SDS Womyn's Caucus Blog

5 Tips on How to Not Be Fucked Up and Transphobic When you Talk About People: A Brief Guide for Cis* People

Posted on: December 9, 2009

-by Tim (formerly of DC SDS)-

*cisgender: (noun.)

1. the contrast to trans on the gender spectrum
2. someone who lives and identifies as the sex they were assigned at birth

1.  Ask EVERYONE which pronouns they use, and actually commit yourself to using them.  Please please please stop only asking people who look “gender-variant” enough about their pronouns.  First of all, we (shockingly) don’t like always being singled out in groups for our gender presentation.  Secondly, you can’t tell people’s gender identities by looking at them.  We should be building a radical culture where everyone can have their identities respected, and making questions about pronouns a habit for everyone makes it much easier for that to take shape, rather than trans and genderqueer people having to feel the pressure of constantly outing themselves every time they meet a new persyn.

2.  Stop saying “male-bodied” and “female-bodied.”  Seriously though, I don’t know how this became standard protocol for radicals, but it’s incredibly problematic.  Firstly, what do these terms even mean?  What parts does a body need to be male, and what parts does it need to be female?  Simply put, there’s no way of defining what a male or female body is, since both sex and gender are social constructs.  And there are plenty of others who see themselves as having neither a “male” nor a “female” body.  So when you use these terms, you’re identifying people based on their bodies and body parts you may assume them to have and assume that said body parts are at all related to their sex or gender.

3.  Stop saying “male-identified” and “female-identified.”  Well if you’re not supposed to judge people based on their bodies, then you should probably ask people how they identify.  However, people often fall into the trap of then referring to trans/genderqueer people they know as “male-identified” and “female-identified,” rather than “man” and “woman.”  Such language implies that cis people are “men” and “women,” but trans people are somehow less authentically gendered, and are only “male-identified” and “female-identified.”  In somewhat the same vein, I’ve heard radicals say things like “He/She identifies are genderqueer,” a pronoun failure which in context signifies the same thing that “male-identified” and “female-identifies” often do: you may identify as a certain gender, but that doesn’t mean I have to treat you like that gender.  So please, use “man,” “woman,” and “genderqueer persyn” rather than adding “-identified,” it’s already implied!

4.  Stop “third-gendering” trans people.  Trying to be trans-inclusive and say “men, women, and transgender people”?  Please, stop.  A lot of trans people identify as men and women.  When you make a gendered list like that, it makes it seems like all trans people belong some “third gender” category and cannot then, be “authentic” men and women.  Now, it would be nice for you to include genderqueer/gender non-conforming people in this list (“men, women, and genderqueer people”), but that is a more specific subset the trans community and we need to have that specific language so we don’t reduce all trans people’s experiences as uniform.

5.  “Trans” is an adjective; consequently it requires a space between itself and the word it’s modifying.  This is in reference to numerous people writing things that include words like “transfolk,” “transwoman,” and “transman.”  This goes back to the discussion of “third-gendering” as well.  Connecting “trans” to the word it’s modifying makes a “transperson” something distinct from a regular “person” You probably wouldn’t say “whiteman” or “wealthywoman,” so don’t use “transfolk,” “transwoman,” or any variant thereof.

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33 Responses to "5 Tips on How to Not Be Fucked Up and Transphobic When you Talk About People: A Brief Guide for Cis* People"

this is amazing. thank you five billion times over for writing it, because it desperately needed to be said.

❤ adrian

Cissexism and cissexist language is one of the areas where sds has a lot a lot of room to grow still, so thank you so much for this post Tim! <3!

what about “transfer” “transport” or “transient” all of these are one word…also, this was just a list of what not to say. perhaps a suggestion on what you would like to be referred to as? A lot of these terms are people’s attempts at NOT offending you, but it seems anything we say is offensive.

This is a great article. Thanks, Tim!

marc,

i’m not sure what you’re getting at with the other words that have “trans” in them. i think tim was talking about the use of trans as an adjective within the vocabulary of gender, not saying that trans is never part of a compound word.

as for what some good alternatives are, in response to #4, i think this post has some good suggestions: http://deepthroated.wordpress.com/2009/03/16/third-gendering/

to quote from it: “Let’s say you are talking about women, and want to be absolutely clear that you are including trans women in your statement. You can say, “women, cis and trans.” Or “cis women and trans women.” Or, “women, including trans women.” Or even “female-identified people.” ” <– although as tim points out in #3, that has it's own issues.

i think saying "it seems anything we say is offensive" is being dismissive of the issue. tim outlined common things people say that are offensive – YOU are the one who seems to be equating this list with "anything "we" say".

in this same vein of questioning what IS good to say, though, i have a question. something i struggle with a lot is when i want to describe the group of people who have the least power in patriarchy – i.e. people who are not cis men. for example, if i want to say "women (cis and trans), gender queer people, trans men and gender variant people are silenced in patriarchy", that can be quite a mouthful, especially if i need to identify this group multiple times in a conversation or written piece. does anyone have suggestions for how to do this more succinctly? sometimes i just say "non-cis dudes" but it doesn't always fit with how i'm phrasing something.

thanks so much for writing this tim!! it got me (and lots of other ppl i've talked to) thinking!

Can we just make up our own term?

