trans issues

The ‘Shit Cis People Say’ Alphabet: S is for “Sensitive”

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

S is for “sensitive”

Trans people (as with people in any marginalized group) are sometimes often accused of being overly sensitive about our struggles. I’ve addressed the problem of marginalized people being accused of over-reacting to things before (more than once, in fact), but the specific case of trans people merits a bunch more words on the topic, so here we go.

Somehow trans people sometimes find themselves accused of being over-sensitive even when the topic is trans people who are murdered or bullied to death for being trans. I… don’t know where to start with that honestly. If you think that yelling about shit like that is an over-reaction, you are beyond hope of ever getting it, so I don’t even see the point.

More often, though, these accusations come up in conversations about things like bathroom bills or people being misgendered. Why do we make such a big deal about things like that anyway? Isn’t it just an honest mistake or whatever?

A lot of the time, cis people will go that extra step further and insist that they wouldn’t be bothered by such a thing, so why are trans people?

…So, for one thing, I’m not going to let the implicit claim that cis people don’t care about this stuff just slip by like that. Cis people’s fears about which bathrooms they are using and who they are sharing those bathrooms with are the entire reason for trans-exclusionary bathroom bills in the first place, so plenty of y’all care enough about that shit to legislate it. And cis people, by and large, will correct you *immediately* if you misgender their baby, or even their dog for that matter, even in the most passing of interactions. With babies sometimes they will even get pretty upset about it (because nothing is more embarrassing for a baby boy than being mistaken for an identical baby girl, am I right?)

Trans people, meanwhile, very often make the call not to correct people in minor interactions, because doing so risks any number of negative consequences, up to and including death. So, there’s that.

And that brings me to my main point here. Because when cis people make the claim that trans people should just let this stuff roll off their backs the way they personally do or imagine they would do, what’s happening is a failure or empathy. Because cis people making this always seem to be talking about how they would feel if in their current life and identity, someone misgendered them. But that misses the point *entirely*, because cis people’s lives and identities are wildly different from trans people’s, in some extremely relevant ways.

Here’s the thing you need to remember, cis people: for your entire life, since before you even understood that you existed, much less that you had a gender, people have probably been for the most part correctly gendering you. If you were misgendered by random strangers as a baby, chances are your parents corrected them even then. And if you are misgendered now, people likely apologize when they realize their error.

It’s a weird thing, actually, because I think that cis people really don’t get how different this experience often is for trans people. It’s not just that it’s something we’ve struggled with sometimes for our entire lives. And it’s not just that trans people experience this sort of thing far more often than cis people do. For us, it is also far and away more likely that if we correct someone, they will act like their mistake was our fault. We will be the ones being difficult for correcting them in the first place. I’m sure this sort of things happens to cis people sometimes, too, but it isn’t to the same extent or frequency.

Over time, and through repeated lived experience, trans people have no choice but to learn that when we are addressing our own marginalization, when we are calling people out on things, that it is going to become a big deal whether we make it one or not. So yes, sometimes we take the initiative to make the thing a big deal, so that the big deal isn’t just a bunch of cis folks jumping up and down declaring that this gender thing is over, and can’t we all just get along? We need our voices heard over that fucking din, ok?

 


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The ‘Shit Cis People Say’ Alphabet: Q is for “Queen, Drag”

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

Q is for ‘queen, drag’

The persistence with which cis society in general continues to conflate trans women with drag queens is infuriating. But also admittedly complicated. I am not even going to attempt a thorough cover of this topic. The purpose of having this post in this series is really just to say: trans women are not drag queens, (unless they are performing as such in a drag show.)

“Trans woman” and “drag queen” are entirely different concepts.

Trans women are women whose parents/guardians thought they were boys when they were born, and usually for quite a long time after that.

