Cisgender/Cissexual Privilege Caveats & Definitions!
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.”)