trans

The ‘Shit Cis People Say’ Alphabet: W is for “womyn-born-womyn”

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

W is for “womyn-born-womyn”

Womyn-born-womyn (sometimes just spelled women-born-women) is a category some radical feminists created in order to exclude trans women from their feminism. Those of us who don’t exclude trans women from our feminism sometimes refer to these exclusionists as Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists, or TERFs for short.

The entire concept of womyn-born-womyn (in the ways that TERFs mean and use it) would be ridiculous if it wasn’t used to harm so many women every day.

“Womyn-born-womyn” was coined with the apparent intent of meaning the same thing as ‘cisgender women’, before the popularization of the word cisgender (although the people who use the phrase womyn-born-womyn generally consider cis to be a slur (we talked about that one a while back), and have not adopted it).

Of course, the use of the phrase “womyn-born-womyn” with the intent of excluding trans women is based on an incorrect understranding of trans women’s gender, since, just like most cis women, many trans women were born girls (no one is really born a woman – we talked about that already as well) – trans women simply weren’t assigned the correct gender at birth.

On top of this, the folks who use the phrase womyn-born-womyn aren’t just incorrectly including trans women from that category – very often events that are purportedly limited to “womyn-born-womyn” are actually welcoming to trans men and non-binary people who were assigned female at birth. This tells us what “womyn-born-womyn” is really meant to signify, which is quite simply “people with vulvas”.

I honestly hate everything about “womyn-born-womyn” rhetoric, but I am particularly baffled by the way trans exclusionary radical feminists, who do in theory have a problem with women and women’s roles being defined by their genitalia, who believe that we are so much more than a letter on our birth certificate, being so damn biologically essentialist about gender anyway.

So yes, although the phrase “womyn-born-womyn” does not seem like it necessarily has to be transphobic, know that it’s usage is very much actively and deliberately transmisogynist.


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

A positive book review for once!

I seem to only write about books on here when they annoy or anger me. (I do write good reviews when my librarian hat is on, for the record!) Today, you get a reprieve from my negativity!

Ever since I read the trainwreck of a book that was Understanding Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation, I’ve been lowkey on the lookout for a schoolkid-appropriate book that actually addresses transgender people in a thorough and respectful way.

And today I found one!

Identifying as Transgender, by Sara Woods, is part of Rosen Publishing’s “Transgender Life” series (it being part of a series on trans issues is mostly why the title is a little awkward, I think?), and I’m clearly going to need to check out the rest of the series, because this one kind of knocks it out of the park!

Things this book does that I love include:

  • Talking about being cisgender on the same level as talking about being transgender, so transgender people are not actively othered.

    Everyone, transgender and cisgender alike, has a gender identity. A cisgender person is a person whose gender identity is consistent with their assigned gender… Transgender people, on the other hand, have gender identities that do not match the genders assigned to them at birth. (pg. 7)

  • Actively and consistently acknowledging non-binary genders throughout (non-binary people are included throughout, and not just as a side-note which is thereafter forgotten).
  • Acknowledging the diversity of trans experiences generally.

    Some trans women come to identify as women after many years of life, while others identify as girls when they are toddlers. (pg. 8)

    The painful experience of dysphoria has many sources and impacts many transgender people. But it is not universal. Many find that they are comfortable with their bodies as they are. This fact does make them any less or more trans. (pg. 25)

  • Explicitly identifying the book’s primarily colonial North American perspective (it is the target market for the book), and acknowledging that many contemporary societies actively include more than two genders.

    Some contemporary examples of nonbinary genders include the muxe in Zapotec communities in southern Mexico, the waria in Indonesia, and the mashoga in Swhili-speaking areas of the Kenyan coast – each of these identities carries its own specific attributes and meanings.

    Here in the United States, and Canada as well, many people fall outside of the binary. [Some explanation of different non-binary genders, genderfluid and agender identities.] In addition, many indigenous people are two-spirit, a term rooted in gender identities specific to some of the peoples indigenous to the continent. (pg. 11)

  • Discussing intersex people while also carefully differentiating between being intersex and being transgender (and defining dyadic alongside intersex in the same way that cisgender and transgender are discussed alongside one another).

