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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Cis Privilege and Trans Privilege

Coming home from my own therapy session with Dana, I began to think about Cis privilege and Trans privilege. I really can't tell you what made this come to mind. I'm usually fairly reflective after a session, but today I was rockin' out on the way home. I was listening to Derek and the Dominos, the Rolling Stones and the Red Hot Chili Peppers on the radio going home, so I can't really say I was focused on anything particular. I was thinking about what I had written on male and female privilege earlier and that is what triggered this line of thought.

We are all aware of what Cis privilege means as people who are transsexuals. Cis privilege means that you never have to worry about how someone might react to your presence in various situations of which we are all familiar. We might not be afforded the privilege of our true gender identity even when we are going about our lives as the gender we really are. It is possible that we might not be considered to be who we are. As a result, we could possibly be deprived of the privileges of the gender of our identity. It doesn't happen very frequently anymore, but I am sensitive to that discrimination when I sense it could be a real possibility. I most often pass along life seamlessly. Either people don't know I'm a transsexual and see me as a woman who was assigned at birth or they are polite and well mannered people who understand that I am just another woman, though my life history may be apparent. That is immaterial to me. I expect to be treated like a lady. That almost always happens now. (I am thankful!)

The present vogue of conceptualizing everything as a "continuum" such as autism, gender identity and sexual orientation dictates that we look at male privilege and female privilege as a continuum too. Taking it a step farther, the predicate is that there is a continuum of Cis privelege and Trans privilege. I think the majority of us would have a pretty hard time of thinking of what in the world Trans privilege might be. I have, for the past 5 hours. My experience is that of becoming the woman publicly as opposed to being the woman I have always known I was. I can only comment on my own observations of what Trans privilege might be and I would really encourage your comments to add to this to help me on my thoughts on the topic.
I found this on an image search, it is from

It fails to factor in any reference of female privilege or trans privilege, so it fails the test of modern conceptualization of health and social problems. It does not represent a true continuum. It appears to be a representation of third wave feminist sociopolitical ideology.
So what might trans privilege include? Well as I mentioned, I am female. So, I thought of these things. Most of them are things I view as a loss in life, but females assigned at birth would most likely say: You never had a period. You never were able to/ got pregnant, give birth or nurse your baby.You didn't grow up in fear of being raped or beaten or otherwise abused. (Oh yes. Some of us did, indeed). You weren't discouraged from a professional career and you most likely did not experience discrimination in getting a job or promotion (until we lived as who we truly are).

This is an example of what Cisgender privilege looks like sometimes to members of the transsexual community. I try to keep in mind that Freud himself once said "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar". Here is another:

Top Line:Castrated men should be denied access to battered women’s shelters
Bottom line: All the violence that real women face is at the hands of so-called “transwomen”

We see this from feminists like Janice Raymond and Mary Daily.

 Is it? What do you think?


  1. Hi Sherri,
    This first point I always argue is please explain to me the male privilege I "enjoyed" at the top of the spectrum...white male.
    Hmmm, let's see it got me drafted and a trip to South East brought me pressure to perform in athletics and academia and supposedly hurt me in the EEOC backlash hiring days.
    The only people using privilege for a reason to justify a point are looking for a crutch and are just being victims (rad fems? trans nazi's?) Poor poor pitiful me.
    Now to the point. If you throw trans folks into a third gender category, we do have less "privilege" than the other two. If you compare transitioning to puberty, we certainly take an average longer time and take on more pain than most of the other two groups on average.
    An example is I have never had the basic benefit of waking up and knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt I was a boy or girl. That's a privilege I will never know.
    I won't even go into the fact we are one of the last truly legally discriminated groups in the country. Too many words not enough action.
    Socially, I do have a benefit from most of society who do read my transness. Somehow they respect me as a person who has the desire to live life on my terms. That is a privilege.
    Most importantly I have personal privilege.
    I made it here the hard way and it's something no one else can ever take away.
    In fact I'm thinking of having a trans tatoo put on my first in 62 years. It's my privilege to let the world know who I am.

  2. Sherri. Please explain the term male privilege to me. Somehow being drafted in 1968 and sent to Vietnam did not come across to me as a privilege. Some how this so called privilege heightened expectations of me on the athletic field. I personally think that all of this *cis privilege and trans privilege* is meaningless noise and serves as a crutch to justify ourselves. I contend that you should be who you are and feel you are, if others have a problem with that that is exactly that their problem not yours. If I am read as make so what? I dont give a hoot what others think my role and my life is exactly that my life. If I am read as a trans I could care less. I made myself into what I knew I was and it was no ones business but my own. You dont like me...take your silly problems with it and move on out. My only privilege (and I dispute that term) is to be human and live my life. I am not defined by a label and i refuse to be defined by one. You want to label yourself? then go for it its your thing not mine. I am simply a human woman living my life that is all.

  3. Actually, I agree more with you Jinian and with Cyrsti than I do with most of what I wrote in this article (And, by the way, Thank you both for your service to our country!). What I was trying to do is present a position that is being advanced to try to I am not convinced that gender is a continuum. I think that gender is more of a binary and there are degrees of being feminine or being masculine. To me, it appears that the vast majority of people have a clear cut gender identity and this holds true for the overwhelming majority of transsexual people. Other people who consider themselves transgender mostly have a strong gender identity and those that identify as genderqueer are a very small per centage of the "transgender community".

    What I see in the concept of privilege is more about things that have evolved in relation to gender norms based on biological realities and are somewhat culturally determined, for instance, things such as career choices. That doesn't seem to be as true today as when I was growing up.

    Certainly we do experience job discrimination and poor treatment as a whole community, but you two ladies grew up around the same time as I did. When I think of what it was like for transsexuals in the 1970's and 80's, it seems to me that we have come a long way. I have only experienced being ill treated for who I am on one occasion after beginning HRT, so I agree that the problem may not be as significant as it had been. Then again, I don't go places that put me at risk, not because I am afraid, but because I wouldn't have gone there anyway. Not everyone is able to live in as nice an area as I do, but I do see some transsexuals engaging in high risk behavior that would put anyone in potential danger, CIS or Trans.

    You know Jinian, I also simply see myself as a woman. I consider myself transsexual as I am in the process of transitioning and haven't had GRS yet. For me, after that I won't be transsexual anymore. Rather I see myself as a woman of trans experience, like Cyrsti describes herself.