Sunday, December 28, 2014

Cis-Gender Privilege

Who has it and who doesn’t have it?

Sometimes I have it and sometimes I don’t.

On Slate there is an interesting article about butch lesbians and cis-gender privilege,
I'm a Butch Woman. Do I Have Cis Privilege?
By Vanessa Vitiello Urquhart
December 26, 2014

Last week, I was mistakenly misgendered in front of an auditorium of people. I’d gone to see a speaker at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, and during the Q&A period I was called upon by the nice lady doing the facilitating as “that young man, there, who has been waiting.” An excruciating 30 seconds followed, in which it became obvious to everyone that I was a young woman, and the facilitator was visibly unsettled by that revelation. My voice tends to eliminate all doubt as to my gender—it’s a woman’s voice, and it gets higher when I’m nervous.

This is the sort of story that is often used as an example of the daily hardships associated with being transgender. As a gender-nonconforming woman, I share the frequent, uncomfortable reminders of my difference with the trans community. So, when I’m called cis by a trans advocate in a way that feels dismissive, or if anyone dares to suggest that I benefit from cis privilege, I can get a little hot under the collar. I start thinking things like, “Hey, this person has no idea what I’ve been through! How dare they say that I have any sort of privilege?” Occasionally, to my shame, I’ve even argued on the Internet about whether it makes any sense to say a butch like me has cis privilege.
This is something to think about. Many of us trans-people think we are the only ones who do not have cis-gender privilege but many lesbians and straight women do not have it and the same thing is true for men.

When I was little one of my neighbors was a very tall and large boned woman who was being misgendered all the time. I have a number of lesbian friends who also are misgendered and there was a butch lesbian in Alaska that the security guards cleared out the women’s bathroom says there was a man in there.

Most of the time when I go out in public I am not identified as trans but as a woman. One time I was on a panel with lesbians and gays and after the panel discussion about the movie Gen Silent” one lady told me that she never knew that I was a “man” until I identified myself as trans (I wanted to smack her over the head and ask her “What were you doing for the last hour? Didn’t anything we were saying sink in?”).

So the answer to the question who has cis-gender privilege is most of us and many more than you would guess do not.

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