Privileges of Non-Transgender People

I write this from over 10,000 feet as I travel to Phoenix for TransForm Arizona, an event that will unite the LGB with the T 😀

My friend Zeke, a cool Quaker in Boston, has spent a lot of time thinking about gender. Perhaps Zeke will share some of the journey at some point, but recently Zeke posted something on Facebook that I asked if I could share here at the blog. It is a Cisgender Privilege Checklist.

I heard the term Cisgender for awhile and had no idea what it meant other than non-transgender. According to Wikipedia,

Cis-” as a prefix of Latin origin, meaning “on the same side [as]” or “on this side [of]”, with several derived usages:

* In chemistry, cis- refers to cis-trans isomerism
* In molecular biology, cis- refers to cis-acting
* In gender studies, cis- refers to cisgender

The funny thing about privilege is that typically the privileged are mostly unaware of their privileges (it’s part of the privilege). The way the world treats them just seems normal until they get to hear other people’s experiences.

No President Left Behind

No President Left Behind

When I wrote my play The Re-Education of George W. Bush–No President Left Behind!, I interviewed about 20 African-American women in Hartford, CT where I live (well where I keep my stuff). I asked them, “As a white guy, if I woke up as a Black woman tomorrow, how would my life be different?” It served as an excellent way to discover some of the privilege I have as a male who is also white. I then wove the content of their interviews into a monologue by Tex, a white guy from Texas who has to live as a Black woman for a week.

Absurd perhaps but almost always the most well received part of the play as Tex recounts his discoveries of the privileges he has because of his skin color and gender. He realizes that he lives with a curtain shielding his view from many of the inequities in the world around him, and the privileges he enjoys that many of his neighbors do not, and only when something terrible happens, like Hurricane Katrina, does he see firsthand the injustice that some people experience because of their race and class. But as soon as he does, “It’s like a voice comes out of I don’t know where saying, ‘Shh, shh! It’s just a nightmare; go back to sleep.'” Tex decides he is not going back to sleep anymore. Of course it will require him to reeducate himself continually.

Check out Zeke’s list below. For those of us who are not transgender, it can serve as a primer of sorts to some of the many complex and challenging issues transgender people face today. Seeing our privilege can be a stark and painful experience. Sometimes we react with defensiveness or criticism. Proceed with an open mind and a tender heart.

A Cisgender Privilege Checklist

This checklist was developed as resource in relation to Peggy McIntosh’s “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” Much of the source matter comes from: Cisgender Privilege.

Casual Offenses

  1. Strangers don’t assume they can ask me what my genitals look like and how I have sex.
  2. My validity as a man/woman/human is not based upon how much surgery I’ve had or how accurately other people view my gender.
  3. Strangers do not ask me what my “real name” is and then assume that they have a right to call me by that name.
  4. People do not disrespect me by purposefully using incorrect pronouns even after they’ve been corrected.
  5. If I tell people about my gender, I don’t have to hear “so have you had THE surgery?” or “oh, so you’re REALLY a [incorrect sex or gender]?”
  6. I am not expected to explain to friends, family, or strangers what it means to be my gender, how I knew what my gender was, or whether my gender is just a “phase.”

Medical issues

  1. I expect that I will be able to access necessary medical care without lying.
  2. If I need hormone injections due to an inability to produce them on my own, it will be considered an “obvious” need.
  3. If I have them, my desires for various cosmetic surgeries are considered normal.
  4. I don’t need to prove how long I have identified as my gender in order to have my health needs taken seriously.
  5. I cannot be denied health insurance on the basis of my gender; my health insurance does not specifically exclude me from receiving benefits or treatments available to others because of my gender.
  6. The medical establishment does not serve as a “gatekeeper” denying my self-determination of what happens to my body, nor requiring me to undergo extensive psychological evaluation in order to receive basic medical care.
  7. I expect that if I am treated inappropriately by a doctor, my concerns will be taken seriously, and I will be able to find another doctor who will treat me appropriately.
  8. Treatments which are medically necessary for me are generally covered by insurance.
  9. People of my gender are not considered inherently “sneaky” by health/helping professions.
  10. I expect that medical professionals competent to treat my conditions exist outside of major cities, and in proportion to the demand for them. I expect no undue delay in access to routine medical services, and for such services to be available throughout the work day/week.
  11. I will not be required to have a “gender appropriate” sexual orientation in order to be treated by doctors and mental health providers.
  12. I expect that medical care will be crafted to suit my own particular needs. I expect to be able to access treatment A without accessing treatment B, if treatment B will do nothing to advance my particular needs.
  13. I do not have to worry that life-saving treatment will be withheld from me due to my gender, nor will all of my medical issues be seen as a product of my gender.

