“Dafuq is cissexism?”
That question’s a good place to start for an article such as this. Can’t follow the examples of something if you don’t know what the something is itself, right?
Cissexism is pretty much unchecked cis privilege or an otherwise shoddy awareness of the social monopoly on binary gender.
“A shoddy who on the what-now?”
Basically, if you think—just a shot in the dark here—that there are only “boys” and “girls” in the world, or that—if I may be so bold—“boys” are defined by a “penis” and “girls” are defined by a “vagina,” you may be part of the cissexism problem.
The same goes for if you can’t figure out why I just put certain words in quotation marks. (Can I get an amen, trans folk?)
Now, to clarify: Cissexism isn’t necessarily a mindset that a person holds with either maliciousness or awareness. You may have no clue you’re cissexist.
Hence the issue. And why cissexism is so commonplace.
Are you part of the problem? Unfortunately, quite a few people are. That’s why this list is referred to as—you know—common beliefs of cissexism. So many people do it without even realizing.
Personally, I like to think that cissexism would be far less common if so many well-intentioned people simply became more aware of their everyday cissexist actions. So let’s get enlightened!
1. Believing That XX and XY Actually Mean Something
Boom. Let’s start with one of my favorites, if only because it tends to ignite passions the fastest.
Now, to be fair, XX and XY chromosome pairs do mean something: a general idea of future conditions a person may or may not develop that are directly due to those chromosomal pairings.
They do not, however, concretely stand for any of the following: indicating a person’s intelligence, physical abilities, sexual orientation, development during puberty, appearance or make of genitals, or what level of bodily production of which sex hormones.
We simply have too many examples of when any of the above was untrue.
Transgenderism, intersexuality, and Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS), to name a few. (Fun fact: That last one can sometimes give female-identified people the stereotypical look of a model. Just sayin’.)
Think about it: If one instance of a mathematical proof is shown to be wrong, then the entire proof has to be tossed on account of it being deemed inaccurate. Because it’s—you know—useless to the bettering and/or benefit of humankind.
Call me starry-eyed, but I’m preeeeetty sure we like to treat our science like our math as often as we can.
2. Thinking That Citing Biology Will Actually Shut Down an Argument on Non-Binary Gender Issues
If I may quote Mari Brighe: “Inaccurate generalizations about what a girl and a boy are supposed to be ‘biologically’ is the pseudo-scientific-standard for imposing cis-heteronormativity on all of society.”
Newsflash, people: The “biology” of binary gender isn’t actually science.
It’s some arbitrary standards we made up to cover the fact that there’s still plenty we don’t know. It’s like explaining a bird’s seemingly natural inhibition to fly south for the winter as “instinct.” Seriously, dafuq is instinct?
So it’s not uncommon for someone upon hearing the above AIS fact to yell out, “But it’s an aberration! We know this because we refer to it in the medical world as a disorder of sexual development!”
You’re using cissexism to argue that there’s no cissexism.
That’s what we like to call a self-fulfilling prophecy. Or denial. Whichever you’d like.
3. Not Noticing When Personal Information Forms Have Only ‘Male’ or ‘Female’ as Options
If you’ve never come across the perplexities of the common information sheet, consider yourself a lucky individual.
4. Gatekeeping Relative Surgeries for Trans People and Not Cis People
If transgender and other related individuals need to have psychological evaluations, doctoral referrals, and other forms of gatekeeping before they can undergo elective surgical procedures, then cis people who want to alter their chests and genitalia (e.g. vulva tightening, penis enlargement, breast implants) do, too.
5. Assuming That All Trans People Want Gender-Affirming Surgeries
This assumption means that you believe 1) there are indeed only two gender identities – man and woman, and 2) that the identities of “man” and “woman” can only be affirmed by the presence of a “penis” or “vagina,” respectively.
6. Never Wondering Why Tampons Aren’t in Men’s Restrooms
Or, you know, why there are gender designated restrooms at all.
7. Asking ‘Is It a Boy or a Girl?’
Want to get an accurate answer on that one?
Ask the person in question, not the person carrying them to term.
8. Assuming You Know a Child’s Gender Identity Before They Tell You
Yes, this includes your own child.
9. Having Sex Education Using Genital to Explain Gender Practices
I have limited space in this article, so I’m going to hand this one over to my esteemed colleague, Sian Ferguson.
(Reason 9 ½: If you don’t click on that link, you’re cissexist! BLARRRGH!)
10. You Show Off Your Baby Photos with Little Hesitation
You know what I mean.