Drag queens are people who have developed a flamboyant lady persona for the purposes of (usually comedic) theatrical shows. The overwhelming majority of drag queens are cisgender men (so, neither trans, nor women!) And in fact, drag shows are often misogynistic,  anti-femme, and/or trans-antagonistic, although I don’t think they are inherently any of those things.

The vast majority of drag queens are not trans women. And the vast majority of trans women are not drag queens. Stop conflating these two, very different, categories.

Kthxbai!


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The ‘Shit Cis People Say’ Alphabet: P is for “Phase”

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

P is for “phase”

I wrote about this before, when someone close to me expressed a concern that my non-binary-ness was a phase.

For some reason, cis people are very concerned about the stability of other people’s gender identities, and seem to have decided en masse that unless they are sure that your gender and pronouns are never going to change again, then your preferences aren’t real and don’t have to be – or possibly even shouldn’t be? – respected.

You’ll see this particularly with children; cis people spend a lot of time hand-wringing about whether simply recognizing and respecting your child’s stated identity may – somehow – harm them if they later decide to identify with the gender they were assigned at birth.

I am here to say: it literally does not matter whether a person’s currently stated gender turns out to be a temporary ‘phase.’ It really doesn’t. It’s none of your business in the first place, for one thing. If a person changes their mind about their gender, or if their gender changes later, then that’s what happens and it’ll be fine. Why do you even care?

More importantly, even if this is a phase, what makes you think that you somehow have the magical ability to know what that person’s gender is or will be after the phase is complete? Defaulting to pronouns based on birth-assigned gender simply because you think someone’s non-assigned gender might be a phase is nonsensical, to be honest. It always makes the most sense to go with the best information you have available, and the best information available always is, and always will be, the information you get from the first-person perspective of the person whose gender you’re worrying about.

So, honestly, just stop worrying about whether someone’s gender is a phase! If it turns out to be one, they’ll let you know, and you can handle it then!

 


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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.


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The ‘Shit Cis People Say’ Alphabet: J is for “just so curious”

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

J is for “just so curious”

If  you are a trans person, and if anyone in your life knows that you are trans, this one is pretty much impossible to avoid. Cis people find trans people endlessly fascinating. So much so that they keep on writing stories about what they imagine trans people are like, and then giving each other awards for them.

And look, ok, I admit it; curiosity is a pretty normal human thing – we all most likely wonder what it would be like to different from how we are, in so many ways. And when ways of being that we haven’t thought about before are brought to our attention, we wonder about those too.

So, I don’t think cis people’s curiosity about trans people is wrong, for the record. I mostly think it’s just something y’all prioritize really badly.

You curiosity it valid. But it does not now, nor will it ever, trump trans people’s right to privacy. It isn’t rude for us to get annoyed when you ask us intrusive questions; it isn’t rude for us to decide not to satisfy your curiosity. We don’t owe you information.

You don’t have the right to have your curiosities satisfied, about our genitals (what they looked like in the past, look like now, or may look like in the future), about the sex we may or may not be having, or anything else.

The thing that actually bothers me about cis curiosity, though, is this: it so very often comes with the implication that our personhood in other people’s eyes, that the validity of our very genders, depends on how well or how comprehensibly we can answer those questions.

Cis people, know this: the satisfaction of your ‘curiosities’ about trans people cannot and will not ever be an acceptable prerequisite for your support and acknowledgement of trans personhood, and of trans identities. If and when you stop seeing trans people as strange experiments, when you forge real relationships with us on the basis of our personhood, when you have built trust with us, when you have demonstrated that your questions are not simple prurient, but actually coming from a desire to better understand trans struggles, only then should you even begin to consider that you might be worth the time and energy of answering your questions.

And even then, you are never entitled to any individual person’s time or labour. Ok? ok.

 


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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?


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“What terms in the cisgender, GSM, or trans* community are problematic?” 30-Week Genderqueer Challenge Part 19

This post is part of my participation in the 30-day genderqueer challenge, which I have modified to a weekly exercise.

