passing

Question from the search terms: “do nb people have straight privilege”?

This question popped up in my search terms last month:

do nb people have straight privilege?

The quickest answer to this question is that for the most part, no, non-binary people don’t have straight privilege. The reason for this is that most non-binary people aren’t straight to begin with (I don’t know any non-binary people who identify as straight, but I’m sure some exist!), and you can’t have straight privilege if you aren’t straight!

Non-binary people may, however have access to what’s called straight-passing privilege, which is a much more complicated thing, and I am somewhat dubious about calling it privilege at all.

Straight-passing privilege is concept that’s relevant to any couple that, when out in public, appears to be a straight couple, even though one or both of the people in that couple may not be straight. So straight-passing privilege is highly relevant to bisexual and pansexual people (who are very often in hetero relationships), as well as to some non-binary people (and some of the people who date us!)

The reason straight-passing is sometimes referred to as a privilege is because it does allow some LGBT people to benefit from some aspects of straight privilege. Bi people in hetero relationships can get married to their partners pretty much anywhere, while bi people in relationships with people of the same gender can’t (the situation is more complicated for ‘straight-passing’ couples with at least one non-binary/trans person in them though). Straight-passing couples of all kinds can be pretty sure they’re not going to have to deal with anti-LGBT harassment, while couples or individuals that are visibly LGBT are inherently at risk whenever they are out in public. These sorts of things are the trappings of so-called straight-passing privilege.

But the thing about being straight-passing is it’s a double-edged sword – the flip side of a straight-passing person’s (potential) greater safety and access to legal recognition of their relationship is the fact that, by virtue of being straight-passing at all, that person’s actual identity (and their history of marginalization due to that identity) is erased.

To be straight-passing is to be, in some respects, invisibilized. To be straight-passing is to be invalidated in your actual identity. The fact that bisexual people’s orientation is so often over-written by our current relationship status is, in fact, blatant bisexual erasure. It’s a symptom bisexual people’s oppression, and so to call it ‘privilege’ is extremely questionable.

The same argument applies to non-binary people here – if people think I am straight because they perceive me to be a woman, and because my partner is a cis man, that’s not a privilege; that’s just me being misgendered. ‘Privilege’ that only exists as long as someone is making incorrect assumptions about who I am is not really privilege at all, as far as I’m concerned.

So, again, the TL;DR here is a resounding “No, nb people do not, (in general) have straight privilege“. We are sometimes extended some of the benefits of straight privilege by people who have misread who we are, but this ‘privilege’ is only available to us at the cost of hiding our identities.

Gender Perspectives, Vol. 19

Hi all, it’s been a while, but I’m going to see if I can’t start pounding out those regular posts once again! The Shit Cis People Say Alphabet will be returning to its regular Friday slot, and I’m going to ease myself into posting other stuff with today’s new eidtion of Gender Perspectives!

download[In the Gender Perspectives series, I aim to highlight diverse kinds of personal narratives and reflections on gender, gender presentation, and identity, to broaden the gender conversation and boost a variety of voices. Check out the rest of the series.]

 

 

On being trans and out past and present selves | Life Writ Large
Germaine de Larch discusses their relatoinship to their previously inhabited gender/identity

…as my friend I’d want you to integrate my previous self and my ‘new’ self. They’re the same person. Read more…

Fluid Mom | Holding Patterns and High Tea
Caroline Frechette brings us a reflection of genderfluidity and motherhood, in web comic form.

I’ve always struggled with my gender. I dressed like a boy from an early age, and I enjoy it when people all me sir. Read more…

Hyper-vigilance in the Gender Machine: What It’s Like to Be a Trans Woman Who Doesn’t Pass 100% | transphilosopher
Rachel digs into the joys and pains of being a trans woman who is only sometimes seena as a woman by others.

