Saturday, March 29, 2008

Cissexual v. cisgender

OK, I just wrote a huge post on the problems I had with cisgender that I was editing every 2 minutes so I decided to scrap it and start over.

I have stated before that I hate cis-anything. Actually, I am completely fine with cissexual because I have never, no matter how much I wanted to be a boy as a kid, no matter how much I bound my breasts down, i have never wanted to change my genitals. I felt wrong, but obviously it wasn't the same as trans people feel. For me I'm 99.99% sure that the wrongness came from society and what it wanted me to be as a female.

My problem with cisgender is that gender is constructed. I brought up elsewhere that I reject the societal definition of the gender woman. But it's something that's ascribed to me no matter how i try to present myself (long stretch as a genderqueer there).

Cisgender implies that I'm ok with being gendered woman. Yes I call myself a woman, but fuck the societal definition. People who know me know that I describe my gender as clown. Yes I call myself a woman, but I define my gender as clown (and I'm 100% serious here). How does that make me cisgendered? Sure some people may define their gender as woman, but I will argue that one can define themselves as a woman and not define their gender as woman. Because it makes it simpler. Yeah, not a great and noble answer, but not everyone can take on every issue. I'm guilty of it and I bet you are too (unless you're Wonder Woman/Superman).

What I and most feminists are fighting against is this whole gender binary. I just don't feel that putting things into cis and trans changes that. I think gender has more to do with who you are then who society sees you as. Yes we all get perceived as this or that and that MUST change, but I know that that's why I hate cisgendered so much. My gender and my genitals have nothing to do with each other. I know what my perceived gender is and for simplicity I just let people go with it unless a discussion about gender comes up, but I know more then a few trans people who do the exact same thing.

I feel cisgender implies 2 genders and I just am not ok with that. (male born male, female born female)

I mean don't you think it's possible that for some person their definition of the gender woman is someone else's definition of the gender man? It is a continuum. I've even heard from people who identify as trans that while they changed their sex they felt that their gender has not changed, that it had nothing to do with their physical selves: it was a part of who they were psychologically only.

So, to recap: For me I say yes to cissexual, No to cisgender.

NOTE: Any inflammatory comments, from either side will not be published. I want this space to be used for a constructive dialogue, so if you have something to say and can do it in a respectful manner, by all means, please comment.


Chiroptera said...

I agree. Also I liked witchywoo's post on this.

lost clown said...

withcywoo's post inspired this one, but I felt that there was no actual discussion happening and that people's reasons were being lost amid the viritol. I'm sure trans people have things to say about this, and I hope some of them come here so we can discuss this, because I really believe that this is really why people have a problem with cisgendered, because it dismisses the continuum. (Definitely not purposefully, but I feel it does in its application.)

Greenconsciousness said...

Are you talking about sex role stereotyping? The patriarchy's assigning specific characteristics to females and others to males? Or is this some trans thing I don't understand? I wrote witchypoo and she answered in a good natured way but I still do not understand.

Liz said...

I agree - we should be able to define ourselves how we want. I hate gender stereotyping, and it really bothers me that I may be defined as cisgendered by someone, because I am an individual. Perhaps some of my behaviour is socialised (eg. I like shopping, no matter how much I know it fits a certain stereotype..) but it doesn't mean I define myself by my supposed 'gender' stereotype. Thanks for your comment btw! :)

Tobi said...

I've heard a lot of varying definitions of cisgender, but all of them have said that genderqueer folks are not cisgender (never say never, though, I doubt any of my friends would deny a genderqueer person who self-identifies as cisgender).

Cissexual is a useful distinction, because it helps to be able to talk about experiences of going through medical and legal systems for transition or not.

I first learned of the term from a friend who identified as a cissexual genderqueer and used that combination of terms to actively claim a genderqueer experience while being clear that their experience wasn't the same as transsexual genderqueers. Rather than build a binary, it helped them break out of a cis vs trans binary and be more specific about a complex experience.

Anonymous said...

You said:

"I feel cisgender implies 2 genders"

Not sure if I buy that at face value.

Could you be cisgender if you were born intersexed and always felt comfortable identifying genderless or as a mixture?

Greenconsciousness said...

"Could you be cisgender if you were born intersexed and always felt comfortable identifying genderless or as a mixture?"

This is the natural state -- the way everyone is born. See Jung. Sex role stereotyping is a construct of the patriaechy in order to make women into slaves for men and men slaves of the state has corrupted this natural state and twisted the mental health of susceptible individuals. The patriarchy makes a lot of money from people trying to look like the stereotype of what they have been told women and men should be. Read "The Transsexual Empire" by Janice Raymond. You do not have to change gender or come up with a lot of labels to obscure your gender TO BE WHAT YOU ARE --- JUST BE.

