That Cisgender Privilege List, Part 1

If you have been around the feminist sphere long enough to know what “cisgender” means, you’ve probably been around long enough to hear the phrase “cis privilege.”

There are many fantastic blog posts made by some brilliant women who unpack problems with the term cisgender and the concept of cis privilege. Throughout my writing in this blog, I’ll discuss and drool over some of them from time to time.

Right now, though, I want to take on some of this cis privilege checklist that I keep seeing pop up all over the place.

Cis privilege is the claim that people are privileged on the basis of having an internal gender identity that matches their external sex. It presupposes that all people have an internal gender identity and it also asserts that women can be privileged on the basis of gender.

No.

Fucking no.

The rest of this post analyzes the first 10 of the 30-some examples in the cis privilege checklist. As will become apparent, all examples of cis privilege are really male privileges that are not afforded to women, or are instances of  resistance to trans politics. I call it patriarchy privilege when something like an unwillingness to redefine one’s own sexuality to include males is seen is labeled as offensive.

This list is the second google entry for the search term  “cis privilege,” sitting just below Wikipedia’s article on “cisgender.” And in case you couldn’t tell, it was written by a middle-class heterosexual white man:

1. Use public restrooms without fear of verbal abuse, physical intimidation, or arrest

2. Use public facilities such as gym locker rooms and store changing rooms without stares, fear, or anxiety.

These are not privileges afforded to women, which is why spaces like restrooms and public facilities are sex segregated in the first place.

Secondly, gender nonconforming individuals experience intimidation, stares, fear, and anxiety. Masculine appearing women get double glances, pauses, and stares, which can and do make the bathroom and locker rooms an uncomfortable experience. They must suck in their gut and push out their breasts to assure everyone that they are female because gender nonconformity is invisibilized in society and especially in trans politics. Masculine women are often mistaken for men; one wonders how many transfeminists have misidentified a woman as trans because they are more receptive to the idea of someone transitioning gender than they are someone transgressing gender.

3. Strangers don’t assume they can ask you what your genitals look like and how you have sex.

This is male privilege, not cis privilege. Women are not afforded the benefit of having their bodily and sexual boundaries respected. Women are groped in dance clubs and on the streets. Women politicians are asked provocative and irrelevant questions about their sexual interests. Pregnant women are regularly touched without consent by friends, acquaintances, and strangers, who want to know more about the fetus than the person/incubator carrying it. Lesbians (and also gay men) are asked in inappropriate contexts who “wears the pants,” both inside and outside the bedroom.

4. 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.

Patriarchy privilege: The ability to redefine the definition of gender away from the social construct it was originally defined as for the purposes of highlighting the social consequences of sex-based categorization into a personal identity that affects everybody, even those 99.7% of people who do not experience gender as a personal identity.

5. 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.

Women, as a group, are positioned in society as decorative objects relegated to the role of sexual pleaser to men, the group positioned in society as the power holder. Women are assigned to their role , and men assigned to theirs, on the basis of sex (the impregnatable/fuckable/dominated, the impregnator/penetrator/dominator).

Women go throughout life being stared at, gawked at, and leered at. Females, whether celebrities, politicians, or teenage girls, are scrutinized for their appearance. Bosses looking down their shirts, strangers making crude gestures at them on the street. Women don’t have the luxury of blending in because they are perpetually put on display.

6. 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.

Access to Michfest is not a privilege anymore than scholarships for black people are a POC privilege. Women-only events provide a space for women to unite as an oppressed people, oppressed on the basis of sex (gender being the socially sanctioned manifestation of sex-based oppression).

Patriarchy privilege: The ability to declare femalehood as an invalid platform on which to unite as an oppressed group.

7. 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.

This isn’t a cis privilege because cis people don’t regularly change their birth names. You can’t assert with confidence that a person who changes their name from “Jill” to “Purple” is going to have their name change respected because it happens too infrequently.

If a white man named John changes his name to Jamal and people continue to call him John, is this transethnicphobia?

If I ask you to refer to me as Your Royal Highness from here on out, will you?

