cissexism

The ‘Shit Cis People Say’ Alphabet: O is for “Only two genders”

Welcome to another episode of the Shit Cis People Say Alphabet! Today:

O is for “only two genders”

 

Can it be that I’ve gotten so far into this alphabet without covering this one? Yes, but only because I planned the alphabet out in advance to avoid being forced into repeating myself for some of the more difficult letters :P.

As with last week’s post, there is some overlap here with F is for “fake genders”, but calling some genders fake isn’t necessarily the same thing as claiming there are only two genders (even though most people taking the former stance are doing so because they believe the latter).

To be honest, the claim that there are only two genders is honestly just massively egotistical. In order to make this claim, you need to seriously believe that you know more about how this gender stuff works than every non-binary person who ever has and ever will exist. It’s also a culturally chauvinistic/colonial claim, given the huge number of recognized non-binary gender categories have existed and continue exist in cultures all over the world and throughout history.

Gender is not and has never been stable or static. No gender classification scheme is ever or ever will be definitive or objective. If you think it makes any sense at all to insist that there are only two genders, you’re just plain incorrect. Seriously.

 


Check out the rest of the “Shit Cis People Say” alphabet!

The ‘Shit Cis People Say’ Alphabet: L is for “Love”

Welcome to another episode of the Shit Cis People Say Alphabet! Today:

L is for “Love”

This one has multiple sides. On the one hand, I want to take a moment to acknowledge here that there are cis folks out in the world who just love the trans folks in their lives, unproblematically and unreservedly. It’s not all bad! In fact, when I was originally mapping out this alphabet, I had intended for this post to be simply positive, for a bit of a break.

But, as it worked out after my unplanned break, this post is going up on Transgender Day of Visibility (I am coming out to the folks I work with today in fact! Expect to hear more about this soon), and I really don’t want to spend my TDOV post celebrating cis people.

And in any case, the word ‘love’ is actually used against trans folks at least as much as it is used to support us.

The classic example of this is one that applies to LGBT people generally, in the form of that good old (primarily Christian) adage “love the sinner, hate the sin”. More than any other ‘sins’, this rhetoric gets pulled out in attempt to demonstrate that it’s possible to hate LGBT people’s LGBT-ness without hating the people themselves.

This is, of course, a steaming pile of bullshit. I mean, I hope it’s obvious that it is inherently hateful to consider an uncontrolled, unchangeable part of a person’s lived experience and identity as a ‘sin’, as something that renders them incapable of being unsinful. Even if you only tie the ‘sin’ to actions rather than internal experiences (e.g. accepting that homosexual attraction simply exists naturally, but still believing that pursuing homosexual sexual relationships is sinful, or believing that trans people are fine as long as we keep to ourselves never actually express or present as anything other than our birth-assigned gender), it is still blatantly hetero-/cis-sexist to take this attitude toward LGBT people, not least because it’s not even a scriptural stance in the first place.

On top of all of that, even, ‘love’ is often used against trans people in other violent ways, as when a cisgender parent tells a trans man in the same breath as “ I love you” that “you’ll always by my little girl”, or when a cisgender friend insists that their trans friend will always by [deadname] to them. Because, y’know, love.

These sorts of sentiments are intensely selfish, as it suggests that these cisgender people really only love the idea they had of the trans person before they found out who that person really is. Bringing love into this kinds of violently invalidating statements perverts the entire concept of love, and turns it into a weapon by implying that trans people should accept bad treatment from their loved ones.

And I hope it is very, very clear that that is not how love works. That is, in fact, how abuse works. It is emotional blackmail, and it is not ok.


Check out the rest of the “Shit Cis People Say” alphabet!

The “Shit Cis People Say” Alphabet: H is for “how do you have sex?”

Welcome to another episode of the Shit Cis People Say Alphabet! Today:

H is for “how do you have sex?”

This question? It’s not even just relevant to trans people – it’s a common question  directed at LGBQ+ folks as well. The clearest answer in most cases (unless you’re planning on having sex with the person asking it, I guess?) is ‘um, none of your darn business.’ It is kind of amazing how simply being trans can open a person up to the kinds of invasive questions that they would never dream of asking in any other context. Suddenly we’re not people; we’re research subjects, or more often merely objects of fleeting curiosity.