Other’s Perceptions

  1. If someone inaccurately genders me, I do not need to be afraid; I can assume it reflects more on them than on me, I can be amused or angry without calling into question what my “true” gender is.
  2. I do not have to worry whether my gender will be questioned by others seeing/hearing: pictures from my childhood, my identification or official documents, others’ language used to refer to me, my speaking and singing voice, or any of my body parts.
  3. I can expect to be appropriately gendered by others without having to worry about: my clothing, whether I like certain colors or styles, whether I am passive or aggressive, wearing specially designed clothing, or if I’m willing to lose sensation in my genitals and/or chest.
  4. I have never had someone tell me what my gender is, regardless of what I say my gender is.  If someone mistakes my gender it will rarely continue to the point of an argument, a simple assertion of my gender will generally be enough to convince the other person.
  5. When initiating sex with someone, I do not have to worry that they won’t be able to deal with my parts or that having sex with me will cause my partner to question zir own sexual orientation.
  6. Bodies like mine are represented in the media and the arts. It is easily possible for representations of my naked body to pass obscenity restrictions.
  7. Others’ appropriate understanding of my gender is not dependent on how rich I am.
  8. My gender is acknowledged universally, immediately, and without hesitation.


  1. If I am attacked by a lover, no one will excuse my attacker because ze was “deceived” by my gender.
  2. I do not have to worry about whether I will be able to find a bathroom to use or whether I will be safe changing in a locker room.  I can use public showers without fear of being attacked for my genitalia.
  3. When engaging in political action, I do not have to worry about the gendered repercussions of being arrested.
  4. If I am unable to find clothing that fits me well, I will still feel safe, and recognizable as my gender.
  5. I don’t need to be constantly aware of how others perceive my gender.

Government/Bureaucratic issues

  1. When there are boxes to check on various forms, my gender will definitely be included.– I do not even need to acknowledge that there are other genders than those listed.
  2. I can expect my government-issued identification to accurately represent who I am. – If my identification does not, I expect to be able to remedy this quickly and easily, without added expense, undue delay, arbitrary criteria, or a necessity to present evidence or medical documents.
  3. My gender is not dragged into everything that happens to me.  If I am involved in a lawsuit or attempt to access government-services that are not related to my gender, I can assume my gender will not be brought up, if it is, it will generally not be a hindrance.
  4. My gender will not make me immediately suspect to those with government sanctioned power (lawyers, judges, police, bureaucrats, etc.).
  5. My gender does not make me necessarily unfit to be a parent in the eyes of the law, regardless of what state I’m in.
  6. I expect my gender to not unduly affect my ability to travel internationally.
  7. I expect access to, and fair treatment within sex segregated facilities such as: homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, drug rehab programs, prisons, hostels, and dorms.
  8. I never have to wonder what to put down on legal or official forms when they ask for “sex” or “gender”.
  9. In no country in the world is it illegal to be my gender.

Emotional issues

  1. When I express my internal identities in my daily life, I am not considered “mentally ill” by the medical establishment.
  2. My experience of gender (or gendered spaces) is not viewed as “baggage” by others of the gender in which I live.
  3. I do not have to choose between either invisibility (“passing”) or being consistently “othered” and/or tokenised based on my gender.
  4. I am not told that my sexual orientation and gender identity are mutually exclusive.
  5. I can attend “women-only” or “male-only” events or groups (if I identify as the gender listed) without fear of being seen as an interloper.
  6. I was never forced to wear gender inappropriate clothing in order to “fix” my gender, nor was I refused permission to engage in hobbies or behaviors I was interested in because others did not approve of my gender.
  7. Those who wrong me are expected to know that it is hurtful, and are considered blameworthy whether or not they intended to wrong me.
  8. I was trained into whatever gender was appropriate for me, and so I am prepared to live in my current gender, without having to go back and learn vital skills I was not taught when I was young.
  9. Commonly used terminology that differentiates my gender from other genders/sexes implies that I am normal, and that I have unquestionable right to the gender/sex I identify with.
  10. Those who tell jokes about my gender are assumed to be sexist.
  11. The sex/gender dichotomy does not have consequences in my life.

