When I read Whipping Girl, I didn’t think that “transwoman” (without the space) was insulting/ungendering/whatever, but she’d asked for folks to stop, to put a space in between and make it two words, and so I did.

Now, I’m amazed that I *ever* thought it was ok.

There are two basic problems.

1)Asymmetry and [cis] as unspecified default

The first problem lies primarily in the asymmetry in usage of “trans(wo)man” and “cis(wo)man”–the fact that whenever women who are transsexual are being spoken of, that ‘trans’ must always be specified even when it might seem clear from context–whereas in speaking of women who are cissexual, there’s no need to say ‘cis’ unless we are talking in a trans context–even if we specifically mean cis women. …That is to say, were we to accept the one-word terminology, there would be “transwomen” who are almost always referred to as “transwomen”, but “ciswomen” are generally referred to as “women” and occasionally as “ciswomen”.

Listen around you. Even in the trans community, neither men nor women are ever free of the ‘trans-‘ prefix / adjective, except when it’s being spoken by someone who is intentionally making hir speech jarring. It’s like you always have to keep reminding everyone–she’s not a [real] woman, she’s trans. Try referring to us as men and women, and leave out the trans part. If you feel weird, uncomfortable, or like you’re communicating something other than what you mean, that’s internalized cissexualist bullshit, because we are every bit as much ‘men’ and ‘women’ as cis folks are–unless we define ourselves as otherwise gendered. When someone calls a specific person a ‘man,’ hir audience can safely impute ‘cis’–because if the speaker was not positioning that man as cissexual, ze would be sure to specify ‘trans.’ Practically the only time I’ve really ever heard a trans woman referred to by ‘woman’ standing alone from ‘trans’ is in the sentence ‘trans women are women.’ In contrast, trans women are referred to as trans[ ]people/folks/etc all the time.

At first blush, this doesn’t seem any different than the problem of unspecified whiteness, temporarily-able-bodied-ness, straightness, etc. It’s important to evaluate whether one’s claim is about “women” as a whole, or specifically cis ones or trans ones, to be intentional about including/omitting information about a person or group’s cis/trans status, self-reflective about why it’s relevant or irrelevant, and to use language to undermine cis*-as-default.

But at another level, it’s not.

2)The Gender Quaternary and “Trans” as “not really”

Combining “trans”/”cis” and “(wo)man” into one word create a 4-gender system: ‘transmen’/[cis]’men’/’transwomen’/[cis]’women’–as opposed to the two binaries of gender “man”/”woman” and gender status “cis”/”trans”.

(yes, I’m aware that both quaternary and binary are fucked up & there are other options, I take said other options, I’m 1)talking about a discourse that does this so my commentary kind of has to, and 2)the point I’m driving at here is mostly relevant to the right of equal claim to binary categories.)

Within the quaternary, women who are trans can never share a category with who are not–and since, in our society, cis women’s womanhood is the gold standard, trans women’s womanhood is always lesser in this scheme. Whereas, in the interlocking binary, you can have two women of different gender statuses–gender statuses which are no more (or less) relevant/formative/foundational/essential to that (wo)man’s (wo)manhood than her/his race, age, hair color, etc.

I don’t know how well I’ve explained it. But start putting the space in, decide to follow it, and it’ll pop out at you.

So put a fucking space in–and do it in your speech too.

Sorry everyone for my absence–it’ll be a couple more days before I’m really “back, ” but I thought I’d give y’all update by editing a piece I wrote in April (before this blog was created


October 3, 2008

“Biological (wo)man”
“Typical biological (fe)male”
“Biologically (fe)male”
“Bio boy”
“Genetic girl”

No. Just, no. Don’t do it.

No really. Don’t. I don’t care if your trans friend uses it. I don’t care if you’re trans. Don’t.

I don’t actually have to explain it. Think for a minute or two. Read a few of my other posts, particularly this one. You have the resources and intellect to figure this one out on your own. Really. I trust you. You can do it.