But, even setting that aside, this question? It just depresses me, on so many levels. I do want to acknowledge upfront that for some trans people (as for some cis people) the answer is always simply going to be “I don’t have sex.” Because not everyone wants to , and not everyone has sex even if they do want to. But again, even setting that aside, I don’t understand how this is even confusing to people.

Because you know how I have sex with other people? [This is not going not be explicit, it’s ok!]

Me and the people I have sex with, we touch each other in whatever ways feel good to us. Or we try to, though it doesn’t always work out that way, I guess. But really, that’s it. And I really hope that’s how most people do it.

Just, like, if you seriously can’t think of ways that people with, I guess, different genital combinations than the ones you’re used to in your own sex life might be able to touch each pleasurably? You are seriously lacking in imagination, at best.

Because the thing is, genitals are somewhat important to sex, for most people, of course. But, so are so many other body parts that people possess regardless of gender or sexual orientation or whether they are trans. Most of us have hands, with fingers on them, or other appendages that can probably be used to do things.

Like, seriously? You can’t think of *any* sex acts you might participate in that the trans person in front of you is also capable of? Really?

Or are you just actually hoping for the dirty details, because you’re just that much of a creep? Which is it?


Check out the rest of the “Shit Cis People Say” alphabet!

“Like everyone else, people who are LGBT start out as babies”: a book review

Cover of the book Understanding Sexual Orientation and Gender IdentityYes, that is an actual quote, from the newly published children’s non-fiction book (copyright 2017!) Understanding Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. It’s is just one book in a series from GLSEN under the banner “Living Proud!”

This book is hot mess, y’all. Such a mess that I need to rant about it.

Despite what the title implies, the vast majority of Understanding Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity is very specifically focused on the topic of ‘homosexuality’. Which, that’s a perfectly fine topic for a book and all, but it’s not great for one that claims to be about sexual orientation generally, let alone sexual orientation *and* gender identity.

Gender identity is addressed only in the first chapter of the book, “The Origins of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity”. Right off the bat, we learn that the definition of gender identity is “A person’s self-image as either a male or a female, no matter what gender they were assigned birth”.

Oh, yes. We are off to a fabulous start, folks.

The book is, unsurprisingly, relentlessly binary in its discussion of both sex and gender, with the exception of a special text box acknowledging that intersex people exist. The paragraph on intersex people concludes that “many intersex people live happy and satisfying lives outside of the ‘normal’ female and male gender identities,” which is the only inkling we get that non-binary genders exist at all.

So much for “understanding gender identity” then. How about sexual orientation?

As I mentioned above, for the most part the book really only talks about homosexuality.

Outside of uses of the LGBT initialism, bisexuality is mentioned a grand total of four times:

  1. in the opening glossary, within the definition of ‘sexual orientation’ (which provides the options of heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, and asexual (which, yay ace visibility for once, I guess!?))
  2. in the phrase “gay, straight, bisexual, asexual, transgender or questioning”, shoehorned in suddenly at the end of a paragraph about the importance of the nature versus nurture debate around ‘what causes homosexuality?’
  3. in reference to Freud’s (*sigh*) theory that everyone is bisexual
  4. in the phrase “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month”, in an image caption.

Asexuality’s only mentions are the two mentioned above. It doesn’t even merit an entry in the “Series Glossary” (a list of vocabulary words from the Living Proud! series, many of which do not appear in this particular book), or the index.

In fact, a full three out of the four chapters of the book are explicitly focused on homosexuality/being gay. First we have “Born Gay: Biological Theories of Homosexuality”, which concludes with a quote from Dr. Qazi Rahman, who states “as far as I’m concerned, there is no argument any more – if you are gay, you are born gay.”

Contradictorily, the next chapter (“Becoming Gay: Psychological Theories of Homosexuality”) concludes that “…human behavior is such a complex combination of mind and brain – the psychological and the biological working together – that it is nearly impossible to separate the two”, before segueing into the question for our final chapter: “Why Does It Matter?”

This last chapter provides a broad overview of the ways in which the question of choice with respect to sexual orientation has been rhetorically important to LGBT (or, since transgender people aren’t mentioned at all in this chapter, LGB) civil rights struggles.