Life as a non-passing trans woman for me means constant vigilance within the gender machine. Professional pronoun detector should be written on my business card. Constant awareness of all things gender defines my worldview. Read more…

Gender Perspectives, Vol. 5

download[In the Gender Perspectives series, I hope to curate writing by people with a wide variety of gender identities and experiences, talking about their gender, what it means to them personally, and what it means for the ways in which they move through and interact with the world. Basically, this is where I point out that I’m not the only person in the world who has complex thoughts about gender, and that there as many ways to be Trans* and/or genderqueer as there are to be cisgender (and yes, there are many different ways to be cisgender). Check out the rest of the series.]

  • “I Do Not Know What My Gender Is”: James Warwood talks about transition, uncertainty, not fitting into the classic trans narrative, and acknowledging that everything from his early years as a girly-girl to becoming who he is today is a part of himself. And all of it is authentic.

    How does a child who was perfectly content as a girl grow up to be a man? Even those who are familiar with transgender people know that there is some amount of internal struggle that leads to transition. Some sort of sign that this had been there all along.

    On this one point, I agree with my stepmom. I had been a girly girl, and happily so. I can only assume that I could have continued on and maintained some level of contentment with my life. There isn’t an easy way to explain why I transitioned or to describe my gut feeling that it had to be done. I’ve only begun to come close to understanding my gender identity by expanding my understanding of gender: that is, by accepting that gender is not a binary.

  • “Do I Pass?”: Alex discusses the complexities of what it means to have passing privilege (particularly masculine passing privilege) as a genderqueer person who doesn’t want to pass as anything.

    I’m going to try to make this as clear as possible, right here, right now: I DO NOT WANT TO PASS AS ANYTHING.

    I am genderqueer. I am not a man, I am not a woman. I present one way or another at times because that’s what I feel like doing that day but I shouldn’t have to pass as anything.

    In a perfect world, I would never want to pass. I enjoy masculine-looking things at times but ideally I would be able to look androgynous at all times. It is seriously painful to me sometimes to look in the mirror and see a man. Assuming the fact that I can easily pass and access certain privileges because of it makes me any “less trans” or however you feel like spinning your position is nothing more than a cheap attempt to police my gender. At the end of the day, though, I often come off as cismale and I would be lying if I said I had never taken advantage of that before.

    So the real question to me becomes “do I pass as queer?”

  • “Moving into my gender”: CaptainGlitterToes delivers a really beautiful essay on the experience of self-exploration and discovery on the journey toward a gender identity and expression that fits.

    Hearing my right pronouns, or hearing someone call me by the right gendered words, is ice cream melting in my mouth. It is the feeling of hot chocolate pumping warmth through my veins. It is as if my whole gut was a rock warming in the sun, filling my body with solidity and lightness all at once. It is a fitting of that last puzzle piece. With the right words, I suddenly become more solid than I knew possible, and yet more ready to skip and twirl at the same time. My wholeness takes its rightful place, from my gut to my elbows. I am simultaneously as excited as a hummingbird and as unperturbed as a smooth lake.

  • “Me, My Gender, and Internalized Misogyny”: CloudNoodle writes about how overcoming internalized misogyny was an important come of coming into their own as a person comfortable with a genderqueer identity that made space for their feminine aspects.

    I was not like other girls and that was very important to me.

    That was all I had words for. I had no concepts of ‘transgender’, ‘gender identity’ or ‘genderqueer’. My native language uses the same word for sex and gender. I didn’t know of any people who weren’t straight and cisgender. I didn’t know that I could be something other than female since that was what everybody saw me as, that’s what they said when I was born. But thing is, I did feel somewhat female and perhaps it was the worst part. Because, quite unconsciously, while separating myself from everything to do with ‘other girls’, I also developed a sense that being a girl meant being worse or lesser – less serious, less able, less lovable, just less.

  • “Decoder Ring”: The writer of It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way describes the path of denial and resistance he went through before coming to recognize, accept, and embrace his male identity.

