So You Find The Word Cisgender Offensive

Dear Cisgender Person,

Recently someone referred to you as cisgender, besides in the salutation, and this has upset you. You might not like someone labelling you, or only want to be referred to as normal. All of a sudden you have an identity forced on you, you might suddenly see yourself being cast into a binary role that you are personally uncomfortable with. Your offense is perfectly valid, if your upset, you’re upset. So let’s examine a few reasons for these feelings.

“What is perhaps most disturbing in being called “cisgendered,” is that it imposes an identity on me. Doing so invalidates my complicated experience of gender.” So wrote J Nelson Aviance, a contributor to The Huffington Post.  Is an identity being forced on you? Well no, you can identify however you like, transgender and cisgender are just broad descriptive terms that can encompass many things. If you wish to you could come out as non-binary or transition to another binary gender. You could be transgender but in the closet. You can be cisgender but still gender non-conforming.

Aviance argues And if you say there is variation on gender identity, but ‘cis-‘ just means you were born with a penis and identify and live as a man, than you negate the many variations on what it means to ‘be a man’ or even to ‘live as a man.’” Except it doesn’t. as mentioned before you can present famine or however you want, but if you were assigned male at birth and still identify as such than you are cisgender. Why? Because you are not transgender.

Transgender means that you identify with a gender that is different from the one you were assigned at birth. Cisgender means you identify with the gender you were assigned at birth. It’s a broad descriptor that can encompass a wealth of experiences etc. The main reason it’s being used is because to acknowledge that being transgender is not abnormal.

Imagine that you’re a transgender woman. How would it feel for people to constantly qualify what kind of woman you are, transgender, but never anyone else? It can feel ostracizing, and make you feel like you’re abnormal. It’s normal to be transgender, and by qualifying those who aren’t transgender a well, it presents this reality. There are plenty of people who classify things as transgender and normal. This can be downright insulting if you’re not in the “normal”.

So, while it’s easy to laugh at make jokes about “checking your privilege” and mocking SJW’s if that’s your thing. Its use isn’t about telling you how to be a man/woman, or trying to force you to be anything. Rather it is about recognizing differences between people, and recognizing that being transgender is normal. Despite the fact that there are clear biological causes for gender dysphoria and being transgender there are people who wish to say it’s not normal to be transgender. These narratives can be incredibly de-humanizing.

Now if you want to be dehumanizing, and assert how you’re normal and not cisgender, or how you’re a real woman/man. Fine do so. Just don’t expect people to think you’re not a jerk.  Because you’re are saying that you don’t care that you’re de humanizing transgender people. That you are calling them weird, abnormal etc. Yet, for some reason, transgender people must respect your feelings that they shouldn’t be recognized as normal people. That doesn’t really make sense.

So if you are offended by being called cisgender, just know it’s a board term that doesn’t force you to be anything. Moreover, it just means not transgender, and its use is to acknowledge that transgender people are normal. That we don’t live in a normal and transgender world, but one of people who are and aren’t transgender.


Thank you for your time.




A Transgender Woman.

So You Think That the Distinction Between Trans Women and Cis Women Means Trans Women Should Be Excluded From Women’s Spaces

Dear PolelifeandPussy and Athena Talks,

Recently you released an article entitled, “I am a Woman. You are a Trans Woman. And That Distinction Matters.” In it, you talk about your views of transgender women, and yes you are correct in saying that there is and should be a distinction between transgender women and cisgender women. There is a reason we distinguish the two.

You’re also right in saying that transgender women have different experiences than our cisgender counterparts. Every woman has different experiences, and minority women, in particular, have unique experiences that those who aren’t minorities won’t have. These experiences have nuance, differences, and are difficult to understand for someone who doesn’t experience them directly. Which is, I think, part of where my issues with your post come from.

See you do reveal yourself to think that trans women are less than cis women in one of your opening lines. When you say “a woman who was born with woman parts” it is clear you think I have male parts. That I’m not fully women. At least that’s the implication. You effectively state that you see yourself as superior, regarding womanhood, to me. While yes you don’t explicitly label me as a man, you’re effectively saying “I don’t see you as a woman the same way I’d see a cis-woman”.

The difference of experiences, and of biology, should not make someone more or less of a woman for a multitude of reasons. Yes, I cannot have a period in a traditional sense, nor can I currently give birth to a child. However, establishing that women are more than our biology, that our biology isn’t our destiny, has been a goal of every feminist movement.

Every woman has a different experience with sexism and their womanhood. Is a woman who grew up in a more progressive social environment less of a woman than one how grew up in a harsh, conservative, and more misogynistic one? Personally, I don’t think we should be boiling womanhood down to traumatic experiences, or any specific experiences because it’s not a healthy conversation to have. Someone, trans or cis, will be excluded. The same is true on the biology side as well.

Another thing that I found perplexing was your accusation that transgender women are silencing you and people with your views. Yet you have a platform to write this piece, and pieces that say a very similar message can be found in major newspapers like The LA Times and The New York Times.  While transgender women, and transgender people overall, getting such exposure is rare.

