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June 24, 2009
Pride 2009: We Yelled, They Screamed. But Did Anyone ‘Hear’ Us?
July 9, 2009

A Strange Brew – Pam’s House Blend Now Serving: Privilege

There’s been a controversy brewing over at Pam’s House Blend, and the flavor of the day is privileged. It all started with the post “Jumping Into The Deep End Of The Language Pool“, then “Aravosis Needs To Issue His Own Apology To Trans People Before Citing TGs Regarding Fed LGBT Issues“, and continued with “Enough Already“. You can read it all yourself but the bottom line is this, if you dare cite white gay male privilege, you’re not welcome to comment.

Lisa Harney over at Questioning Transphobia has a good overview of the controversy:

A regular (a cis gay man) at Pam’s House Blend expresses that he feels “cis” is offensive and demeaning, and that trans people who use it are basically bad people (plus we’re bad people if we’re unhappy with John Aravosis’ transphobic remarks)

Denise Leclair said on Facebook:

“All labels divide, it is the very purpose of language. The only question is whether a given label demeans the labeled. “Cis-” has never been used as a term of hate, so it is irrational to make an issue of it. If the term in question were the diminutive “Cissy” they might have a point. Own your privilege.”

Kelley Winters said:

The cis prefix, in the context of cis-gender privilege as Julia Serano described it), provides a necessary vocabulary for the vast disparity of social privilege that exists between people who are born gender transcendent and those who are not.

While I agree that it is inappropriate to impose labels without their consent, the issue here is terminology about behaviors, attitudes and biases. To capriciously shut down dialogue about the role of cisgender privilege in marginalizing transpeople is to marginalize us further.”

More than anything, this goes back to the same thing discussed in Peggy McIntosh’s White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.

“Through work to bring materials from women’s studies into the rest of the curriculum, I have often noticed men’s unwillingness to grant that they are over privileged, even though they may grant that women are disadvantaged. They may say they will work to women’s statues, in the society, the university, or the curriculum, but they can’t or won’t support the idea of lessening men’s. Denials that amount to taboos surround the subject of advantages that men gain from women’s disadvantages. These denials protect male privilege from being fully acknowledged, lessened, or ended.”

God forbid you identify privilege. By identifying it, you must then do something about it.

– other discussions on this topic:

Cis
I Have An Angry Inch
Stop The Bleeding, Pam
[yet more appalling coddling of privileged cis folk at Pam’s House Blend]
Cis the third
Fauxpology
Editors note:

The stiffling of discussion around this topic is exactly why I created Transadvocate, and it’s one of the reasons I still keep writing this blog. I continue to hope that we’ll be able to create a trans style Bilerico or Pam’s House Blend without the G&L filter that tamps down discussion of issues that are uncomfortable to those carrying their privilege. One thing I can promise, there will be no locking of posts or banning of topics. Civil discourse is really the only boundary here on TA. – Marti Abernathey

  • There are a lot of negative things said about gays. I don’t see this as one of them.

  • There are a lot of negative things said about gays. I don’t see this as one of them.

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  • I think that’s actually kind of irrelevant and off the point – that heterosexual people have objected to being labeled because they just want to be normal, and cissexual and cisgender exist for the same reason.

  • I think that’s actually kind of irrelevant and off the point – that heterosexual people have objected to being labeled because they just want to be normal, and cissexual and cisgender exist for the same reason.

  • The term “heterosexual” was not coined in opposition to the term homosexual – in fact “heterosexual” was coined first. Read Katz’s The Invention of Heterosexuality — it’s got a lot of useful historical info about sexuality, sexual orientation, labeling, etc..

  • The term “heterosexual” was not coined in opposition to the term homosexual – in fact “heterosexual” was coined first. Read Katz’s The Invention of Heterosexuality — it’s got a lot of useful historical info about sexuality, sexual orientation, labeling, etc..

  • I’ll also add that at one point, heterosexual was coined for strictly the same reason that cisgender and cissexual were coined more recently. Obviously it’s relative to LGB people vs. relative to trans people, but otherwise, same purpose.