Tobi said...

Really, Janice Raymond? She's infamously anti-trans. Read it if you want, but with a grain of salt. There's next to no logic and only an appeal to transphobia in claims such as trans women "rape" women's bodies by the mere fact of existing. The fact that she also outed my friend's mom and began a hate mail campaign to get her fired just for being trans does not improve my perspective of her.

Anyone who has dealt with the medical institution knows that they do not push transition on people. In most cases they act as overly restrictive gatekeepers. That's not to say that the basic premise of patriarchy acting through sex roles isn't true -- it is. And you don't need to transition or have a lot of labels to be yourself, it's just that sometimes being yourself leads to being recognized by yourself and others as a different gender then your assigned gender.

As for the question about intersex and cisgender, it's a bit of a red herring. Virtually all intersex people are assigned a binary gender at birth and raised in it. Living as a genderless mixture would require at least some level of social transition. That's why I feel a definition of cis/trans gender is better based upon assigned sex rather then body. Bodies rarely fall into a discrete binary, but our patriarchal society requires everyone be fit into a social binary from birth, so when addressing patriarchy, the social role plays a lot more significance than the body.

Zoe Brain said...

Thanks so much to all the people who tell me what I am and how I feel.

It saves me from having to formulate an opinion of my own.

Now if those of you who, because of their cis privilege, have the right to speak for Intersexed people would just agree amongst yourselves on what we, the Intersexed, must really be, that would be even better.

Greenconsciousness said...

I am speaking for myself so that your opinions and definitions do not define my reality. So that your choices and definitions cannot oppress and deny my reality. Political correct cowardice leads to the deaths of those who allow others to define the issues without challenge --

amane984 said...

I just wanted to add an idea. I think when people talk about gender being a social construct they don't realize that it is both a construct and not a construct. Gender in the sense of gender identity or innate sense of gender is not a construct but gender expression is very policed by society. Cisgender and Cissexual are not bad terms, they simply mean not trans. You talk about the idea of what someone sees as woman being what someone else sees as man, is wholly unlikely. But even if it were true it wouldn't mean anything because their innate sense of self would be what assigns them to one or the other. Often I hear people talk about how trans people reinforce gender oppression (not saying you did just that some do) but really we don't. There are many trans and cis people who both abide by and push against gender stereotypes. In the end trans is not about gender expression as much as gender identity, everyone of course has their gender expression to go with their identity and it's important to them but it is gender identity that is unchangeable. What everyone should be fighting is rigid policing of anyone's gender expression. It is the age old question of whether gender is nature or nurture and I know it's both. Those who want to assume it's all imposed by society have a point as long as they are referring to gender expression and the expectations placed on people to conform. But remember that we are taught to conform from the moment we are born in every way not just gender expression/performance. Those that believe gender is innate also have a point when referring to gender identity because it stems from how you feel inside and as far as we can tell evidence is pointing to a biological basis for this innate feeling. These two ideas can actually compliment each other.
Cis is a Latin prefix meaning "on the same side as" or "on this side of"
Trans is a Latin noun or prefix, meaning "across", "beyond" or "on the opposite side"
I really believe any dislike of cis terms is akin to straight people rejecting that term in the beginning. It's a privileged group trying to resist a label in order to keep things unequal and yet labelling a smaller group and making them abnormal. If we don't have a better term maybe we should all start talking about trans women and 'real-women' again? Perhaps we would be better to say cis = normal and trans = abnormal, surely that would appease the cis-police? But maybe in the end it's all about telling trans people we are really just loonies. But what do I possibly know? I am just your average woman who happens to have a trans past. But even someone like me can read between the lines.

lost clown said...

I hope you don't think that I think trans women aren't "real" women. To me a woman is a woman, trans or otherwise (and this gets me in trouble in some circles - oh lordy the arguments I have gotten into). (Same with men, but that doesn't get me into arguments in feminist circles.) I just have a problem with cisgender probably because I have never felt comfortable identifying with the "normal" definition of the gender "woman." Like I said up there I am more then happy to claim that I am indeed cissexual, because with the exception of a very short period of time I have never wanted to be male. I like what Tobi said about hir friend saying zie was a cissexual genderqueer. To me that struck a cord and feels very very comfortable.

But then again to me every time I get dressed I'm putting on a costume. But then again I'm always open to listening and learning b/c I'm not the one subject to gender violence because of my gender identity (well I'm subject to it b/c I was born female, but that's a different story.)