Even though I am part of a tiny minority, that is four times more likely to be in poverty, I have the social clout to prevent you from sharing your opinion? Even though, as I type this, a multitude of states are discussing bills that would stirp my rights away. We are silencing you because we say you were transphobic?

Look, you can have a conversation about transgender women, and not be labeled transphobic. The issue isn’t that cis women can’t engage in this conversation; rather it’s what you bring to the conversation. Honestly, you haven’t brought anything new to this conversation. Everything you said is lifted straight from the “Transsexual Empire”. Just like all those pieces in newspapers saying the same thing.

“I am now being forced to police my language even more, around and for trans women who had entirely different experiences and anatomy.” Let’s change one word in that sentence and see how well it reads. “I am now being forced to police my language even more, around and for black women who had entirely different experiences and anatomy.” If you said that, only Republicans would say you weren’t racist.

While yes, it’s not completely analogous because black cis women have the same anatomy, but there are still overlap in how sexism works between people of color and white people. No person, who isn’t already racist, would interpret your whining about inclusion to not be motivated by racism. Just like your complaints about issues like wording around pregnancy being made to include trans men and on binary people are certainly motivated by transphobia.

It is not your place to decide whether or not something you believe is transphobic.  Just like, how I as a white person, can’t say that the N-word isn’t racist. If you were really as supportive as you think you are, you’d have the self-awareness to take a step back and examine your own biases and the impact of what you say.  I think this is incredibly telling given your talk about locker rooms.

“Women constantly still deal with being sent dick pics, and being flashed, and forced to see penises when we never consented to. As a rape survivor, this can be especially difficult for me.” If you didn’t want to see a penis in a locker room here’s thought. Advocate for more privacy in locker rooms! If you did that, no one would be calling you transphobic. In fact, I’d be standing right beside you, because I don’t want you looking at my body either. I’m highly insecure about my body, it’s why I’m going to a gym in the first place!

The fact that this scenario might happen isn’t the fault of trans-people. It’s a problem with the space itself. Yet here you are painting it as an issue of trans-people. What does that tell you about your biases? To me it says. “trans people are the problem, we should get rid of them”. Seriously seeing people naked in a locker rooms kind of a thing you accept being in a locker room. Perhaps we should fix that instead of saying “no trans women here”.

Your argument against inclusion of trans people are either tone-death or malicious. For example “People saying the word mother isn’t inclusive to transgendered pregnant people, while moms still struggle to get basic maternity leave and not lose their jobs after having a baby, and even still deal with extremely dangerous situations due to mistreatment during childbirth”. So, let me ask you this question. What makes you think that a trans man giving birth won’t have the same issue cis mothers will have?

Do you really think we are all “rich white women who lived most of their lives as men” to paraphrase you? No. Many of us live in poverty due to discrimination. Many of us, including myself, have avoided medical care due to mistreatment, or lack of income to afford medical care.  In fact, there is a whole report on this issue you could have read before writing this piece.

Another thing that infuriated me was when you talked about lesbian culture and its history of transphobia. Yes, I just “silenced” people again. “This “cotton ceiling” fight is oppressive to lesbian women who fight every fucking day to gain respect and equality based on their sexual preferences. Being told by trans women to get over the penis thing sounds identical to how men often try to bully lesbians into fucking them.”

As a lesbian, who is transgender, let me explain something to you. While walking to pride this year  I proudly wore a shirt that said “World’s Okayest Lesbian”. I had multiple men tell me how they could “turn me straight”. While walking to a lesbian bar the very night before writing this I had a man try to tell me he could “fuck me better than any girl.” I am painfully aware of the way men talk to lesbians.

No one is saying you have to fuck a trans woman or you’re transphobic, and if they are, then they’re a terrible person. The issue at hand is that many lesbians do not see trans women as women.  Just like you clearly don’t given the rest of your piece. Preferences are not requirements. I prefer girls with dark hair and brown eyes, but if I met a girl who had everything I was looking for but blonde hair and blue eyes. I would still date her because it is a preference. I would prefer to date a butch girl, but you don’t have to be butch for me to find you attractive or for me to be in love with you.

In this case, genital preference just so happens to go along with societies prejudice towards trans people in general.  And trans women are advocating for people to reevaluate that. By bringing up the argument about how men try to turn lesbians like us straight; you’re straw manning the argument made by trans women and also implicitly calling us men. Which by the way, is transphobic.

So you use the right pronouns, let us have our surgeries, and “tolerate” us. How magnanimous of you. You’ve done the bare minimum. You clearly don’t understand what trans women go through. While 1 in 6 women are raped. 1 in 2 transgender women are sexually assaulted according to government statistics.  Cisgender women certainly have issues when it comes to health care, 50% of transgender people have to teach their care providers about transgender care.