This post has 28 Comments

  1. nome on October 15, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    I’ve been really enjoying your blog for a while. It’s great to see a cis ally who is actually aware of his/her shit and writing about it. This list is awesome and I’m going to get it around to all my friends n such. Woot! 🙂

    I would also point out that some of these are more privileged for cismen than ciswomen. For instance, the medical establishment still treats women like they need to act as gatekeepers. But transfolk definitely get it worse than either of those two. >.<

  2. Sheria-SA on October 15, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    “The funny thing about priviledge is that typically, the priviledged are mostly unaware of their priviledges (i’ts part of the priviledge)”-Like this; interesting part this, interesting post too…

  3. FSGinger on October 15, 2009 at 6:18 pm

    Nome, there is no reason to play oppression olympics here. “But transfolk definitely get it worse than either of those two” is unnecessary. The fact is that we don’t need a binary of “trans/non-trans” since these are experiences of just about any people who fall outside rigid gender expectations, regardless of whether they would call themselves “trans.” Therefore, women who dare to step outside their narrowly defined role face many of these things – as do men who do anything not considered “manly.” It is about gender deviance, not trans identity. Also, I am offended by phrases like “gender inappropriate clothing” and “I was trained into whatever gender was appropriate for me, and so I am prepared to live in my current gender, without having to go back and learn vital skills I was not taught when I was young.” The fact is that CLOTHING IS NOT INHERENTLY MAN OR WOMAN. And no gender is “appropriate” for anybody. All genders limit expression based on gender expectations. ALL skills are HUMAN skills, so ALL gendered people who are trained in one gender lack vital skills. I wasn’t taught to check the oil in my car, but that skill isn’t a “man” skill and I don’t not need that skill simply because I am considered a “woman” by mainstream society. Training into an “appropriate” gender?! — Have we lost EVERY SINGLE LESSON OF FEMINISM??

  4. FSGinger on October 15, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    The idea that we are inherently men or women, that we have an essence (essentialism, anyone?), a brain-gender, a spiritual-gender is so harmful to women and has kept us behind forever. Just because I don’t identify as trans (because I live in a community where that is limited mostly to those who want to transition to the “opposite” sex) doesn’t mean I am, at my core, in my soul, a woman. I am a Child of God. In Christ there is no Male or Female. Setting up a category for all who don’t ID as “trans” – “cis” which is so often used to imply that women who don’t transition to being men are somehow “really” women, somehow at their “core” women, somehow “okay” with being labeled women against their will and reared in this subordinate role with only limited skills and opportunities and expectations — it is very harmful. If we talk about gender deviance instead, okay. Most women are oppressed for that, as are those who ID as “trans.” But there are many many people throughout history who would never ID as “trans” who were/are most definitely NOT okay with being gender-boxed, told they have an “appropriate” gender (what the hell would that be anyway?), given only some skills and roles in the world, told how to look, talk, walk, work, submit, and have sex. Who on earth would truly be considered “cis” anyway? Who on earth is truly in their “appropriate” gender, okay with only half a set of human skills, okay with being limited in clothing and career and social relationships? To suggest there is an “appropriate” gender and that some people – called “cis” – were assigned and treated as a “right” gender is offensive to any feminist who has struggled to degender society and free those-labeled-women from such tyrrany.

  5. LadyVagabond on October 15, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    I somewhat agree and disagree. Yes that is how things should be, but unfortunately it is not so ideal, many traces of gender discrimination still exist though we say they don’t. And this type of discrimination is still very acceptable, because we have been taught that there are two genders, as in the past society did not see more than one sexual orientation. I intensely appreciate your point of view, but i ask you, how do you know that transfolk do not have it worse? It seems to me like the same type of struggle women had to go through to gain what todays women do not have to deal with. I also agree that we do not have a specific gender down to our souls yet from infants we are seen and treated, at least mostly like either women or men. Also much clothing is not gender specific, like jeans and t-shirts, but if you saw a person who identified themselves as a man, what would you think of him? Also please, i really am not trying to start controversy or argument, but share my view on the article and on other comments. Frankly this article appalls me, because those are things, at least in most cases i would never thing any human being should ever have to deal with. OH! and lastly… Hi peterson! You should comment in the infinity group, havent heard from you in a while.

