The Reaction To #GoodCisPeople Proves Why We Need It
There are certain experiences that are shared by a broad swath of trans people. Losing friends from coming out or transitioning is ubiquitous, and some us even lose our entire families and jobs.
And then there are the experiences we often have with self-described trans allies. While this group of people claims to support us, they can say things that are actually very rude. For example, questions about our private surgical status or arguing over misgendering are common. References to our “real” genders or names are also prevalent. These statements come from a place of ignorance, and most perpetrators of said microaggressions aren’t even aware of how offensive these questions and statements can be.
Over the weekend, a friend of mine started #GoodCisPeople on Twitter to express her frustration over things that self-proclaimed trans allies say to us that are offensive. I was an early participant in the hashtag, listing several of the most common questions that some of my good cis friends have asked me so far in my transition. The momentum for the hashtag built as it seemed like all of trans Twitter got in on the act.
By late Sunday evening, #GoodCisPeople was trending. When I woke up to use the bathroom at midnight, I had 178 Twitter notifications. Our little hashtag had gone viral. I was afraid to look, but sure enough, my mentions were full of alt-right types, neo-Nazis, and Gamergaters and their accompanying filth. What had begun as an exercise in telling stories about the trans experience had morphed into an all-out attack on trans people in less than 24 hours. The same old attack lines were brought out en masse yet again, with tweets stating that trans people are mentally ill and gender equals chromosomes, and people sharing that they “identify as an attack helicopter” and trotting out the “not all cis people” line.
The swift and brutal response to #GoodCisPeople shows exactly why the hashtag is needed. The responses from cis people ranged from generally annoyed to completely enraged. It seemed to me that very few cis people even cared to read the stories being told on the hashtag and instead went straight into gaslighting trans people with claims of “cisphobia.” They argued and threatened to stop being allies in response to some of the more biting comments.
The most egregarious exchange for me happened when I pointed out that random dogs on the street have their genders respected more often than trans people do. The dog comparison is an apt one because people cannot tell the sex of a dog unless you are examining their genitals up close. Instead, people generally just assume the dog is a boy, which is an obvious reflection of society’s misogyny. The feminine is lesser than the masculine, so it’d be ruder to assume a male dog is female than a female dog is male. Once corrected, however, most people don’t mix up a dog’s pronouns from then on.
A cis man who proclaimed to “have nothing against LGBT people” didn’t understand my tweet, and explained that people would just use the correct pronouns for the dog from then on.
When I asked that trans people be given the same respect and dignity for our genders as dogs are given, the man made a blanket assumption about the looks of all trans people while explaining why dogs deserve better treatment.
He later went on to explain that trans people are all mentally ill people who needed therapy instead of transitioning. This from someone who claims he “doesn’t have a problem with LGBT people.”
I was most struck by just how offended some cis people are to being labeled as cis. On more than one occasion, angry cis people tweeted that it’s not “cis,” it’s just “normal.” Cisgender simply means “the opposite of transgender” and “cis” has its roots in Latin and chemistry. It’s an innocuous term that serves as an important differentiator, and yet some cis people absolutely cannot handle the label. I’ve seen transphobes and trans-exclusionary radical feminists, or TERFs, argue that “cis” is on the same level of slur as “tranny.”
I’m sorry, but I just don’t see how that is possible. Trans people may complain about cis people, but no one has ever been persecuted or discriminated against for being cisgender.
Like #ShitCisPeopleSay or the comments of any trans-related article, this has once again made trans people invest emotional labor in defending our own existence. It is exhausting, not to mention disheartening to think that basic common courtesy from society is too much to ask for.
In this context, it’s especially important for #GoodCisPeople to exist. So returning to the actual purpose of the hashtag, what can cis people do to truly support the trans community? Well . . . a lot.
Doing better begins with the basic belief that we are the genders that we tell you we are. That’s it.
We’re not “really” whatever gender is associated with what we have below our belts. Our deadnames — the names given to us by our parents, which we have changed very deliberately — are not our “real” names. It’s not too much to have our genders treated the same as a dog’s; all we’re asking is to be treated like you would treat anyone else that shares our genders. Treat us as the gender we say we are, not the gender we appear to be. I understand the curiosity, I really do, but we are not your reality show. We don’t owe you explanations, and we don’t have to meet any arbitrary standards for looks or behavior or mannerisms to deserve your respect.
It’s also critical to be aggressive with your support. So often, us trans people see allies just sit to the side while abuse happens. If you see a trans person being attacked, either online or in person, back us up as best you can. Step in and tell the abuser that you believe our true genders and stand behind us. Don’t just think that it’s not your fight because you’re not super educated on the trans experience. Bullies respond to strength, and there is strength in numbers. If enough cis people use their privilege to really stand side by side with trans people, transphobes will be sapped of their power.
Lastly, read, listen, and watch our stories. Hire us for your jobs — we can do them and do them well! There are so many of us speaking out now. Don’t just read the famous white trans women who’ve written memoirs; read trans men, listen to trans women of color, watch non-binary people. All trans people have a unique insight into how gender plays a part in so many parts of everyday life. I promise that you will learn something from us, if you just stopped and listened.
#GoodCisPeople started out as a way for trans people to share their common experiences with well meaning but misguided or ignorant cis people, and turned into a neo-Nazi and Channer abuse exercise. Trans people are already marginalized enough without being targeted for doxxing and harassment by terrible people. But when that harassment happens anyway, we often have to fight it alone. Though trans people don’t often admit this, it would be nice to have good allies on hand.
The truth is that trans people are a tiny minority and we often need help. We really are looking for a few #GoodCisPeople.
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