Let’s talk about the word cisgender (and it’s abbreviation cis) and the discussion of cis people and their reactions. If you are cis, I suggest you read this post for it’s entirety. The links provided are there as more evidence and support of the reality that trans people face in their lives when it comes to how society perceives and treats them. These are meant to remove any doubts of the points I bring up in this piece. I would also like to ask for the duration of this piece that swallow your emotions and personal feelings about the topics discussed until the end. If you cannot do this, this piece is not for you.
Trigger warning: violence, transphobia, cissexism, transmisogyny, homophobia, rape, violence, slurs
Trans- as a prefix means on the opposite/other side of. Cis- as it’s counterpart means on the same side/same as. These terms have been used in chemistry for many, many years. They are not new. In fact, using cis to describe people who are not trans is actually pretty old too. Cis exists as the opposite of trans, that is all it is. It is not a slur. It is not demeaning. Cis exists because calling cis people normal implies that being trans is abnormal as opposed to simply an expression and expansion on human experience and existence. Trans people are normal. Being trans is as normal as being cis is. It is simply another way of existing.
Are there people who use it to mean harm and insult? Of course. Any word can mean harm or insult if used in such a manner. I don’t see as many people complaining about being labeled an asshole, annoying, or other negative term as much as I see people complaining about being labeled cis. In fact, many of the times I see people complaining about cis is when people want to just be called ‘normal’ which as I just explained, is really bad and also ableist language. People complain about being told ‘die cis scum’ for the cis part as opposed to the scum part. Apparently being cis is worse than being scum.
When you complain that cis is a slur in comparison to f****t, t****y, or any other actual slur, you are comparing cis to a history of oppression, a history of institutionalized hate and marginalization. You are saying that cis is the last thing people hear before they are brutally murdered. You are saying that cis is the very worst thing someone can call you because it means you are worthless, something society does not want. That is what people mean when they use slurs. Slurs have the power behind them because society as a whole supports the idea that these people that these slurs entail, are less than. These people are seen as unworthy, umwanted, and better off dead. When you are saying cis is a slur, you are saying that society, as a whole, deems cis people unworthy of life or of a life of equal value. Of course, this is not true.
Every day trans people are greeted with messages that they do not exist and if they do, they are less than cis people. This is enforced by our society and our justice system. When a trans person lashes out against cis people in response to their oppression, the trans person gets punished while the cis people walk free. Look at Cece McDonald, for example. She is the only one who is being punished for any crime. The word to trans people (especially CAMAB trans people and people of color) is do not defend yourself. The law is not on your side. In fact, CAMAB trans people (once again, especially people of color) are often charged with solicitation by police if they are found to have condoms on their person. Trans lives are seen as something less than. Our murders are blamed on trans people being liars, deceivers, and people who are intentionally trying to fool others. We are blamed for our own vicious murders. The blame is not placed on those who kill us in cold blood, but on us for simply existing.
All you need to do is take a look at media to understand how a culture sees certain people. Trans people, mostly trans women, are shown to be liars, deceivers, and cheats. They are murderers and mentally ill men. They are people who should not be trusted. They are also people to be mocked, people to be joked about. Trans people are not seen as worth basic human respect. Their entire identities and characters are created around the fact they are trans and that is all they become. Characters to be mocked, scorned, tormented, and murdered. They are meant to be pitied or outright hated. Even portrayals of trans people that are meant to be positive usually are not so. Society hates us, especially trans women. If we exist, we exist in a space that is meant to show us in the worst lights possible. While that is changing, it is slowly changing because we are not allowed to tell our own stories. Our stories are expected to be written, produced, and co-produced by cis people, acted by cis people, and signed at the bottom in fine print by trans people.
Of course, this brings me into the whole idea of when people vent about being oppressed and marginalized. In fact, to the point cis people proclaim cisphobia (see above about how this cannot exist). Trans people face the majority of their oppression from cis people. Cis people create gatekeeping, create the laws against trans bodies, create the medical models in which we have to enforce, and even create the guidelines for who is trans and who isn’t (I’m looking at you, Harry Benjamin). Cis people are the oppressors of trans people and thus, when trans people complain about their oppression, they are most likely going to complain about it at the hands of cis people.
Now, I never like the idea of wishing people bodily harm, however that is my choice and I am not going to tell people how to react to their oppression. However, a trans person saying “die cis scum”, “I hate cis people” and so on, is NOT the same as a cis person wishing these things on a trans person. Why? Society simply lacks the institutional oppression and hatred of cis people for these things to be problematic. In fact, unlike cis people, society actually tells cis and trans people that trans people are unworthy of life, non-valuable, and disposable. Society is deeply rooted in transphobia, cissexism, and transmisogyny.
When you say that someone complaining they face oppression, discrimination, and problems at the hands of cis people is the same thing that trans people experience, you are saying that cis people experience murder, rape, harassment, abuse, discrimination, police brutality, joblessness, homelessness, and so on for being cis. This is untrue. In fact, you are even partially implying that trans people being wary of cis people due to these facts means that trans people have the power to do these things to cis people. Once again, this is not the case. Society does not repeatedly tell cis people they deserve or are unworthy for being cis in the same way that society tells trans people they are literally nothing, day in and day out. Add the intersections of race, sexuality, and so on, and you have an even bigger cocktail of institutionalized oppression.
Think about the consequences for the outlash and hatred of trans people compared to cis people. Murder, rape, harassment, and the reminder that, once again, society does not like you. Society does not want you. Society does not want you to exist. Society does not believe you exist. That is the repercussions for hatred towards trans people. That is what happens when transphobia, cissexism, and transmisogyny is allowed to exist. What happens to cis people? Maybe some hurt feelings and a bit of exclusion (generally from queer places), but cis people are not murdered for being cis. They are not denied existence. They do not face institutionalized hatred, oppression, and marginalization from the very society they exist in for being cis. When a cis person proclaims broad and generalizing statements against trans people, they are enforcing stereotypes that perpetuate the many myths about trans people and the double standards that surround their lives, identities, and existence. When trans people express distaste, discomfort, and upsetness at the marginalization and oppression they face at the hands of cis people they create spaces with experience, they become examples of how the world is against them and others like them. In fact, trans people expressing and vocally addressing the oppression they face has the potential to create positivity. The reverse creates nothing but more animosity towards the marginalized group.
Being trans is still considered a joke to many people. It is ok for trans people to be the butts of jokes. Every day we are reminded, that as a whole, society does not like us. Society wants us dead. Society thinks our existence and lives are jokes. We go every day being reminded that we are people to be mocked, people to be called liars and deceivers, people that are so inherently dangerous that our very human bodily functions need to be legislated against and monitored. When you complain that being mean to cis people is the same as being mean to trans people, this is what you mean. This is what you are implying, that society as a whole, wishes for you to be dead, does not value your existence, and sees you as something to be mocked.
When a trans person complains about cis people, of course they are usually not talking about all cis people. Many trans people are in fact, friends, family, and lovers of cis people. Cis people are the majority. Cis people make up the majority of our lives, families, acquaintances, friends, and lovers, for the most part. Of course not all cis people are bad. When people complain about cis people (like #FuckCisPeople and #DearCisFeminism), trans people are not complaining about those people. Those people are not the problem. Sadly, the majority of cis people are completely ignorant about anything involving trans people for the reasons I mentioned about (aka most things about trans people are done by cis people). Trans people should be able to complain about their oppression like anyone else. Simple as that. Cis is not a slur and disliking shitty cis people is not the same as someone being transphobic. Now close your books, school is out.