I’ve been told that an old friend has become profoundly illogical. This bothers me.
It’s a reply to a fairly mundane tweet.
Hello cis friends, here is a reminder that it's okay to feel confused about trans rights. It's something very much outside of our experience and therefore hard to imagine.
Do you know what our role is when we feel confused like this? It's to shut the hell up and listen.
— Fiona Longmuir 🍂 (@EscapologistFi) December 22, 2018
Here’s the response:
Bad beginning, taking “cis” as 1) a meaningful and useful descriptive and 2) an obviously privileged and dominant group that needs to check itself. I don’t recognize “not thinking I’m the sex I’m not” as a form of privilege, any more than I recognize “not thinking I’m a bird” as a form of privilege. The word “cis” is pretty much designed to make people feel guilty and defensive simply for not having a bizarre delusion. Granted, it’s convenient not to have a bizarre delusion, but convenience isn’t exactly the same thing as privilege.
1) Cis does have a sensible meaning. It refers to someone whose gender identity matches the sex that they were assigned at birth. Even if you don’t like it, you have to acknowledge that there are people whose gender identity does not match their assigned sex, making this a meaningful and useful descriptor. Or do you think trans people are actually comfortable and identify with their assigned sex? Are they just making it all up? Why?
2) Our society favors people who conform to cisgender expectations, so of course if you don’t conform, you’re disadvantaged. Right here in this post the author is expressing scorn for people who don’t fit her expectations. I rather despise the “oh so you identify as an attack helicopter” criticism, since birdness or helicopterness aren’t in the range of human behavior, but the “bird” argument doesn’t hold up either. There are people who find social gratification in identifying as an animal — look up furries sometime — and yeah, they face mockery for it, and lacking those desires is a privilege.
Also, if you regard trans people as mentally ill as this person does (I don’t), that doesn’t get you out of the claim that you aren’t privileged for not being mentally ill.
I’m cis. The person who wrote that tweet is saying they’re cis. I don’t feel guilty or defensive, and neither do they. Cis is a non-judmental description of a state that fits most people, used to distinguish them from the minority who are trans. It certainly was not “designed” to provoke guilt, just as heterosexual is not a term calculated to instill shame in us straight guys, and just as white is not a dirty word calculated to make European-Americans feel miserable and embarrassed about their ancestry.
There’s some projection going on here. If someone uses “trans” as an expression of contempt, then maybe they’re only able to see the complementary, neutral, descriptive term “cis” as carrying similar intent. These are the same people who see the accurate and neutral term Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist (TERF) as some horrible defamatory slur, for the same reason.
This is coming from a person I tried to defend as not a TERF, once upon a time. Boy, was I wrong.