So you may have come across my blog and been like, “What the heck is ‘cisprivilege’ anyway?” Well that’s a good question, because whenever I say this around one of my friends or colleagues for the first time, they almost never know what it means, so DON”T WORRY you are not alone! Most people do not have the opportunity to become educated on trans* issues in general so it would make sense that many would not know the language behind them too.
Before we get into what cisprivilege is, first we need to look into the prefix cis-. Cis- is short for cisgender, which refers to someone who’s assigned gender also aligns with ones internal sense of gender or gender identity. A crude way of putting it is that a cisgender person is someone who is “not trans*”. A transgender person on the other hand is someone who’s assigned gender does not match their internal sense of gender or gender identity. The way these are worded is very important: especially the word “assigned,” which shows how the gender role was ascribed to people against their will. Avoid replacing the word “assigned” with the words “actual” or “real” because this says that the persons identity is not real.
Right: “A transgender person is someone who’s ASSIGNED gender does not align with their gender identity”
Wrong: ” A transgender person is someone who’s ACTUAL gender does not align with their gender identity”
Phrasing it the second way is a BIG no-no!!! As you can imagine, to say that one’s identity is fake can be extremely offensive. Whether you agree with a person’s identity or not, it is important to at least respect their identity if you want to continue any sort of amicable relationship with them. So if you care about the person please put away any negative feelings you have about their identity and respect them. This includes using proper pronouns too (he, she, they or zie depending on what they prefer) and other gendered language (Sir, Ma’am, Son, Daughter, etc.)
So now that you know what cisgender means, we can talk about cisprivilege, i.e. cisgender privilege. Cisprivilege is the privilege one receives in society for being cisgender. For example if you are cisgender, you can expect that all of your identity documents show the correct gender on them, and that if it is incorrect you do not have to go through a long and rigorous medical process that excludes those who do not have $20,000 on hand, or those who do not want, or cannot get, major surgery for that matter. Also, you can expect everyone to use the correct pronouns (he or she) in reference to you. In the rare instance one makes a mistake and uses the wrong pronoun, you can expect an immediate and sincere apology. Any anger you may have for being misgendered is considered a legitimate emotional response.
Cisprivilege permeates through pretty much every interaction in life, and for the most part goes completely unrecognized by those who have it. A trans* person can have cisprivilege temporarily extended to them if they “pass” as the gender they identify as, but it is extremely fragile and can be taken away at any moment once someone realizes that they are indeed trans*. For example, if I am applying for a job, the employer might not know that I am trans* by looking at me, but once he looks down at my application and sees that my former legal name is male (which I am required to put on every application), it could tip him off and lose me the job opportunity.
You can even be experiencing cisprivilege and never know it happened. For example, it took me 6 months to find a place to live one time because every time the owner or one of the roommates found out I was a trans woman they would not let me move in. A cisgender person would have been able to move into the first match they found without any objection to their gender identity. They would never know that the person might have rejected them if they had been trans*. The same thing applies to jobs, friendships, and dating as well.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to examples of cisprivilege. Like I said it is EVERYWHERE and seriously affects our lives in dramatic ways. It is impossible to cover all the examples of cisprivilege in one article, so I will continue to explore it throughout this blog. I also will delve into other topics too, like the relationship between feminism and the transgender community, the intersectionality that comes with being both trans* and a racial minority, body image while being a trans woman, and more about language when referring to trans* individuals. This is the first of many, so I hope you enjoyed and come back for more in the future! Thank you for reading!!! ^_^