Thank you so much for this post, theres are some things I still don’t really understand but its the new vocabulary coming into my brain, it helps a lot.

it’s nice to see this convo happening here! thanks whoever posted it, and tim for writing it!

robin – in response to your pondering about how to talk about the people most silenced by patriarchy for example, i haven’t found great ways to get at everyone who i’m trying to talk about.

something i wanted to bring up though is that i think that sometimes trans men get included in who is most “impacted” by patriarchy, when i think that trans men fall across this wide spectrum of experiences and presentations, and often trans men, butch women, and masculine presenting and/or identifying genderqueer/gender variant folks use tools of patriarchy like femmephobia and misogyny. i’ve met trans men who are significantly more misogynist and “dudely” than some cis men i know. (AND i think it’s important to recognize that heteropatriachy does impact trans men – in ways that are about transphobia and cis-centricism). also, there are femmey men (trans and not) who are impacted and hurt by misogyny perpetrated against them (often read as homophobia). mainly what i am trying to say is that i think that these different elements of heteropatriarchy manifest in different ways, and the nuance is important. i am so happy to see trans things being talked about on the women’s caucus list serv, i think that feminism necessarily includes gender liberation analysis

some final thoughts are, i think that it’s important to keep trans women, particularly trans women of color, central to our understanding of gender and trans liberation (which helps us see our vision of gender lib related to housing, health, racial, and economic justice). often the language rules that float around in majority white activist circles are not relevant to other communities (some words may be more or less appropriate), and may even be alienating.

thanks beau. I appreciate the last paragraph of what yr saying a whole lot. I’m wondering if SONG(Southerners on New Ground, a Southern queer org for folks not familiar) has any thing they’ve written on this particular to the South?

Also, pretty unrelated to the OP, I wanted to add children into the mix of people impacted by patriarchy. I think we tend to view all people as static, so like, a persons place in society currently must have always been their place, or supersedes their former place. Certainly child abuse and neglect are gendered, but patriarchal child abuse is something that plagues many people’s childhoods, and all of our childhoods impact our adult lives dramatically. so yea, just throwing that into that complication of talking about patriachy.

Trans- is a prefix, not an adjective. It means between, across or through (ie: the Trans-Siberian railway goes through Siberia).

And adjectives formed with a trans don’t modify the essential nature of the thing. A transatlantic flight is still a flight, and the trans-continental railroad is still a railroad.

I think one distinction, and I guess maybe Tim didn’t spell it out clear enough is that in the context of this piece, ‘trans”is an abbreviation of transgender. Transgender IS an adjective when it modifies a noun like woman. So basically, when we are saying “transwoman” we are really saying “transgenderwoman” and that is when it becomes problematic. Although granted I do usually say ciswomen (occasionally cis-women) rather than cis woman. But the difference is that cis folks have cis privilege and trans folks don’t.

I agree that adding trans doesn’t change the essential nature of the noun. Neither does cis…BUT when common usage is always geared towards saying trans woman and never saying cis woman (except by radicals who are specifically talking about gender & sexuality issues) it is delegating trans woman as ‘the other’ just like do you when you say male nurse for men and just nurse for women.

I like to think of words like “transman” as being contractions rather than of trans- as a prefix. I have found that “transman” is more easily understood by cisgender people as meaning “FTM person” than “transgender man.” The most common usage I have seen of the phrase “transgender man” is an incorrect usage (used to describe MTF people).

My intentions here are to enter a dialogue, not an antagonistic debate, so I would appreciate it being treated as such 🙂 I only preface this because I have been attacked by one of the previous posters on other occasions outside of this site.

If the purpose of this type of post is to stop pigeon-holing, I think you (plural, meaning those who are behind the thoughts in this post) need to reconsider your own approach.

First, the title: are cis-persons the only ones capable of “fucked up” language? This seems to assume that EVERY trans/queer/otherly-gendered person is perfect in their linguistic references to every other. To assume that only cis-persons need this clarification is immediately isolating, and creates a sentiment of preaching rather than education with the intention of alliance-building.

Second, a question that is somewhat embedded in the first…. isn’t it counterintuitive to provide one set of rules for describing a vast community of people? Or to assume that there even is an all-pleasing vocabulary to begin with? On one hand, we are encouraged to openly accept all sorts of identities, manifestations of sex and gender, varying combinations of physiology and psychology, etc. On the other, we are told that one person, here the author or poster, can speak for all in creating a proper lexicon. Aren’t you inadvertently pigeon-holing by assuming that all people encompassed by gendered language feel the same way and prefer/reject the same terms?

Just think of the word “queer.” For some, it is a comfortable way of identifying without being overly specific. For others, it is a slur that warrants an HR complaint or harassment lawsuit. Homosexuals or transgendered folk who do not like the word “queer” likely feel isolated from “Queer Studies” or “Queer Alliances.”

In the same vein, the rule about not “third-gendering” directly opposes the vast petitions for having “male, female, other” included on standardized forms. Call it a silly example, but there was chaos on Facebook when only two gender options were presented.

Who is the author to ban a “third gender” when that is clearly a need for some? He then offers “genderqueer” as a suitable alternative to “transgendered,” but this seems nothing more than a personal preference which surely cannot be all-inclusive.