  6. nome on October 16, 2009 at 1:21 am

    *sigh* Some of these comments are downright upsetting and I am too tired to sort out all the ways people are using mis-logic, denying their own privileges and ignoring the social realities we find ourselves in. Peterson, it’d be great if you’d jump in and do the ally thing. But I don’t expect anything. But I’ve had about 10 too many of these discussions to be able to handle another one.

  7. Katte on October 16, 2009 at 8:22 am

    When he says vital skills, he isn’t talking about things such as changing the oil in a car, its things like…

    well, okay… a female becoming a man has likely never peed standing up before.
    A male becoming a woman doesn’t necissarily know how a bra should fit her new breasts.
    Both aren’t things that would be too difficult to get a grasp of, but the fact is that if you were born the gender you are today, you dont’ need to get a grasp on it. It is already a part of you that you learned at a young age.

    And the fact is that clothing IS genderized. In the women’s section of a store, a large shirt is differently sized than a large shirt in the men’s section of the store. Jeans are made differently for men than they are for women. Shirts and jeans don’t by themselves equal the gender of the person wearing them, but the clothes are genderized.

    It would be nice if, instead of being offended by the way things are said, people looked at the meaning behind what is said. If someone says,”My, you look nice today,” do you get mad at that person for saying you don’t look nice on other days or do you thank them for the compliment?

  8. p2son on October 16, 2009 at 10:03 am

    Hey all, I was traveling much of the day and this is the first I’ve been able to get back on-line to respond to comments. As I stated above,

    For those of us who are not transgender, it can serve as a primer of sorts to some of the many complex and challenging issues transgender people face today. Seeing our privilege can be a stark and painful experience. Sometimes we react with defensiveness or criticism. Proceed with an open mind and a tender heart.

    The most important skill an ally brings to the table, if indeed she or he wishes to be an ally, is the skill of listening with the intention of hearing the other person share their experience.

    Many non-transgender people do not know much at all about the experiences of transgender people. If when we do, we get defensive or begin to minimize the experiences of the transgender person, we may need to simply be still and listen a little more.

    Seeing privilege does not come easy. We deny its existence or somehow insert ourselves–“BUT it’s bad for ME too!!” No one denies that there is sexism and misogyny in the world. This post is not here to do that. It is to highlight a different form of oppression, one that at times overlaps some oppressions cisgender folks experience, but also one that is distinctly different.

    Finally in looking at privilege of cisgender people and in the oppression of transgender people, we must acknowledge that feminists and cisgender lesbians have often taken the role of oppressor and police–not at all exclusively–but there has historically been times (and sadly this still happens) when feminists and cisgender lesbians have shut out transgender people–even among some Quakers I know. Good people get it wrong and need to learn new lessons.

    I repeat,

    For those of us who are not transgender, it can serve as a primer of sorts to some of the many complex and challenging issues transgender people face today. Seeing our privilege can be a stark and painful experience. Sometimes we react with defensiveness or criticism. Proceed with an open mind and a tender heart.

    Thoughtful discussion and honest questioning is welcome here. Offensive or insensitive remarks will be removed.

  9. laughriotgirl on October 16, 2009 at 12:25 pm


    Thanks for this. Your last comment especially. All to often discussions of cis-privs end up in a discussion about how troubling it is to be cis* or how trans folks are blowing stuff out of proportion or other bits of derailing stuffs.

    I’m glad you got the comments back on track.

  10. Andy on October 16, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    Thanks for writing this out. It has a lot of what I was thinking about but hesitant to actually verbalize.

    Have you ever thought about the inequality present even in the T community? I’m an ftm, and I was put off when I started to learn about the community about the multitude of information available about mtfs, but not ftms.

    Plus, everyone assumes I’m an extremely butch lesbian, instead of an an effeminate-looking guy. I dislike that when males wear girls’ clothing, they’re obviously wanting to pass, permanently or temporarily as a crossdresser, while when females wear guys’ clothing, they’re assumed to be lesbians, still female and therefore still a ‘girl’.

