(The first article in a new series I’ve created: The Sunday Reader: personal and thought provoking articles for a Sunday)
Am I being gender critical because I reject being cisgendered?
I have a difficulty with being cis. It is not a label I use to describe me, but it is one given by existence through identity politics. I feel that with the label of cis an aspect of the meaning offers me a privilege to my gender. I am, though,more than my gender. I am someone who is socially constructed and has socially constructed himself. So what is my issue?
What is the meaning of cis?
Cis is used as a prefix and comes from Latin, meaning being ‘on this side of’. The opposite is trans; being on the ‘other side of’. Trying to ensure that trans identities the term cis became commonly used through the late 1990s in Identity politics. Cis as a gender descriptor ensured that transgender people would no longer be a marginalised group. Therefore, in this context, I am a cis man or cis male. This prefix is perhaps the reason I don’t feel comfortable with it.
For me this puts me into another category and in today’s society most men will still lay claim to being a man and maleness without a prefix. Some women feel the same. To add the prefix, I would state, adds me to a marginal category, one that I am here already because I am gay and male, rather than just male.
Privilege: To cis, or not to cis: that is the question:
I have privilege, I can’t argue otherwise. Because my privilege comes of my whiteness and being born with my sex fixed. Even being able to write (good or bad) here on Medium counts as a privilege free from oppressive constraints on free speech. Then again, there is more privilege to me than meets the eye. My privilege develops because of opportunities to study and the finances to do so, good friends and emotional maturity that comes with an inner stability I feel. Even my privilege to know in my teens that I was gay and the choice I eventually made to embrace my gayness. This doesn’t answer why I am writing about cis identities. So why?
Who is afraid of the cis-tem?
Because I was watching the comedian Hannah Gadsby in her show Nanette (2018) the other night. The show evokes comedy and tragedy. Early in the show Hannah speaks about being misgendered as male when in fact she is a lesbian woman. I have had a similar experience, perhaps people being surprised I was gay once upon a time but I was once misgendered.
A young woman commented that I had good growth in the chest department. They were on hormones and were curious to know what I was taking. I thanked them but said that I was not on anything; it was all natural!
Something of my own self-deprecating humour kicked in that I did not feel angered, threatened or sad. Maybe just a little pleased because I have come a long way since the school PE department; fatty of chest and frequently asked if I wore a bra. I deflected this in some way rather than engage in conflict that I was ill-prepared to deal with. I held onto this body issue for a long time to the point that it sometimes returns, but rarely do I feel exposed as I did then.
I know that my body does not hold together in some men/masculine circles, but I am pleased with how it has aged and developed. It is down to my consistent maintenance that reflects how it is today. And I suppose my claim to maleness and masculinity hinges on my objection to being termed cis.
A cis-tem destroyed?
I am conflating gender identity and sexual orientation but I would say I have not stayed on ‘this side of’ in either respect. I have explored different dominant and submissive areas of my sexual orientation and sexuality. My place in men and maleness has not been assured, but that is from other men; men who think they have higher privilege. Men of all categories.
I’ve reflected about my gender identity by looking for answers from a woman’s perspective rather than from a man. Maybe then my thinking is more reasoned and female, but I am not transitioning into femininity. It is already there. My body inhabits many humanistic ways of thinking and being. So, to call me cis is too confining. I have transitioned and self-reflected at every stage of my life in a way that other men do not.
Through all this I don’t feel marginalised, I feel power in my history as a man without it being cis. I’ve looked over many sides to see if I fit. Perhaps I am gender critical because I see gender as a personal growth model, rather than a collective experience.
I’m much more interested in people’s stories of how they are in being as humans, than I am by their cis or trans identity. Should society stop coming up with labels to make everyone feel included when feeling included should be about living a life free from harm, from conflict and war, and from abuse?
I want to be known as a man and as male because this is how I position who I am in the world. I am ‘on this side of’ because I need to represent me in a way a prefix does not help me. Rather, I think it helps other people to label me in order to make them feel their place. Maybe that is just human nature, gradually drilling down to who we are, or who we need to be.
On a cis day: could I change my view?
Yes. I want to live a life like of existential philosophy. I have the freedom to change my mind as I age. It is as simple as that. Nothing is fixed.