Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Chasing Pseudo Cisprivilege

One of the things that sends the transsexual separatist crowd into a frothing rage is when you point out the cold hard reality to them that no matter how much they want to deny it, how much money they spend,  how much surgery they do or try to erase that history, we were all born with male bodies and spent some time on that side of the gender fence.

And pointing out that simple fact sets them off.

Something else that sets them off is when you point out their obsessive quest to regain the cisprivilege they lost when they transitioned and try to exercise it in the new gender role.

Cisgender bodies of either gender exist with privilege and general qualities assigned to them by the parent society.  And what is cisgender privilege you ask?   It's according to Kristen Schilt, 'the set of unearned advantages that individuals who identify as the gender they were assigned at birth accrue solely due to having a cisgender identity and presentation.' 

For example, it is presumed by society that if you are a cisgender female, you have been one from birth, you have XX chromosomes, you possess a uterus and other internal reproductive organs, when you hit your teen years you began to develop into your adult feminine body, you began to have periods in a regular cycle that occur on average every 28 days, you will one day get married, bear 2.5 children and as you move deeper into adulthood will experience menopause.

You also have societal advantages and human rights above and beyond those of trans women based on that cisgender status. 

These cisgender characteristics are presumed as universal and immutable, but nature has a way of throwing curveballs at our nice, neat binary assumptions concerning gender   There are ciswomen who don't have XX chromosomes or meet some of those benchmarks society says they should meet to be considered women.

And when ciswomen want to sling their privilege around, they will deploy in a heartbeat misgendering insults based on those memes like a weapon at women they don't believe measure up  So will the TS separatists when you remind they came out of mommy's birth canal in male bodies.      

Moving on.

Two months into my transition that began in April 1994 I had a discussion about it with one of my white fundie co-workers in the breakroom near our northside Terminal C gates.  I was aware that she had been part of a small cadre of women in my department who went to my duty manager and tried to deploy the bathroom meme to keep me out of the women's bathrooms and failed so I was on Defcon 2 intellectual alert when she approached me.  

At the time I transitioned I was seven years into my airline career and she asked me why I was transitioning and not being the male person in her mind God made me. After blowing up her faith based arguments, pointing out God made transpeople and discussing my lived experience, she deployed the 'you'll never be female because you can't have children or menstruate' argument that was common with trans opponents in the early 90's.

I quickly pointed out there are women who can't have children, can't have periods for various reasons, and then pointed out that her narrow definition of womanhood based on physiological characteristics would erase her own mother who was going through menopause at the time from the ranks of womanhood.   

I would have another encounter with a co-worker two weeks later that continues to resonate with me as well
I was having a conversation with a Newark based African American flight attendant co-worker of mine while we were seated in the lobby area waiting for the plane to arrive.

We were seated away from her crew and at the time POC airline employees treasured those moments when we got to talk to other POC employees because the airline business is still a predominately white world. 

She asked me how my transition was going and as I told her about some of the frustrations I'd encountered, she smiled and matter of factly told me I was just like her.   

"What do you mean I'm just like you?" I exclaimed. "You were born and raised as female from birth and no one mocks or questions your gender identity or presentation."  

'That's true," she replied. "But despite being born with a uterus,  I'm unable to conceive and can't have children. That's makes me in society's eyes just like you."  

She then proceeded to break it down that even though I wasn't going to have periods or give birth to a child, like her I would still experience all the drama that female bodied people get dealing with a male-dominated society.  I was still going to face sexism, sexual harassment, have to cope with people discounting my intelligence, and that's before we even get to the set of circumstances and the unwoman meme Black women have to constantly fight.

And while she broke it down I had the epiphany that pretty much guides my post-transition life.  If I continued to chase pseudo-cisgender privilege and pile on self imposed pressure to pass 100% of the time as female, it would be as futile and frustrating a quest as Don Quixote jousting windmills. The windmill would always win. 

Not even ciswomen pass as female 100% of the time, and if they tell you they do they're lying to themselves and to you.  Contrary to the lie the radfems like to pimp about transwomen, the cisprivilege I had in a male body I lost once I transitioned and it will never come back.  Neither would I experience feminine cisprivilege at the level ciswomen do because I wasn't born female and the virulent hostility and ignorance of society aimed at transwomen for now ensures I won't.  

So from that day forward I focused on being the best Moni I could be.  Yes, I am a proud African-American trans woman and I'm now on the feminine side of the gender fence where I needed to be.  

But the reality is I spent some time on the other side of the gender fence.  My body morphed on the outside to my current femme configuration to match the gender identity between my ears and I express my femme self quite well, but like every trans woman I still have a prostate gland that has shrunk due to HRT.  I have a skeletal structure that makes me heavier than a comparable 6'2" ciswoman. 

There was and still is resistance to accepting me and my transsisters as the Phenomenal Women we are in sectors of our society based on the fact we did spend time on the other side of the gender fence.

So trying to deny that reality is an exercise in futility.  Those of us who transitioned in the 60's, 70's, 80's and early to mid 90's won't be able to produce pictures of ourselves as little girls blowing out birthday cake candles, being members of the Girl Scouts, cheerleaders, discuss the age we had our first period or began developing breasts, joining a sorority or some of the other female rites of passage.    

So far from lamenting it and trying to come up with cover stories to hide it in a futile chase for pseudo cisgender status that will evaporate the nanosecond your trans status is revealed, I and increasing numbers of transpeople are being open and honest about being out and proud transwomen. 

I know I'm far happier and more well-adjusted because my evolving feminine persona has a rock solid base of reality undergirding it and not the quicksand.of shame, guilt and obfuscation.
So yes, it's time for transwomen to stop chasing pseudo cisprivilege and consider pondering this gender conundrum in another more constructive way..

It's time for us to be out and proud about being Phenomenal Transwomen secure in ourselves, our self-images and our own bodies.     

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