  11. p2son on October 16, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    Andy thanks. I must restate though, my friend Zeke wrote this list not me–as a non-trans (cisgender) guy, I am still only learning and don’t think I could ever have come up with such a thorough list. Zeke has a journey to share of gender self-discovery that perhaps one day ze will write about.

    As to the inequality in the transgender community, you know much more about this than I do, but it is not the first time someone in the trans community has mentioned it. Each one of us have to work out our stuff. For me I am trying, as a white cisgender gay man of a certain class with a certain level of education, to re-educate myself and the variety of communities where I feel I belong. Lots of good work to do! 🙂

  12. Jennifer on October 16, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    Still reading the list.

    As a transwoman, yes, I can identify with so many of them (The Casual Offenses actually rang truest to me)… although for some of the items, I’m just not sure how to avoid them… and sometimes people respond in ways out of positive intent but just have no idea what to do or say.

    (For example, with SOME people when I’m asked “if I’d had surgery,” it’s quite obvious it’s all they know about transsexuals… so I’m not offended even if it gets a bit old at times… but the bottom line is that I’m patient with them and I don’t even necessary feel like it’s “wrong.” That’s just my feeling; other transpeople might respond differently. On the other hand, I’ve had a few people who inappropriately asked me that question as if they had the right to know, and I immediately established boundaries on those conversations and pushed back hard.)

    Likewise, I’m always torn between the self/other checks that are necessary to make sure that a person receives the care best suited for them. After all, obviously there have been people who self-identify as trans and end up being anything but, and if allowed to proceed with medical procedures as part of their self-defined treatment, end up hurting themselves badly and becoming more healthy. There has to be SOME amount of challenge to people, just to make sure they’re doing what it best for them. But it’s hairy drawing that line between healthy checks and balances and social prejudice, I suppose.

    Andy, I empathize with you… there’s a ton of junk like you said for transwomen, and transmen have sort of gotten the short end of the stick. I’m more than aware of support groups (online and RL) where people talk about the m2f experience without expanding the terminology to include transpeople; I don’t like that and try to nip it in the bud when I see it. It’s disheartening how these patterns develop.

    For me, I don’t expect cisgens to give me “special” treatment… I just want to be treated like everyone else i.e., accepted at face value as myself. Even the fact I blend well, which is a relief, troubles me sometimes because I feel like transpeople should be accepted as-is regardless of how well they “fit into the binary box system” that exists. People are people… but then again, culture is always making distinctions — skinny vs fat, beautiful vs ugly, men vs women, young vs old. I suppose that cisgen vs trans is just yet one more distinction that culture persists in, and I’m not sure of how to help things progress to a point where the distinctions are not so all-encompassing.

  13. p2son on October 16, 2009 at 6:21 pm

    Thank you so much Jennifer for this full and insightful response. I will reflect on much of what you wrote. It gives me deeper understanding. I love the way you write about these issues with grace and patience and understanding.

    I especially appreciate how you speak out of your own experience and make it clear that it is your own experience and not everyone’s. That is such important part of this work of community education. It’s the place I try to come from in my own work speaking about the oppressions I experienced in my own life.

  14. Novanna52 on October 17, 2009 at 12:01 am

    OK, reality check.

    Wonderful article, great insight. Everyone has pain, everyone must be responsible for how they treat each other, to cause less pain. Everyone’s pain is legitimate, whether self- or societaly (sic)- induced.

    Check yourself:
    – When you meet someone for the first time, do you form (unconscious) expectations of who they are/what they do? Are these based on gender/orientation/skin tone?
    – When you read something someone has written, do you judge the validity of the writing based on the assumptions above? Do they change if you find that the writer is not of the persuasion you had assumed?
    – Do you form a picture of the person writing? Is the picture gendered/toned?

    Final question: Who/what am I? Do you base this on my choice of alias (Novanna52)? Do you base this on the tone of my writing? My choice of words and phrases?

    All that is required, is to think, be aware, be sensitive.

