Cissexism – is the belief and treatment of transgender and/or transsexual people, bodies, opinions, gender identities and their positions as inferior, invalid, lesser, incorrect, immoral, or against nature compared to cissexual (non-trans) people. (expanded definition)
Opening – A Culture of Ciscentricity
This is a topic specifically relevant to myself as a person. I mean, after all I am trans. As much as any other -ism, this particular -ism is pretty rampant even among those versed or involve with the GLBT community or its associated movements. This particular -ism hits me particularly hard, and from all sides. Out of all the discrimination I have faced in my life, either for not being like other men back in the day, or for being trans this one is the most invasive, and pervasive. It pries into my privacy, and it invalidates my opinion in the eyes of some. In my life, I am well aware of the fact that I will never know what it’s like to be cisgender, I’ll never experience many of the things men experience, nor will I experience a considerable breadth of experience many women experience. To put it simply, when applied to traditional concept, I am ambiguous. And you know what, I am happy to be so.
I, personally, want to take much of cultural tradition, ball it up, throw it in the trash, load the trash can with thermite, close the lid, put oxidizer in it, fly to 10,000 feet, lite it, throw it out the cargo door, and watch it burn as it plunges into the Atlantic ocean. AKA (FUCK TRADITION!!!) Especially batshit, crazy, what the fuck tradition that stand as pillars in contradiction to reality, that uphold -isms, or that hurt people either via direct action or eliciting action. I didn’t use to be like this. In fact I used to be a stark traditionalist, or at least fairly right leaning when it came to tradition. I wanted the house, the lawn, the 2.5 kids, the beautiful wife, you know the “American Dream” AKA (BULLSHIT, CONSUMERISM, SUBURBIA, ET CETERA). But as time passed I started having very deep and personal reasons to challenge everything, right down to my religion. My life, my underlying self, the one always spilling out didn’t match what I was being feed.Deep down I wanted to be a stay at home parent. I thought money was the bane of human existence, and not worth the paper it was printed on. I saw a world full of greed, I saw people hate other people for no reason than for their genitals, the color of their skin, or the country they were from. And more intensely than anything I knew myself to be female. I saw my body as wrong, and I embraced and enjoyed being referred to, or complimented for my traits that were “not male”. I saw my life through the filter “female, girl, woman”, not through the filter “male, boy, man”. As such I interpreted everything I experienced in that light. This ambiguity was fought with trials and tribulation, and even hatred and anger from others. I was always too this, too that, or not enough of something else. Cissexism, or to be more specific cisnormativity. It intruded into much of my life; hell, I was even dumped once for “not being ‘man’ enough”.
But this isn’t really the point. I came to a cross-road in my life, I re-evaluated the world, and thus changed my world view in accordance with my observations. I challenged everything I found sacred, and it came with a “cleansing” process. Regardless of what goes on though, we live in a sexist, cissexist, heterosexist culture that is very genital centric and ciscentric. This is nothing new, and people do it all the time. Realizing a different truth found through evidence also doesn’t in and of itself mean that a position is invalid.
Cissexism – The devaluing of my position on the basis of my gender
As a woman who is transsexual I have found on many occasions that my gender and sex are challenged by people. I have been berated, belittled, patronized, verbally assaulted, physically assaulted (never beaten), insulted, dehumanized, and even faced hostility simply because I am trans. I have even had the entire context of my values, my identity, my observations and the concepts I write about challenged simply because I’m trans, as though that is all that is needed to “discredit” me. It is as if to some being “Trans” means my opinion is not as good, lesser, intrinsically skewed. Certainly, every human being is subject to bias, even those from which this shallow prejudgment comes from. If you feel someone else is being biased in their position, there is equal chance that you are too. I understand this phenomenon.
