If you’d asked me seven years ago if I thought the word ‘cis’ would enter mainstream language I’d have scoffed at the idea. Yet despite some cis people’s dislike of the word, it is becoming much more widely known outwith trans* and activist communities. Not only that, but mainstream media is paying much more attention to trans* people and issues, and even managing to progress beyond the level of Victorian freak show that typified trans* portrayal in the not so distant past.
Now don’t get me wrong, I think it is great that the trans*/cis dichotomy is beginning to replace the “normal” “biological” person vs trans* person language that came before. And it’s fantastic that more and more cis people are willing to think of themselves as having gender identities, rather than treating gender identity as a thing peculiar to trans* people. And it is much easier to have a conversation about trans* issues with a cis person than it has ever been before, as language and general awareness have evolved to the point where meaningful discussions are possible.
But I am bothered by the way that the word cis is often used today. It seems to have taken on a rather firm definition, drawing a solid line separating being trans* and being cis, with little grey area in between. And I am particularly bothered that ‘cis’ is often used in a rather limited way focusing on having a gender identity the same as one’s assigned birth gender and not transitioning to a different gender. And in doing so, sweeps up a whole load of people who many have always regarded as being part of the trans* community. Continue reading
‘It’ is my preferred pronoun, yet I rarely ask people to refer to me as ‘it’. Too often I’ve met people who despite being pro-trans* rights, feel too uncomfortable to call a non-binary person ‘it’ – even if it was the person’s preferred pronoun – because of the pronoun’s history of being used in transphobic contexts, or feel that the pronoun objectifies.
Yet I still like ‘it’ as a pronoun. Similar to singular ‘they’, ‘it’ has the advantage of being a word that everybody is already familiar with, unlike the multitude of strange sounding, made up gender-neutral pronouns. But ‘it’ is also more often than not used specifically as a gender-neutral pronoun. Whereas singular ‘they’ is instead frequently used as a gender non-specific to refer to a person whose gender is unknown or irrelevant – e.g. in the sentence ‘If anybody calls, take their name and ask them to call again later’. The singular pronoun ‘they’ has as much evolved to be a less cumbersome way of saying ‘she or he’ – particularly when speaking – than to be a specifically gender-neutral pronoun. And so I feel far more affinity with the pronoun ‘it’ than ‘they’ – to me my gender is very much a specific gender, just one that happens to be gender-neutral.
A recent Feministing post on transgender people having sex with cisgender people attracted many negative comments focusing on the “dishonesty” of transgender people.
First of I’d like to say that I completely agree that it is dishonest for a transgender person and a cisgender person to have sex, full-stop. We live in a world where notions of sexual orientation and gender are defined from a cisgender persective. Since transgender people don’t fit neatly into these cisgender definitions, we are always going to be dishonest.
I made a decision a while back to distance myself from me being transgender. I moved to a new city where no people knew my past, and since then have largely remained silent. The only people I told my secret to were in the LGBT community and mostly transgender people at that. And I thought living stealth was what I wanted, but it really handicaps speaking out on any transgender issue. Not least because of the fear of outing myself.
Too often it seems that any discussion of female sexuality either disregards or ignores transgender women (e.g. here). If being female is defined by having a female gender identity and not biology, then female sexuality can’t reasonably be defined purely in terms of having a vagina either.