    Otherwise, you just have trans people and people, or LGB people and people, or people of color and people…and this is not helpful.

    Marti, I agree, they are the hardest. 🙁

  • I’ll also add that at one point, heterosexual was coined for strictly the same reason that cisgender and cissexual were coined more recently. Obviously it’s relative to LGB people vs. relative to trans people, but otherwise, same purpose.

    Otherwise, you just have trans people and people, or LGB people and people, or people of color and people…and this is not helpful.

    Marti, I agree, they are the hardest. 🙁

  • “Political correctness” is an obfuscatory way of saying “Try not to offend people.” Obfuscatory in that it’s easier to be incendiary about “political correctness” then it is about “don’t treat people like garbage.”

    Kai Chang has a great post about the fallacies of invoking it.

    Cisgender and cissexual do not create divisions that didn’t already exist, nor do they enforce those divisions. That trans people are always constantly othered as freakish and abnormal is what creates those divisions. All cissexual and cisgender does is denaturalize the idea being cis is normal and trans is not. If it gets cis people to think about their assumptions about their own lives relative to trans lives, yay – and it does. Many cis people have stepped up to say exactly that in this last go-round.

    • Marti Abernathey

      Exactly, Lisa. I’m glad that some cis folks have come forward, but do they accept their own privilege? I find that it’s hardest to get white men to accept that they even have ANY kind of privilege. Some people go ape shit. Witness PHB.

  • “Political correctness” is an obfuscatory way of saying “Try not to offend people.” Obfuscatory in that it’s easier to be incendiary about “political correctness” then it is about “don’t treat people like garbage.”

    Kai Chang has a great post about the fallacies of invoking it.

    Cisgender and cissexual do not create divisions that didn’t already exist, nor do they enforce those divisions. That trans people are always constantly othered as freakish and abnormal is what creates those divisions. All cissexual and cisgender does is denaturalize the idea being cis is normal and trans is not. If it gets cis people to think about their assumptions about their own lives relative to trans lives, yay – and it does. Many cis people have stepped up to say exactly that in this last go-round.

    • Marti Abernathey

      Exactly, Lisa. I’m glad that some cis folks have come forward, but do they accept their own privilege? I find that it’s hardest to get white men to accept that they even have ANY kind of privilege. Some people go ape shit. Witness PHB.

  • Mercedes

    I have to admit, I tend to be a bit resistent to new terminology that is just designed to be politically correct. This is probably because the first “safe” community I found was the leather community in the 1980s, at a time when Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon were assailing that community, porn, sex work et. al. to a highly irrational degree. So conforming to something just to be PC just isn’t my nature.

    That said, “cissexual” still fits a void that would otherwise be occupied by words like “normal,” which intentional or not are backhanded slaps in the face. I’ve kind of reluctantly settled into using it, in lieu of anything better.

    The word itself doesn’t necessarily indicate privilege, although in many contexts it is implied or one can infer that as part of the meaning. Context is everything.

    Personally, I see this as another way that labels are used to divide and fracture, another way to divvy up the plate to see either who comes out on top, or who is the “most marginalized.” I’d rather see people try to develop a decolonial perspective that stops wasting energy on the semantics of the status quo and works to improve the lot of everyone together, address our own biases, seek mutual understanding… yeah, f’ing dreamer…. 🙂

    BTW, sorry for being derailed for so long with local stuff. I like the new look.

    • Marti Abernathey

      @Mercedes I agree that context is everything. I guess I’m a little gruff, I like Carlin’s explanation of context and words :

      “You can’t be afraid of words that speak the truth, even if it’s an unpleasant truth, like the fact that there’s a bigot and a racist in every living room on every street corner in this country.”

  • Mercedes

    I have to admit, I tend to be a bit resistent to new terminology that is just designed to be politically correct. This is probably because the first “safe” community I found was the leather community in the 1980s, at a time when Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon were assailing that community, porn, sex work et. al. to a highly irrational degree. So conforming to something just to be PC just isn’t my nature.

    That said, “cissexual” still fits a void that would otherwise be occupied by words like “normal,” which intentional or not are backhanded slaps in the face. I’ve kind of reluctantly settled into using it, in lieu of anything better.

