Cedar over at Taking Up Too Much Space just weighed in on the whole cis debate, and summed things up pretty well:
I think it’s high time we admitted it: “Cis” IS an insult.
That’s right. Because by calling you cis, we’re calling you no better than a fucking tranny*, and THAT, my friends, is one of the worst insults we’ve got in US culture. We’re calling you no more real than us, and we’re not real. We’re calling you no more a woman than us, that you deserve no more respect than us, and in your eyes, that means tranny-alert.com, that means Ann Coulter jokes, that means it’s fine for the general public to post videos of your genitals all over the internet with big purple arrows and random fetishizing speculations, and fire you unless you show us photos of your genitals. It’s saying you can’t apply makeup. It’s insulting your penis size and your manhood. It’s saying that the only difference between us is that you think you’re better than us.
Meanwhile, I’ve been trying to have a conversation with Carolyn Ann at CaroLINES about the same topic. (Edit: Carolyn Ann told me to use masculine pronouns, so that’s been changed.)
I noticed a little while back that Carolyn Ann had linked to my summary of the whole cis debate thing, saying:
Rebecca, in what started as an interesting and relatively fair survey that rapidly devolved into a purely partizan piece, makes this point [that the argument in favor of cis boils down to “We’ll call you cis-gendered because <insert some reason here>, except when you specifically request that we don’t call you, specifically, cis-gendered.” – ed.] in the most eloquent manner I’ve seen so far. [Added] But, again – she clearly starts out with her opinion already firmly held; once you realize that, the initial fairness simply comes across as a nothing more than a rhetorical device. She sets you up, and you think you’re going to read an impartial survey and: wham! Any hint of impartiality is tossed out the nearest (very high) window.
I went over in the comments at CaroLINES why I think that characterization of my post is unfair, even though I ultimately agree I did a piss-poor job of being impartial and should have owned up to that at the outset, so I’m not going to get into that here. Likewise, I should have read the four part series of posts he wrote on using cis before I jumped in and tried to start a discussion about it.
Had I done so, I might not have bothered to engage in the first place, as it’s clear he is using a different set of definitions than I am for trans/cis to begin with. From the first post about cis:
The term [cis] indicates that the woman in question was born female; it fully identifies her so. “Trans woman” is not quite as precise: it tells us of a history; the person was born male, but in some way has taken at least some steps to be as physically feminine as it might be possible. The prefix “cis” is used as a qualifier, and as a means of narrowing down an identity.
Trans woman is just as precise as cis woman: they both describe whether or not someone who identifies as a woman was assigned woman at birth. Neither inherently describe physical state, although both come with their own implications. Both are about identity, rather than perception or appearance.
Carolyn Ann continues down a similar path from there, saying later in the post
“cis” is not an attempt to “decentralize the dominant group”. It is an attempt, a blatant attempt, at redefining an entire conversation so that it can’t stray into areas that might be uncomfortable. It’s being able to cry about “cis privilege”; it is not about leveling the linguistic playing field.
From reading other posts, the “areas that might be uncomfortable” seem to be Carolyn Ann’s claim of essential, immutable characteristics of gender (nearer the end) which is also the post where he again references my original timeline.
Yet, here, I would actually almost agree with Carolyn Ann. Yes, the use of cis as a tool for precise language is, in part, about being able to observe, react to, describe, and dismantle cis privilege. You can’t very well push for equal treatment, as Carolyn Ann elsewhere expresses a desire to do, if you can’t describe why treatment is unequal to begin with.
Nonetheless, I responded to Carolyn Ann’s above-linked post, saying that the way pro-cis-usage arguments were being framed seemed inaccurate and that I didn’t appreciate being called a liar.
He responded today, so I’ll use this as an opportunity to respond back (this chunk will be cross-posted as a comment on CaroLINES as well).
I disagree that, when the trans community asked questions about the use of cis, answers were ignored. The fundamental question being asked was, “How should the non-trans population be described?” Cis already exists, but I’m open to alternatives. However, Carolyn Ann has used strawman after strawman while expressing what members of the trans community think, allowing him to claim to have given a full and complete explanation of hiss views and a full and complete refutation of the trans community’s arguments, while ultimately failing to do either.
(For example, Carolyn Ann claim’s “‘I am a woman’ with no explanation or justification is the simplification” of gender. And yet, what’s actually being said is that the definition of woman should revolve around self-identification, not imposed identity. But by setting up an argument that doesn’t exist – that there should be no debate or discussion over what constitutes “woman” – he of course have an easy time knocking it down.)
Ultimately, I’m going to state my disagreement with Carolynn Ann and try to move on. He was totally valid in saying I didn’t do a good enough job exploring why people were against using the term “cis.” But, now that I have done some more exploration and delved more into my own thoughts and attitudes, it seems like he and I simply won’t be able to see eye to eye. It’s become obvious to me that either I’m not making myself clear or Carolyn Ann isn’t willing to listen, and vice versa.
I’ll continue to try and refine my views, and I’ll definitely try to do a better job in the future of listening to those with whom I have disagreements, but I think my attempts at discussion with Carolyn Ann are really going nowhere.