Don’t click the “more” button if you haven’t already figured it out or at least tried for 5 minutes. The point of what follows isn’t about educating you about why not to say it. That’s stupid. It’s about 1)giving you talking points to explain to other people, and 2)exploring the faulty logic that goes into the usage.
Read the rest of this entry »

So, there are two standard definitions of transgender:

1)A person who violates gender norms
2)A person who identifies as a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth.

#2 is also one definition of transsexual, which has another standard definition:

3)A person who transitions, particularly a person who modifies hir body in ways related to transition (both medical body mod & other).

All three of these have their ups and downs. I’m no longer interested (as I used to be), in having one, monolithic definition of these terms. There are different things we mean by them, different things to illuminate.

But, I need to add another pair of definitions:

4)transgender: a person whose self-determination of hir gender is regularly invalidated/undermined by hir society.
(cisgender: a person whose self-determination of hir gender is generally validated and upheld by hir society.)

5)transsexual: a person whose self-determination of hir sex is invalidated/undermined by legal, political, scientific, medical, & religious institutions (et al). (and through which society & individuals at large)
(Cissexual: a person whose self-determination of hir sex is validated and upheld by legal, political, scientific, medical, and religious institutions.)

In a world where my self-determined gender and sex were totally validated by my society I can no longer imagine transgender and transsexual being meaningful terms anymore; I’d still be a transitioner, I’d still use this technology, but almost all of my current experiences as a trans person would be gone. If I’d never been coercively gendered/sexed at all, my use of estrogen & spiro might not even be about transition, because there’d’ve been no “male” to transition from–and ‘transition’ itself would become vastly different.

So, yes, in one sense trans people wouldn’t exist in my utopia. But in another sense, it’s the distinction between trans and cis, the rigid wall that would be torn down and no longer exist. Gender coercion would no longer exist, and with it would go subversive gender, gender deviance, ‘gender variance’ (to be replaced by genders 3-400+), transphobia, misogyny, etc etc.

This is a post I made in a different forum in February 2007, that a couple friends of mine told me to repost more publicly. There’s one link that was added for snark.

So, I’m basing this post off of lists available here and here, for context. See also my list written with these concerns in mind.


I often feel like cis privilege checklists really aren’t about privilege. All too often, they reinforce the “those poor transgenders” [sic] mentality and assist in making cis privilege invisible. (Those that are about “non-trans” privilege do so even with the name–there is literally nothing but a not-[oppressed group] to classify this thing which we are supposed to start thinking of as more than not-[oppression].)


4) I am not excluded from events which are either explicitly or de facto* men-born-men or women-born-women only. (*basically anything involving nudity)
5) My politics are not questioned based on the choices I make with regard to my body.
6) I don’t have to hear “so have you had THE surgery?” or “oh, so you’re REALLY a [incorrect sex or gender]?” each time I come out to someone.
# I am not denied entrance to appropriate services or events that are segregated by sex.
# My childhood innocence was not interrupted with desperate prayers to a divinity begging to wake up the opposite sex.
# I never grieve about my lost childhood and adolescence because I was born the opposite sex.
# I never worry about potential lovers shifting instantly from amorous to distain and even violence because of my genitals.


See all those “not”‘s and “never”‘s? That’s not explaining privilege or cisgenderness. That’s saying “other people are badly off, but not you.” It does, at some level, and there are some things that it’s very difficult or impossible to explain any other way. But lists written this way end up really keeping the attention off cis people.

Think about the difference between the first item in each set, above, and:
I have unquestioned access to all appropriate sex-segregated facilities.

The two above are more potent at showing a person what the world is like for trans people, and that’s an important part of privilege education. But it fundamentally doesn’t show how the person *benefits* from being cisgender. It shows how an oppressed person is oppressed. Really, all these statements are of the form y = not-x, where x is something that happens to trans folks, and y is the cisgender person’s experience. How do you expect someone who is used to seeing x and only x, to see y from that?

It is more disorienting and confusing to have cisgender privilege talked about in this way. It makes no sense to someone who doesn’t know jack about trans oppression. But, you know, that’s the way privilege is.

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 lived my childhood in a gender that felt appropriate for me at the time, and still does.
(or: I lived my childhood in the gender that I want to have lived it in)

17) When I go to the gym or a public pool, I can use the showers.


