My Cissexual Privilege? Examine Your Own Privilege

Posted: August 23, 2009 in Troll Wars

I further critique the concept cissexual, and in particular cissexual privilege.
The title is a reaction to blogosphere critiques of my cissexual privilege.

I do not mean you, Rachel_In_WY.
keywords: cissexual, privilege, transsexual, genderqueer, juliaserano, transgender, activism, natonalqueerartsfestival, passingprivilege, mtf, ftm, frameline

  1. Rebecca says:

    Even though I wasn’t involved in the original discussion, I appreciate you taking the time to respond to critiques of your previous video.

    Concerning transgender/cisgender and transsexual/cissexual, I’m not sure I agree with the justification being used to further cissexual. (That, as you say around 2:10, it’s needed to distinguish between privilege that transgender people have, which transsexual people do not.)

    Rather, I think it’s useful to establish a spectrum within which people may or may not identify with their assigned sex (cisgender and transgender) and a spectrum in which people may or may not desire to alter their body away from their assigned sex (transsexual and cissexual). It seems like, for many people, the two identities match: cisgender and cissexual or transgender and transsexual. But I agree with you that the two identities don’t always overlap so neatly, and that simply abbreviating to cis or trans can and does leave people out of the discussion or, worse, mislabel them.

    I don’t agree, however, that calling someone’s viewpoint “biased” is the same as saying “less valid.” As someone who is middle class and white, I acknowledge that I have a certain types of privilege and that my view on – for example – poverty or race relations will be inherently biased in a different way than someone who is poor and/or a person of color. Likewise, I don’t think someone who is cissexual will inherently have “wrong” or “incorrect” views concerning gender identity, but there is an extent to which they’ll inherently have a different perspective and different lived experience than someone who is transsexual. Again, I’m trying not to place a value judgment on those perspectives but just acknowledging them.

    I’m going to express my ignorance as someone who does identify as both transsexual and transgender according to the definitions I set out above, and as someone who does advocate the use of cissexual and cisgender as useful terms. I’m still having a really hard time understanding how cissexual has been weaponized. You’re not obligated to educate me, I completely understand that, but I do want to voice my ignorance and (as much as I’ve tried) inability to understand.

    Relating to privilege, you’re right: passing privilege is not something to be overlooked. And there isn’t (or, at least, shouldn’t be) a hierarchy of oppression. At the same time, I do want to acknowledge that being cissexual – that is, not desiring to alter one’s body away from one’s assigned sex – comes with economic privileges, if nothing else. I have insurance for another 9 months, which means my hormones only cost $75 a month, but undoubtedly they’ll shoot up when my coverage ends. (And, thus far, I’ve been unable to find an individual plan which will cover me.)

    Now, to be clear, I’m not attempting to engage in Oppression Olympics. My privilege as a passing (hopefully…) transgender/sexual woman isn’t better/worse than the privilege of a non-passing transgender/cissexual individual. Both identities come with different privileges and different social/cultural expressions of oppression. But the privileges and oppressions do exist, and I don’t agree that naming the identities as transgender/cisgender and transsexual/cissexual is inherently problematic.

    Ultimately, I agree that using just trans or just cis creates huge problems for people who aren’t both transsexual and transgender or cissexual and cisgender. I just think not using cissexual or cisgender at all as a result seems like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

  2. Jasper Gregory says:

    I have produced a followup piece on Using Cissexual Ethically

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