    The word itself doesn’t necessarily indicate privilege, although in many contexts it is implied or one can infer that as part of the meaning. Context is everything.

    Personally, I see this as another way that labels are used to divide and fracture, another way to divvy up the plate to see either who comes out on top, or who is the “most marginalized.” I’d rather see people try to develop a decolonial perspective that stops wasting energy on the semantics of the status quo and works to improve the lot of everyone together, address our own biases, seek mutual understanding… yeah, f’ing dreamer…. 🙂

    BTW, sorry for being derailed for so long with local stuff. I like the new look.

    • Marti Abernathey

      @Mercedes I agree that context is everything. I guess I’m a little gruff, I like Carlin’s explanation of context and words :

      “You can’t be afraid of words that speak the truth, even if it’s an unpleasant truth, like the fact that there’s a bigot and a racist in every living room on every street corner in this country.”

  • Mykell

    I can’t believe some of the arguments. Not liking the term “cisgender” because it implies privilege? It only implies privilege because it’s describing a position of privilege!

    It would be all well and good if cispeople chose their own word…. as long as that word is not “real,” “genuine,” “normal,” “regular,” “genetic,” “biological,” or any other term that implies that transpeople are weird, pathological, or fake. However, as far as I know, cispeople have never come up with a term for themselves that does not imply they are better than transpeople.

    I for one refuse to stop saying “cisgender” unless someone suggests another term that puts cis and trans identities on equal footing.

  • Mykell

    I can’t believe some of the arguments. Not liking the term “cisgender” because it implies privilege? It only implies privilege because it’s describing a position of privilege!

    It would be all well and good if cispeople chose their own word…. as long as that word is not “real,” “genuine,” “normal,” “regular,” “genetic,” “biological,” or any other term that implies that transpeople are weird, pathological, or fake. However, as far as I know, cispeople have never come up with a term for themselves that does not imply they are better than transpeople.

    I for one refuse to stop saying “cisgender” unless someone suggests another term that puts cis and trans identities on equal footing.

  • I find myself becoming more radicalized by the day – slow burning rage at constant injustice , justice delayed has a way of doing that to a person. I am a slow learner at times. Try to give people the benefit of the doubt. Try to be a deeper thinker. But that crap around the term cis gender was the last straw. Its not that hard a word , hey i am an old fart. at first i was like oooh its so complicated , and the world will never understand it yada yada yada..then i googled. go figure, and i read Whipping Girl and am reading Gender Madness in American Psychiatry. After reading Whipping Girl – i realized how break through the terms are – they will take us and serve us the transgendered well into the 21 st century.

    So seeing some gay guy americablog type, get their feathers ruffled as some cis women will also over the prefix “cis” or imagine that its negitive – its their baggage, their lack of understanding of the neutrality of the word.. a descriptive word about privilege in regards to gender variance , that personally i had been searching for all my life and never found Until Serano shined the light

    – and when i learned – light bulbs went off – it encapsalates perfectly the privilege that those in power in every setting wield.

  • I find myself becoming more radicalized by the day – slow burning rage at constant injustice , justice delayed has a way of doing that to a person. I am a slow learner at times. Try to give people the benefit of the doubt. Try to be a deeper thinker. But that crap around the term cis gender was the last straw. Its not that hard a word , hey i am an old fart. at first i was like oooh its so complicated , and the world will never understand it yada yada yada..then i googled. go figure, and i read Whipping Girl and am reading Gender Madness in American Psychiatry. After reading Whipping Girl – i realized how break through the terms are – they will take us and serve us the transgendered well into the 21 st century.

    So seeing some gay guy americablog type, get their feathers ruffled as some cis women will also over the prefix “cis” or imagine that its negitive – its their baggage, their lack of understanding of the neutrality of the word.. a descriptive word about privilege in regards to gender variance , that personally i had been searching for all my life and never found Until Serano shined the light

    – and when i learned – light bulbs went off – it encapsalates perfectly the privilege that those in power in every setting wield.