I write this from over 10,000 feet as I travel to Phoenix for TransForm Arizona, an event that will unite the LGB with the T :-D
My friend Zeke, a cool Quaker in Boston, has spent a lot of time thinking about gender. Perhaps Zeke will share some of the journey at some point, but recently Zeke posted something on Facebook that I asked if I could share here at the blog. It is a Cisgender Privilege Checklist.
I heard the term Cisgender for awhile and had no idea what it meant other than non-transgender. According to Wikipedia,
Cis-” as a prefix of Latin origin, meaning “on the same side [as]” or “on this side [of]“, with several derived usages:
* In chemistry, cis- refers to cis-trans isomerism
* In molecular biology, cis- refers to cis-acting
* In gender studies, cis- refers to cisgender
The funny thing about privilege is that typically the privileged are mostly unaware of their privileges (it’s part of the privilege). The way the world treats them just seems normal until they get to hear other people’s experiences.
When I wrote my play The Re-Education of George W. Bush–No President Left Behind!, I interviewed about 20 African-American women in Hartford, CT where I live (well where I keep my stuff). I asked them, “As a white guy, if I woke up as a Black woman tomorrow, how would my life be different?” It served as an excellent way to discover some of the privilege I have as a male who is also white. I then wove the content of their interviews into a monologue by Tex, a white guy from Texas who has to live as a Black woman for a week.
Absurd perhaps but almost always the most well received part of the play as Tex recounts his discoveries of the privileges he has because of his skin color and gender. He realizes that he lives with a curtain shielding his view from many of the inequities in the world around him, and the privileges he enjoys that many of his neighbors do not, and only when something terrible happens, like Hurricane Katrina, does he see firsthand the injustice that some people experience because of their race and class. But as soon as he does, “It’s like a voice comes out of I don’t know where saying, ‘Shh, shh! It’s just a nightmare; go back to sleep.'” Tex decides he is not going back to sleep anymore. Of course it will require him to reeducate himself continually.
Check out Zeke’s list below. For those of us who are not transgender, it can serve as a primer of sorts to some of the many complex and challenging issues transgender people face today. Seeing our privilege can be a stark and painful experience. Sometimes we react with defensiveness or criticism. Proceed with an open mind and a tender heart.
A Cisgender Privilege Checklist
This checklist was developed as resource in relation to Peggy McIntosh’s “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” Much of the source matter comes from: Cisgender Privilege.
- Strangers don’t assume they can ask me what my genitals look like and how I have sex.
- My validity as a man/woman/human is not based upon how much surgery I’ve had or how accurately other people view my gender.
- Strangers do not ask me what my “real name” is and then assume that they have a right to call me by that name.
- People do not disrespect me by purposefully using incorrect pronouns even after they’ve been corrected.
- If I tell people about my gender, I don’t have to hear “so have you had THE surgery?” or “oh, so you’re REALLY a [incorrect sex or gender]?”
- I am not expected to explain to friends, family, or strangers what it means to be my gender, how I knew what my gender was, or whether my gender is just a “phase.”
- I expect that I will be able to access necessary medical care without lying.
- If I need hormone injections due to an inability to produce them on my own, it will be considered an “obvious” need.
- If I have them, my desires for various cosmetic surgeries are considered normal.
- I don’t need to prove how long I have identified as my gender in order to have my health needs taken seriously.
- I cannot be denied health insurance on the basis of my gender; my health insurance does not specifically exclude me from receiving benefits or treatments available to others because of my gender.
- The medical establishment does not serve as a “gatekeeper” denying my self-determination of what happens to my body, nor requiring me to undergo extensive psychological evaluation in order to receive basic medical care.
- I expect that if I am treated inappropriately by a doctor, my concerns will be taken seriously, and I will be able to find another doctor who will treat me appropriately.
- Treatments which are medically necessary for me are generally covered by insurance.
- People of my gender are not considered inherently “sneaky” by health/helping professions.
- I expect that medical professionals competent to treat my conditions exist outside of major cities, and in proportion to the demand for them. I expect no undue delay in access to routine medical services, and for such services to be available throughout the work day/week.
- I will not be required to have a “gender appropriate” sexual orientation in order to be treated by doctors and mental health providers.