  15. withinthemachine on October 17, 2009 at 1:19 am

    I think something else important to mention specifically in regards to dealing with mental health professionals is: My gender will not be assumed to be my only mental health “problem”, or will be the only “symptom/illness/disorder etc.” which mental health professionals will treat me for, or will not prevent me from getting appropriate care for mental illness because professionals refuse to acknowledge that there is more to mental health than my gender. As per the last one, I have dealth with gender therapists (specifically related to getting letters for hormones/surgeries) who refused to deal with any aspect of my mental health besides my gender, something which spiralled out of control and has proved to be very harming. Hopefully anyone who reads this will take the time to appreciate and understand it 😉

  16. Mike on October 17, 2009 at 1:36 am

    Wonderful article, great insight

  17. Beth on October 19, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    Thank you for the list Peterson. And thank you for teaching me how to be a better ally, not just to transgendered people but to all who live outside of my experience, to listen more than talk and to be willing to make and admit to a mistake with grace.

    Also, thank you to those who are willing to share there own trans experience. Sometimes I will say or do things out of my own ignorance, sometimes the worst mistakes I make are the ones where I am trying to avoid hurting or offending and end up doing both. I promise I will try to listen and learn.

  18. Todd on October 22, 2009 at 3:13 am

    I’m a little depressed. I was linked to this by somebody who, when called out on the universalist assumptions in this list, backpedaled with “Oh well, it’s aimed at cis white men mostly”. Many of these immediately pinged as things that homeless or gay (but white and cis) men would be well familiar with. As “cis privilege”, this list is spotty and shortsighted at best.

    Interesting thing I’ve noticed about transmen/transwomen. The former seem to fall into the male role of having much less attention paid to them, both negatively (how often do you hear about transmen being murdered by former partners?) and positively (how much airtime, proportionally, do transmen get at all?) I’m not trying to play this as a “who has it worse” issue. Just one about the folly of trying to tie down one “trans experience”.

  19. ms.thalia on October 22, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    I identify as gender-queer, but am often perceived as supporting the binary, and so I can be seen as cis. I certainly experience cis privilege, and I appreciate a ‘checklist’ that I can use to look at my own experience and share with others to initiate conversation.

    That said, this list makes me uncomfortable in some of its assumptions of cis privilege, particularly:

    “I expect that medical professionals competent to treat my conditions exist outside of major cities, and in proportion to the demand for them. I expect no undue delay in access to routine medical services, and for such services to be available throughout the work day/week.”

    “My gender is not dragged into everything that happens to me. If I am involved in a lawsuit or attempt to access government-services that are not related to my gender, I can assume my gender will not be brought up, if it is, it will generally not be a hindrance.”


    “My gender will not make me immediately suspect to those with government sanctioned power (lawyers, judges, police, bureaucrats, etc.).”

    Some cis people experience these forms of privilege, but many cis people don’t. If we layer in sexuality (which is obviously linked to gender in this society), even fewer cis people experience these privileges. The ways in which they don’t experience these privileges ARE very different from the ways in which trans-folk don’t experience these privileges, and that’s an important part of the conversation.

    I’m assuming that this list is a work-in-progress, and it’s certainly a good start, but needs some editing to address some of the sexist, and heterosexist, assumptions that are reflected in it in this draft.

  20. nome on October 22, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    Thalia: I think the idea is not that all cis folk experience this, or that no trans folk ever experience these either. But overall, these are things that cisfolk can count on. Other indentities – class, race, (perceived) bio sex, etc, play into our privileges as well. Yes, I am genderqueer. But I do not have to worry about medical things. But I do have to deal with being mispronouned every day. So it’s more complicated, but I think this is a good 101, eye opener list.

    Todd: Yes. trams,em are affected differently than transwomen but we all face different forms of transphobia and it’s

  21. nome on October 22, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    Thalia: I think the idea is not that all cis folk experience this, or that no trans folk ever experience these either. But overall, these are things that cisfolk can count on. Other indentities – class, race, (perceived) bio sex, etc, play into our privileges as well. Yes, I am genderqueer. But I do not have to worry about medical things. But I do have to deal with being mispronouned every day. So it’s more complicated, but I think this is a good 101, eye opener list.

    Todd: Yes. trams,em are affected differently than transwomen but we all face different forms of transphobia. Transmen do get killed and it seems as though you are almost implying that it does not happen. I promise you that they do face a lot of harassment, it just doesn’t get as much coverage.

  22. ThatGuy on October 23, 2009 at 5:51 am

    I’d like to focus on one small part of the list for just a moment. I realize that the scope of this reply is small, and I recognize it as such, but for the moment being, please focus on the section I am discussing, the casual list.

