Since everyone seems to be doing it. This is a response to this post/rant defining feminism.
There is a glaring omission in this list of feminist actions. Glaring. It makes me sick that none of other the commenters mention it.
I can’t take surviving for granted, and neither can women of color, undocumented women, transsexual women, gender nonconforming women, or poor women. Middle class white cissexual American citizen women–like her, like most of the people who are commenting on that post yea or nay, can.
I can’t categorically rule out participating in sex work (and in fact I have), and what’s more, I can’t in good conscience work to end opportunities for sex work. Why? because, to use her own phrase, that’s not “putting women first”. That’s putting “the movement” first, and that’s wrong. That’s not feminist. Women (and some men/others) will die, literally, no I really mean literally, if all sex work were outlawed tomorrow. I happen to think that she’s wrong also that it’s an inherently bad thing, that feminist porn and empowered sex work are impossible or unattainable–even for survival–but even if they were it’s wrong for her to work to limit the available options for survival for women. And it makes me livid that she, in her privilege, is spending her efforts trying to kill people like me, not literally, not directly, not intentionally, but doing so all the same.
Feminism is not just for white women, it’s not just for cis women, etc etc. But she, essentially, makes ‘being a feminist’ a matter of privilege, something off limits to the unwashed masses, and none of them [white] [middle-class] [cissexual] folks seems to care. (OK, Belldame222 does say some things similar to what I’m saying here, but not, so far as I could tell, in response to that post.)
You think pr0n promotes f’ed up shit in men’s minds? Whatever. You think it harms women’s minds? Whatever. You think women shouldn’t do it because of these things? Whatever. You want to find ways to ‘get women out of the industry’ [an into other forms of employment/survival]? ok, that’s kinda legit. Kind of. (providing resources to women (et al) who want to get out of the industry find other employment? legit and important.) But you know what? The underlying cause of pr0n & other kinds of sex work being able to be as fucked up as they are, and the underlying cause of it being able to get folks to do it despite how hurtful it is–is 1)systemic economic inequality and 2)the marginalization of women’s voices/lack of accountability to women (et al)–but especially the marginalization of the voices of women who are also poor, not-college-educated, of color, trans, etc. Fighting porn/sex work itself does nothing about the first, and if it does anything about the second, it’s for white (etc) women at the expense of all other women. But you know what? Why don’t we fight systemic economic inequality? Why don’t we fight rape itself? Why don’t we work to create accountability?
When we center survival, when we center quality of life, when we center ‘putting women first’ (ok, by first I assume we do not actually mean “first” as in hierarchy but as in prioritizing ourselves), so many of these other things are just fucking clutter. Not wearing makeup? OK, fine, I can see that helping promote the right to not wear it–but demanding others to not wear makeup? Putting in a hierarchy of validity, ranking women by their virtue and conformity to a certain set of actions? Not putting women first. Not helping anybody’s quality of life. It isn’t the act of wearing or not wearing makeup that is feminist or not feminist–it is the act of liberating women’s bodies from public control–something that this segment of radical feminism doesn’t want to give up. They want to be the ones in control, to have the reins, to order the hierarchy. Liberating women’s bodies from public control is completely, totally, incompatible with opposing S/M–but so is remaining silent about the sexist bullshit within the community, BDSM norms and the way they are created, the stories we tell and don’t tell to the outside, the messaging we give each other and the broader culture.
That is to say, there are a damn lot of things you can do to reclaim one’s body, and to work for others’ bodies as well. And no one can do all of them. Even all of them in one’s daily habits. We have to keep challenging each other, to call each other out, to ask ourselves and each other what we’re doing and if we could do more, to push ourselves, to work out of love for each other and not merely anger–because only then will we really fight for all of us, not just ourselves, and only then can we stay in the fight…
Jessi mentioned that she’d gone to a center for labor organizing in (I think) TN, and how striking the difference was between that organizing and queer organizing. There, there was a long term plan, the assumption was that everyone would be in the movement their whole lives and planning happened out generations–and there was no rush. Go swimming, of course you need to relax and flake out. That’s ok. This work’s gonna happen, and it’d be great if you were part of it… Rural activists in Thailand were totally the same way. We need some of that in our movements–space for impurity, space for ourselves and our souls, space for living. Not ‘this has to happen but it won’t if you personally don’t step up.’ That’s busted. We will reclaim our bodies at our own pace, in our own way, because doing it at someone else’s pressure, at someone else’s valuation, is no reclamation at all.