- I expect that medical care will be crafted to suit my own particular needs. I expect to be able to access treatment A without accessing treatment B, if treatment B will do nothing to advance my particular needs.
- I do not have to worry that life-saving treatment will be withheld from me due to my gender, nor will all of my medical issues be seen as a product of my gender.
- If someone inaccurately genders me, I do not need to be afraid; I can assume it reflects more on them than on me, I can be amused or angry without calling into question what my “true” gender is.
- I do not have to worry whether my gender will be questioned by others seeing/hearing: pictures from my childhood, my identification or official documents, others’ language used to refer to me, my speaking and singing voice, or any of my body parts.
- I can expect to be appropriately gendered by others without having to worry about: my clothing, whether I like certain colors or styles, whether I am passive or aggressive, wearing specially designed clothing, or if I’m willing to lose sensation in my genitals and/or chest.
- I have never had someone tell me what my gender is, regardless of what I say my gender is. If someone mistakes my gender it will rarely continue to the point of an argument, a simple assertion of my gender will generally be enough to convince the other person.
- When initiating sex with someone, I do not have to worry that they won’t be able to deal with my parts or that having sex with me will cause my partner to question zir own sexual orientation.
- Bodies like mine are represented in the media and the arts. It is easily possible for representations of my naked body to pass obscenity restrictions.
- Others’ appropriate understanding of my gender is not dependent on how rich I am.
- My gender is acknowledged universally, immediately, and without hesitation.
- If I am attacked by a lover, no one will excuse my attacker because ze was “deceived” by my gender.
- I do not have to worry about whether I will be able to find a bathroom to use or whether I will be safe changing in a locker room. I can use public showers without fear of being attacked for my genitalia.
- When engaging in political action, I do not have to worry about the gendered repercussions of being arrested.
- If I am unable to find clothing that fits me well, I will still feel safe, and recognizable as my gender.
- I don’t need to be constantly aware of how others perceive my gender.
- When there are boxes to check on various forms, my gender will definitely be included.– I do not even need to acknowledge that there are other genders than those listed.
- I can expect my government-issued identification to accurately represent who I am. – If my identification does not, I expect to be able to remedy this quickly and easily, without added expense, undue delay, arbitrary criteria, or a necessity to present evidence or medical documents.
- My gender is not dragged into everything that happens to me. If I am involved in a lawsuit or attempt to access government-services that are not related to my gender, I can assume my gender will not be brought up, if it is, it will generally not be a hindrance.
- My gender will not make me immediately suspect to those with government sanctioned power (lawyers, judges, police, bureaucrats, etc.).
- My gender does not make me necessarily unfit to be a parent in the eyes of the law, regardless of what state I’m in.
- I expect my gender to not unduly affect my ability to travel internationally.
- I expect access to, and fair treatment within sex segregated facilities such as: homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, drug rehab programs, prisons, hostels, and dorms.
- I never have to wonder what to put down on legal or official forms when they ask for “sex” or “gender”.
- In no country in the world is it illegal to be my gender.
- When I express my internal identities in my daily life, I am not considered “mentally ill” by the medical establishment.
- My experience of gender (or gendered spaces) is not viewed as “baggage” by others of the gender in which I live.
- I do not have to choose between either invisibility (“passing”) or being consistently “othered” and/or tokenised based on my gender.
- I am not told that my sexual orientation and gender identity are mutually exclusive.
- I can attend “women-only” or “male-only” events or groups (if I identify as the gender listed) without fear of being seen as an interloper.
- I was never forced to wear gender inappropriate clothing in order to “fix” my gender, nor was I refused permission to engage in hobbies or behaviors I was interested in because others did not approve of my gender.
- Those who wrong me are expected to know that it is hurtful, and are considered blameworthy whether or not they intended to wrong me.
- I was trained into whatever gender was appropriate for me, and so I am prepared to live in my current gender, without having to go back and learn vital skills I was not taught when I was young.
- Commonly used terminology that differentiates my gender from other genders/sexes implies that I am normal, and that I have unquestionable right to the gender/sex I identify with.
- Those who tell jokes about my gender are assumed to be sexist.
- The sex/gender dichotomy does not have consequences in my life.