beyond the binaries

Posts tagged cisgender

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Interviewing an Open Minded Person (by ClosetTransgender)

This is one of the videos where Forest interviews cis friends about their views on transgender issues, why they feel that way, and about their own gender identities.

I like how he turns around the usual situation where trans people are the constant object of questions, and the only ones asked to explain their genders. Here’s are two fragments:

Forest: “Do you think of me as a normal male friend, or is there something a little different? How would you explain that?”

Friend: “Hmm, that’s an interesting question. Well, my male friends have a range of maleness. I don’t know if there really is such a thing as a normal… I definitely think of you as one of the guys.” (…)

Friend (when asked about his own gender): “In our culture, we’re given a model of masculinity that’s often unhealthy… So it’s an interesting balance between rejecting the bad parts of the male story but also loving myself as a man, accepting myself as a man; being in touch with the good things about being a man and really embracing that.”

Filed under video interview cis cisgender trans man

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Whipping Girl FAQ on cissexual, cisgender, and cis privilege



Excerpts of Julia’s answer as to why the term ‘cis’ is used:

“I began writing Whipping Girl in 2005, before I had heard of the “cis” terminology. A major focus of the book was to debunk many of the myths and misconceptions people have about transsexuals. Initially, I was kind of scattershot in my approach: In one chapter, I would critique the way the term “passing” is used in reference to transsexuals. In another chapter I would critique the use of the terms “bio boy” and “genetic girl” to describe non-trans men and women. In yet another chapter, I would critique the way that transsexuals are always depicted as imitating or impersonating “real” (read: non-trans) women and men. And so on. After a while, it became obvious to me that all of these phenomena were stemming from the same presumption: that transsexual gender identities and sex embodiments are inherently less natural and less legitimate than those of nontranssexual people. “

(read on)

Filed under cis cisgender cissexual ciscentrism privilege Julia Serano Whipping Girl


Trans folks did not ‘used to be’ any gender other than the one they identify as. Period, the end. When you refer to them–past or present tense–use the correct pronouns and only the correct pronouns. ‘When so-and-so used to be [name or gender]’ is never correct. It’s not just inappropriate, it’s wrong. Also, a person will tell you their name. That’s all you need to know. Don’t ask what their ‘real name’ is or their ‘old name’–it’s irrelevant. One of my cisgender friends is named Brandon. It’s not his given name but very few people know that and no one ever asks him about it. That’s called cis privilege. If you have trans friends (and I hope you do!), and someone asks you their legal/given/former name, only disclose that information if you are sure your friend wants you to. It’s their life.

So You’re Cisgender – What does this mean for your life?

(via ihatethismess, feralsean, crustyriotqueer, vulpes-vulpes, fuckjesuswithmystrapon, onlylivinglesbian)

Read the full article. It’s an important piece to read especially for cis-gendered folks who want to support and work in solidarity with our rad trans-friends.

(via shakepaper, novazembla, so-treu, rickeylaurentiis, fuckyeahtrannies)

Filed under ciscentrism cisgender cis privilege 101 resource

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Cisgender, Cissexual


bah, here’s some word vomit for my end of semester project.  what do you think?

An Etymological (or Phililogical?)  Exploration of “Cisgender” and “Cissexual” 

We live in a binary world (generally speaking) and the implications of this upon language are immense.  Most social categories have binary terms for social identites, one each for the privileged and for the marginalized—homosexual and heterosexual, queer (or gay, lesbian, bi, etc.) or straight, Black or white, disabled and able-bodied.  We create these terms to divide our world, and rarely do these designations originally come from the marginalized group.  Terms evolve over time, and their evolution is rarely smooth.  One example of this is the terms “cisgender” and “cissexual,” meant to designate those who are not transgender or transsexual (again, generally speaking).

      These words come from the trans community, rather than the oppressor group, growing out of trans listserv conversation in the late nineties and minted by a Swedish trans man who noticed that trans- as as prefix had a relative in chemistry (and Latin):  cis.  The application was simple—if trans-gender means “on the opposite side of the gender you were designated at birth,” then cis-gender could mean “on the same side of the gender you were designated at birth.” Of course, this glosses over particulars, including the fact that the trans community seems to have little clue what to call itself, but on the whole is preferable to the idea that not-trans means normal and natural.

      Adoption of the term, in my experience, has been difficult for many folks I’ve encountered.  My experience is limited to online blog tussles and complicated explanations of my own identity to straight cisgender friends, professors, and coworkers, but there is a reluctance to use a term that seems so freshly minted, one created by members of the marginalized community in question, and one that questions the category of cisgender itself (implying, after all, that gender [and being cisgender] is socially constructed).  This struggle is not new in social justice communities—I know white people who don’t identify as white (with the term, with its implication, etc—to ill effect, in my opinion), temporarily able-bodied (TAB) people who really loathe that designation, and so on and so forth.  What makes the label so hard to swallow?  Is it the fact that it exists, and calls into question the stability of cisgender identity itself?

      Or is it something else?  Cisgender as a term is not without its problems.  As I mentioned earlier, like the term “transgender,” it collapses complicated convolutions of gender identity in order to make it all easier to understand.1  Its source is an online community—and availability to the internet is something classed and raced in a really specific way.  I can’t accurately map this, but I didn’t hear the term cisgender until I entered college, and not because I wasn’t part of a trans community (though my own identity as trans did not erupt until the second semester of my first year).  In print, I see cis- mostly in academic books about trans people (usually written by sociologists or trans people undoing the damage of sociology).  Is it readily available outside of the internet?  Does it need to be?  What does that mean?  Who uses the term cisgender, both in and out of the trans community (communities)?

      As of yet, I am not clear what path this project will take me—the sources I’ve gathered so far include Whipping Girl by Julia Serano, a book that among other things lays out her distinct delination of cis- as a prefix, Julia Serano’s subsequent online explanations of her work, a volatile blog post on the community blog for Feministing and all its nasty comments that I wrote the summer between my junior and senior year, and the listserv posts where cisgender first popped up.

Filed under cis trans cisgender cissexual language identities transgender community labels