Cis and bigotry.

I was born in 1969. Two years after being a gay or bisexual man became technically legal, but a very long time (indeed the process is STILL ongoing), before it became socially acceptable.

During my childhood, I recall a great kerfuffle among straights over the word “heterosexual”. There was no need for this word, went the logic, because heterosexuality was normal and needed no label. Of course, the people saying this were homophobes in the sense that they viewed homosexuality as an aberration, a special thing that needed a label. We needed to know who the homos were, because they were They. We didn’t need a label for straights because they were Us. And it was important to label homosexuals as They, because otherwise they might end up mixed in with Us, they might want the same rights as Us, they might pass unnoticed among us and they might end up becoming attracted to Us and then we would have to deal with their horrible, warped sexuality (bear in mind this was adults talking, I was a very small child, listening, and yet to develop any sexuality myself).

That was bigotry. Wanting to label a group of perfectly normal human beings so that you can avoid them / so they never come on to you (they wouldn’t have anyway, darling) / so you know this special group of people get special treatment (which consisted of derision and the denial of jobs and various human rights) is a clearly bigoted position. And I watched it in action in my young adulthood: gay people being actively blacklisted at work for their sexuality. We see that that position is bigotry now, because “heterosexual” is now a perfectly accepted term, and gay people are, to some degree and by some people, accepted.

Yet precisely this position is being adopted by some feminists with regard to the word “cis” (which means “not trans”), and it is being touted as not at all bigoted, because why do we need a word that means “not trans”? Only the trans people need a label. Because they’re the weirdos.

This position is as bigoted, and in precisely the same way as the people who “didn’t agree” that they were heterosexual. It is othering. It identifies one group as needing careful definition and labelling. It identifies the majority as Us, who do not needing labelling.

There is a third way. I turned out bi. I also turned out genderwonky: nonbinary. I’m an “it”, albeit an “it” with a massive set of knockers. I’m not trans because trans is a binary position. And I’m not cis because cis is a binary position. If I were cis or heterosexual I would clasp those identities to my substantial bosom, just as I would if I were a lesbian, or trans. We all get to be who we are, we don’t get a choice in it. So my identity is bisexual, nonbinary.

If you think that your identity magically doesn’t need a name, because it is the default assumption, then you are bigoted, and you are supporting a bigoted society’s bigoted norms and bigoted “outsiding” of people who are not like you.

I don’t have any time for that.

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About chiller

Rachel Coldbreath spent 20 years working internationally as a technical specialist on large data collections for law firms, before becoming disabled. She blogs on a variety of topics from the news and politics to gardening and how very annoying it is, being disabled. Habits include drilling holes about 1mm away from where they ought to be, and embarking with great enthusiasm on tasks for which she is neither physically nor intellectually equipped.
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14 Responses to Cis and bigotry.

  1. Anne says:

    I don’t think anyone is saying their identity “doesn’t need a name”.

    They are disputing that this is their identity. The label cis ascribes an identity to women that they don’t accept.

    • chiller says:

      Then their identity is nonbinary.

      The problem I have is that the very women who complain loudly about being “labelled” cis are often also the same women who define as women sufficiently well to wish to exclude trans women/deny them their gender identities as women. Nobody should be forcing an identity on anyone OR denying the identity of others.

      • Anne says:

        I agree that nobody should be forcing an identity on others. Part of the problem with the label “cis” is that that is exactly what it does to many women. Your refusal to listen to their objections to the label is another part of that. They are trying to tell you why they reject the label – that they are rejecting the identity it ascribes to them – and rather than listening and learning, or trying in good faith to reach understanding, you publicly dismiss them as bigots.

        You are still insisting on applying a label and an identity on to me that I don’t accept. If I’m not cis, you’re telling me I must be nonbinary. But the thing is, so is everybody. We’re all nonbinary. Every single one of us. There’s not a person out there who embraces each and every aspect of their assigned gender roles in their entirety. So since we’re all nonbinary, the label “nonbinary” is pointless. It adds no new information, since it applies to all 7 billion of us. So we might as well just go ahead and do what I’m asking to be allowed to do, which is to identify as “person”, and leave gender identity out of it, since mine is no more special and unique than anybody else’s.