Believe me here, I am all for debating things, finding new data, and seeing new positions to “revise how I see the world” so to speak. (And yes, sometimes I use quotations for emphasis, or perhaps a lot.) I am well aware that I don’t know everything, but to anyone who wants to make a counter argument, or counter-claim to mine, be willing to back this up with evidence or information that substantiates your position, please. Don’t argue against my tone, or make attacks against my person to essentially say that (Trans = Confused, Deluded, Et Cetera = Therefore your argument is invalid.) That isn’t good debating, and it is rude and disrespectful to do so. There are many arguments though that come from a position of a persons values, but it’s unacceptable to belittle, berate or otherwise to a person simply because they don’t, can’t or don’t want to hold your particular belief. They have a word for that… it’s called bigotry.
When it comes to being trans there seems to be no end to the argumentative fallacies people are willing to present to “make you look like a fool”. The most common I have faced are those of false equivocation, appeal to opinion/popular opinion, appeal to authority, appeal to common practices, “No True Scotsman” and ad hominem arguments. This both applies to my position on atheism as much as my position on gender, sex, and such. The hardest one, and most common one against trans people, women in particular is the Ad Hominem attack, the one that dodges the issue, and makes an attempt to discredit the person and not a contested fact. Or the one I’ve gotten, “You’re trans, therefore being part of a ‘oppressed’ and ‘hated’ group makes it ‘impossible’ for you to form an unbiased assertion”. The other one I find the most annoy, just from prevalence, and is a very integral defense of cissexism – “No True Scotsman”.
In my case this manifests as gender stereotypes, gender policing, and of course of cisnormativity, transnormativity and heteronormativity. For me it’s the “No ‘true woman’ does X” or “No ‘true woman’ says Y”, which is a definitive fallacy to deride a person’s position. I, in fact, do know women who say Y, and do X. Does the fact that these cis and trans women do and say those things mean that they are “not women” or not “true women” for whatever that means. One thing is clear, that this way of thinking is wrong. I find that most often arguments that lack support tend to be loaded with assertions, oversimplifications, and generalizations that fall under rhetological fallacies. One of the things I have learned in transition is that my being a ‘trans’ woman doesn’t give me the right to define what ‘trans’ or ‘woman’ means for anyone else. The same thing applies to cisgender people as well, being homogeneously one gender physically, anatomically, psychologically, socially, or hormonally doesn’t give the right to define that as the only correct, valid, or “true” version of such.
Sorry Cathy Brennan. You make a lot of good points, and I agree with much of what you say, and disagree with many of your critics but I disagree with you on what you define “female” as, and in your own words with a spin “I (a transsexual person) don’t have to prioritize the feelings of cisgender people” – me.
New Gender – Problems for Cissexists
A common allegory from cisgender, or other ciscentric minded people is that “inclusion of a broader definition of sex and gender, waters down the meaning of gender, sex, sexual orientation, et cetera”. But the problem isn’t that it’s watering down, but enhancing definitions and expanding them with new information. If anything, it’s the ciscentric/binaryist view of gender that is “watering down” gender by oversimplifying human nature. This is a tendency in our world, and that is that people all try to “simplify and categorize” things in to neat little boxes. But life doesn’t fit in a box. That is a fact, and one backed by a sizable amount of information as well as observable qualities of the world, and the testimony of people of all walks of life.
In the United States, religion plays a particularly important and well pronounced role in creating and enforcing cisnormativity and heteronormativity (and feeds transnormativity). Among the concerns of the religious is that transsexuality seems unnatural, or is a “violation of what God made you”. Again, another fallacy as it is an appeal to authority, and it disguises that the claimant is actually the authority indirectly where they “project” their own beliefs on said authority to reinforce their position. And that is where the problem in lies… Projection. The fact that people “Project” their values onto you and judge you without considering the unique, and diverse placement you represent.
Another common problem for cissexism is that there is no “one, singular defining characteristic that will define everyone as male or female”. As you’ll see in my related articles I have included this. Scientifically speaking, it all depends on which characteristic you are looking at. Anatomically I am male, and I have at least 1 Y chromosome (though Y chromosome on it’s own doesn’t = male), this is certain, but I am biochemically female, and I have female secondary sexual characteristics. If you were to per say, exclude those who are taking female hormones to produce those traits you would exclude a lot of people assigned female at birth. What evidence shows is exactly what this paragraph is about. There is no one defining characteristic that makes any woman any more real than the next, or any man for that matter.
