Transgender (or trans) people face extreme degrees of discrimination and oppression, especially at interactions of identities such as race and sexual orientation. However, many people are not aware of the types of privilege they hold over trans people. For example, the majority of people do not know that the word cisgender exists. Cisgender is the opposite of transgender, meaning that someone who is cisgender (or cis) identifies as the gender they were assigned at birth, while someone who is trans identifies as something other than the gender they were assigned at birth (Serano, 2013). The majority would use words like real, biological, actual, or even normal, to describe cis people in relation to trans people, one of the examples of cis privilege. Thus, cisgender privilege is the unearned advantages afforded to people for simply being cis. It is similar to white or male privilege in the fact that is is unearned and granted to a majority group that is generally considered the default (Mio, Barker, & Tumambing, 2012). In this paper, I will outline ten more cis privileges and explain them, as well as provide examples of where and how this lack of privilege impacts trans people’s lives, sometimes to the point of psychological and physical harm, or resulting in the loss of homes, jobs, and freedoms.
There are a ton of misconceptions, incorrect facts, half-truths, and a myriad of other problematic information about trans people floating around in the media, academics, word of mouth, and so on. In fact, these misconceptions are often perpetuated by mainstream media and academia. For example, Orange is the New Black which is touted to be extremely positive towards its portrayal of trans people with its trans woman character, Sophia, has its problems. Sophia has had bottom surgery and has been on hormones for a while, I will not spoil any of the plot, but the show ends up showing Sophia sprouting chin hairs and experiencing breast shrinkage due to issues accessing hormones in prison. Neither of these actually happen to trans women who have had some form of bottom surgery. However, the show incorrectly shows Sophia experiencing secondary sex characteristics that are typically male due to her lack of hormones. While minor, these types of misinformation plague the trans community and society at large, creating a lot of confusion and misconceptions about trans people, transition, and their lives.
I am going to dispel some of these misconceptions and misinformation throughout this piece. I have split it into three parts: Identity/Sexuality, Surgery/Transition, and Choices/Binary/Enforcement. There will be things that fit into several or all the categories. I picked the best category I felt for each option.
Listen up cis people, I want to talk to you today about intent. However, not in the intent isn’t magic sort of deal. Well, that might be a lie. I want to focus on compliments though, especially the one that goes a little bit like, “I would never have guessed!”. I get it. I understand the intent. It’s meant to be a compliment. Now, I want to address that this is my opinion on the subject. It may not be shared by you, and that is ok! I just want people to know that there are many people who take offense to statements like this and other statements like it.
By telling someone you would have never guessed they are trans*, you tell them they are passing. That’s great! Many people want to hear that. However, you are also implying that being visibly trans* is a bad thing. That to be visibly trans* is not how that person wants to be seen. That being visibly trans* is something that no one wants. You also enforce the idea that cis is the norm and the default for people. There is another companion to this quote, one just as well intentioned (insert quote about Hell and good intentions), but infinitely worse.