The vocabulary that I, as a woman, identify with cannot pretend to please all women, and vice versa. The example with which I personally identify the most: despite popular feminist notions, I am NOT a womyn, I am a woman. It offends me when others try to lump me into this new identity, which I do not accept, just because it is their idea of a more comfortable term. Likewise, I doubt that you have gotten a unanimous vote from everyone affected by this vocabulary, and it therefore seems highly contradictory to tell me “this is how to not offend a _______ person.”

“First, the title: are cis-persons the only ones capable of “fucked up” language? This seems to assume that EVERY trans/queer/otherly-gendered person is perfect in their linguistic references to every other. To assume that only cis-persons need this clarification is immediately isolating, and creates a sentiment of preaching rather than education with the intention of alliance-building.”

cis people certainly aren’t eh only people who fuck up this kind of stuff, but I would ceratinly say that they are the demographic that inordinately fucks up all of the above language things at a rate that far exceeds trans/genderqueer people. if such a suggestion is “isolating” or alienating, I think that’s somebody’s own problem and shit that they have to work on. confronting your own privilege is something that certainly isn’t comfortable.

“Second, a question that is somewhat embedded in the first…. isn’t it counterintuitive to provide one set of rules for describing a vast community of people? Or to assume that there even is an all-pleasing vocabulary to begin with?”

I certainly don’t contend that all trans and/or genderqueer people think the same thing or want to use the exact same language. i do think, however, that there are some pretty basic principles that most of the trans and genderqueer people I know can get behind, which basically consists of not identifying them based on the body parts they were born with. all of these suggestions are ways of avoiding linguistic trappings certain terms and devices that counter trans and genderqueer people’s identities. So yes, no group of people all think the same thing, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t put forward a way of trying to respect identity based on our lived experiences with gender.

“Who is the author to ban a “third gender” when that is clearly a need for some? He then offers “genderqueer” as a suitable alternative to “transgendered,” but this seems nothing more than a personal preference which surely cannot be all-inclusive.”

Way to already break point #1 and assume my preferred gender pronouns/gender identity based on my name. This point is based on a misunderstanding of my original point about “third-gendering.” The point that I was trying to make is that “gender(s)/sex(s) that is neither male/man nor female/womyn” is not synonymous with the term “transgender.” There are plenty of trans people who are men and womyn and don’t identify as a space between these terms, so using the term “transgender” as a term for the former category of people disrespects the manhood/womynhood of said people. This doesn’t mean that people outside of the gender binary don’t exist, because we do and we also deserve to be respected as well. On a personal level, I think that “other” is actually a better option, or “gender nonconforming” or “genderqueer.” I’m advancing some sort of uniform way of saying this, i’m just pointing out that the ways that this is often phrased does not respect a lot of people’s identities and lived experiences.

“Likewise, I doubt that you have gotten a unanimous vote from everyone affected by this vocabulary, and it therefore seems highly contradictory to tell me “this is how to not offend a _______ person.””

By this logic, anyone can call anyone anything they want and it can be forgiven because there are no unanimous votes on language for anything. Discourse isn’t produced by democracy, it’s produced by a decentralized network of societal institutions that shape it. The best we can do is intervene in said discourses in ways that we think will be beneficial. I think that the points I’ve laid out here lead to a discourse around gender in our society that contests heteronormative constructs already in place. aren’t such interventions the point of activism? yeah, a lot of people disagree with how I frame a lot of things, but that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t keep advancing my own thoughts, because such logic only produces a theoretical dead end in which nobody can create any language ever about anything because we all don’t agree.

Tim, I appreciate you taking the time to respond, though I am frustrated by the fact that you seem more argumentative than illuminating. As I already stated, I’m interested in information rather than combat, so please consider your tone if you don’t mind. Comments like “Way to already break point #1” are combative and do not encourage dialogue, which seems to be the intended purpose of this site.

“if such a suggestion is “isolating” or alienating, I think that’s somebody’s own problem and shit that they have to work on.” But if your (individual and collective) goal here is to educate and open doors, why don’t you make an effort to extend a hand rather than a dagger? Claiming that the cis-community are collectively fuck-ups is hardly an open minded gesture, and certainly not a way to encourage people to be educated by you. The accusatory tone of your writing is entirely contradictory to the alleged desire to build bridges. And people who feel isolated should get over it because it is their own problem? So if the words “men and women” are isolating, is that someone’s own problem and shit that they have to work on? Of course not. If we are considering the feelings and identities and self esteems of people, let’s consider all of them. The fact that you perceive a privilege in the cis community does not give you the right to assert a new privilege OVER anyone else in your quest for equality. Consistency is important here, if the point is to destroy the social constructs of different rules and privileges for different people.

“i do think, however, that there are some pretty basic principles that most of the trans and genderqueer people I know can get behind, which basically consists of not identifying them based on the body parts they were born with….So yes, no group of people all think the same thing, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t put forward a way of trying to respect identity based on our lived experiences with gender.”

Glad we have clarified that you are using your opinions and limited experiences to speak for an entire group. Of course, this is the truth of every overarching statement– no entire group will ever be encompassed by any mass opinion. It is, however, important to realize that this is the case, and that one’s interpretation of a mass opinion can never be assured to be “truth” beyond the one voice from whom it comes.

“Way to already break point #1 and assume my preferred gender pronouns/gender identity based on my name.”

You signed with a male name, so yes, I called you “him.” I have no clue or care regarding your genitals. Simply, your use of the name “Tim” led me to the use of the pronoun “him” and I see no fault in this. If someone walks into the men’s room, I will think “he probably has to pee.” You used a male name, I called you “him.” (This is where I think you need to reconsider your attitude of “if people feel isolated, its their problem, and they need to get over it,” because surely you don’t think it applies to you.)