    Most People are dyadic, but many people are intersex… Like dyadic people, intersex people are usually assigned male or female at birth. Because the concept of binary biological sex is so deeply ingrained in medical practice, many intersex people have been subject to nonconsensual treatments by doctors and surgeons (pg. 23)

    People often wrongly confuse the meanings of intersex and transgender. While some intersex people are transgender, many are not, identifying with the gender they were assigned at birth. Similarly, most transgender people are dyadic and do not have any intersex variations. (pg. 23)

  • Including inclusive definitions of sexual and romantic orientation (in a chapter intended to dispel the myth that all trans people are gay, and that transness and queerness are the same thing).

    Just like cisgender people, transgender people can be gay or straight. They can also be bisexual, pansexual, queer, asexual, greysexual, aromantic, or polyamorous[*] (pp. 29-30).

  • Discussing intersecting experiences of marginalization!

    All transgender people are vulnerable to transphobia and cissexism. But there are groups of trans people who experience additional marginalization and mistreatment. (pg. 43)

    This section goes on to discuss transmisogyny, and some of the ways in which ableism and racism can combine with cissexism and transphobia to make life even more difficult for multiply marginalized trans people.

  • THIS:

    When it comes to nonbinary people, the dominant terms that we have for sexuality tend to not make much sense. Who, for example, would a straight agender person date? Would a genderqueer person only be homosexual if they dated other genderqueer people? What if they dated a gender fluid person? (pg. 31)

I am so pleased with this book, y’all. Check it out if you can!


*I mean, ok, you may object to this being included among orientations (I am extremely iffy about this myself), but in general the idea here is that trans people’s ways of forming relationships are just as diverse as cis people’s, so I’m giving it a pass.

The ‘Shit Cis People Say’ Alphabet: V is for “valuable ally”

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

V is for “valuable ally”

Somehow it seems like the only time cis people really talk about how valuable they are as allies as when y’all are threatening to stop. As in, “Why are you trans people so rude? You’re going to lose valuable allies that way.”

The thing about this phrase is it seems to misunderstand what allyship is in the first place, and what makes an ally valuable.

So first things first: simply believing that trans people have the same right that cis people have to go through life as the gender they identify as does not an ally make. All that qualifies you as is “not a virulent transphobe”.

Allyship isn’t about your personal beliefs, it’s about actually fighting alongside us and taking actions to make trans people’s lives better now and in the future. This can be something as simple as calling out people who say transphobic things, or doing work to educate your fellow cis people on trans issues (thus taking the burden of education off our shoulders), but it has to be something you’re actually *doing*.

Second, if your allyship (or, as is often the case, your “allyship” in the form of believing that trans people are worthy of dignity and respect) can be lost because a trans person (or even more than one trans person!) was mean to you one time, let me tell you: your allyship ain’t worth shit.

All people are worthy of dignity and respect, regardless of how they treat you. If trans people’s basic human rights are being offered to us at the cost of us being nice to cis people all the time, then what you’re talking about isn’t even equal rights in the first place. What you’re talking about is extending trans people the privilege of being treated as well cis people, as long as we behave correctly.

Cis people don’t have to deal with any of that shit, and neither should trans people.

Real talk: if you were actually a valuable ally, you wouldn’t be wasting your time telling us how to act, or making sure we know how valuable you are. You’d be doing the work, and your actions would speak for you.


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

Gender Perspectives Vol. 20

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.]

It’s been far too long since our last installation of Gender Perspectives, and I’ve been accidentally sitting on this draft for a while, so let’s get right to what I have for you today:

My Transgender Day of (in)Visibility | Wandering Aloud

Being trans is difficult; being middle-aged and non-binary doesn’t make it any easier. I know that there is ‘no right way to be trans’ and as a rule I’m proud to be out and visible. Still, sometimes I am left with the feeling that perhaps there is a ‘wrong way’

 

What I Want | THEMAGICSPACESHIP

I want to experience the relief and joy and affirmation my binary trans friends experience when they begin to transition and the world starts to read them correctly at last. Confusion is not good enough. Avoiding referring to me is not good enough. Being read half the time one way and half the time the other, and wrong all the time, is not good enough.

 

Self-Expression After Coming Out | Queerly Texan 

My self-expression changed when I became comfortable with myself [as a lesbian], and I think that’s true for a lot of people. When you spend months, years, or even decades being uncomfortable the second you stop feeling even a tiny percentage of that awkwardness, you never want to go back.

