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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.