Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Cis diversity

So, let's talk about cisgender people, and how our sparing cis intellects assume the most ingratiating posture of surrender whenever the subject of trans people is broached.

When a trans person says they feel like this gender or that gender, many cis people find that confusing.  "What does it feel like to feel like a man?  *I* don't feel like I am a man.  Rather, I'm a man because society railroaded me into this role."

If you feel sympathetic to this response, you may be interested in the theory of cis by default.  Under this theory, some cisgender people simply do not have an internal sense of gender ("feeling like a man" or "feeling like a woman"), and simply go by the gender they're told they are from birth.

This implies that not all cis people are the same.  Some cis people have an internal sense of gender, some do not.  If you're confused by the very idea of an internal sense of gender, maybe you're one of the people who doesn't have one.

An additional complication is maybe some people can't tell whether or not they have an internal sense of gender.  I bring this up as it applies to myself.  When I first encountered the concept of transgender, I didn't understand this idea of feeling like you are a gender.  Frankly it's bizarre and the universe is pulling hella shenanigans on us all.  But upon years of reflection, I realized I'd feel pretty uncomfortable if everyone started treating me, respectfully, as a woman.  So maybe these gender-feels, however bizarre, exists in me?  Or is does it just come from the fact that male gender roles involve inculcating us all with a fear of the feminine?  I don't know, and I probably never will.

As far as I know, all this diversity appears in trans people too.  Some trans people have a strong internal sense of gender.  Others may simply have to compare their experiences being seen as a man vs a woman, and find that they feel much better one way, even if they don't have an explicit "I am a woman" kind of feeling.  Some trans people may not have an internal sense of gender at all, and identify as non-binary for that reason (people ID as non-binary for other reasons too).

In my interactions with nonbinary people, they never universalize their feelings about gender.  Queer people don't have the luxury of being able to assume everyone feels the same way they do.  Cisgender people have never had that luxury either, but sometimes they think they do.

The fact that some, if not all, people have an internal sense of gender is what makes gender identity completely incomparable to racial identity, and what makes "abolishing gender" ultimately undesirable.

(This post was inspired by comments by Ophelia Benson.)