“i’m just pointing out that the ways that this is often phrased does not respect a lot of people’s identities and lived experiences.”

Thanks for clarifying, I understand better what you meant about the term “transgender” being insufficient. This does, however, beg a larger question: where do we draw the line in providing precisely appropriate terms for everything, in every circumstance? Does the line get drawn after gender? What if I don’t feel that my ethnic heritage is adequately represented on standardized forms? Or religious labels which are too limiting? These are all important factors to personal identity, and surely different people feel that they are just as important to make known. No way to please all the people all the time, but I wonder how many directions this clarification of vocabulary must travel in.

“By this logic, anyone can call anyone anything they want and it can be forgiven because there are no unanimous votes on language for anything.”

No, by this logic, people should avoid issuing statements of “This is how not to offend a large group of which I do not know every member.”

“aren’t such interventions the point of activism? yeah, a lot of people disagree with how I frame a lot of things, but that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t keep advancing my own thoughts”

Of course! The world is dead without dialogue. But dialogue requires listening and educating and thinking and tweaking and…. There is little merit in preaching, particularly in a way that probes the intended audience to close their ears because of your (general) aggressive tone. There is a difference between impassioned, feverish discourse, and patronizing preaching, and I humbly suggest that you would benefit by considering your approach. There is no need to tone down the imperative nature of one’s feelings, but exclusive rhetoric clouds the genuine meaning and undermines your credibility. Setting up an immediate division of “hey, cis fuck ups, come learn how to be less of a fuck up” does not give the impression of inviting people to be educated, and certainly not to enter into a productive dialogue.

“The accusatory tone of your writing is entirely contradictory to the alleged desire to build bridges.”

Where did I indicate that I had the desire to build bridges? I wrote this piece so cis people (who, yes, are still not very knowledgeable or respectful disproportionately to the trans and genderqueer community which has been dealing with questions about gender for their entire lives) might start to question their privilege and try to respect people with different gender experiences than their own. It definitely wasn’t to make cis people feel good about themselves, or for them all to become my best friend.

“And people who feel isolated should get over it because it is their own problem?”

No, you’re taking such comments out of context. I said that privileged people who feel isolated by being called out on their privilege should get over it. And I stand by that statement.

“You signed with a male name, so yes, I called you “him.” I have no clue or care regarding your genitals. Simply, your use of the name “Tim” led me to the use of the pronoun “him” and I see no fault in this. If someone walks into the men’s room, I will think “he probably has to pee.” You used a male name, I called you “him.”

Of course, it’s never the cis persyn’s fault for fucking up. So when you make gendered assumptions about me, it’s my fault for having a traditionally male name, when apparently doesn’t fit your assumptions, which we should all apparently hold ourselves to. This is called “cis privilege,” the ability to take such designations in your mind for granted because you don’t have to worry about it. Also, your comment about bathrooms is just another indication that you know nothing about trans and genderqueer people’s daily experiences in a world created on the basis of the gender/sexual binary.

“No, by this logic, people should avoid issuing statements of “This is how not to offend a large group of which I do not know every member.””

I never said that. Whether or not people are offended by these things is irrelevant to whether or not they are transphobic terms. Whether or not these things offend a certain number of people doesn’t change the fact that they’re based on transphobic logic.

“There is little merit in preaching, particularly in a way that probes the intended audience to close their ears because of your (general) aggressive tone….Setting up an immediate division of “hey, cis fuck ups, come learn how to be less of a fuck up” does not give the impression of inviting people to be educated, and certainly not to enter into a productive dialogue.”

Privileged people who close their ears because oppressed are being aggressive in their tone need to stop being so self-righteous and recognize their privilege. I’m not inviting people into a productive dialogue, because they don’t need to have a say in what i’m speaking about here. This is, rather, me telling cis people some ways in which they can respect trans/genderqueer people’s experiences in the language that they use. I don’t particularly care how cis people feel about these suggestions, because they should be listening instead of trying to get the last word in every time a conversation like this happens about how they feel. To quote Kathleen Hanna, “If so sorry if I’m alienating some of you, your whole fucking culture alienates me.” Bottomline: this is what makes trans and genderqueer people (among many, many other people) NOT want to educate people on their privilege. Because every time they do, there’s a cis persyn that knows better than them.

“Where did I indicate that I had the desire to build bridges?”

In talking about dialogues and eliminating privilege, I had the crazy assumption that you were interested in open mindedness and acceptance, breaking down barriers between one community and another. Not about being best friends, but about integration of peoples and educating those who are ignorant but wanting to learn. Clearly I was giving you too much credit.

“Of course, it’s never the cis persyn’s fault for fucking up. So when you make gendered assumptions about me, it’s my fault for having a traditionally male name, when apparently doesn’t fit your assumptions, which we should all apparently hold ourselves to.”

It’s not about anyone’s fault for having a name. You chose to sign the name “Tim” be it given or adopted, and I based my pronoun off of that name. Just as you don’t want to be held to my assumptions, you cannot expect me to mindread yours. You called yourself Tim, I used a common level of common sense and said “him.” If you don’t want to be called “him,” don’t use a male name.