      • chiller says:

        I have nowhere publicly labelled someone as a bigot for not wanting to be labelled cis, if they are nonbinary. I have labelled “bigot” where someone specifically has issues with treating trans women as women.

  2. Akriti says:

    This is a damn good post :)

  3. Anne says:

    I’ve just seen you label Sarah Ditum a bigot for not wanting to be labelled cis.

    • chiller says:

      Nope. You’ve seen me question whether we want a bigot defining feminism. The bigot thing preexisted this piece and relates to a great piece she wrote taking down Radfem (who are trans exclusionary) some time ago, which, when I congratulated her on it, she announced she has had an about-face on the issue. To embrace TE feminism is to be a bigot. Whatever your gender identity.

      • Anne says:

        You’ve presented no evidence for SD’s bigotry. She once wrote a piece you agreed with; she has since changed her mind on some parts of it; from that you conclude she’s a bigot? You’re only showing yourself to be judgmental and narrow-minded here, not Sarah. Ironically enough, you’ve set up a false binary – feminism must be either trans-inclusive or trans-exclusive, which is clearly nonsense. We can think that there is space for trans women within feminism, without thinking they are automatically entitled to access all and every feminist space.

        Anyway, since you haven’t addressed any of my earlier points, it’s probably not worth continuing this discussion. It’s a pity you won’t even try to think about the points people are putting to you though. If you could get past your kneejerk assumption that people who disagree with you are bigots, we might be able to have a more fruitful dialogue.

      • chiller says:

        If your “points” actually referred to anything I had said instead of something you imagine I said, I would have addressed them, but I’m here to talk about my opinions, not your imagination.

        The article Sarah has distanced herself from contains this:

        “If the Radfem conference’s ultimate aim is the dissolution of gender, why is it starting by instituting a definition of gender that explicitly excludes women with a non-standard experience of gender? According to Radfem 2012, you’re only fit to participate in feminist discussion and activism if you were identified female at birth, and have subsequently experienced female self-identity.
        Identified as male at birth (that is “born a man”, although given that radical feminism is supposed to be about dismantling the socialised aspects of gender, the idea that anyone could be born with an adult gender identity seems a teeny-tiny bit problematic) but recognise your own gender as female? Skip the sign-up process, because transwomen are not welcome at Radfem 2012.
        Identified as female at birth, but recognise your own gender as male? I think you’ll find you’ve failed to put the lifetime investment in “being a woman” required to qualify for patriarchy smashing. Doors are barred, you’re not coming in.
        Identified female at birth, recognise your own gender as female, yet find that other people interpret your appearance and behaviour as male? Again, I have to ask – are you really living as a woman? And if you’re not living according to the social demands of the sex assigned to you at birth, how are you going to smash the gender binary?
        Because apparently Radfem 2012 is some sort of social homeopathy. It’s a teeny-tiny drop of gender essentialist thinking that will (by a mechanism to be confirmed at a later date) ultimately destroy gender essentialism in culture at large. And if you think that sounds absurd, it’s probably because you’re some sort of fun-feminist dilettante pandering to patriarchy.
        There are three really good reasons to object to Radfem 2012′s exclusion of transgender people. The first is a simple matter of justice: trans people experience violence and objectification based on their gender. Any feminism worth supporting recognises that, and embraces trans rights as part of its own mission.”

        Step away from that (and she very much has, and in public), and your position on trans women is that of a TERF. And that’s a bigoted position.

  4. Anne says:

    Ok. Well, you continue dividing everyone in the world into two boxes – “people who agree with me about everything” and “bigots”. I hope that works out for you.

    • chiller says:

      And you carry on ignoring what someone says about their own opinions in favour of your confirmation bias about that person.

  5. Sherrie Oliver says:

    I don’t see a need for a cis label at all. If someone has transitioned from male to female they are a woman and vice versa. To want a label for that is, to my mind, setting themselves apart from other women/men when they are saying they just want to be accepted as a woman/man. I might be being over simplifying it but it has always seemed slightly attention seeking to me. I don’t introduce myself as a lesbian woman, I am just a woman.

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