This is problematic for cissexist, ciscentric, cis privileged and those dedicated to gender binary beliefs because it undermines their position and adds to their need to formulate logical inconsistencies to continue to ascribe to those ‘beliefs’ and perspectives. I never, at any point, claim to be an expert, and I’d even go as far to issue an “open challenge” to anyone who can give evidence to show a conclusion different from the evidence I now have does. In the ciscentric mindset, I have even had people make the assertion that “only trans people see things the way you do”, which is a broad generalization and another fallacy. I know many cisgender people who feel as I do, and the fact that trans people come from all walks of light amplifies not undermines this fact. But essentially, downgrading or invalidating someone, their opinion, or their body on the premise of the group to which they belong is not just bigoted, and discriminatory it’s profoundly ignorant and wrong.
But I’d like to say this to Cathy Brennan specifically, and others like her… I don’t agree with everything you say, or all of your points, and I feel I have valid reasons and evidence to feel so. However, I would never attempt or wish you silenced. I am glad, no… Proud, that you stand up and refuse to be silent against the masses of sheep who perpetuate our oppression, and their masters. I wish for you to continue to do so, and anyone who makes tries to infringe upon your right to do so is not just your enemy they are also now mine. I don’t have to agree with you to respect your right to freedom, and the right to fight, the right to be you, and the right to have your own opinions and have your bodily autonomy respected. I truly respect that of you and wish for you to continue doing so. However, as I said, I don’t agree with some of your declarations, as I have pointed out. I recommend all read her blogs as she makes valid points on many subjects. I am glad to have all voices represented, not just the ones I agree with, but I will as with everything challenge anything which I feel is wrong, period. Everyone has their own perspective and it is their right to express, though actions that elicit or directly harm others is not. Balance and bias are helpfully minimized, but never completely, by listening to more than just those who “agree with you” or by “data-mining source you know will vindicate you”.
Gender Revolution – Why even make a ‘new’ definition of gender
By now in this post it should be pretty obvious why a new definition of gender and sex is required. If not, I shall make that clear. The current definitions are insufficient for all; moreover, some of those definitions perpetuate either directly, or indirectly harm against people whose gender doesn’t match current definitions. That includes genderqueer, bigender, agender, androgynous, transsexual, intersexed, and other non-conforming individuals. Even more so, the current diatribe on gender even excludes people normally considered cisgender, like those who are sterile, or who fail to meet this “narrow” definition for other reasons. The current status quo under ciscentrism is just ineffectual, and marginalizing for so many, I’d argue the constitute a sizeably larger part of our society than many would choose to believe. Cissexism is unarguably discriminatory and wrong as any other likewise -ism on the basis of the observable facts, and through understanding the internal components of cissexism. Cissexism is reflected in the fact that it is our genitals on which it is so fixated and the medical and scientific revelation that this isn’t the only determining factor of human sex, gender and sexuality.
Like any oppressive logic, it acts to mitigate, and marginalize the people it targets, and is ultimately based on people’s fears, and stands in stark contradiction to reality as we come to observe it. Eventually this ideology will die out, but in the meantime we need to stand up to it where ever it exists, either near or far. It’s important for us to stand up for the truth, for the evidence, but more so for ourselves. As I said in my last blog it is the expectation of the oppressors to make us silent, and being vocal says more about our character as people than emotions. In the end we need, as do many others trans and cis alike, to stop the oppression and false dichotomy of binary gender. Reality reveals it as false, and in the end all we can do is operated on the best information that we now have available to us. It is important to define humanity as it is, and not as we “prefer” to see it, and in my opinion, is healthier for our species in the long run.