Zuzu, thanks for putting them all in a line like that. It helps to remind me that I’m not crazy; there really is a huge amount of mainstream, virulent sexism that is accepted by our country. But while seeing it laid out like that helps to remind me I’m not crazy, it also makes me feel like I’m swimming against a riptide. It’s very discouraging. I tell myself it’s a backlash that is in response to some real feminist successes, but I only believe myself some of the time. (link)

would result in a rollicking brawl; either she’s got wirey-girl Abe Lincoln strength and it would be stand-up or I’m not crazy and she is really anorexic and would go down in a round. Won’t you Join Me? Together, we can all get our beat-the-living-shit-out-of-Ann-Coulter on.(link)

I saw an ad for nailpolish called “pussy galore.” I don’t remember if that was the brand or the color, but I was totally shocked and wondered if I was somehow misreading or misinterpreting what I read. But I guess I’m not crazy after all.(link)

“My perceptions of reality are valid because I’m not like you.”
“Thank god I’m not like you!”
“If I was like you, nothing I thought or perceived would be valid.”
“I’m worth taking seriously because I’m not like you”

I’m backing down from *never* using crazy. But it’s not just a PC overreach and yes, it does matter, and yes, we care.

Saying that something is intense or over the top with “crazy” is one thing. But when the fact that you’re “not crazy” is such a relief? When you base your worth in being “not crazy,” you state, unequivocally, that those of us with stigmatizing mental health diagnoses are worth less or worthless. You state, unequivocally, that your views are more valid than ours–or that yours are valid and ours are invalid by definition.

So, please put away your tired arguments that “crazy” is totally divorced from people with stigmatizing mental health diagnoses, ok? (coz if it was we wouldn’t say shit like this, would we?

It matters. Cut it out. And Jill? If you’re trying to not use “crazy” (etc) in a stigmatizing way anymore, rename your ‘crazy conservatives’ filter, too, ok?

NOTE: This post was inspired by a series of ‘oh thank god for feminism–I know I’m not crazy!’ comments in class, NOT the aforementioned blog posts, which were found as references.

When you’re trying distinguish between trans and cis parts of the queer community, don’t say things like “Top LGB issues versus Top Trans Issues” (read this one. I’m picking on someone I love and respect and her post is important.), “LGB community gives a free pass to the mockery of the trans community” and “We actually have more in common with [POC] then the LGB community”.

Trans folks are (frequently) l, g, b, q, i, sgl, gnc, etc etc. In the context of the first reference, it’s not the needs of lgb folks, it’s the needs/actions of the cis LGB community–and in this context, it’s frequently not even that, but the white, temporarily able bodied, cis LGB community whose priorities get taken into account. (in the last example, it’s the white CLGB community vs (cis?)(straight?) POC vs (white?)trans folks, even though it’s flawed reasoning anyways)

SO… Cis LGB community, CLBG community’s priorities over trans (LGBetc or straight) community’s needs. yeah.

Misogyny NOS:

Misogyny Not Otherwise Specified. Misogyny targets all women, cis and trans. When it’s specifically about trans women, we call it trans misogyny in order to draw attention to the aspects that are specific to us/them. But just as, in our society, “woman” by itself is almost always interpreted “cis woman”, “misogyny” is presumed to be separate from “trans misogyny”, as something 1)specifically targeting cis women, and 2)of which trans misogyny is not a part. Since women are presumed to be cis until proven otherwise, misogyny that targets cis women also targets trans women, with a very few exceptions. And, in fact, even when they/we are known to be trans, they/we’re generally still treated with said misogyny, in addition to any transphobic elements that may compound it. The “Not Otherwise Specified” is in order to 1)decenter cissexuality within discourse about misogyny, and 2)specify that it isn’t trans misogyny without implying that it doesn’t also target trans women.

Trans Woman Ejection:

I use this phrase in contrast to phrases such as ‘trans exclusion’ and ‘trans woman exclusion.’