Great, thanks.

8. 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.

Male privilege. I really shouldn’t have to cover the ways in which women are discriminated against in the business world.

9. 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.

Patriarchy privilege: The ability to declare that sexual orientation is not a choice up until the moment it involves the exclusion of males. When this occurs, a person’s woman’s* sexual orientation must be “reframed” at least enough to include whatever males presently feel left out.

* It should be noted that there is no male equivalent for the cotton ceiling. At least, there are no male-target-focused workshops similar to those that help trans males overcome lesbians’ sexual boundaries.

10. 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.

Again, male privilege. Women’s problems are very often overlooked or dismissed. Women more than men are sent home from the ER with a missed diagnosis of a heart attack or angina, an error with highly fatal results. Male normativity means that across science and medicine, male physiology and symptoms of illness are better understood, as men have, throughout history, been the typical subjects of medical research. However, another problem is that women’s complaints are often not treated seriously on beliefs about their oversensitivity and overemotionality. While men are seen  as competent in their assessments of their own bodies, women’s symptoms are written off as anxiety or minor ailments.

Secondly, hormones and chemicals that are not naturally created are often used by transgender individuals. Hormone therapy requires introducing multiple chemicals into the body that are not normally present. Chemicals to suppress the creation of some hormones and synthetic hormones introduced alter the body’s natural hormonal makeup and produce irreversible changes to the body. These chemicals and hormones may have interactions with other medications, exacerbate illnesses, or impact the body’s ability to function in other ways. Genital surgery often creates major complications, incontinence and bladder infections being common problems. Emergency room visits are, characterized by urgent, dangerous, and abnormal changes in the body. In finding a solution to the problem, the doctors look to the most physiologically atypical factors first.

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13 Responses to That Cisgender Privilege List, Part 1

  1. Since ‘cis’ isn’t real, I was kinda surprised to see you using it without any qualifiers. And ‘transgenders’ don’t exist either. This is a weird little world of made-up words and appropriations all over, and I worry about giving credence to using them without comment; that is all. Good post!

    • You make a good point. I write assuming that that the audience understands the problematic nature of these words. On the other hand, I’m also writing about how these concepts of “cis” privilege aren’t really “cis” privilege. Putting some qualifying statements at the beginning of the posts, from time to time, anyway, might make things more clear.

  2. ehungerford says:

    INSTANT CLASSIC. ❤

  3. Julia says:

    “Cis”, “trans”, and “queer” don’t exist. All of the “trans” issues, as you’ve pointed out, are directly the result of patriarchy and woman-hating. There’s no separating the two, and no one should pretend like they can be separated.

  4. Reblogged this on phonaesthetica and commented:
    Started ruminating on the idea of “privilege” as a form of narcissistic guilt when this article came out: http://www.leftfootforward.org/2013/01/comment-on-feminism-and-the-suzanne-moore-controversy/ and today I found this. An important read , whether or not you agree with all or none of the author’s points.

  5. Grackle says:

    I would love for you to do the rest of the list!!

    On the note of #10, when I was in my early 20s I had a severe allergic reaction to some kind of cross-contamination with nuts at a restaurant I’d been eating at. I was vomiting all over the place, my mouth was swelling, and my throat was closing. (Fortunately after I’d vomited a whole lot, the latter symptoms subsided somewhat and though I still felt wretched and was in terrible pain, I was feeling less worried about the possibility of dying) An ambulance came to take me to the emergency room, where a doctor insisted upon giving me a pregnancy test because I’d been throwing up. “I’m not pregnant,” I said. “I just had my period. And I’ve had allergic reactions before and I know exactly what they feel like.”
    “Are you sure?” he said. “It says here you’re sexually active and sometimes we have young women come in here throwing up and they don’t know why.”
    “I know why,” I said. “My mouth and throat were swelling up. Is that a symptom of pregnancy too?”
    They ended up making me take a pregnancy test and 15 or 20 minutes later, they finally gave me some painkillers for the excruciating stomach pains I was having as a result of puking all over the place.