**Disclaimer (of sorts): And if ever I am wrong, I expect the same for all. If you will challenge my conclusions, you must have evidence that supports your conclusions, you must use the logically and civil means of discourse, and in the end you must respect me even if you don’t agree with me, and if I don’t come to the “same conclusion as you”. And realize this, I reject certain conclusions outright, but this doesn’t mean I reject the people, but just their “representation” of the facts and details in question. It is important to discern a refutation of ideas and a personal rejection. And as a final warning, you have no right to be hostile with someone simply because they disagree with you.
But in the end, I define me, no one has rights over me, and if you try to assert such I’ll most assuredly tell you where to take your opinion. As always I welcome commentary, critique and constructive criticism. I will post your comment regardless, but be ready to get my wrath if you violate my system of values, or spew prejudicial bullshit. I strive to be better than those sexist, religious and cissexist bloggers who delete the comments of dissenting individuals. That doesn’t mean that you comment can’t be deleted, just that I hold myself to a higher standard.**
As an addition:
Though we as individuals don’t have the right to define others, there is evidence in the world which can help us understand gender, and sexuality, and we should be willing to use, and define thing in that light. I am not for any definition that exists in contradiction to fact, or that can be used to oppress anyone. We can not avoid entirely human bias, but we can work to better manage how we minimize that phenomenon, and we can use science and what we have learned about morality to figure it out. There is clear ways to figure this out that don’t require mumbo-jumbo or magical thinking to figure out. Science has and will likely continue to be the best way for us to understand the world.
Secondary and Tertiary addition:
I am in no way promoting Cathy Brennan’s positions, other than those which I agree with when she does make a good point about something. I don’t like the act of data-mining only sources of information that agree with you. Your position is often a lot stronger when you understand your opponents position, and when you can extract valid points from invalid ones. I disagree with trans exclusion, and the conclusion that those like Cathy Brennan make that (you are a woman, but not female), because she is not the deciding authority because she is cis, and those narratives tend to leave out (unfairly) I might add, many cis women. Even if you were to do it on the basis of socialization that is still not a valid all inclusive definition. I agree with many of her point, and disagree with many. That is how it is.
Also the use of either ‘degendered pronouns’ (it, thing, et cetera), ‘true woman’, ‘real woman’, ‘real man’, or ‘true man’ (or referring to a genderqueer, agendered, androgynous, bigendered person in a binary way) is dehumanizing, discriminatory, and is insulting, rude, derogatory and an unacceptable way to treat trans* people. You should never for any reason refer to someone outside of their preferred pronouns or define them as “other” because they don’t meet your standards for their preferred gender pronouns. It’s sexist to do so because in most cases you are doing it on the basis of the fact that their “genitals”, past or present, don’t meet with your approval. These words are as bad as saying sexual insulting or derogatory word. No one gets to decide for me what my gender is, how valid it is, or what I ‘require’ to be valid. Don’t police my gender, because I don’t police yours.
- Women born women? (thefword.org.uk)
- Humour and Transmisogyny (a Caitlin on post) (caitlinsong.wordpress.com)
- how to refer to a trans* person (rainbowgenderpunk.wordpress.com)
- Rethinking Sexism: How Trans Women Challenge Feminism (musingsonlifelawandgender.typepad.com)
- The Cotton Ceiling (queerkristina.wordpress.com)
- A blog because sometimes a comment isn’t enough… (renetaxian.wordpress.com)
- Heard the one about the ladyboy? Media jokes about trans people are not acceptable. (blogs.independent.co.uk)
- What does the asterisk in Trans* stand for? And why should I use it? (queeringthechurch.com)
- 13 Myths And Misconceptions About Trans Women (freethoughtblogs.com/nataliereed)
- Bilaterally Gynandromorphic Chickens And Why I’m Not “Scientifically” Male (freethoughtblogs.com/nataliereed)
- Transsexuality – How Biologic Destiny is wrong (renetaxian.wordpress.com)
The Real God: An Epiphany (www.youtube.com/darkmatter2525)
- Huffington Post Transgender Fails (inoculatedcity.wordpress.com)