sunflowerp: (Default)
If I had found [personal profile] dglenn's post Semantics, Gender, and 'Cis' before I wrote my own "Cis" is not a pejorative", I'd have saved myself a lot of writing - what I attempted to say, dglenn says far, far better.

This oughta be a longer followup than it is; I've run across a number of other excellent posts on the subject out in the wider blogosphere. But I've had enough trouble juggling time and spoons to even get to this much of one.
sunflowerp: (BattleReady)
I am a cis woman. That is, my gender identity[1] and my genes/hormones/plumbing/etc match up, as female. That matchup is a privilege.

The adjective[2] "cis" was coined because there are occasions when it's necessary to distinguish those who have such a match-up from those who don't (trans people/women/men). It is not inherently a pejorative term (though it can be used pejoratively, as can most words); it's simply the Latin antonym of "trans".

There are, however, people who have the privilege of identity/biology matchup who find it horribly offensive (GG the Undead takes note here of a particularly massive and trainwrecky instance [see also Questioning Transphobia's post, while I'm not posting specifically about that debacle, was what inspired me to quit waiting for that long-delayed shipment of Round Tuits and damned well post these thoughts). Most of the objections I've seen are about like the first one quoted at QT, which can be summarized as, "But I don't like it!", or are even less coherent.

As far as I can tell, the "offense" here is that the offended folks feel like they've lost the privilege of being Unmarked Case. That's pure "puff" privilege, all style and no substance; the most substantial thing lost is their sense of being "normal", "not one of the freaks". Their sense of it, mind you; the world is not suddenly looking at them askance. Most of the time, there's no need at all to subdivide the category "woman" (or "man") into cis women and trans women (or cis men and trans men); those folks objecting to "cis" aren't being asked to constantly and consistently identify themselves as a subclass of the category. If that were the case, they might have a point - the exact same point as those trans women and men who object to being asked to specify their transness whether it's relevant or not.

When trans folk and their allies use the adjective "cis", the intent is to construct a frame in which, when subdivision of categories is relevant to the discourse, each subcategory is adjectivally distinguished, and when subdivision is not relevant, no distinguishing adjectives are required. I've never heard an objection to "cis" that argued that all distinguishing adjectives are offensive[3], or offensive-when-irrelevant; if they touch on that at all, it's to champion the "right" of trans folk to identify by their chosen term "trans" - completely eliding that it's an identifier chosen for those instances of relevance. "Trans woman/man" is not[4] an identity in place of woman/man, it's an identity in place of terms habitually and traditionally used derogatorily.

No, the objection is that "cis" in particular is offensive. Taking again the first objector quoted in the QT post linked above, it's because cis people didn't make it up themselves. Granted, it's not put like that, it's expressed as not being able to choose the identity-term - well, no more did trans people; they selected the least-baggage-laden of a selection of terms imposed by the (cis-defaultive) cultural mainstream. Note that the objector doesn't offer an alternative of any kind, nor any examples of "cis" being used derogatorily; basically, he's just offended because other people are marking his privilege baggagecase, dammit, it's his to mark, but he's not gonna.

And that's one of the most coherent, cogent, and tightly-reasoned arguments I've read about the offensiveness of "cis": it's insulting because it explicitly points out privilege.

If that's the most "offensively" that your privilege is ever called out, you have no gripe coming.

[1] In a binary model. Get beyond the binary, and it gets complicated.

[2] Adjective, rather than prefix, because either "cis" or "trans" used as a prefix has stronger connotations of being outside the unmarked-case category. This may seem trivial, but the first time I went to type "ciswoman" to identify myself, it smacked me upside the head - yep, it does matter.

[3] In a post-transphobic world, we wouldn't need the distinguishing adjectives. This is not that world, so anyone advocating eliminating both "trans" and "cis" is either criminally naive, or disingenuously trying to sweep transphobia under the rug.

[4] Some individual trans folk have a strong identity with the "trans" adjective, and prefer "trans woman/man" to unmodified "woman/man".

Note on commenting: Transphobia in comments will be called out, if not by me then by others, but will only be deleted if there's no content of substance or if it's especially nasty - as a general principle, I prefer public disagreement, unto mocking if it seems apropos, to cleaning up and thus concealing misdeeds. If you're a cis person with privilege baggage, you'd best hope I get to it before my trans* readers do; I'm merely snarkastic and scalpel-tongued, they are used to fighting for their lives.

ETA: That includes calling me out on anything I've screwed up here.
sunflowerp: (BattleReady)
Just a quick heads-up here about a particularly nasty siteful of transmisogynistic "humor" billing itself as "Tranny Alert". I don't want a direct link to it on here, so I'll point you to GLAAD's statement about it, and to gudbuytjane's Call to Action, where you can get the revolting details and find links to check out the site itself or to complain to Blogger where they're hosted.

It is of course de rigeur for those committing a human-rights Fail to at some point issue the "but it's just a joke" disclaimer, and these folks Twittered theirs in one of its most classic distancing/projecting forms: ""Wow people really need to get a fucking sense of humor."

That's true. Some people do need to get a fucking (or at any rate adult) sense of humor. Like the jeans they wore when they were eight, the point-and-laugh senses of ha-ha they had when they were eight NO LONGER FIT WELL ENOUGH TO COVER THEIR ASSES.

UPDATE: And it's down - I've checked a couple of times, several hours apart (and enjoyed thumbing my nose at the 404-error page I get instead), so it seems it's properly gone, not just having a hiccup.

Not to say they won't re-start it elsewhere once they think the heat has died down; the sort of asshats who don't get what's wrong with something like this in the first place aren't likely to experience a sudden epiphany. But it looks like this (one, tiny) battle has been won, even though there's still a hell of a lot of war left.

November 2009



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