From silly bonding activities at work to the curiosity of significant others, non-binary baby photos are a whole different animal than the usual bare-ass-on-bearskin-rug embarrassment.
11. Believing That Reproductive Health Only Concerns Women
Folks such as trans men may still need PAP smears, access to abortion, and other related services.
And on a related note, cis men really need to take their part of the responsibility for reproduction safety.
12. Referring to Equal Marriage as ‘Gay Marriage’ or ‘Same-Sex Marriage’
While the first erases bisexual, pansexual, and other related people, the latter can put trans people in an awkward position.
The only way to equally refer to equal marriage is to call it equal marriage.
13. Referring to a Trans Person’s Birth Name as Their ‘Real Name’
Oh, you’re cis?
Tell me again what a trans person’s “real” name should be.
(If you pictured Willy Wonka while you read this, you win a cookie.)
14. Stores Having ‘Men’s’ or ‘Women’s’ Clothes That Only Fit Specific Body Types
Yes, yes, cis people of all shapes and sizes know some level of pain when it comes to finding clothes that fit since the models used by most major clothing designers are ridiculously specific.
But if you’re a tall trans woman with large feet or a short trans man with wide hips, finding clothes that fit is a whole new level of nightmare.
15. Denying Trans Struggles by Focusing on the Struggles of Others
“But cis women/lesbians/gay men/porcupines also have to deal with that…”
I love you, but shut the hell up.
We’re talking about trans people right now, not cis people.
Nobody ever said the struggles of various identities would never cross over. And that doesn’t make it okay to blatantly derail conversations.
Trying to turn a talk or point that isn’t about cis people to instead be about cis people is—gasp!—cissexist.
16. Being Automatically Pegged as a Sex Worker by Police Just Because You Were Walking Down the Street
Not common, you say? You live a charmed life.
But seriously, this issue is particularly rampant with trans women of color. Talk about profiling.
17. Regarding the Misgendering of Cis People as a Serious Offense
Which is pretty ironic.
If a cis gender person is somehow misgendered (like, for instance, a man with long hair being accidentally called a woman when seen from behind), mortification usually ensues from the person who misspoke.
Friends back the misgendered person up. Apologies are demanded. Desserts are on the house.
And, slowly but surely, order is restored once more to the cis world.
But in trans world? The misgendered person tends to be the one embarrassed and the one who misspoke ends up being the affirmed one. It’s kind of gross.
18. Expecting Trans People to ‘Ease Up’ on Their Identities Around People that May Feel Awkward About Them
Instead of, you know, actually making the effort to broaden your social horizons so nobody feels awkward anymore.
Making you less of an asshole is too tall of an order for any one person.
19. Expecting Trans People to Educate You If You’re Struggling to Understand the Trans Community
I am not your teachable moment.
I am not a thing.
Teach your own damn self on your own damn time. I have cookies to bake.
20. Making ‘Pronoun Proclamation’ Mandatory in Speaking Circles
There’re a slew of actions that well-intentioned cis folk attempt in the name of progression that actually fail in their progressiveness because they’re being used and seen through the cis folk lens.
While a longer list will be made sometime in the future, this is one decent example of a more recent trend popping up in speaking circles where introductions are considered essential.
Now, for the sake of pronoun proclamation, it can be beneficial depending on the circumstances.
But if you’re a trans person that feels forced to decide or proclaim a set of pronouns so that the cis people surrounding you will feel better, that’s just not a good place to be.
Not only can the pressure be overwhelming, the act gives power to cis people to decide whether or not you look masculine/feminine/genderqueer/whatever enough, and consequently if they’ll feel like honoring your pronoun request regardless.
In the end, it’s the act of making such a process mandatory that becomes its downfall. And if you can’t see that, we have a cissexism problem.
If you have a dear little heart, by this point, you may be mortified to know all of the ways you may have been cissexist for—well—probably your entire life. It’s not a very good feeling.
So I’ll reiterate what I said earlier: Just because you’ve done cissexist things doesn’t mean you’re an inherently bad person. You just didn’t know any better.
But good news! Now you know better! And you can take your shiny, new knowledge and spread it around like dandelions. Make it infectious. Make it awesome. Help us make people care.
Go, little dandelion, go!
James St. James is a Contributing Writer for Everyday Feminism. He works as a transcriber for super-duper secret projects, tends to keep to himself, and is currently pitching a novel that scares agents. He uses his experiences as a way to reach out to others, usually by way of not keeping his mouth shut. When he’s not busy making cis gender people uncomfortable with his trans gender agenda, he likes to play vintage video games and eat candy. You can praise him on Twitter @JamesStJamesVI. Read his articles here.