    The best part of all of this is that when I finally got the hospital bill, I saw that the pregnancy test had cost me $75. All I’d done was pee in a cup.

    Cis privilege indeed. Men just don’t know how good they’ve got it.

  6. Nicky says:

    The Cis crap is just another way for Male Trans to bully people into guilt tripping them. It’s another one of the Male Trans bullying tactics that Trans like to use on society. They use Cis to guilt trip society into accepting their delusions.

  7. gbh says:

    so i argued with a transsexual on openDemocracy about this awful concept of cis-woman privilege: Here are a few real-world examples of women’s experiences in
    the world:

    1.
    You can’t use the public restroom without fear
    that a sexual predator is waiting in the stalls. If you live in the developing
    world, you fear going out to collect water, or using the outhouse, or taking a
    public bus because you fear rape.

    2.
    Strangers come up to you, from infancy onwards,
    all the time, and ask to have sex with you, or wolf whistle or touch you
    inappropriately because you have a female body.

    3.
    If you are murdered or have any crime against
    committed against you, the likelihood that the perpetrator is a close relative
    or friend is increased monumentally because you are a woman. You learn to trust
    no man.

    4.
    You walk down the street and are victimized
    because you are a woman.

    5.
    If you are like me and have a foreign name, you
    are constantly assumed to be a Mr., or if you are young, a Miss, or old, a
    Mrs., but you learn to deal with it!! Boy named Sue.

    6.
    If you are a woman and are having a heart
    attack, your case is not taken seriously because you are a woman…or if you
    suffer from migraines that look like a stroke, you are considered by the neurologist
    that you are like other of his female patients to be fat, housewives with
    nothing better to worry about….BTW, I was having a stroke.

    7.
    You go our on a date and because the man thinks
    you are flirting because you want sex, he rapes you….your sex has everything to
    do with it…you learn to question your sexuality, or repress it so as not to be
    victimized again….

    8.
    Hysteria is/was thought to be caused by a
    woman’s uterus and other physical attributes. Women have been categorized as
    crazy for suffering the hormonal storms that accompany menstruation,
    childbearing, menopause….look at the so called humour industry….

    9.
    “Mother’s little helper” aka Valium was given to
    women who faced the daunting task of staying to care for and cook for men in
    the suburbs. Maybe they need to fight for equality? We were not crazy, just
    victims of a paternalistic society.

    10. I
    was told to leave the law school studies to my brothers. My identity as a
    strong and intellectual woman was not understood and was denigrated. I have
    been put down numerous times by men and women for wanting the liberation of
    women in the world…
    1 4 •Reply•Share ›

  8. Pingback: Is there such a thing as cisgender? | The Prime Directive

  9. Elmo says:

    I writ a commment wen I like a pos onn a site orr I have somnething too addd
    too thhe conversation. It’s triggered bby the fire displayed in thhe article I read.

    Andd after this ost Thhat Cisgender Privilege List, Partt 1 | Women
    of thhe Patriarchy. I waas mokved enough to drkp a thougt :
    ) I ddo haave a couplle off questions for you iif it’s allright.
    Is itt onlly me oor do soje of the comments appear like the are cooming
    from bran dead visitors? 😛 And, iif yoou are poating aat other sites, I would like
    to follow anything neww youu hazve to post. Woukd yoou liwt every onee of yolur
    socual stes like your linkeedin profile, Fahebook page oor twiter feed?

  10. Brigid says:

    It is categorically IMPOSSIBLE for transwomen to describe “cis” privilege without explicitly highlighting their astoundingly incredible ignorance of what life IS ACTUALLY LIKE to be a woman in this world.

    Saying things like “you never feel fear or anxiety in public places as a result of your gender”, “you never have your validity as a human questioned”, “no one ever bothers you about your genitals (LOL!!!!)”, “you can walk through the world without being gawked at”, “you can engage in flirting without fear of an attack”…

    are you f’ing kidding me? Spoken like a true man! Spoken like someone who truly has absolutely zero idea of what being a woman actually means!

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