Me: “No, by this logic, people should avoid issuing statements of “This is how not to offend a large group of which I do not know every member.””

You: “I never said that.”

Really? You never said “How to Not Be Fucked Up and Transphobic When you Talk About People?” As in, here is my opinion on how you should refer to a large group of which I do not know every member? Factually, that is what you did. If you stand by assuming that ability, go ahead. But don’t deny it when it is the title of the post.

“Whether or not these things offend a certain number of people doesn’t change the fact that they’re based on transphobic logic.”

Transphobic is not the right word. Ignorance, different experiences, knowing different people with different opinions, or straight up lack of exposure do not equal fear. Phobia, ignorance, and differing opinions are very different things. Sure they may overlap at times, but phobia is not an all inclusive term for the ambiguous vocabulary crisis.

“This is called “cis privilege,” the ability to take such designations in your mind for granted because you don’t have to worry about it. Also, your comment about bathrooms is just another indication that you know nothing about trans and genderqueer people’s daily experiences in a world created on the basis of the gender/sexual binary.”

Stop calling me out on assumptions while you are clearly assuming that I am cis. I have stated that I identify as a woman, that is all you know about me. What lies between my legs or in my heart is far beyond your knowledge, so jump off the cis-soap box. I do understand the bathroom crisis. That does not change the fact that if I see a stranger enter the men’s room, I’ll think “His shoe is untied.”

“Privileged people who close their ears because oppressed are being aggressive in their tone need to stop being so self-righteous and recognize their privilege.”

If my ears were closed, I would not be here, reading, seeking knowledge, questioning, engaging.

“I’m not inviting people into a productive dialogue, because they don’t need to have a say in what i’m speaking about here. This is, rather, me telling cis people some ways in which they can respect trans/genderqueer people’s experiences in the language that they use.”

Again, you are lumping ME in with CIS/THEY, and here you have lost all credibility. Why is it so beyond you to realize that a member of the otherly-gendered community may be challenging your approach? You are attacking my responses because you think I am cis, but you really have no idea.

“I don’t particularly care how cis people feel about these suggestions, because they should be listening instead of trying to get the last word in every time a conversation like this happens about how they feel.”

Again, if you had an open enough mind instead of this standard combative approach, you might understand that my initial post offered curiosities and thoughts that could have been discussed rather than battled. Your assumption that I am cis, and therefore apparently not entitled to enter the dialogue, is one of the most dangerous and limiting facets of activism. Nothing in my original post was about you offending me, it was asking if you realized that you cannot speak for every queer in the world. Apparently, you are not willing to accept that truth.

“Bottomline: this is what makes trans and genderqueer people (among many, many other people) NOT want to educate people on their privilege. Because every time they do, there’s a cis persyn that knows better than them.”

I’m glad you have taken an account of every opinion, of every time, of every trans and queer person, of every experience. So great that we have an expert here. You, Tim, are why I refuse to take part in any gender activist groups, because you give people like me a bad name. Your immediate assumption that because I identify as a womAn, I must be cis… the assumption that because I challenge you, I must be privileged…. case in point that your stance is isolating and contradictory, because YOUR closed minded rhetoric just prompted a woman to delete the sdscaucas from my web browser.

No personal loss to you, I’m sure, but I hope you one day learn that opening your eyes and ears to the possibility that there are queers who are different from you will benefit you greatly. It’s unfortunate to see people like Robin and Christa mixed up with you, I witnessed and participated in their movements for four years of college and you have successfully undermined their passion in a brief written exchange.

One thing : cis- is a cognate for non-trans. It’s not perjorative.

Cis-privilege is very real, but that’s not the fault or responsibility of the cis people who benefit from it.

For example:

It is cis-privilege that gives one a sense of entitlement to basic human rights, such as the right to travel. A trans person does not have the privilege of applying for a passport with the expectation of being granted one as a matter of course, without an expensive years-long legal battle.

It is cis-privilege that means that should a doctor prescribe a medication for your continued good health, that you won’t automatically be entered on a register of sex offenders. Trans people have no such privilege.

It is cis-privilege that gives you a reasonable expectation that should you be involved in an automobile accident, that the paramedics will treat you on the scene, and transport you to a hospital if need be, where you will be cared for. Again, trans people do not have that privilege.

I don’t think anyone could rationally say that those privileges are undeserved, or unreasonable. It’s not that cis people are some kind of arrogant aristocracy: more that they just don’t realise that trans people are in places treated as if subhuman. This lack of realisation sometimes leads them to say hurtful things, because they cannot conceive that in their society, anyone could be treated this way.

I wanted to respectfully challenge the idea that it isn’t our(cis people) responsibility. I think when we’re talking about things like race and gender, it is certainly not the fault of privileged people that such a society exists. but, I think we do have an immense responsibility on our shoulders to support struggles for liberation, and to leverage our privileges to strategically support movements for liberation. For instance, my whiteness gives me greater access to well paying jobs, so I should try when possible to take a little bit of my pay and put it toward the struggle against white supremacy. Or, as a cis dude, people tend to more automatically listen to me and support the things I say and write, so I have a responsibility to use my privileged voice in society to challenge patriarchy, and to do so in a way that represents and credits the movements for liberation(rather than using my voice to say what I think is best for them).