 

Gender? I Don’t Know A Gender! | Sofhoney

What are you?

I’m me! I’m Sof. I change frequently – that goes for mood, attraction, appearance, & a whole lot of other things, too. It’s something I beat myself up over – a LOT. It’s something I’ve come to realize doesn’t matter. Not to me, anyway – some people identify very strongly with a gender or sexuality & that is great & amazing & I support & uplift those who identify that way…it’s just that I personally don’t!

 

The ‘Shit Cis People Say’ Alphabet: T is for “transgenders, transwomen, transmen, and tr***y”

CW: uncensored t-slur appears once in this post

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

T is for “transgenders, transwomen, transmen, tr***y”

Cis people really don’t know how to talk about trans people. And part of me wants to be patient with people around this, because of course if someone is approaching a new concept, they’re not going to be on top of it right away.

But at the same time, I often see cis people (even those who are aware of their own ignorance on the topic) blithely jumping into threads where trans people have already repeatedly demonstrated good terminology and just using whatever the heck words they make up/decide to use instead. It’s extremely frustrating y’all!

So, here’s a quick-and-dirty look at words you should and should not use to refer to trans people:

DON’T say

  • Transgenders/’a transgender’ – Much like I am not ‘a tall’, even though I am a tall person, I am not a transgender, even though I am a transgender person. Similarly a group of transgender people is just that, not a group of ‘transgenders’.
  • Transwomen/transmen/transpeople – except for in the very specific case when the specific person you are talking about actually very specifically uses any of these words to describe themselves, these sorts of compound words are actually a little dehumanizing. Again, like I’m not a tallperson, or a whiteperson, (although I am tall and white) I’m also not a transperson.
    Say it with me: Trans men are men. Trans women are women. Although trans people need the word trans (or transgender) in order to talk about the ways in which our experiences differ from cis (or cisgender) people’s, we aren’t completely different kinds of humans, and our transness doesn’t make our genders any less legitimate than cis people’s.
  • Tranny – this is a literal slur, y’all. Like with other slurs, those directly impacted by it may sometimes reclaim it, or use it to refer to themselves, but if you are cis you should never use it. Just don’t.

DO say

  • Transgender people
  • Trans people
  • Trans men/transgender men (when referring to people who are trans and identify as men)
  • Trans women/transgender women (when referring to people who are trans and identify as women)
  • People (Pro tip: this is always safe for talking about any people! Amazing!)
  • Men (when referring to people who identify as men)
  • Women (when referring to people who identify as women)

 


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

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?

 


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

The ‘Shit Cis People Say’ Alphabet: R is for “Real”

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

R is for ‘real’

The idea of realness is often levied against trans people. The misuse of the word ‘real’ by cis people is actually one of the reasons why we need the word ‘cis’, because without a word to identify the group of people who (basically) identify with the gender they were assigned at birth, people commonly default to describing such men and women as ‘real men’ and ‘real women’, thus implying that trans men and women somehow aren’t real (or rather, that their man- or womanhood isn’t real).

Cis people seem to think trans people(’s identities) aren’t real because they’re different from what some doctor announced when we were born, and even that our names aren’t real because we may not have the same name we were given when we were born (though we at least have that in common with a majority of married women (somehow), and they aren’t often asked what their real name is, or if their current name is their real name. I wonder why that could be?*)

I know that sometimes this misuse of the word ‘real’ (especially with respect to names) is fairly innocently intended – I know because on the occasions that I have questioned people’s use of the word in these contexts, they’ve  been clear that wasn’t what they meant and have fumbled for a more appropriate word.

For names, the phrase you want is “birth name”. Some trans people also refer to their birth name as their “deadname”; I’m going to go ahead and say that it’s never ok to ask someone what their deadname was, because when people use that term, it is giving you an idea of how they feel about that name, ok?

For people, if there is some reason why you need to specifically denote the subset of men and/or women who had their gender (basically) correctly identified at birth (and for the record, unless you’re talking about their privileged position relative to trans people, you probably don’t), the word you want is ‘cis’ (or ‘cisgender’ if you want to be formal about it).

Stop implicitly invalidating trans people in this way. And call out other people you see doing it, too.


*Rhetorical question. I know it’s because of cissexism. And heterosexism. And, to some extent, plain old misogyny. Triple whammy of nesting/intersecting oppressions!

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