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.