away from them. Historically (and still to this day sometimes) women (and men) who did not conform to their roles were often labelled mentally ill and locked up in institutions. Women (and men) with disabilities are more likely to experience abuse by partners and caregivers.

*I am a religious feminist– I view religion as a social/memetic structure that can be used for both oppression and liberation. Some feminists think that all religions are inherently patriarchal, but mostly put a critical eye on Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Other feminists try to keep their politics away from their religion. Hate to break it to you: if your religion involves other humans, it’s political. I’m a Celtic polytheist/Druid and a Unitarian, which are pretty feminist-friendly religions for the most part, but we have our own problems.

*I am sex-neutral rather than sex-positive. (In regards to anything involving consenting adults- number/gender/anatomy- it’s none of my business!) Like religion, sexuality can be a beautiful and empowering thing, but it also can be terribly oppressive thing when it is violent or non-consensual. We also need to affirm the existence and validity of asexual-spectrum people and understand that they can live full happy lives without sex (or having it play a less prominent role in their relationships)

*I am trans*, intersex, non-binary and genderqueer inclusive. Gender and sex are complicated things, we need to give everyone the space and freedom to work out what their gender and sexual identity is and stop worrying about whether their gender presentation, anatomy/name/pronouns/clothes and other things “match” or not.

*I am a geeky feminist or a feminist geek– I’m involved with various subcultures that we in Western societies call “geeky”- tabletop & role-playing gaming, science fiction, fantasy etc. Traditionally these groups tend to be rather white male-dominated though this is changing. So I do think putting a multicultural feminist viewpoint on geek cultures does matter- they may be “just hobbies” and maybe most geeks aren’t that interested in activism, but social justice issues matter here too.

*I believe reform movements in other religions, cultures and countries need to be led by women (and people in general) within them and it is up to them to decide whether a custom, practice, can be reformed or re-framed in a feminist way or if it should be abolished.  These folks may also not want to label themselves “feminist” for whatever reason.

*Peace!  Yes, it’s great that women and gays/lesbians/bisexuals (but trans folks not yet) are more equal in the military. But that doesn’t mean I’m pro-military. We’re forgetting the long history of women’s leadership in the peace movement (though I don’t care much for the essentialist arguments about women being inherently more peaceful) Remember who is hurt most by war? Remember whose needs don’t get taken care of because we’re too busy funding war? Remember who really profits and who suffers?

*Capitalism is a system we need to seriously question. Within this system can we ever truly value people over profits? In the United States, the government is expected to enact laws to “force” companies (legal persons!) to be moral in how they treat their workers, the environment and so forth. Is this really working, and is this a system that feminists just want to carve their female niche into?

July 2, 2014 at 5:00 am Leave a comment


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