If you identify with the gender assigned to you at birth, then you identify as cisgender, which means you have cis-privilege. Before we get into this, let me make one thing clear: having privilege doesn’t make you a bad person. You didn’t ask to be cisgender, you were #BornThisWay, much like your non-binary friends. However, it’s still important to be wary of the privilege you have that others lack. Being aware of the advantages you might have over others who don’t identify as cisgender is part of being a good ally – denying your privilege and acting like it’s not real isn’t doing anyone any good.
Spend an afternoon on Tumblr, and it can be easy to get caught in the trap of beating yourself up about being privileged and needing to over compensate – don’t. Your experience is valid, but you may want to be aware that on top of sexism, racism, homophobia, classism, and ableism, there’s a serious battle being fought for trans rights concurrently with these other movements (because intersectionalism is a thing and it’s rad). These ten examples of cis-privilege may apply to you and they may surprise you. For starters, being cis-privileged means not viewing your gender experience as unusual or different – many of us don’t give this kind of thing a second thought. Let’s learn together!
You Aren't Concerned With 'Passing'There's a certain fallacy that there's a good and bad way to be a trans person and that's all largely tied up with "passing." What is passing? It basically means that your gender expression very closely matches what society considers your gender to be like. Confused? Let me break it down further: if you were born as a man but identify as a woman, passing means you really look like a woman (breasts, other physical stuff, the way your voice sounds, etc.). You don't "pass" if you identify as a woman but still look like what society considers a dude to look like. Make sense? Passing becomes a status symbol as few are able to afford surgeries to help their bodies fit the gender they identify as - remember when Caitlyn Jenner had a new body basically overnight? That was a direct result of having enough money and access to a doctor who was willing to treat her medical concerns seriously. The vast majority of trans people all over the world are more likely to live in poverty or be denied basic medical care due to their gender identity. As a cisgender person, you don't need to be concerned with this because you most likely look like the gender you were assigned at birth. Make sense? If you're still confused or this is your first time hearing about this, that's just another example of your privilege. Source: iStock
People Accept Your Pronouns And Your NamePeople you encounter use the gendered pronouns that fit your identity and use the name that you give them. Sounds simple enough, right? This is not the case for many trans and non-binary people who are constantly challenged about what their "real name" is aka the name on their birth certificate. If you are cisgender and you choose to go by another name, it's hardly a big deal - for example, my legal name is Alison, but I've gone by Aliee for most of my life - who cares? I'm cisgender. If you aren't cis and you prefer to be called by a name that feels closer to who you are, it's a whole big ordeal and suddenly everyone's an expert in who you *really* are.Source: iStock
You Are Able To Purchase Clothes That Fit Your Body In Your GenderYou don't have to get your clothes taken in or let out to fit your body's proportions. The shoes you buy aren't weirdly too small or too big. You don't have to find a jacket that fits your broad shoulders and accents your waist to make you appear more feminine. You are easily able to walk into any store you want without fear of people staring or ridicule from staff members and purchase whichever clothes you think look good. I know we all have our issues with clothes fitting or not fitting, but it's tenfold for those of us who are not cisgender.Source: iStock
You Have Inclusive SpacesEven within the feminist movement and the queer community, non-cisgender people are shunned or seen as taking away from the "real" movement. Gender exclusive spaces like Greek life, jails, and locker rooms sometimes don't allow or accept people who are not cisgender. Trans and other non-binary individuals don't have their concerns taken into account through larger social movements and are sometimes not allowed to join social clubs due to their gender identity. If something is divided into girls and boys, you pretty much know where you're supposed to go and that is cis privilege.Source: iStock
You Can Use A Public Restroom Without Fear of Verbal Or Physical AssaultIf you feel safe walking in to whichever bathroom you want to, it's a definite sign of cis-privilege. Even if you are a more butch woman or a more femme guy, you are able to walk in to the restroom that best matches your gender identity without fear of inciting panic or anxiety amongst others in this public restroom, which may or may not trigger an altercation. Even if asked, you aren't challenged for it. If you can pee in peace without the law trying to police where and how you do it (suck it, North Carolina), then you are privileged. Source: iStock
You Don't Have To Routinely Come Out To Your Romantic PartnersThere isn't a pocket of anxiety that lives inside of you before you have to tell the person you're dating that you were not assigned female at birth. Cisgender lesbians don't have to worry about this panic because they're cis. Regardless of your orientation, if you are not of the gender binary, you may have to come out to a partner about what your gender identity is if you really want to get to know them. This isn't something that's typically taken lightly. A lot of people fear abuse or attack after coming out to a partner. A lot of sexuality is super gendered, so it's no wonder how cisgender people have it relatively easy and why this is a source of turmoil for transgender people.Source: iStock
You Are Not Routinely Questioned About Your GenitalsWHO DOES THIS ANYMORE, PEOPLE?! Seriously, when is it ever okay to ask anyone about their genitals? It's suddenly okay when you believe that someone is transgender that you have to interrogate them about how they feel about their private parts and the personal choices they've made with them? Cool. What's in someone else's pants is their business. Even if you're being intimate with someone else's pants parts, you may get to have an opinion, but you don't get to criticize or tell them what to do about it. Want your trans woman partner to keep her penis because it makes sex better for you? Sorry, not your choice. Source: iStock
Your Gender Identity Is Recognized Without Hesitation Or QuestionHospitals, police officers, and other people of authority do not mock or make light of your gender identity. They take you seriously and respect your identity. For cisgender people who's expression may even appear to be non-typical of the respective gender stereotype, your gender identity is clearly visible on your ID. You are able to "prove it" without someone implying that you're lying, doing it for attention, or are somehow mentally ill. If you are cisgender people generally accept your gender for what it is without a litany of questions, which is a privilege not everybody has. Source: iStock
Your Childhood Photographs Reflect Who You AreWant to know who probably hates #tbt? Your friends who aren't cisgender. You don't have to worry about being outed as transgender by a baby picture. If you can look back at your childhood photographs fondly, you are experiencing cis privilege. When you are small and aren't being taken seriously when you tell the adults in your life that you aren't really a girl or a boy, that fluffy pink dress your parents dressed you in is going to sting a little bit. Being forced to live as a different gender throughout your childhood isn't particularly fun. Source: iStock
You Are Seen As NormalEverything from media portrayals to the words you use and the experiences you have: they're seen as normal. I know a lot of fellow cisgender people who feel inconvenienced by the word "cisgender." The main complaint I hear is "Why do I have to be cis? I'm just normal. Can't I just say that?" Nope, you can't. Turns out, there's no such thing as normal and to say you're normal makes everyone else the other, which immediately implies a hierarchy of who's being appropriate and who isn't. It's where privilege starts. You aren't in a dysphoric state of worrying if you appear normal or pass. Cis people have the luxury of being able to exist in their gender without their whole life experience being predicated by their gender identity. Source: iStock
Are you cisgender? How do you experience cis privilege? How can we be better allies? Let us know what you think in the comments!
You can follow the author, Aliee Chan, on Twitter.