July 10, 2008
This is the extended intro to the cis* privilege checklist should you want to skip ahead. It sucks that people who get their lack of privilege in one area seem to need an intro for places they’ve got it, but they do.
How to Use this Document
This list is intended for those who are interested in considering how their privilege as a cisgender (non-trans) person affects their lives, and how that makes their experiences in the world substantially different from transgender, genderqueer, and gender non-conforming people; it is intended to show the reader how ze benefits from being cisgender. It is NOT intended to be a list of things that all cisgender people have and all transgender people do not have.
Importantly, many of the privileges covered here are specific to having two or more kinds of privilege; 2b and 13, for example, are also dependent on being a citizen of one’s country of residence. Many of the privileges here have parallels in white privilege and male privilege. However, in these cases, there is still significant reason to list them as cisgender privileges–either that there is a difference in scale, a difference in likelihood, a difference in what situations that privilege is relevant in, or in that having either kind of privilege gives one a substantial step up over those who have neither (notably, 13,14, and 15).
Lastly, any privilege checklist is at least somewhat specific to a particular time, place, and identity. This list was originally written in the United States in 2007; its applicability to citizens of other countries and to other times will vary. It was created by a white, young, transsexual queer/woman, who strives to create a list that does not reinscribe white privilege (or other kinds of privilege) within the analysis of cisgender privilege.
This list was originally created under the following definition of the word cisgender:
A person whose determinations of hir sex and gender are universally considered valid.
It is the opposite of transgender, or a person whose determination of hir sex and/or gender is not universally considered valid. This definition was chosen in preference to more common definitions (a)someone who identifies with the sex and gender ze was assigned at birth, or b)someone who conforms to gender norms) to:
1)Draw attention to the central role of gender policing in cisgender privilege/trans oppression;
2)Validate the identities of gender conforming trans people as their gender of choice, rather than assignment; and
3)Take account of a large variety of gender variant identities and expressions that are not necessarily in direct contradiction with identifying as a member of one’s assigned sex/gender, such as crossdressers, butches, genderqueers, drag performers, bigenderists, two spirit, travesti, and so forth. Even highly feminine men and masculine women who in no way identify with the term transgender may find themselves lacking some privileges in this checklist–that is to be expected.
This list uses the term “cisgender” as opposed to “non-trans(gender)” because the purpose of the list is to make visible the specificity of experiences of members of the the dominant, invisible identity, and the place held by cis people within a system of gender, which the term “non-trans” is unable to do, as it simply reflects back on being the opposite of trans experience. This term was used in preference to words like bio, genetic, real, normal, etc because all of those terms reinforce cisgender privilege by implying that there is some basis in which a person’s gender can be rooted other than their own self-determination.
However! Much, if not most, of this list is oriented at cissexual privilege, a subset of cisgender privilege, and the functional definition above works even better:
Cissexual denotes a person whose self-determination of hir sex is consistently validated and reinforced by institutions of power, particularly medical, legal, religious, and scientific institutions.
“Ze” and “hir” (pronounced like “here”) are gender ambiguous, singular pronouns. They are used in preference to “they” and “their” because many trans people find those words dehumanizing, as well as to make ze & hir more accessible options for trans people who choose to use them for themselves. For the purposes of this document, they are used not only about people who actively prefer those pronouns to be used, but for anyone whose gender is not specified. (example: ”Ze went to the grocery store to buy hirself some ice cream.”)
July 10, 2008
Kudos to Peggy McIntosh for her White Privilege Checklist, inspirer of this list and all-around rad resource worth reading more than once. An older version of the cis privilege checklist is available at T-Vox.
Very frequently people like to direct other people to privilege checklists in order to “prove” to them the reality of that privilege. If that’s why someone sent you here, you have my sympathy–it’s obnoxious, isn’t it? So, before you read this list, check out some caveats, explanations, and definitions I’ve set up; they might make it a bit easier for you to read from the right headspace, and easier to understand.