Today’s prompt: What terms in the cisgender, GSM, or trans* community are problematic?

So, um, first off, lol at the idea of a “cisgender community”. I’m just going to focus on GSM and trans communities here.

In which case, I’ll start with the obvious one, from the question itself: trans*

The asterisk version of “trans” fell out of favour pretty quickly after rising in popularity. It was intended as a more inclusive term than the non-asterisk version (i.e. it was intended to convey the inclusion of non-binary identities under the trans(*) umbrella, as well as allowing for the multiple versions of trans(*) identity (as in, transgender as well as transsexual – more on that one in a minute)), but there are a number of problems with it.

One of the major sources of side-eye for “trans*” is that it didn’t actually come from within trans communities – the term was coined by a cisgender person. Which is another way of saying that this way of talking about trans people was not self-defined, but rather a label put upon us from the outside. I don’t think that this is necessarily a death knell for a term, as communities often actively appropriate and claim words that were originally created by non-members of those communities.

However, it doesn’t stop there.

The thing is that adding the asterisk to trans in an attempt to “include” non-binary people is either 1) actually implicitly excluding non-binary people from trans identity; or 2) non-consensually including non-trans non-binary people in a category they don’t identify with. I’ll unpack both of those:

When you claim that somehow adding an asterisk to trans is more inclusive of non-binary trans people, you actually imply that that non-binary trans people aren’t “really” trans. We are rendered into a footnote, an addendum. We are pushed out of actually transness, into um, asterisk-ness? The thing is, though, that I am not an asterisk. I am trans, plain and simple. And so are many other non-binary people.

But. On the other hand, many people who are neither men nor women are not trans. Within cultures that don’t operate on a strict gender binary, that actually have socially codified alternative gender roles and identities, the cis/trans binary doesn’t make sense, and the trans narrative doesn’t fit people who fall into the non-binary gender categories of these cultures. Such folks often actively dis-identify with transness, and to insist that they are still “trans*” is to invalidate their sense of self.

And so, trans* has pretty well died by now, as a term. Good!

The other thing I find sometimes problematic in terms of language within trans communities isn’t a term itself, but rather a mode of language policing: that is, I sometimes take issue with the ways in which other trans folk insist that “transgendered” is “not a word”, or that “transsexual” isn’t a thing.

In general, I get the sentiment. Transgender is the best umbrella term here, for sure. Transgender is an adjective, a modifying descriptor of a person, much like many other descriptors that identify people’s axes of oppression. It can be said that people are transgender (not transgendered), in the same way that people are black (not blacked), autistic (not autisticked (autismed?)), etc. And like, ok, I guess? But also, this implies that the English language is consistent in a way that it never has been. And it smacks of privilege; like, not everyone has a high level grasp of grammar, nor should they care about minor quibbles as long as they can communicate themselves.

Of course, some people are actively bothered by being called transgendered, and those people have a right to define what words are applied to them, as does everyone else. But by the same token, there are trans people who actively identify themselves as transgendered, and they get to do that, ok? It’s not wrong for them to do that. It is a word.

Ditto for transsexual. The word does not even remotely apply to trans people generally, but there are folks who actively and specifically identify themselves as transsexual, as changing their sex, and not just their gender. They also get to do that. Everyone gets to use the words that best describe their own experience and understanding of themselves.

To be honest, this is why I prefer “trans” as far and away the best umbrella term, “transgender” if you must have a longer one. And I do think it is important to correct people (especially cisgender people) that I see using “transgendered” or “transsexual” as general terms. But I don’t correct them by telling them those aren’t words. They are words – I know they are words because people use them, and that is literally all it takes for something to be a word. They just aren’t the best words, or the right words to used in all contexts.

There are other things I could talk about here, I’m sure – this prompt has endless possibilities for me, really – but I’ll leave here for now!

But please, do tell me: What words that come up in trans communities do you have an issue with?


Catch the rest of my 30-week genderqueer challenge here!