We may not be in disagrement on this though, we might just have different meanings for responsibility or something. so no hard feelings or anything.

wow, LizBiz, a few things:

1. TLDR, fer real.
2. You are being really unnecessarily inflammatory and insulting, see: “I’m glad you have taken an account of every opinion, of every time, of every trans and queer person, of every experience. So great that we have an expert here.”

Since when is one’s own experience not legitimate enough? So suddenly in addition to dealing with oppression, oppressed people now have to speak for every other oppressed person, if they want to speak up for themselves? Fuck that.

3.You know a similar flame war ensued on this womyn’s caucus blog post:
https://sdswomynscaucus.wordpress.com/2009/11/18/concrete-ways-not-to-be-a-total-dude-bro/

and I can only imagine that the reasons are the same here, a person with privilege wants to maintain it by by being insulting and defensive (of course always in the guise of legitimate curiosity). Obviously, I don’t know you LizBiz, but I know the motives one would have for behaving the way you have on this blog.

LizBiz,

I’m not sure who you are though you say we know each other. I’ve also only been organizing for a little less than 3 years so we definitely haven’t been in the same movement for 4 years. And honestly, I find it patronizing that you would say Christa and I are “mixed up with” Tim. I think Tim is a really brilliant persyn and I agree with their analysis in this thread.

I don’t want to rehash all the points Tim already addressed, but I do want to point you to the “About” page for this blog – https://sdswomynscaucus.wordpress.com/about/

In our statement, we say,

“This blog is not about doing outreach to gain new members of the feminist movement. It is for whatever we have to say about patriarchy…It is not womyn’s responsibility to sugar-coat our feelings to make them more palatable for men” (or in this case, it is not a non-cis person’s responsibility to sugar-coat their feelings for cis people…or other non-cis people.)

The purpose of the blog is to provide an outlet for members of the SDS community with something to get off their chest about gender oppression and other oppressions. We’re not here to say we have all the answers or we speak for everyone, I don’t know why you seemingly made that assumption.

Honestly there is too much in these comments for me to try to address piece by piece, and Tim has already done a lot of that, but there were a few things in your most recent post I do want to address.

First of all, never assuming people’s pronouns is a pretty solid rule that I’ve seen in pretty much any Trans 101 handout or workshop (or just in life). I am, to be honest, shocked that someone entering in this dialogue would assume pronouns from a name.

“You chose to sign the name “Tim” be it given or adopted, and I based my pronoun off of that name. Just as you don’t want to be held to my assumptions, you cannot expect me to mindread yours. You called yourself Tim, I used a common level of common sense and said “him.” If you don’t want to be called “him,” don’t use a male name.”

Ok, so, let’s think of some reasons someone who goes by Tim but does not identify as male might still use a “male” name (as if there even is such a thing, but i’ll go along with the idea that culturally there are names that are traditionally male):

– it is their given name and it is not safe for them to come out in their family/community

– it is their given name and everyone already knows them by it, they don’t want to have to go through the annoyance of changing it

– it is their given name and due to internalized transphobia they feel bad about making their friends and family go through the difficult ordeal of having to remember a new name 😉

– it is their given name and they LIKE IT!!!

– it is a chosen name, cause, hell, why not fuck with people’s expectations??

these are just the few things that came to me as i was sitting here. i do not attempt to speak for Tim, i’m just speaking hypothetically about why i think it is cis-sexist (and yes, even non-cis people can be cis-sexist) to assume that someone who uses a name that is traditionally associated with a male identity in our culture would use male pronouns.

““Whether or not these things offend a certain number of people doesn’t change the fact that they’re based on transphobic logic.”

Transphobic is not the right word. Ignorance, different experiences, knowing different people with different opinions, or straight up lack of exposure do not equal fear. Phobia, ignorance, and differing opinions are very different things. Sure they may overlap at times, but phobia is not an all inclusive term for the ambiguous vocabulary crisis.”

I don’t think being ignorant is an excuse to be cis-sexist, sexist, racist…etc. You can be both, and it is privileged people’s responsibility to educate themselves.

Ok, I’m out. If you would like to talk to me about this privately, my e-mail is robinmarkleATgmail.com

Robin, you’re right that I miscounted years, but I interacted with you for the first time on our mutual undergrad campus in the spring of 2007 which would be three years ago (not sure how much to identify, but I can confirm more details via email if you’d like. Brightlyblaze (at) gmail (dot) com.)

So not to drag this out, but I’m not entirely in agreement about asking everyone their gender pronoun. The way that manifested itself in SDS for a while is in the really painfully alienating experience of being at radical meetings and having to do the introduction circle where everyone gives their gender pronoun.

Yo, that shit is none of your fucking business sometimes. I really don’t feel like answering that question in a setting of anything other than an interpersonal relationship I am building with someone I probably trust. And I dislike that people who don’t want to participate in that ritual are ostracized.

And I am not going to go up to people who are effectively strangers and put them in a spot where they have to give me an answer they may not be interested in giving. If I’m looking to get into a personal or regular working relationship, I feel like it’s important to ask. But some people don’t need you up in their face asking them a question that, for some people, is up there with asking “Hey, can I see your genitalia?”

So I understand the sentiment as expressed in the first point, but asking everyone all the time sometimes DOES single people out in some situations.

@LizBiz and the rest of this thread: You are deploying like half of the of the Derailing for Dummies training manual. http://www.derailingfordummies.com/

“In talking about dialogues and eliminating privilege, I had the crazy assumption that you were interested in open mindedness and acceptance, breaking down barriers between one community and another. Not about being best friends, but about integration of peoples and educating those who are ignorant but wanting to learn. Clearly I was giving you too much credit.”

