Dear Cis Men, You Don’t Know What You Are Talking About

[NOTE, 03/08/2014: This blog was written over a year ago. Reading it now, I think there’s a lot wrong with it, and it’s in need of some heavy editing.]

[This blog will look at privilege and oppression, but only from the perspective of the cis-trans* continuum[1]. As such, it will not consider any other intersecting forms of privilege and oppression. This is because I want to make a specific point about cis men.]

My understanding of the label ‘cis’ is that it is used on two levels:

  • at a basic level, as a descriptor, meaning ‘not-trans*’;
  • at a deeper level, as a marker or indicator of privilege, meaning that cis people are privileged in ways that trans* people are not. By extension, this means that trans* people are oppressed in ways that cis people are not, and that cis people are implicated in and benefit from that oppression.

I’m a cis man. I think that my cis privilege is clear. As a cis man, I feel that there cannot be any doubt that I benefit from privilege when compared to cis women, trans* women and trans* men.

However, when the label ‘cis’ is applied to women, I think that the picture is less clear. Here’s why:

  • Some trans* women believe that cis women have cis privilege;
  • Some trans* women believe that cis women do not have cis privilege;
  • Some cis women believe that cis women have cis privilege;
  • Some cis women believe that cis women do not have cis privilege.

The key word for cis men to take on board in the four bullet points above is ‘women’.

So when cis men start weighing in on this discussion, and particularly when they do either one of the following two things –

  • demand that cis women take the label ‘cis’, and state that any woman who refuses to is transphobic;
  • insist that cis women should not take the label ‘cis’, and state that any woman trying to force cis women to take this label is projecting her own internalised misogyny

– I have to wonder about those cis men, ‘Why are you getting involved?’

Well, okay, I don’t really wonder about that, because I’m pretty sure that I know the answer.

But my message is – don’t get involved. You don’t have a voice in this discussion. You are neither a cis woman nor a trans* woman. By all means, form an opinion, but unless you are specifically and explicitly asked for that opinion, keep it to yourself. And certainly stop flinging accusations of transphobia or internalised misogyny at women whose opinions differ from your own.

And, if you stop and listen, you might actually learn something about the real lived experiences of both cis and trans* women, about any privilege that they may benefit from, and about any oppression that they may encounter.


[1] I’m not sure that ‘continuum’ is the right word here. I toyed with ‘spectrum’ and ‘dichotomy’. Hopefully it’s clear what I’m getting at.

EDIT1: I had two brief conversations on Twitter about this blog. Here they are Storified: http://storify.com/Zeeblebum/dear-cis-men-you-don-t-know-what-you-are-talking-a

EDIT2: And here’s another Storify: http://storify.com/Zeeblebum/dear-cis-men-you-don-t-know-what-you-are-talking-a-1

Newspaper Launch: The Daily Diversity

[Written in October 2012]

My white heterosexual able-bodied mates (all men) and I totally recognise that we have loads of privilege, which is obviously totally great. So we’ve decided we need to use that privilege to help people who aren’t like us to overcome their innate deficiencies, to fit in better with society, and to improve their wretched miserable existences. We’re certain we know what that lot want out of life – to be more like us – and our first idea is to launch a newspaper called ‘The Daily Diversity’.

Now bear with us on this – it will probably sound like political correctness gone mad, but we feel confident that when you have read through the full proposal you will understand how great it is. Despite it being political correctness gone mad.

We will have separate sections for the following ‘communities’:

  • The Ladies
  • The Handicapped
  • The Coloureds
  • The Ho Mo Sexuals

The rest of the paper will cover Home Affairs; Foreign Affairs; Business, Finance and Economics; and Sport. [These sections will obviously be targeted at white heterosexual able-bodied men (WHAMs), but we wouldn’t need to label them as such because, well, it’s obvious.]

One of the brilliant additional benefits is our recruitment policy. We have recognised that WHAMs are insidiously discriminated against in the employment arena – basically, you need to be a coloured handicapped lesbian to get a job these days. We are committed to doing something about this. We have consulted our legal advisers and will take advantage of the ‘Genuine Occupational Requirement’ clause to only recruit WHAMs. This is applicable because only WHAMs really understand what these other groups are (and should be) interested in reading about.

We would be interested in hearing people’s ideas about what items to include in each of our ‘special needs’ sections. When you respond, please tell us whether you are a WHAM or not – this will help us to decide whether or not to pay any attention to your opinion.

Some ideas we’ve had so far are:

For ‘The Ladies’: To be honest, this is pretty much locked down. Plenty of newspapers have shown us the right way to go with this. One thing we don’t see much of, though, is advice on how you girls can keep yourselves safe – how to treat your man so he doesn’t feel the need to ‘put you in your place’; and what to wear so that you don’t experience sexual violence.

For ‘The Handicapped’: Obviously, loads of stuff about wheelchairs. And a series of articles about how to fit in with the world around you and not be an inconvenience to others. Plus – and this is important in the current economic climate – how to stop scrounging handouts and get a job.

For ‘The Coloureds’: This one’s a bit tricky, because apparently there are these things called ‘ethnicities’, and it’s not necessarily ‘politically correct’ just to lump them all together. Whatever. In this section, we’ll cover music (reggae and hip hop), drugs (ganja), terrorism and extremism, Muslimicism, and skin-whitening products and treatments. Plus a couple of light-hearted columns – ‘How to Commit Crime Without Getting Caught’ and ‘How to Find Your Way Back to Where You Came From’.

The Ho Mo Sexuals: We’re not sure yet what to do with this. Our understanding is that the gay men are mentally ill, and that the lesbians are just not able to get a man (mainly because they’re fat and hairy). So obviously we need to handle these ‘issues’ sensitively. In light of that, we’re thinking of putting a man’s arse on page 3 of this section, and filling the rest of the space on this page with a column about the dangers of promiscuity. We’ll also have a regular feature about sexually transmitted infections, as well as gay men’s gay fashion and gay male gay grooming tips. And for the ‘lesbians’, articles about weight-loss and hair-removal are essential. Once we feel that these two critical areas have been covered adequately, we’ll change our focus to giving the ‘lesbians’ tips on what men want, so that they might one day be able to experience some good ol’ heterosexual lovin’. We’ll also have reviews of sensible shoes and different varieties of shortbread.

[Please note: We do not think that this section for ‘The Ho Mo Sexuals’ will be a feature of our newspaper for ever. Once the ‘gays’ are cured, there’ll be an influx of desperate eligible men on the market for the so-called ‘lesbians’ to get together with. Then we can all move on from this same-sex relationship nonsense and start behaving normally.]

Please feel free to share your ideas, comments and suggestions with us. As noted above, if you do, please let us know whether or not you are a WHAM.

If things go well, we’ll also launch a pared down version called ‘D!’.

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[A brief note: I’ve no idea if Glosswitch will be okay about this, but the above was inspired by her article ‘Remind me again, which bits of the news am I supposed to read?’. I hope she is okay with that, but perhaps the idea that her coherent erudition could inspire such jumbled dross is grossly insulting. If so, I’m truly sorry.]