A Call for Cisgender Action

Creating gender-inclusive spaces and moments in everyday life

The gradual push for marriage equality in the U.S. has created a lot of buzz around queer culture, specifically around gay, lesbian, and bisexual identities. These communities have gained mainstream visibility within straight and cisgender culture. You can get a Human Rights Campaign Visa card from Bank of America. Corporations like Nike and Microsoft now march in gay pride parades, laminated in sleek rainbow decorations and logos. However, inclusion for gender identity and variety is happening at a much slower pace, and it often comes at a higher price.

So What’s Cisgender?

This question comes up a lot in both queer and ally groups I’ve worked with. Everyone pretty much knows what “straight” is. You can mention “straight” or “gay” at the office, at school, and at home, and most people will know what you’re talking about. But “cisgender” isn’t part of everyday use.

  • some people cannot be medically categorized within the neat (and problematic) “boy” and “girl” boxes, especially in cases of intersex births.
  • “Man” and “Woman” don’t account for the great variety of gender identities out there, which span different cultural traditions and histories. Examples include genderqueer, two-spirit, and fa’afafine.

Why Does Gender-Variance Matter?

Since mainstream culture is currently fixated on sexuality, many gender-variant people in the LGBTQIA community live in silence. Often, the “T” and the “I” parts of our acronyms get sidelined — the trans* and intersex communities. “Trans” is often stuck on as an afterthought, and intersex is almost completely unheard of, even in organizations dedicated to queer awareness. I find it odd that intersex people are overlooked so often. Medical experts say that only 1 percent of the world’s population are born with ambiguous sexual characteristics. Well … that’s actually 70 million people who don’t fit into the medical binary of “male” or “female” at birth.

How Cisgender People Can Help

Change in everyday institutions, such as your school, office, home, church, and non-profit organizations won’t happen overnight. However, you can speed up that process by showing peers, colleagues, and bosses that gender inclusive environments are important to everyone.

Writing on queerness, tech, and literary nerdiness. www.lorainekv.com

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