The “woman” word is important because it specifies that trans women (and other trans folks who have transitioned out of a male social positioning) are the ones being excluded. Sometimes trans men are being excluded, but frequently they’re being included; and while there is also a use for spaces of ‘people who aren’t cis men,’ many women’s spaces need to remain women’s spaces. (When I write about spaces as resources not about who’s really a woman, I will put a link here)

The “ejection” word is in order to draw attention to the fact that we/they are and have been part of women’s culture, the women’s movement, feminism, and women-only spaces–only to be kicked out of what is our/their culture, movement, and space just as much as it is any other woman’s. Sandy Stone was already an accepted member of the Olivia collective when cis women outside the collective threatened to boycott the only woman run, the only record company that produced lesbian and woman-centered content (and also sent death threats to other members of the collective—she was not “excluded” or “kept out”, she was removed, kicked out of her own collective, a collective that supported her. Other acts that seek to deny trans women access to their own culture and movement are not merely preventing them from entering from somewhere else, but are kicking them out.

I don’t have time to debunk this post other than to say “transmasculine” is not a way to be inclusive, it’s a way to exclude (see the very first comment, among other things), it’s ungendering and binaristic, and I fucking hate how trans misogynistic & femmephobic butches/genderqueers/trans men use it as a way to naturalize their privilege within the queer community, to pretend to be gender radical/subversive while upholding misogyny, the gender binary, and subversivism, and to naturalize the ejection of trans women from [cis] women’s space.

Also? Cissexual femmes are trans and their “transitions” count,* but crowdaggers and transsexual butches/genderqueers aren’t transmasculine (clearly their transitions don’t count) and we need to define terminology to keep them out of our space? Clearly when I wear a men’s dress shirt and vest and grow out some of my facial hair I’m just not being trans, and definitely not being oppressed for my masculinity? Fuck you.

*Clearly, the totally glib way of describing femme as a trans identity that’s practiced in Female to Femme is appropriative and just fucking bullshit, but I think that there are meaningful and legitimate ways in which certain kinds of femme and certain femmes could be described as transgender independent of transsexuality/cissexuality (I count myself in there, for reasons I’ll describe later).

Though I think all of these distinctions are concepts that are familiar to folks in the anti-oppression world, it’s important to give them names because different forms are frequently confused or conflated. It’s especially problematic when this conflation is used to further marginalize a group of oppressed people, as commonly happens to trans folks, particularly but not exclusively those on a female/feminine spectrum.

External privilege is when other people give you something;
Internalized privilege is when you expect it.

Dominance is privilege that is harmful to other people and that no one should have;
Support is privilege that everyone should have, and is not on its own harmful to anyone else.

For instance: A habit of attempting to dominate conversations is internalized dominance, and actually being allowed to do so is external dominance; speaking up for oneself is a sign of internalized support, while actually being listened to is external support.

Parallel distinctions exist within oppression:

Subordination is oppression that is harmful to the oppressed person, that denies hir space, resources, self-esteem, etc that everyone should have.
Accountability is oppression that (as odd as it sounds) everyone should have, the inability to dominate, oppress, do violence unto others, etc and get away with it.

To continue our earlier example, being conscious of everyone else in a conversation and what they have to say is internalized accountability; external accountability is getting the smackdown if you don’t. Not speaking up, or allowing other people to interrupt/silence you is a sign of internalized subordination; when people actually do it it’s external subordination (especially if calling them on it doesn’t work).

When one fails to act according to one’s external oppression status, either through internalized support/dominance or through having worked at personal growth and healing, frequently the Kyriarchy reasserts its ordering and tells the person in question to get back in hir place–and a rather unpleasant situation happens. When it’s dominance and accountability that are in question, it can be called (an attempt at) holding hir accountable (duh), but I propose to name the other half of this phenomenon insubordination–refusing to obey the rules, demanding inclusion and respect, trying to take or make the space and resources one needs to live well, etc etc.

When one insubordinates, according to the naturalized order of the Kyriarchy, one is “taking up too much space,” being “too demanding,” and “going too far”–precisely because, under that order, one is not worth that space, resource, consideration, etc. This is to be expected.