Sunday, July 12, 2015

Cisgender privilege: Whatcha gonna do about it?


I've noticed the last few blogs I've written have been about someone very special...ME! As in, my struggles, my victories, my sadness, my loss, my love as a working Mom of two who lost her own identity somewhere along the way (but am trying to get it back).   

Today though, I'm getting out of my little "me box" and talk about gender identity. I've been a member of PFLAG for several years since my son came out as a transgender man. In short, we raised him until 14 as a girl, when he really identified with being a guy. Once we realized this -- and it was not an easy road -- and helped him transition, he is much happier. But he's not out of the woods in terms of living like every other man. 

I want to share a few things I learned from transgender folks and what is known as Cisgender Privilege. "What is cisgender" you might ask?  In simplest terms it is identifying with the gender you were "assigned" at birth. This assignment is given by doctors and/or parents based on a baby's sex. That said, we must remember that gender identity and sexual orientation are different entirely -- one is based on who you are, and the other one who you love. At least that's the version I like best! Like cisgender folks, transgender people can be homosexual or heterosexual or pansexual, which essentially means they love who they love regardless of sexuality or gender identity. 

So what does cisgender privilege mean exactly? Well here are a few examples from itspronouncedmetrosexual;

  • using public facilities without stares, fear or anxiety
  • not being asked what your genitals look like 
  • not having to validate your gender based on if you took hormones or had surgery
  • not having your gender identity impeded you in getting a job, medical care, an apartment or loan 

Until I had a transgender son I took these things for granted. I laughed or smirked at jokes in the media or arts about drag queens or men wearing dresses. I never thought twice about using the bathroom.

That's different now. 

I could go on and tell you about my beautiful friend Anais, or Pride organizer Luke or former police officer Erika, but instead I encourage you -- no beg is more like it -- to take a moment to be grateful for your privilege. To understand a little better what it means to be transgender, whether you are a homeless teen on the street or Caitlyn Jenner. It ain't easy. And we need to not just celebrate these amazing people as being "brave" but support them in their struggle to demand equal rights. Human rights. 

As John Oliver, a brilliant comedian, said recently on a segment about transgender rights: "This is a civil rights issue...we've been through this before. We know how this thing ends. If you take the anti-civil rights side and deny people to access something they are entitled to, history is not going to be kind to you."