Love All The People

Posted: June 17, 2010 in Identity

I am in the process of writing about feminism, cisgender and transgender identities, theories, politics and people. I have not decided on the title yet, but I am drawn to a quote by Bill Hicks, which sums up my reason for examining this difficult, emotive and conflict-ridden subject: Love All The People.

But first I thought I would offer some definitions and terminology. Please feel free to add to or change my entries in this glossary- I am far from an expert.

1. Cis

Cisgender or cissexual refers to people whose gender identity (‘man’ or ‘woman’) is in alignment with the sex identity they are ascribed at birth, the  ‘male’ or ‘female’ that appears on their birth certificates.

2. Trans

Transgender or transsexual  refers to people whose gender identity ‘man’ or ‘woman’, is not in alignment with the sex identity they were ascribed at birth. So the ‘male’ or ‘female’ that appears on their birth certificates does not correspond with the gender identity they feel reflects their true self.

3.Intersex

Intersex people are people whose sex identity cannot be categorised. Technically these people should not have ‘male’ or ‘female’ on their birth certificate. But most intersex people are not identified as such at birth, and are ascribed a sex identity and are expected to grow up to adopt the gender identity that goes with it.

4. Non-binary

The fact that intersex people exist, shows as that the gender binaries of ‘male’ and ‘female’, ‘man’ and ‘woman’, are not adequate in defining who we are. Some people choose to eschew fixed binary gender identity, regardless of the sex they were ascribed at birth and their feelings about how it corresponds with their gender identity.

Non-binary people identify themselves using a variety of terms, including non-binary, genderqueer, androgynous, and gender non-conforming.  Some of them may have been through some of the same  experiences as trans people, but they do not adopt a new gender binary identity as a result of these experiences.

5. Gender re-alignment

Gender re-alignment refers to the process a person goes through in order to match up his or her body with the gender identity he or she feels reflects his or her true self. This ‘re-alignment’ could include a number of surgical procedures which change the physical body of the person (eg genitals, breasts) as well as hormone treatment and counselling. The process can take many years. The term ‘sex change ‘ is rejected by most transgender people because it suggests an ‘overnight transformation’ which could not be further from reality.

6.Privilege

In the context of cis/transgender, privilege refers to the privilege that cisgender people enjoy, of being able to ‘take for granted their gender identity, as it fits with their ascribed at birth sex identity. Cisgender people are privileged in our society as being treated as ‘normal’. The flip-side of cisgender privilege is it leads to the ‘othering’ of transgender  people, of treating them as ‘different’.

7. Cissexism

Cissexism stems from cis people’s privilege. Being the norm in society can lead to treating transgender people as other, and as lesser human beings. Cissexism, as with regular sexism, occurs through culture, language, imagery, institutional practices and organisation of spaces/communities. As with sexism, cissexism involves an intersection with gender, class, ethnicity and sexuality.

8. Transphobia

Transphobia is the fear of transgender people. It works in a similar way to homophobia in that it relates to a sense that transgender people are a threat to the stability of cisgender society. Transphobia can lead to verbal abuse, exclusion and discrimination, and violence, including the murder of transgender people. It can also apply to non-binary people.

If people are being murdered, simply for who they are, we as humans are failing in our duty to love all the people. This is why I want to try and understand the issues that relate to the terms above, and to try and find a way for us to stop the hatred and violence that is directed at transgender people.

Comments
  1. Anji says:

    Nice little glossary. You did however leave out nonbinary trans people with your binary use of ‘man or woman’ and ‘male or female’. You might want to update to include nonbinary/genderqueer/androgynous people.

  2. Thanks, I had gender queer in mind. I will add it as another section. But I am not sure how to write about ‘gender identity’ in all the entries with regards to gender queer. I don’t want to confuse people from the outset! So if I put it as a separate entry and explain how some people’s gender id wouldnt fit the binary do you think that would be ok? I wanted to keep each entry short and simple.

  3. Anji says:

    I’d probably put it under “Nonbinary” because not all nonbinary people ID as genderqueer or andro, plus nonbinary is the easiest way to differentiate (binary vs nonbinary basically). Something like “The terms ‘male’ and ‘female’ indicate that there are only two genders, but this binary view of gender is incorrect. Some people identify as neither one or the other, and instead identify as non-binary, genderqueer, androgynous or other terms to indicate their rejection of the gender binary and/or feelings that they do not identify strongly with either male or female.”

  4. That sounds great, thanks. I am cisgender myself but politically, I value nonbinary the most. For me it offers the best chance of not being so fucked up about gender!

  5. impeus says:

    Regarding non-binary… mine aren’t going to be useful comments because I don’t know where I’m coming from, let alone what I’m saying.

    I just don’t understand “gender non-conforming” – basically because I don’t even really understand the concept of “gender conforming”. I don’t really identify either way (there goes that binary again) – but this is because I never realised I had to.

    Perhaps this is an intrinsic example of privilege. I don’t have to “identify” or otherwise, because I’m in the privileged position of not appearing not to anyway.

  6. Your comments are totally useful, thank you impeus!

    I identify with a lot of what you say. I have rejected the ‘woman’ ‘girl’ ‘feminine’ identity a great deal during my life and don’t feel I need a word to describe that.

    But I think you are right to mention privilege: some people’s not fitting in in gender terms leads them to receive abuse, violence and discrimination. So they need to be supported.