People with privilege need to learn that every space is not meant to be designed with their comfort in mind. Just deal with it. Sometimes, you’re going to be uncomfortable. Big fucking deal. You get to go home and still be privileged.

I’m not cis, so you’re barking up the wrong tree. But I believe that extending a hand of education will solve ignorance much more successfully than calling people fuck ups. Who is going to read that? It adds bricks to the walls rather than teaching what needs to be taught. Call it whoever’s fault you want, but it will never be productive.

If it came off like I was suggesting you were cis gendered, my apologies. I was disagreeing with your argument, not making an implication about you. By “people with privilege”, I was referring to your argument that this space needs to necessarily be about “educating ignorance.”

That line gives people with privilege the right to show up to a space and expect coddling for their ignorance so that one day they might learn to tolerate those they oppress.

And for my other comment: that kind of line is what derailed this conversation.

Begla, thanks for saying this. I have a couple thoughts/questions on #1 that I’ve been mulling over. Also I want to say upfront that I’m coming at this as a cis woman so i apologize in advance if I fail to recognize how my privilege is influencing my thoughts here. CALL ME OUT!! 🙂

So, at least once I’ve been in a situation like Begla described above where there was only one non-cis person at an event, and when we did a go-around with pronouns they didn’t participate because it felt so alienating to be singled out, and then felt so shitty that they were unable to engage for most of the day. (And one of the organizers of the event actually got upset with them and told me behind their back that they were being dramatic and that she had done the go-around “for them”…boy oh boy…) Anyway, on a more positive note, one way I’ve learned to deal with that is by doing intros where each person is given a set amount of time (less than a minute) to introduce themselves to the group, and to use this time to say whatever they want about themselves. So, if someone wants to tell everyone their gender pronouns, they can. Or they can choose not to. This isn’t a perfect solution by any means – most often cis people still don’t say their pronouns and it still can single non-cis people out – but I prefer it to a mandatory go-around.

So that’s one setting where it doesn’t suit everyone to always ask pronouns. I was also thinking about this recently when I was in West Virginia for a mountaintop removal protest. While attending some pre-action workshops, I realized that there were no opportunities made for people to introduce themselves with gender pronouns. I thought about bringing it up, but I wasn’t sure what was appropriate. I don’t think most of the local people there were familiar with the concepts of non-binary gender, and probably would have thought I was a real weirdo if I asked their pronouns. As organizers we talk a lot about not being alienating, and asking these people’s pronouns would likely have been alienating. But I also of course don’t want to do organizing that is cis-sexist. I’ve been thinking about it ever since and still don’t know what good ways to address this are. As an aspiring ally I feel like it is my responsibility to try to do the first reach of education and awareness, but I also felt sort of silly and superfluous (even show-offy) bringing this up as a cis persyn and when there were, to my knowledge, no non-cis people in attendance. (Not that I really had any way of knowing, and not to imply that it’s only necessary to do pronoun introductions when there are non-cis people present.)

There is soooo much I could say about this but this is already long enough. Anyway, I was just wondering what other people thought about this. In case it isn’t clear, I support what Tim says in #1 100% in theory, I guess I’m just thinking it doesn’t always play out the way we want it to in real life.

“It’s not about anyone’s fault for having a name. You chose to sign the name “Tim” be it given or adopted, and I based my pronoun off of that name. Just as you don’t want to be held to my assumptions, you cannot expect me to mindread yours. You called yourself Tim, I used a common level of common sense and said “him.” If you don’t want to be called “him,” don’t use a male name.”

And I authored this gem of an essay because a bunch of people like say things like this, which are undoubtedly, yes, cis-sexist and fucked up. if you still can’t see that, I don’t have anything else to say about it.

“Transphobic is not the right word.”

You are entirely correct. I should’ve used the word “cis-sexist,” it’s much more all-encompassing and points towards the institutional and discursive nature of the oppression of trans and genderqueer people.

“Stop calling me out on assumptions while you are clearly assuming that I am cis. I have stated that I identify as a woman, that is all you know about me. What lies between my legs or in my heart is far beyond your knowledge, so jump off the cis-soap box. I do understand the bathroom crisis. That does not change the fact that if I see a stranger enter the men’s room, I’ll think “His shoe is untied.””

But you don’t, because if you did understand you wouldn’t make the assumption that everyone in a men’s restroom is a man. This is one of many reasons I would assume that you’re cis, along with comments you’ve made about my name and pronouns as well. And of sourse, the lengths you’ve gone to deny cis privilege and defend cis people that fuck up. Of course, you haven’t said that you are cis or trans to make your argument seem more solid, because once you admit that you’re cis you would look rather like a cis-sexist cis persyn at this point.

“If my ears were closed, I would not be here, reading, seeking knowledge, questioning, engaging.”

Your ears can be closed at the same time your mouth is open. You are clearly not listening and trying to explain away every fucked-up thing you’ve said on this thread. That’s not listening. Also, implicitly in this conversation, you are implicitly admitting to be someone with privilege in this situation, i.e. cis, if the logic of my argument in the previous post follows…

“Again, you are lumping ME in with CIS/THEY, and here you have lost all credibility. Why is it so beyond you to realize that a member of the otherly-gendered community may be challenging your approach? You are attacking my responses because you think I am cis, but you really have no idea.”

