I was up at 4:30 AM this morning. When I bleerily began to check my social media feeds after trying to go back to sleep (and failing), I found two very strong and important statements that I feel moved to share.
The first statement is Misha Magdalene’s posting of The People Who Aren’t There: Closing Remarks, PantheaCon, from a presentation given this last Friday (Patheos, Feb. 15, 2020). It concerns the painful lack of inclusion of people of color, trans/non-binary people, and people with disabilities at PantheaCon and other neopagan gatherings. (Misha Magdalene is the author of Outside the Charmed Circle, which I recently reviewed.) Please read Misha’s statement at PantheaCon and then share it with others.
I was especially struck by Misha’s statement as I recently had an old-time pagan tell me about encountering a transgender woman and her mother at a public event. The old-time pagan recounted how the mother continuously misgendered her daughter in front of him and others. The old-time pagan kept saying, “but it was okay because it was her mother” and I said, “no, this is NOT okay, even if it IS her mother doing the misgendering.” Most people who are trans and/or non-binary emphatically do not want to be misgendered by their parents, family, and friends–but they may feel helpless, fearful, too triggered, or make a choice for other reasons to not speak up at a given moment, especially in public circumstances. It might not feel safe to do so. I felt furious at old-time pagan’s assumptions and could easily see how such ignorance has persisted in places like PatheaCon.
Before he told me this story, I had recommended this old-time pagan attend Misha’s presentation as he was going to PantheaCon. I wonder if he did, and I wonder what he made of it?
The second statement is below.
However, I may need to offer some explanation of terminology. In case you don’t know, “cis” and “cisgender” refers to people whose gender identities are congruent with the gender they were assigned at birth: an example of gender congruence would be someone born with “average” female genitals who has a corresponding internal sense of female gender. “Cis” is rooted in chemical terminology, and is not a perjorative. The use of “cisgender” alongside “transgender” and “non-binary” is more polite, as it helps to reduce the “othering” of trans and non-binary people, and also reduces the persistent positioning of cisgender people and socio-gender expectations as “the norm.”
P.S. The binary-esque categories of “transgender” and “cisgender” do not necessarily include people who are intersex. And some people are “gender diverse” and non-binary without considering themselves trans, though “trans” has become something of an umbrella term.
The author of the following statement wishes to remain anonymous. Here is the statement below:
OK so here’s the real tea: some of the things cis people don’t know
1. Everyone perceives gender differently. That person you think doesn’t “pass?” They may be “passing” just fine 90 percent of the time.
2. Therefore your “passing tips” suck. There’s a good chance that the thing you told your trans friend to do to seem more feminine, is the exact same thing some other cis person told them seems too masculine. That’s why we ignore you. You don’t know what you are talking about.
3. Your sexual arousal is not a magic gender detector. For example, if you are a straight dude feeling attracted to a trans man, surprise! Doesn’t magically mean he’s really a woman.
4. “Passing” is a bullshit concept that just means “looking cis.” Maybe we don’t all wanna look like you. Maybe you aren’t as great lookin’ as you thought. Maybe trans is beautiful.
5. Being trans means dealing with a ridiculous barrage of misgendering and dysphoria-triggering moments. It makes you want to die. You can’t help it. That’s just how fucking dysphoria works. (And you don’t even have to have body dysphoria, social dysphoria is just as real and awful.) So yes, someone slipping up on a pronoun may have just made an innocent mistake, but these are innocent mistakes that literally make you want to rip off your skin/never leave the house again/just die already. And also for every innocent mistake there’s some gaslighting motherfucker who is flubbing your pronoun to fuck with you. Why would you trust it’s innocent? Eventually you WILL snap.
6. As soon as you snap you will be labeled over-dramatic, triggered, a snowflake.
7. Eventually a lot of trans people learn to keep their mouths shut and just swallow all the horrible feelings. These are your “good trans friends” who don’t get upset with you for your bullshit. They are martyred goddamn saints and you have no idea.
8. The “bad trans” are the ones who can’t or won’t shut up and swallow the pain. They will be punished forever.
9. There are a LOT of valid reasons why a trans person may not be transitioning in the way you as a cis person think they should. It may be money. It may be medical. It may be career-related. It may be simple lack of desire. You don’t know. All are equally valid and you are not allowed to have an opinion on how trans people manage our fucking bodies.
10. It’s none of your business. Whatever stupid crap you’re about to ask about, it’s none of your business. Just use the fucking pronouns. We are tired.
7 thoughts on “Signal Boosting: Two Strong Trans/Non-Binary Statements”
I imagine you’re already aware of this, but for other readers who may not know, it rather depends on who you talk to. Some people would define a cisgender person as “someone whose internal sense of gender matches the gender they were assigned at birth based on sex: a girl/woman was assigned female at birth, and a boy/man was assigned male at birth.” Those who aren’t aware of a difference in sexual development may not call themselves intersex, but they may still call themselves cisgender.
Some people (I’ve mostly seen it attributed to genderqueer folks) may not approach their gender as a combined gender+sex unit, or to put it another way, they may not perceive or describe their gender using the sex binary (male woman, female man). And I would like to note that even though the words are not synonymous (a frequent newbie Q), there are intersex people who do want to be included in transgender (and nonbinary) conversations.
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Also, I want to acknowledge your point that there are variations in terminology and since this was of a signal boost than a detailed blog post on the topic, my scant explanation was not in any way meant to be a more than a quick snippet.
Thanks Briar, I don’t know what happened to my previous response but yes, thanks for reading and writing. I pretty much did explain cisgender the way you have, but using different wording. And my comment regarding intersex people was not meant to exclude them from the conversation–more that I was trying to make the point that many people discuss cisgender vs. transgender and forget that there are others there too, including people who are intersex. So that cisgender and transgender conversations (especially those that are not nuanced) sort of replicate a “binary” viewpoint between cis and trans. Does that make sense? But thanks for making the point a little clearer than I did. All the best!
It’s alright about the split response. Yes, that clarification around trans conversations losing nuance does make sense; I may have jumped the gun after a round of exclusion oriented posts on tumblr, tbh. And it’s mostly because I’m one of those people who doesn’t approach gender as ‘gender+sex’ that I wrote my definition of cisgender the way I did (pulling out female/male as sexes and denoting woman/man as the genders referenced instead of writing ‘female/male gender’). It seems like a small, quibbly difference in phrasing, but in my experience, it can help some people to understand that the sex binary and gender binary are different, particularly when I then have to define nonbinary (not using female/male as gender reduces the confusion of certain nonbinary definitions with their understanding of intersex).
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Again, thank you so much!
That second post really made me chuckle, as a trans guy myself. Thanks for sharing it. Shall read the first post in a few minutes. 🙂
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Thanks for reading! And yeah, that second post was blistering, but in a very necessary way!
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