So, for everyone: don’t quibble with privilege lists. If you read them from a standpoint of wanting to deny your privilege, you’ll come out having successfully denied it but learning nothing. Read sympathetically and think about it. If there’s something you want to refine, or make better, add, or something you want clarified, let me know. This list is subject to continual revision without notice.
- I expect non-discrimination acts that apply to me to cover the most prevalent vectors of discrimination against me. I expect laws banning the creation of a hostile work environment will ban the use of offensive language about me.
- I 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. I expect change procedures/criteria to be clearly outlined in readily-available documentation, and for those procedures/criteria to be followed consistently, independent of the political beliefs and gender, racial, etc prejudices of individuals serving me.
- I expect all my forms of identification to “match”—to display the same value in any fields held in common. If they do not I expect to be just fine, anyway.
- My identification does not reveal private information that I may not want others to know.
- I expect my private medical information to remain private if I am attempting to non-healthcare-related government services, or if I am involved in a lawsuit/criminal investigation that does not involve healthcare. If the government is making decisions based on my medical history, I expect the persons making the decisions to be medical professionals grounded in the relevant medical literature.
- I expect access to healthcare.
- I cannot be denied health insurance on the basis of my gender.
- I expect that I will not be denied medical treatment by a doctor on the basis of my gender.
- 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.
- Treatments which permanently or semi-permanently change my body are available to me immediately, based on my informed consent, ability to pay, and, if applicable, medical need.
- If I am accessing medical treatment, my informed consent is verified in, at most, a one-hour consult made before the beginning of treatment.
- 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 (at least) five days a week.
- I expect that the specialists in medical conditions affecting me have received formal training about them, and are abreast of current medical developments in the subject.
- I expect that there exists formal training about medical conditions affecting me.
- I expect that medical therapies offered to me have been the subject of rigorous medical studies & approval processes.
- I expect that medical studies are being done to improve & approve treatments available for people with my conditions.
- I expect that my access to medical treatment that I need and can afford will not be affected by:
- My sex life
- How much, how often, and with how many people I enjoy sex
- Whether or not I am sexually stimulated by a mode of dress
- What sex acts I enjoy
- The gender(s) I am sexually attracted to
- The story I tell about my condition
- My adherence to gender roles
- The length of time I have wanted treatment
- My desire for a different, but related, medical treatment
- My definition of my gender
- The gender in which I live
- My age, independent of parental consent
- Local politics
- Subconscious racial prejudice
- The opinion of a therapist (other than the medical provider)
- My willingness to accept side effects which could be avoided by lower dosages
- My willingness to reveal my private medical information to the government, family members, employers, and friends
- My sex life
- 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 expect that I will be able to access medical care without lying.
- Accessing respectful STD testing and reproductive care is (relatively) emotionally and logistically easy for me.
- There is information about the prevalence of HIV/AIDS and other diseases in my community.
- Clothing works for me, more or less.
- I am a size and shape for which clothes I feel comfortable wearing are commonly made
- There are clothes designed with bodies like mine in mind.
- If I am unable to find clothing that fits me well, I will still feel safe, and recognizable as my gender
- If I have a restriction on what clothing I will buy (e.g. vegan, allergy, non sweatshop), I can expect that specialty stores will have them in my size/shape.
- I expect my gender to not unduly affect my ability to travel internationally.
- My gender presentation is legal in all countries.
- I expect that information on a country relevant to travelers of my gender will be readily available, and supplied to me by travel guides, travel agents, and study abroad officials.
- I expect that a visa and passport will be sufficient documentation for me to enter any country, however difficult these may be to obtain.
- I expect that my documentation will decrease suspicion about me.