    I guess my goal for gender would be that none of us had to identify as anything!

  7. Marcia says:

    Right on! The sexual spectrum is far from binary. Rather than gender being black or white, male and female need to be seen as merely two coordinates on a far flung scale.

  8. earwicga says:

    2. Trans

    Transgender or transsexual refers to people whose gender identity ‘man’ or ‘woman’, is not in alignment with the sex identity they were ascribed at birth. So the ‘male’ or ‘female’ that appears on their birth certificates does not correspond with the gender identity they feel reflects their true self.

    Transgender is an umbrella term which includes transsexual people. If you have no idea what you are writing about, why not use the words of transgender people? Or link to the words of people who know what they are talking about?

  9. Hi earwicga thanks for stopping by and for your comment. As I said at the top I am no expert in these matters and welcome other people’s contributions. I will look for some more information on the definition of ‘transexual’ versus ‘transgender’. I have a feeling they may not all agree!

    I think you could be a little more polite in your expression. This is a place for thoughtful discussion and friendly chat. And it’s my gaff.

  10. Another annoying cis white feminist here, to join in – hope I’m not talking out of my arse.

    Trans is short for transgender – umbrella term sometimes understood (at least in the circles I swim in) to include *anyone* who isn’t cis – my bet is that this is wrong and we probably only get away with it because *everyone* I know is binary-identified and not intersex, so we’re a bit shit on our priviledges in those areas (totes our fault).

    Some people see trans as including cross-dressers/transvestites, as well as transsexual people (I understand that to mean people who’s gender identity fits the “binary” but who’s identity is at odds with their sex assigned at birth) and also other people who’s gender identity does not fit with their sex as assigned at birth.

    So being non-binary arguably makes you trans – although of course self-identification is paramount. I guess at the political level it works similarly to how people who have same-gender relationships, etc, are “spoken for” by the LGB community, even if they do not identify as L, G or B.

    I don’t have the brains or the experience to work out anything intelligent to say about how people who consider themselves neither cis nor trans want/need/like to be thought of.

    You might want an extra entry for transmisogyny.

  11. That is great english thorn thank you!

    I can see how transgender could be used as an umbrella term, but if I was non-binary id’d (which I kind of aspire to!) I don’t think Id want to call myself transgender.

    Also I think some trans people don’t like the term ‘transexual’ as it has some negative historical connotations: e.g. ‘sweet transvestite from transsexual transylvania’!

    Not sure what transmisogyny is?

  12. Anji says:

    You don’t know what transmisogyny is or the preferred terms for trans people but you feel qualified to write on trans issues?O_o

  13. Hi anji
    No I don’t feel qualified. this is part of my education. I didnt want to just read a load of articles I wanted to talk to people, like yourself.

  14. Maddie says:

    I’ve been reading and enjoying your blog today🙂 Found this post, and sorry for the late comment… but! I have to agree with Anji’s comment.

    I really think you ought to do some self education before wading in on defining trans people… it’s not even something we can always manage to do well or agree on. You kind of come across as saying “I can’t be bothered to read all the masses of info there is out there, I want trans people to come to me and tell me everything I want to know” which sounds a little privileged:/

    You could do a lot, lot worse than have a read of some of this blog: http://questioningtransphobia.wordpress.com/

    Ok! I’m back to reading more bits of your blog until lunch is over!

  15. HI Maddie
    Glad you like the blog. I am sorry you have interpreted my piece in that way. I am reading all the time and educating myself. But in writing this piece I did not want to fill it with links to other bits of writing as it would end up just as a list of links. I was hoping for some trans people to come and talk to me and share their understanding/knowledge/experience. Not out of laziness out of genuine interest. If I went away and read a load of stuff then came backand wrote a ‘definitive’ definition that would be just as arrogant, wouldnt it? all I want to do is learn and share information on this subject. Thanks for the link I will take a look!

  16. Maddie says:

    Oh I see, that does make a difference, absolutely! I misunderstood what you meant in your reply to Anji. It’s still problematic to sit and wait, reaching out is good! And linking to people is not always bad, not if you went about it as quotes – perhaps even comparative ones. Plenty of trans people blog and many are OK with 101 type questions (but not all of course).

    In terms of sharing… ok so the thing is, that’s a whole wide open field. I mean, ‘trans’ is only a part of my identity, one little adjective amongst my collection of modifiers to woman. But it still encompasses a hell of a lot! And not all of it would I chose to express on someone else’s blog (or even on my own).

    I definitely recommend educating yourself on transmisogyny, the intersection of cissexism and sexism – the analysis of this informs transfeminism.

    Words and labels are, well, complex. Plenty of us are ok with transsexual (those of us who are at least) but as a label is a subset of transgender – which is a vast amorphous mess of an an umbrella term that no one can properly agree on. But it generally includes anyone who transgresses gender norms, although not always as not everyone wants to be in it.

    Small example of how I go about identifying: I’m a woman. If it is relevant I am a trans woman. If I want to be really specific and separate all my gender and sexual identities out I can say I am a binary gendered, transgender, transsexual, lesbian, woman (I get to sit in two letters of LGBT although only one of them is universally in agreement with that). Which is a hell of a sentence for just me! The bit that is important to me though is woman. The rest is subsets and intersections.

    There ought to be a snappy ending to this comment but I can’t think of it! So… that’s it🙂

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