Cis Privilege

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A link appeared in my twitter timeline earlier to a site that was called something like “cis privilege” (no I won’t give it extra traffic). The entries I saw were all examples of violence against women, none that I could see having anything to do with anyone being cis or trans. The point of the site appeared to be to deny the concept of cis privilege by emphasising the global status of women as inferior to men, and the violence that they suffer because of it. What it did not appear to do in any way, was actually address cis privilege.

As a cis person who lives with a trans person, I am regularly reminded of my privilege, so with thanks to Peggy McIntosh, who wrote this amazing essay back in 1988 that popularised the concept in relation to race, I have written a list of cis privileges. As you will see, many of these examples do affect women in relation to men, but not cis women in relation to trans women. I really wish the two issues would not be conflated.

1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of cis people most of the time.
2. I have never had to sit politely during an amusing anecdote that mocked cis people (but I recently held my partners hand as we listened to one mocking a trans person).
3. I have never seen a popular TV programme mock cis people.
4. If I should need to move house, I can be pretty sure I won’t face discrimination on the basis of my gender.
5. I can be pretty sure that my neighbours in a new location will be fine with my gender, and will be neutral or pleasant to me.
6. I have never had someone yell “cis!” at me in the street.
7. I have never been sexually assaulted for being cis[1].
8. I have never been beaten up for being cis.
9. I am unlikely to be murdered for being cis.
10. I can turn on the television or open a newspaper and most of the content I see will be written by cis people, sympathetic to cis people.
11. When I learn about national or global history, I read about cis people.
12. I have never had to explain to a doctor what my gender is.
13. I have never been asked to show a doctor my genitals as part of a routine medical appointment.
14. I have never been asked “but what’s your REAL name?”
15. I am never asked my “preferred” pronouns.
16. I am never misgendered[2].
17. I can wear whatever I like and never have my gender challenged.
18. I will never need to seek my spouse’s permission to have my gender legally recognised[3].
19. If I seek medical support for mental health difficulties, I can be confident that my gender will not be considered a symptom or a cause.
20. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my gender.
21. I can choose to ignore the latest media storm, or legal difficulty, facing trans people.
22. If I am found guilty of a crime, I will be placed in prison with people of my gender.
23. I can worry about transphobia without being seen as self-interested or self-seeking.
24. I have never experienced dysphoria.
25. I do not have to repeatedly convince new doctors that I have a legitimate need for a hormone prescription.
26. At work, I can dress in a way that reflects my gender, without concern over how I will be treated.
27. I will never have to run the gauntlet that is medical gender reassignment.
28. When I travel to other countries I do not have to worry about whether my gender will be recognised.
29. I am never asked what genitals I have.
30. I have never been rejected for a job because of my gender.

I am a feminist. I am under no illusions about the atrocious treatment of women across much of the world. But I’m also aware of my privilege to be a cis woman, as I am aware of my privilege to be white, English, able-bodied and middle-class. My feminism loses nothing by acknowledging these things.

The discrimination facing trans people is horrendous, and it breaks my heart to see it denied, or belittled, especially by women who are the public face of feminism. We are stronger together.

 


 

[1] Yes, women are assaulted for being women. Cis does not mean the same as woman. Cisgender men are also cis. Violence against women is everything to do with misogyny and being perceived as female, and nothing to do with being cis. Trans women are at huge risk of violence, and trans women of colour even more so. This is intersectionality in action.
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[2] Actually once, when I was about 7. It pissed me off for days and it was one guy’s mistake. Cannot IMAGINE getting it daily from everyone.
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[3] Go England and Wales!
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