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!

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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.


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

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!


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

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!

I came out as non-binary at work! Part 3: In-person interactions

Did you miss the start of this story?
Part 1: How did I do it?
Part 2: Email reactions

In all honesty, this is the point at which I must admit that at some point in the last couple of years I may have slipped into a bizarro alternate wonderland universe of warm fuzzies, because I have no other explanation for just how easy this whole coming out thing has been for me.

Though this is partially because I front-loaded a bunch of affirmations and assurances into my coming out message itself, the thing that I am most amazed by is that since coming out I have not been asked to do a single iota of emotional labour around it.

I mean, when I decided I really did feel comfortable coming out at my work, it was because I figured that the level of potential push-back/invasive questions/insecurities about messing up that I’d have to deal with would be totally manageable. But I never imagined there would be none at all!

So, what did happen then?

The moment I walked into work on the Monday, now three days after coming out, the first person who saw me said: “Kasey! Thanks so much for the cookies! They were so great! I was going to bring in rainbow bagels [apparently this is a thing? But also, relevant context is that the cookies I brought in were rainbow-y] today, but I didn’t have time.”

Which, to me, this is just the sweetest way of making it clear that I belong and am loved? Just adorable, basically. I don’t even care that I didn’t get to experience rainbow bagels.

On top of this, when I eventually got around to checking my work mailbox, I also found a little hand-written note from the same (non-email-having) co-worker, which for the most part echoed many of the sentiments I had gotten in emails – she said she was glad that I felt comfortable enoguh to be open with them, let me know that she had previous knowledge/awareness of non-binary people via her daughter (who also works in our library system), and let me know she would do her best to watch her language, basically. It was a very nice thing to find!

Other than that, most people have just been business-as-usual with me (which is exactly what I would have asked for, to be honest.) One colleague who had offered a hug (that I accepted) in her email response literally jumped up the moment she saw me to deliver on it. Another person who hadn’t sent an email response thanked me in person for the email, basically said that she appreciated the reminder to continue working on the ways in which she uses gendered language, asked me if it had been hard for me to do, and said she’d appreciate recommendations to read more about non-binary people.

Because I have a pretty good sense of her literary tastes, I recommended she read Ivan Coyote’s most recent two books (Gender Failure (written with Rae Spoon) and Tomboy Survival Guide). She actually recognized the name, and we determined she’d seen Coyote perform in a storytelling festival at some point.

But I really want to get back to the italicized bit above! So, not only has no one asked anything of me (beyond accepting my explicit offer to provide resources), this one co-worker made herself available for me to emotionally process with her if necessary (which wasn’t needed, because holy wow this whole process has been so easy I can’t even, but was very much appreciated!) Another example of real allyship.

So, that’s my coming-out-at-work story! Somehow ‘changing’ my gender at work was less work than changing my name (both times I have done this in a workplace it was exhausting). I mean, different work contexts is a big part of that, but also who would have ever guessed it could work that way?

And this will be the end of the story for now! I may revisit to let you all know how pronouns go moving forward – most people do seem pretty interested in putting the effort to use ‘they’, even though I gave them an out. We’ll see how it goes!

The ‘Shit Cis People Say’ Alphabet: N is for “Not seeing gender”

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

N is for “Not seeing gender”

Although it’s rarely phrased in quite this way, the idea of “not seeing gender” is one that crops up among well-meaning cis folks sometimes. Why can’t we all just get along, and stop worrying about what gender everyone is, anyway? Aren’t we all really just humans, and can’t we all just treat each the same?

And like, ok, yeah, it would be nice if we could eradicate gender discrimination, obviously! But let’s not pretend it doesn’t exist; let’s not pretend that people’s genders and gender expression don’t impact pretty much every aspect of their lives in ways big and small, implicit and explicit.

Refusing to see a person’s gender (if such a thing were even possible) means that you are refusing to see *them*, period. It means you are refusing to take on a very relevant piece of information about them that has informed their experience in this world from day one.

In short, it’s not a good thing.

So, yes, the goal of treating people with the same level of respect regardless of their gender is a great one, and one that we should all be working on all the time. We should never let a person’s gender be the *only* relevant fact about them, and we must not let gender obscure the incredible diversity and special characteristics of individuals. But that doesn’t mean we begin by erasing their gender. It means we need to recognize that their gender is just one of many things that makes this particular human the whole person that they are.

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