    After spending approximately 30 seconds considering the possibility that I was transgender, I roundly dismissed the idea. After all, wouldn’t I have already known that by now? (Hahahaha! Good one!) Besides, I had no desire to be a man. I resented most men in general for obliviously oppressing me as a woman. I was busy trying to open doors and expand the female gender box. I couldn’t be a man.

    I set about trying to squeeze myself into any other box. I tried on ‘butch’ as a label in my head. I thought maybe I could be genderqueer. I searched the internet for women who liked to bind their chests, but who were still women, to gather more evidence that it was possible. Anything but needing to change my name and pronouns, I pleaded with myself. Anything but that.

    I thought I could decide. I was trying to decide that I wasn’t male, that I wasn’t transgender. That didn’t work out so well.

Gender Perspectives, Vol. 3

download[In the Gender Perspectives series, I hope to curate writing by people with a wide variety of gender identities and experiences, talking about their gender, what it means to them personally, and what it means for the ways in which they move through and interact with the world. Basically, this is where I point out that I’m not the only person in the world who has complex thoughts about gender, and that there as many ways to be Trans* and/or genderqueer as there are to be cisgender.]

  • Dana Taylor discusses the problem with the concept of “passing” as a part of the Trans* narrative.

    …there are some trans* women who have physical male characteristics that will never allow them to meet the passing criteria. I am one of those women. If I had listened to a lot of advice from trans* women on being a woman, I am not sure where I would be today. It is difficult enough to come out and try to be who you are than to have all these other requirements put on you.

    A woman is a woman who makes her own choices on how she wants to look, dress, smell or anything else that has to do with her own body.

  • The writer of FistFelt talks about coming to identify as epicene, and just the general struggle to find language that adequately reflects non-traditional relationships with the gender system.

    Epicene.

    Even agender feels too political and too aggressive for me now. My identity is inertness; not a vacuum, but dead air. Elemental gold.

    Both, neither, whatever, who cares?

    I don’t aim to satisfy anything right now, other than my own whims and fancy. No identity, no politic, no stereotype, no gender expression.

  • Jade Sylvan talks about having a very fluid relationship to gender.

    One of the biggest fears when you’re sexually fluid or gender fluid is that people are not going to believe you. That people think that the fact that your desires and/or image of yourself is protean means that you, your passion, and even your love are insincere.

    I have always experienced these parts of me as mutable things that I had some degree of choice in expressing. I do not feel that my having a choice in these matters should mean my gender and sexual expressions are less “real.” And it definitely does not mean that my love is not real.

  • Glosswitch digs deep into the ways in which being cisgender doesn’t actually someone is comfortable in the gender binary, or even that they truly “match” the gender that was assigned at birth.

    Breasts and bloodstains were an intrusion on my personhood. I felt diminished. I knew people – men in particular – looked at me differently. Without breasts, I could be pure thought; with them, I felt reduced to the passive bearer of womanhood and all the repressive values associated with it.

    Some people see gender as a galaxy of possibilities. I experience it as a trap, a network of prejudices rooted in conservative notions of complementarity and evolutionary purpose. I don’t believe my gender identity is female. I inhabit a female body, as opposed to a male or intersex one, and it does many of the things a female body is expected to do. My self – my identity – is something else. I possess some attributes considered typically female, others considered typically male. This does not make me special or unusual. I construct a reality in relation to my body – and the gender-based prejudices that come with having this body – as best I can. Isn’t that all any of us can do?

  • The Goldfish responds directly to Glosswitch’s article, discussing her own relationship with her gender, and the category of cis womanhood.

    Being cis gender means I am not transgender. It certainly doesn’t mean that I, as a woman, am everything that a woman is supposed to be within my culture – or even any of those things. It doesn’t say very much about the clothes I wear, the way I think, my hobbies and interests or my sexuality. This doesn’t even attempt to say anything about my genes, genitals or reproductive potential (Most cis women, most of the time, cannot get pregnant. A significant minority of cis women can never get pregnant.)

    All my being cis means is that (a) the word woman is the best way I have of describing my gender and (b) this coincides with the way that other people always have described me.