- Information important for me to keep private will not be revealed by:
- Pictures from my childhood
- My identification
- My diploma, transcript, or other educational document
- The language used to refer to me
- Gendered relationship words (e.g. daughter, boyfriend*, father)
- My legal name or previous name
- My voice
- Having a cold
- Coughing, sneezing, yelling
- Seeing me naked
- Menstrual blood stains
- Pregnancy (except re: how I/my partner got sperm in hir body)
- My face and neck
- Greetings, missives from people/organizations I have not contacted recently
- Perception/acceptance of my gender is generally independent of:
- Anything mentioned in 8.*
- My clothing choices, how my clothing fits
- My adherence to traditional roles of my gender (both “too much” and “too little”)
- Holding sexist, sex-negative, or rape-culture beliefs
- Holding feminist or sex-positive beliefs
- My sexual choices/desires
- With whom? (gender, number)
- Circumstance (marriage, love, one-night-stand)
- What (e.g. penetrating/enveloping, fetishes, dominance)
- Being assertive, aggressive, or passive
- Being in a position of power
- Being intellectual or not
- My dietary habits
- My weight
- My height
- My occupation
- My musical taste
- My hairstyle
- My hobbies
- Wanting gendered things/actions labeled “immature” or “childish”
- Whether or not I have had a specific medical procedure
- My willingness to risk loss of sensation in my genitals/chest
- My financial resources
- My willingness to accept an unknown amount of health risks
- My ability to access treatment that is deliberately made hard to access (see 4.*)
- 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.
- I expect the privacy of my body to be respected. I am not asked about what my genitals look like, or whether or not my breasts are real, what medical procedures I have had, etc.
- Wronging me is taken seriously*
- 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 have easy access to people who understand that this wrong is not acceptable, and who will support me.
- I have easy access to resources and people to educate someone who wronged me, if I am not feeling up to it.
- If I am being wronged, I can expect that others who are around will notice.
- I expect that a short term arrest (e.g. for protesting) will not have serious consequences.
- I expect access to, and fair treatment within, sex segregated facilities
- Homeless shelters
- Domestic Violence shelters
- Drug Rehabilitation
- Locker rooms
- Juvenile justice systems
- Institutions and authority figures do not force me to adopt a different gender presentation, or deny me medical treatment.
- Parents, foster care
- Juvenile justice systems
- Schools (all K-12 schools, some religious universities)
- Drug rehabilitation
- Nursing homes
- Hospitals/Mental Hospitals
- Close relative/spouse unless otherwise specified, in the event of a medical emergency
- 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. The implications these terms make about my gender, my body, my sex, my biology, and my past are all acceptable to me.
- The sex/gender dichotomy does not have consequences in my life.
- Insistence on strict adherence to one interpretation of difference between “sex” and “gender” (if the dichotomy is used “accurately”) does not mean that different words should be used to describe me than adherence to another interpretation does (if ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ are “conflated”).
- “Accurate” use of these terms, when heard by people who subconsciously “conflate” them (i.e., all people), does not imply false or offensive things about me.
- “Conflated” use of these terms does not imply false or offensive things about me.
- I am not categorized differently if someone categorizes by “sex” when “gender” is more relevant. (e.g. my ID will read the same thing whether it says “sex” or “gender,” no matter how the authority interprets the dichotomy; I will have the same access to “sex” segregated facilities, etc.)
- I expect no medical evidence to be necessary when changing my name.
- For me, there is little-to-no conflict between being recognized as a member of my gender, and resisting sexism. (see #9)
- My control of my body is independent of the good will of oppressive institutions.
- Recognition of my gender is independent of the good will of oppressive institutions.
- My gender is acknowledged universally, immediately, and without hesitation
- My birth certificate, drivers’ license, social security card, etc are correct from the moment I get them.
- I have no need to establish that I am a different gender than someone already thinks I am.
- I lived my childhood in a gender that felt appropriate for me at the time, and still does. I lived my childhood in the gender that I want to have lived it in.
- 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.
- I experienced puberty, and being an immature girl/boy, at a time in my life when there were allowances for puberty and immaturity.
- My preferences for my gender have been honored my whole life, by my doctor, my parents, my teachers, my professors, my relatives, my classmates, my bosses, etc., except before I was able to state preferences, when I was forced to adopt the gender which I now inhabit.
- If someone is uncertain about how I am gendered, they are likely to use criteria that will influence them to choose the gender I identify with.