Transgender women have their own unique struggles, but I also share many of the struggles cis women do too.  I’ve had sexual harassment and other title IV offenses against me dismissed by my college without any repercussion for the men and women who committed those offenses towards me. I cannot recall a day where a man hasn’t cat called me since transition.  The best part of all of this is that when I talk about this with many cisgender women. They say “welcome to being a woman” despite me being open and out for two years plus. Or I get told it’s not sexism because “I used to be a man”.

Yes, we are different. There’s a reason we have words that separate us. But at no point does that mean I should be excluded from women’s spaces, or have someone be prejudiced against me. Your article was incredibly hurtful, and depending on whether you are willing to think about that is said here, hateful. As mentioned above states here in America are trying or have stripped away rights for transgender people. Many of them making the same arguments you did.

Transgender women have many unique experiences, no one has the same experience. I passed even before coming out or starting hormone therapy. People saw me as a woman. I saw myself as a woman as long as I could remember, and I took in every sexist message society sent out. Things are more complicated that you paint them.

Perhaps instead of getting upset when trans people assert themselves. Maybe you should listen to us. Understand that no, I am not Caitlyn Jenner. Nor am I a Blair White. Hopefully, you don’t know who she is. There is a wide variance in experience among transgender women. Just like with cis women. Your article did nothing but further stoke the flames of transphobia. You’re not being silenced, you are transphobic.


A Transgender Woman.

So You Think I’m Brave For Being Transgender

Dear Cisgender Person,

Someone you know recently came out as transgender, and you wanted to show your support. “You’re so brave!” You say, and instead of the positive response you were expecting, the person isn’t delighted with your reaction. “What gives?” you think “I was trying to be supportive”. While there are certainly worse ways to react, there’s a reason many trans people do not like this response.

Imagine you are trying to pull a boulder up a steep hill.  Each time you tug on the chain the rock moves, but it’s clear you’re struggling. People can see this, and some try to help you move the boulder, or break it down into smaller pieces that can easily be transported. Then there are those who try to stop you from moving the rock at all. Then there are those who stand by and cheer for you, even as they cause you to trip or impede you in other ways, but at no point do they offer sincere assistance.

That latter scenario is where you are, potentially, and many transgender people see it this way. Some might be thrilled with you comment, but there are plenty who aren’t because transgender people face a large amount of resistance. That boulder is a metaphor for the institutional barriers that hurt transgender people, societal prejudices towards transgender people, and just the very nature of being transgender can be difficult.  To say “you’re brave” is to acknowledge that there is risk a danger in doing something.

Transgender people can face barriers to getting much-needed treatment and care, and access to things that you as a cisgender (non-transgender) person take for granted. For example, some health insurance firms don’t cover certain aspects of transition-related care.  States like North Carolina have passed laws that force transgender people into bathrooms that are opposite of their gender identity.  In Kentucky, Henry Brousseau, a transgender teenager, testified against one of these bills. While he was praised for his bravery by the representatives he spoke to. Some of those people voted to move the bill forward.

That is a perfect example of why many transgender people are skeptical of those kinds of praises. People can say the support trans people, call them brave, but actively work against them or be completely indifferent to their struggles. As comedian John Oliver noted “That dynamic of praising a transgender person’s courage and then not actually supporting them speaks to the fact that we are weirdly comfortable celebrating transgender people while simultaneously dehumanizing them at the DMV, pinning awards to them as we drum them out of the military, and constantly quizzing them about their genitals.”

Transgender people face a wealth of discrimination issues. Transgender people face a higher murder rate than non-transgender people, one out of every 2 transgender women have been sexually assaulted, transgender people are 4 times more likely to live in poverty than the general population, the unemployment rate for transgender individuals is double that of the general population, 57% of transgender people experience rejection from their family, and according to a match dot com survey only 12% of heterosexual individuals would be willing to date a transgender person while 48% of LGBTQ individuals would be willing to date a transgender person.

There is a wealth of negative media portrayals of transgender people, as well as smear campaigns to paint transgender people as predators. As more states debate whether transgender people should have access to public facilities, and the current U.S administration’s cutting of protections for transgender people make this an incredibly scary time for many transgender people. When you say that transgender people are brave, you are acknowledging that being a transgender person can be dangerous.

So, unless you’re willing to put support behind your words, you cannot expect transgender people to be exact as anytime someone says something with good intentions. As shown in the case of Henry Brousseau, that words of support are rarely backed up with action. Often they are backed up with the reverse. So, well-meaning cisgender person who got directed here, here’s what you can do about this.

For one thing, if you live in a state that doesn’t already have protection laws for transgender people, call your state representatives. Write them letters to encourage them to do so. If you here co-workers making jokes about transgender people that are mocking them for their gender identity, like saying “I identify as an attack helicopter”, call them out for it.  Offer to help transgender people afford care or volunteer with organizations that do that. There are a plethora of things you can do to support the transgender community so that one day you don’t have to say “you’re so brave”.


A transgender woman.