Based on this question posed by a CAIS girl to Intersex Unicorn and the response, I’m questioning whether I’ve been incorrectly using the term ‘cisgender’ to describe myself. I always thought it just meant identifying as the gender to which you were assigned at birth, but I guess there’s the sex component as well? Even the wikipedia article is unclear.

Damn, and here I thought at least *one* part of my identity was clear-cut. I was assigned female at birth (or at least, soon after birth), I was raised as female, I identify as female. But the fact that I’m intersex negates all that?

I tend to think not. While I completely understand and relate to the CAIS girl’s frustration with being seen only as a cis female (aka the invisibility of her intersex identity), I would submit that such a frustration is a privileged one, experienced by someone who has cis privilege. Yes, it is a desire to rid oneself of that very privilege, but the fact remains that it is still there (because others see it as such). 

How we define ourselves is obviously central to a discussion of gender identity and the privilege/oppression deriving therefrom. However, I think there is not enough acknowledgment of the importance of how others perceive and experience someone in determining their level of such privilege or oppression. A black person is not oppressed because they identify as a black person, but rather because they are perceived and experienced as such. A white person does not have white privilege because they identify as white (which, being in the privileged position that they are, they may very well not), but because they are perceived and experienced as white.

I guess the dividing line is between identifying as cis(gender) and possessing cis privilege. While the two are not equivalent by any means, I think it’s unfair to call them mutually exclusive. 

Aside from the one line in the wikipedia article pertaining to one’s body, the term ‘cis’ (and its progeny) seems to have been established as an antonym for ‘trans,’ not as the ultimate marker of gender and sex normativity. Because I feel a responsibility to own the privilege I walk around with, I still feel that I am cisgendered.

Any thoughts?

  1. egregious-philbin reblogged this from queerintersects
  2. lilatanzerin answered: Oh my sweet lord, I was not born CAIS, but this is almost just how I feel about myself. Nothing makes me less female, it’s just DIFFERENCE!
  3. queerintersects reblogged this from intersexunicorn and added:
    Definitely an interesting discussion. I certainly agree that the way our sex assignment was done (vs. non-visibly...
  4. epochryphal answered: Mm, but bisexual people may be perceived as having straight privilege, yet that is erasing their experiences. It’s not just perception.
  5. elementabees said: If you believe that the majority of people perceive you as a cisgender female, then I believe the privilege is there. Identity is a bit more personal. I’m biracial, but my skin is white. I identify as mixed, but I possess white privilege.
  6. elementabees answered: I may not always be perceived as cis-I don’t conform to many gender roles-but I identify as cis and believe I possess cis privilege.