- I expect be referred to respectfully without stating my preferences, or even being asked, no matter where I go, how I dress, or whom I’m talking to. If this does not happen, whatever level of anger I express will be acceptable, and I will expect the offense to be immediately corrected.
- Regardless of my gendered behavior as a child, or how I felt about being forced into the gender I inhabited then, if I require medical treatment to keep up an appearance that matches my gender, it will be granted immediately and without question.
- I have unquestioned access to all appropriate sex-segregated facilities.
- My potential lovers expect my genitals to look roughly similar to the way they do, and have accepted that before coming to bed with me.
- I expect the privacy of my body to be respected.
- I expect to be able to shower at public facilities such as gyms and pools.
- Others accept my control over when, whether, and how I talk about any given event/period in my life, according to what meets my needs and desires best. Others accept my determination of what events and periods in my life I wish to talk about or deem significant.
- My gender, and my access to gender-specific services and medical care, are upheld no matter how important or unimportant I consider that to be. Even if I consider medical treatment to maintain an appearance matching my gender to be inconsequential, it will still be available to me, covered by health insurance. Likewise, even if I find the use of the appropriately gendered language about me inconsequential, it will still be taken as a serious, unproblematic need by others.
- My right to inhabit my currently chosen gender is universally considered valid, regardless of my gendered behavior as a child, or how I felt about being forced into the gender I inhabited then. If I require medical treatment to keep up an appearance that matches my gender, it will be granted immediately and without question.
- If someone else thinks I’m in the wrong bathroom, I am in no danger. When (or if) people mistake my gender, there are unlikely to be serious consequences.
I didn’t really just post this now for the first time; it’s been moved from a different blog address.
For Immediate Release
Hazel/Cedar Troost Minneapolis, June 22nd, 2007—
“HRC your time is near—
Fake inclusion won’t work here!
So chanted marchers at the Twin Cities’ first annual Trans March over Pride weekend. An estimated 200-250 trans, gender non-conforming and allied protesters gathered in Gold Medal Park by 10th Avenue and 2nd Street, and marched down Washington Avenue shouting slogans calling for prison reform and the removal of sex classification from identification, as well as an end to the gender binary, health insurance discrimination, and transphobia in local and national GLBT organizations and publications.
“We wanted to hold this march to show our significance as a transgender/gender non-conforming community, to ourselves, to non-trans queer people, and to others, but also to build connections within a sometimes fragmented set of trans communities,” said organizer Sea Lee. Jill Bartel, another organizer, added “We had an incredible range of diversity at this march, and we’re really proud of that, but we hope to improve upon it next year.”
Marchers proceeded along Washington to Hennepin Avenue, turning left and passing the Gay 90’s before being stopped by police. Despite a permit obtained from the city of Minneapolis which clearly and accurately outlined the route, timing, and size of the march, uniformed officers told organizers Mk Davis and Remy that the marchers had to disperse or face arrest. Officers claimed concerns for the safety of marchers, and alleged that a marcher had been throwing rocks. One marcher pointedly asked, “Who threatens people for their own safety? Nobody was throwing rocks. It’s just an excuse for their own transphobia.”
Marchers continued chanting across the street from the Gay 90’s and Brass Rail, some remaining in the street while others retreated to the sidewalk. Despite threats and the presence of multiple squad cars and a police van, officers did not make any arrests. After approximately forty-five minutes, marchers chanted “Shame, shame, we’ll be back / We won’t fold under attack” before ending the rally. Cedar/Hazel Troost, an organizer, commented, “The difference between our treatment by the police and that of the other marches during Pride weekend is a symptom of the selective advocacy of the corporate ‘GLBT’ movement, which excludes trans people, poor people, and people of color.” Ze continued, “This march was created to draw attention to and protest that, and with the help of the cops, we certainly succeeded.”
Participants celebrated the success of the march at an afterparty, where Harsh Reality, the Transformers, Tough Tough Skin, and a member of District 202’s theater troupe, Empowered Expressions, performed.
The organizing collective is seeking additional organizers for 2008; those interested should email firstname.lastname@example.org. All those who feel marginalized within the trans community are especially encouraged to join the collective.