“otherly-gendered”? seriously? See above for the “stop third-gendering” trans people point. I guess i’ll put another tally in the “probably cis” column here… but if you are a trans woman, this is even more depressing than it is right now…

“Your assumption that I am cis, and therefore apparently not entitled to enter the dialogue, is one of the most dangerous and limiting facets of activism. ”

No, the idea that everyone should automatically think that they should have a say in dialogue about everything is one of the dangerous facets of activism. Cis people are NOT entitled to enter a dialogue about what language trans and genderqueer people find comfortable. If you’re trans, please, just say it, tell me how you would like to be referred to, tell me what your experiences are and how they’ve shaped your language preferences. I’m all ears to that, but I’m guessing that those comments would’ve come up by now if you had them. Instead, your entire argument has been based around being nice to cis people and defending their privilege? I’m really hoping that a trans woman wouldn’t have wasted their time defending the privilege of those who are profiting from her oppression.

“Bottomline: this is what makes trans and genderqueer people (among many, many other people) NOT want to educate people on their privilege. Because every time they do, there’s a cis persyn that knows better than them.”

“You, Tim, are why I refuse to take part in any gender activist groups, because you give people like me a bad name.”

I mean, it seems like you deserve a bad name if you’re doing to disregard people’s voices when they’re trying to educate people on their privilege.

“No personal loss to you, I’m sure, but I hope you one day learn that opening your eyes and ears to the possibility that there are queers who are different from you will benefit you greatly.”

Apparently I need to meet some upstanding nonviolent Harvey Milk type that will show me that I need to be nice to cis people and be a “uniter” because that did him a lot of good. (let the chorus of “But I liked Harvey Milk!!!” ensue lol)

“It’s unfortunate to see people like Robin and Christa mixed up with you, I witnessed and participated in their movements for four years of college and you have successfully undermined their passion in a brief written exchange.”

BAHAHAHAHA, I very much love that you’re speaking about them as though they’re unwitting patsies to my crimes against cis people. Robin and Christa can think for themselves and write amazing things on this blog, and I think that Robin’s response to you is a very good one.

“If you’re trans, please, just say it, tell me how you would like to be referred to, tell me what your experiences are and how they’ve shaped your language preferences. I’m all ears to that, but I’m guessing that those comments would’ve come up by now if you had them.”

This is the only bit I am responding to because we are clearly not getting anywhere on any other point, and that is fine. I am XXY and I identify as a woman. My genitals are not going to be described in this forum, but they are neither the textbook male nor textbook female physiognomy.

Don’t tell me I don’t understand the bathroom crisis, don’t tell me I am wrong for saying “otherly-gendered.” You have been defending thus far that it is the right of the queer community to discuss vocabulary, and I AM an otherly-gendered woman and therefore a member of this conversation. That is my identity: an otherly gendered woman, with scientifically anomalous genitals. That is why I have the right — not cis priviledge– to enter into this forum and discuss this issue. That is why you are unfounded in directing all of your “cis have no place in the discussion” rhetoric at me. I’m not cis.

Clearly we don’t see eye to eye on anything else, and hey that’s totally cool in a controversial dialogue, but I think it is great that this conversation is happening even if I disagree with your stance/approach, and I hope you can appreciate that there are other opinions belonging to other queers. These opinions do belong on the table, whether you agree with them or not. My email is brightlyblaze (at) gmail (dot) com if you care to respond.

I apologize for the assumption that you were cis. I’ve honestly never heard a trans/genderqueer/intersex persyn so vociferously and actively defend cis privilege before. Apparently you are living proof of your argument that trans/genderqueer/intersex people need to be educated about their ignorance about trans and genderqueer issues just as much as cis people. my comments about about cis people and “educating” cis people stand. Your comments and arguments are still fundamentally based on logic that is cis-sexist, trans/genderqueerphobic, and oppressive. At this point I have nothing else to say about the arguments you’ve advanced.

“Apparently you are living proof of your argument that trans/genderqueer/intersex people need to be educated about their ignorance about trans and genderqueer issues just as much as cis people.”

My 23 years of life have been a fairly comprehensive education, and I’m sure the rest of my life will be as well. I just happen to have come to different conclusions and different opinions than you. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Happy New Year.

hopefully someone’s still reading this thread and can respond with some thoughts.

first, about me: i identify as somewhat genderqueer (because i dislike being identified/identifying as “female” or “girl” or “woman” except in very specific cases). this being said, i do have cis gender privilege because i “pass” as a cis woman, and i often fuck up when it comes to not being cis normative / cis sexist. i’m trying to actively work on this, especially in regards to how i speak.

so my question is this: recently, my housemates and i (all of whom either id as cis women and/or have cis gender privilege) were looking for a subletter for a period of several months. we wanted to maintain a space that felt “safe” and thus put out an ad asking for “only female-bodied / female-identified people” to apply. in retrospect, i totally see how we were not only being fucked up, but we were also not being very accurate in who we were looking for: because we would have been totally fine with a trans man or a trans woman or a genderqueer person, not only a cis woman. would it have been acceptable to have said, instead, “no cis men” or something like that?

Thats what I tend to do. There is no good all inclusive term (that I am aware of) so I just say no cis men.

-Christa

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