Cisgender & its privilege
What do you see when you look at me? For most people, I do not even warrant a glance, a second look. No matter what my sexuality, queerness or how many kinks I may have, I happen to 'look the part' of a woman. For me, regardless of how I view my gender or what pronoun I prefer, I like having this body*, and it is only recently I have realised how easy that has made my life.
Gender binary! Argh! The words, the limitations, the bullshit, has always invoked anger in me. A couple of weeks ago, they affected me deeper. I can still feel the ripples from the heaviness of my heart as it hit me knowing what so many beautiful people go through. Simply because they challenge society.
The delightful Kate Bornstein** facilitated a workshop in Manchester on ‘Gender’. The fastest workshop I have ever signed up for. I went for a better understanding of my own gender and transgender friends and clients. Kate has a wonderful way of holding space and in being open and honest; a way of allowing you to unfold during the day. It was a section where we were asked to answer a few questions (the answers were for our eyes only), that the sheer volume of my cis privilege hit me.
Would you have an answer to 'What it is that bullies use to stop you living your sex or gender identity?' 'How do they scare you?' 'What do they threaten you with?' Can you fill in the blank spaces? 'I'm seen as a freak because __________ '. 'Whenever I ___________, I feel unsafe'. 'Whenever I say that I am __________ people say I shouldn't tell anyone'. I couldn't. And I am far from heteronormative or vanilla. But again, I fit the role. And an even greater blessing is that because of my work, I am surrounded by the most amazing friends. No judgement there. However what about people who are transgender, non-binary, gender queer or gender non conforming?
Think about people that that live with fear of verbal abuse, physical intimidation or arrest when using a public bathroom or how you would feel if a stranger asked what your genitals looked like and how you have sex? How, even though I might miss the second glances of when I was younger, I can blend into the world without being whispered about or pointed to because of my gender expression. Being cisgendered, we can pretty much assume that our gender identity/expression is not going to affect our ability to get a job, a mortgage or receiving the appropriate medical attention. We can flirt, begin a relationship, fall in love. without the fear of rejection. Or without our partner questioning their sexual orientation.
I am not asking you to feel guilty. Simply becoming more aware and informed. Being aware of their truth in their gender identity and expression and how you can support and perhaps ease any suffering. Educate yourself (it's not a transgender persons job to do that), call out on transphobia and keep any judgement in check.
I love Kate's words - 'You can do anything that will make your life worth more living. Just don't be mean'
* Cisgender means have a biological sex that matched your gender identity and expression, resulting in other people accurately perceiving your gender.
** Kate Bornstein is author of A Queer and Pleasant Danger, Gender Outlaws, Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks & Other Outlaws and My Gender Workbook. Her blog is http://katebornstein.typepad.com/
And a big shout out and thanks to Amanda & Zed from Queerhearted.com for bringing Kate to the UK.