    I can’t say I’ve been able to consciously recognize many transgender people I’ve been around — I can’t tell if that means they as small as a minority as they appear, or if there is marked lack of them in the area I am in (segregation?) This leads to ignorance, of course, but not ill-meant blindness, just a lack of knowing.

    One thing that isn’t taken into account fully in this list is just the plain ignorance of the average, possibly isolated, cisgender. For example, when I was younger, I was curious how the surgeries worked, and what the result is. Asking as question such as that is offensive to some, but it doesn’t stem from offense, just a naive curosity.
    Similarly, wanting to know a previous name (though not necessarily using) is a curiosity.

    The inherent problem is that it is like a child asking their mom how much they weight in front of others — they just don’t understand what is considered “improper”, “taboo”, or “inappropriate.” I would have no idea what questions are considered off-limits without any prior socialization, where as I would know that society [and quite a few others] deem it inappropriate to ask men their penis size, how much money they make; women: their weight, how many previous sexual partners they’ve had, whether they are “tight”, how many kids they plan to have, etc. — generally things that time and society has taught us. I’m sure that every single one of you have at least heard these before.

    Whether or not these should be off-limits isn’t actually the point. The point is that there exists no comparable socialization process that teaches people what is generally held to be inappropriate.

    Let’s be honest — where do you learn this stuff at age 6? By the time I was 6, I learned the basics “Don’t ask Daddy how much money he makes!” and “Don’t ask Mommy how much she weighs!” But, “Don’t ask a transgender what their ‘real name’ is?” Without some seriously progressive parents, it just isn’t happening. I believe there is some efforts to address such issues at an early age, but I don’t think they are widespread, and certainly do not affect those of us who are 13 years older than that.

    One can argue that there shouldn’t be a list of appropriate questions for transgender people because they shouldn’t be considered any different than their gender and thus questions like this should never show up since they aren’t recognized as transgender, just as people. Idealistically true, but once again, ignorance comes into play. There is something different about transgender people to cisgender people. Something changed for them to get from point A to point B in their life, and for someone who has never experienced any major changes like that, it will naturally inspire questions that may subsequently deemed inappropriate.

    Somewhere in this process, the thought of whether or not this is a “person question” is usually lost. The connotation of “personal question” is that the distribution of the information is at the person’s digression and not to be pried for.

    Arguing whether or not a person should even wonder, or if wondering is a form of discrimination [“You don’t wonder for cisgender people!”] is highly irrelevant. Thought control isn’t the point here, nor desirable — everyone has taboo questions they’d like to ask about someone else regardless of trans/cis nature. Humans are just curious and we are free to be that way as long as what’s in our heads stays there. It is our socialization that keeps us from offending, not the lack of such thoughts.

    So if you can take one thing away from this, it would be this: society is changing, but maybe not as rapidly as it could. Please don’t get angry and offended to the best of your ability at questions that are innocently asked. We the ignorant need to taught, perhaps on a person-by-person basis, what is considered okay and not until such annoyances and “casual offenses” become widely understood.


  23. TheDeviantE on October 23, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    Hey all, just writing as the originator of this checklist to address some issues people seem to have had.

    Todd: I thank you for your concern about this being too universalist. I did try to specifically say “my gender gives me x” or “my gender does not y,” in order to differentiate that obviously people facing other forms of oppression (but not trans* based oppression) will not be universally privileged, but merely that their status as cisgender will not cause those oppressions. Admittedly, some of my statements were more “universal” than they could have been. Are there any points that you felt were specifically classist/racist/heterosexist?

    Thatguy: I would suggest that even if you do not intend for your questions to be offensive, they nevertheless are, and expecting the subjects of the offense to be ok with it because people are “just learning” is unfair. For instance, if I step on someone’s foot, even if it’s accidental, it doesn’t make it not hurt. It still hurts, and I still apologize when I find out that I’ve done it. Many trans people go out of their way to help their friends or relatives understand these things, however, if all trans people were to educate all of the cis* people we interact with on cis* privilege, it would be a full time job. Unless you can pay me a living wage to do that, it seems more fair that cis people who wish to be my ally educate themselves instead of expecting me to educate them free of charge and on demand.

  24. p2son on October 23, 2009 at 8:08 pm

    Thanks for weighing in and for creating the list to begin with. You have helped generate lots of learning. I have learned a bunch.