I do want to be clear here; much of the content of this book is totally fine, and some is even pretty ground-breaking for a children’s book! But I have no idea how a book primarily focused on the nature/nurture debate about homosexuality wound up with such a misleading title.

Better yet, one of the other titles in the series is Being Transgender, which has the same authors as Understanding Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, because why bring in transgender people to write a book when demonstrably uninformed cis people can do it, I guess? I may need to review that one one I can get my hands on it as well.

LOL’ing at cissexist loopholes

Sometimes I amuse myself with pedantry rather than being annoyed at cissexism.

In this case, I finally actually sat down and read through my collective bargaining agreement at work. It is pretty dry, standard stuff for the most part. But there is some unnecessary gendered language I could potentially exploit some day re: pregnancy and parental leave.

Weirdly it’s not the pregnancy part, which is actually gender neutral:

Upon at least two (2) weeks written notice… a pregnant employee who has completed thirteen (13) weeks employment will be granted pregnancy leave without pay in accordance with the Ontario Employment Standards Act.

For some reason, though, they throw in an unnecessary “female” into the parental leave part:

The Parental Leave for a female employee who has taken Pregnancy Leave must commence immediately following the expiration of her Pregnancy Leave. For all other employees, Parental Leave must begin no more than thirty-five (35) weeks after:
i) the birth of the child, or,
ii) the child comes into the care and custody of the parent.

Apparently non-female employees taking pregnancy leave have more flexibility around when they take their parental leave. Rank discrimination against women, I tell you!

Dating while genderqueer: I’m torn

There is a thing I see a lot in dating-related online spaces and real life events that makes me uncomfortable. But I can’t decide whether I outright condemn the practice or not.

This concerns non-binary people and the ways in which we navigate the often overtly binarist mechanisms of organized date-finding spaces (for lack of a better term?) Again and again, I see (afab) non-binary people responding to ads from people explicitly seeking female partners or women (depending on how they choose to word it), specifying that they are afab and checking to see whether they count or qualify or whatever. It is possible that amab enby folx do this as well, but I haven’t really seen it so I can’t say.

And this icks me out. On more than one level, really, and the levels actually contradict each other. Because it feels like these people’s thought process may actually be “well, I have a vagina so maybe that’s must be close enough” or something. And that’s sad and fucked up in multiple ways.

On the one hand, I feel your pain, fellow enbies trying to figure out who might want to date you in a binarist world – OKC only tells me whether people are interested in men and/or women, and unless they make a point of mentioning in their profile (rare), there’s no way for me to know how they will respond to an enby like me.

But on the other hand, can we like, just *not* contribute to the idea that if someone says they are into women, that means they are into people with vaginas? Because that is cissexist on so many levels. It is flat out transmisogynistic to equate those concepts.

I know that a lot of the people who say they are into women really do mean they are only into vaginas, and that’s why you want to clarify. But here’s the thing: why the fuck would you want to date someone who is that cissexist? Do you really believe they won’t misgender you? Do you really want to enable someone else’s transmisogyny?

Because you really, really shouldn’t.

Online dating while genderqueer: I feel gross right now

[Content note: cissexism, genitals]

Every once in a while I will get a message from some dude on OKCupid who wants to know if he can ask me some questions, because y’know, he’s just a straight shooter, the kind of guy who lays all his cards on the table. He probably doesn’t mince words either, and maybe he just wants to get right to the point.

Anyway, the point is, he wants to know about my junk. And what kind I have.

Mostly I don’t super care about these questions – my standard response is “None of your business, since if it matters to you, then I’m not interested anyway.”

But sometimes they manage to be extra creepy about it. The most recent dude, for no apparent reason, made a point of letting me know that he had scoured my profile and all of the photos I included, but that he had not been able to determine on his own what my genitals looked like.

I suspect that this is because I, shockingly enough, have not included and photos of my genitals on my OKC profile. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be allowed to even if I wanted to. Nor do I describe my genitals in any of the written sections of my profile. Go figure.

But more to the point, my PSA of this day is:

Unless you are looking at a person’s genitals, or a picture of their genitals, no amount of searching their appearance for ‘clues’ or whatever will allow you to tell what genitals they have. The fact that so many people think this is possible is because they are cissexist douches.

That is all.