So now that you know some of the more basic terminology about how to refer to or talk to a trans* person, let us get into some terminology that allows us to have discussions about the problems the trans* community faces in today’s society.
Transphobia is not a clinical phobia like arachnophobia, where you run away, scream, and have a panic attack every time you see a spider.
Rather, it is a much different kind of fear, and can often be subconscious. This type of fear fuels anger, prejudice, disgust, and hatred towards people who are perceived to be trans*, just like homophobia does towards those who are perceived to be gay.
Cissexism can be fueled by transphobia, but not necessarily. Sometimes people are just jerks. Cissexism is the belief or mindset that cisgender identities are inherently better or more real than trans* identities. So if someone is calling a trans* person’s identity “fake” or if they refuse to treat a trans* person in every way as the gender they identify with, then you are looking at someone who is being cissexist.
This is when a system or institution is set up to oppress the trans* community, while at the same time privileging cisgender people. Cissupremacy is founded on cissexism. It is the belief that cis identities are inherently better or more real than trans* identities. For example, the whole institutional medical process of transitioning for trans* people is built on cissupremacy. If a cisgender man or woman has a hormone imbalance, he or she can just go to a doctor and get a prescription with no problem. If a cisgender man or woman wants to get plastic surgery, they just need to have the money for the surgery itself and do not need to explain themselves at all. After all it’s their body and they can make their own decisions and live with the consequences good or bad.
This entire mindset completely changes when it comes to trans* patients. In order to get any kind transition related treatment if you are trans*, you have to get approval from a counselor, and sometimes two depending on the treatment (one was not discriminatory enough). Seeing a counselor adds extra financial expense, and gender therapists are extremely rare so it also usually involves driving really far and limits your options to only one or two therapist to choose from. These therapists can deny you approval for any reason, and I mean ANY reason. If they think you are not feminine enough or not masculine enough, if your parents are not accepting of your identity even though you are an adult, if you live in a bad area, if you are not pretty/handsome enough in the gender you identify as, etc. Many counselors will deny or delay your treatment for arbitrary reasons and stereotypes they have of what makes a “real” man or “real” woman, and since there are very few therapists to choose between, you are pretty much stuck with them regardless of how incompetent they may be.
The worst thing about all of this is that NONE of it is meant to protect or help trans* patients. All of these hoops we have to jump through are to protect cisgender people. There is this paranoid notion that a cisgender person might think they are trans*, and regret going through the process later. The idea is that, even if we delay or deny thousands of trans* patients treatment, it is worth it to protect the one cisgender person who might get treatment and regret it later. So yeah…cissupremacy.
Cisnormativity is when the world is interpreted through a cisgender perspective. Everyone is expected to to look through this lens and understand the world through it. Cisgender identities are assumed to be the “normal” identity, and any other is considered “different” or even “abnormal”. Under cisnormativity, everyone is assumed to be cisgender, unless some kind of cue tells us differently. In our culture, virtually all of our movies, t.v. shows, books, advertisement, etc. is told from a cisgender perspective. That right there is cisnormativity at work.
Trans-misogyny is a term that is hard to put into words. It is the intersect between cissexism and misogyny. It is completely based on the assumption that masculinity and maleness is in every way superior to femininity and femaleness, as well as the idea that cis identities are better than trans* identities. When a trans woman comes out and starts transitioning and people around her start saying, “Why would anyone want to be a woman? That’s crazy!” you are hearing trans-misogyny. When you hear someone criticize a trans woman for being “too feminine” or “too masculine”, while thinking it is not a big deal for a cis woman to express the same levels of femininity and masculinity, you are hearing trans-misogyny. When you see a feminist group allow and include trans men into their organization, but they then deny and belittle trans women, you are looking at trans-misogyny.