Day 4: I have to go. For real.
Public Privilege Challenge Day 4: Acknowledging and resisting my cisgender privilege
Ok, now I am getting paranoid and angst-y and . . . very very unsure of myself.
Anyway, push through? Here we go.
Cisgenderism. Like white privilege, it is quite insideous and considered “normal” by mainstream society and ideology.
In short, cisgenderism benefits those whose gender identity matches their birth-assigned documented sex. I realize this sounds thick and maybe a bit intimidating; the important thing to remember is that gender is different than sex (click here for a quick crash course in gender identity), and that our defintion of both gender and sex is way too limiting.
Meaning, when a kid is born their sex is labelled as either male or female based on their visible genitalia (in reality this is not so simple, there are intersex individuals as well as other possibilities).
Often males are raised as men, and females are raised as women. Men and women are gender categories.
This story is considered the norm in mainstream society; kids with penises are raised to be men and kids with vaginas as raised to be women. Anybody whose current gender identity and/or presentation matches their birth-assigned sex is considered cisgendered.
Meaning that there is no room for intersex individuals, or for individuals whose gender presentation is different from what they were raised to become. Meaning that this world is geared towards those who do not identify as trans, androgenous, or gender variant.
This is as clear as I can make this in such a short space. It is also very complicated and I strive to make things simple without using wrong or hurtful language. Please correct the above if I misrepresent any of these terms.
So…back to the Challenge.
I am a cisgender woman, in that I was assigned a female sex at birth and in that my current gender identity and presentation is that of a woman. This world is not a safe one for those who are not cisgendered. Non-cisgendered folk are in risk of very real physical harm due to their gender identity. Non-cisgenders are discriminated against in health services, employment, housing, and countless other ways throughout the day. One easily visible example of our cisgendered-focused society is the division of bathrooms into men and women. This creates a problem for those who do not identify as either, or who identify as a gender different than their assigned birth sex. Entering a public washroom can be very stressful and dangerous for non-cisgendered folk.
My cisgender privilege was very clear to me today. Today I saw a new health care provider for the first time. As a cisgender person, I did not need to worry whether my health care provider was trans-friendly or aware of my special medical needs. I did not need to “come out” to my health care provider, putting myself in a more vulnerable place than I already am, already being at the care and mercy of somebody in the medical field. I did not worry about my health care provider discovering during my appointment that my body may not fit her assumptions about me. I was able to enter this appointment without the stress of worrying about talking about it, the vulnerabilities that trans-identified people face, or the injust social shame or even violence that may come from a meeting such as this.
I went to the Geez office to type this blog today, not being worried whether Geez staff or the staff at the church were trans-friendly or knowledgeable. I walked down the street without fear of trans-based violence. I went into a store to purchase a computer item, and spoke to the assistant without worrying about trans-based discrimination.
How do I resist this privilege? I tried to figure this out, but as always all offerings seemed trite and somewhat hollow. I did refuse to utilize my cisgender privilege by intentionally not entering a gender-specific public washroom. My very long washroom wait included a walk through University Centre, my long busride downtown, a visit to the public library and a walk through the mall – none of these places had gender-neutral or single-stall washrooms. My body is very thankful to Knox United Church for providing a single-stall gender neutral washroom so that I could finally relieve myself. I tell you, after the 2.5 hour journey, it was definitely a relief.
I know this offering is perfunctory and trite, as was my walkby of coffee on day 1 and as was my short walk on the roadway on day 2. I do believe, however, that if we all resisted our privileges, if we all demanded a better and more inclusive world, if we all refused to even consider entering any non-physically accessible public or private space, or refuse to utilize any public gendered washroom, that society would shift. That physical accessibility would be a priority, as well as gender-neutral washrooms. That the general awareness and intention of society to be fully inclusive of different bodies and supportive of every single person would go a great step forward. That this world would be friendlier and safer to many many many more people. Small steps can add up to big changes. If we just want to do them.
So . . . let’s do that, yeah?
Tomorrow’s the last day. See you then.
Read Day 3 Resisting my white privilege: This knapsack is way too big
Why am I doing this? Click here to find out.