Since writing and having published my article more thoughts have come to my mind. And, rightfully, it was pointed out that the argument is less than clear and the writing a bit too academic in nature. So, I wanted to take some time and and I try to dissect my own thought process a bit more, clarify a few things, and open this up for more discussion.
Gender identity, it seems to me, has always been a fickle thing. This realization started, first, when I questioned my homeschool, conservative, and very Christian understanding of gender roles. Why couldn’t women be pastors? And as time wore on it became apparent that he answer, if we’re honest, was because they have vaginas and breasts. Slowly, gender began to implode in myself. I vividly recall discussing the role of women in the Church and realizing, Holy shit there’s only one woman in this discussion. Gender is a problem still. Since that time, I started reading up on LGBTQ issues, befriended a few trans women and got to know some queer kids. IN befriending some of these trans folks I was introduced to Against Me! whose lead singer is, like Janet Mock and Laverne Cox, something of an trans icon of late. I’ve loved the harshness of punk, of Against Me!’s latest album especially. The lyrics pull no punches. Here, a sampling of lines:
Your tells are so obvious/shoulders too broad for a girl . . .
You want them to notice/the ragged ends of your summer dress/you want them to see you like they see any other girl/they just see a faggot . . .
Silicone chest and collagen lips/how would you even recognize me?
A fucked up kind of feminine
The album tells a heart-wrenching story of being in the closet. But the medium flips a middle finger to that very same cis-stem. So, what the hell does this have to do with my latest piece? A lot actually. I began to realize the very words we use, thanks to Marc Barnes, might need re-imagining. So, I wrote the piece trying to argue for a redefinition of cisgender. Now a few more thoughts:
Cisgender is not inherently a bad thing on it’s own. In fact, I know plenty of cis people who are quite nice. However, cisgender as a concept, a social norm, remains extremely problematic. Normalizing one type of person based on their genitals seems utterly preposterous a la my experience with women as pastors or not.
The cis-stem (thank you to Alan Hooker for introducing me to this term) seems too obsessed with particularities of bodies. Did you get breasts? Are you getting a vagina or penis (as the case may be)? The list of violations of privacy and personal space goes on.
The cisgender theory definition is willfully blinding to the fact that cis people are just as socially constructed and just as real as trans or queer folks.
In my previous piece I failed to clearly state that I find much blame set on society’s obsession with vaginas and penises. And as I wrote sit became abundantly cear to me that my thoughts are just as incomplete as they originally appeared. I’m not entirely sure what a proper response would look like. And maybe demanding so much from the trans community seems unfair, as well.
With all this being said, I think my thought process is in flux. I do think, though, that redefinition can be a helpful method in putting in front of the norm a new way of seeing. Seeing oneself anew takes guts and telling cisgendered people they are being assigned a sex/gender that has been deemed correct by society presents people with the simple fact that their identity is valid and, at the same time, determined by society.