Yes, I know, here I am again critiquing the greater trans population for something we all have a right to be pissy about. I still think calling someone cissexist or labeling something as this is fairly useless and counterproductive. I’m not saying we are wrong to feel this way at times; it is valid and justifiable, but ultimately a pointless exercise. Here is the part where I tell everyone to shellax and just try and stop me from explaining.
Very very few cisgender people have absolutely any idea that they are cisgender to begin with. “Hey Carol, what is your opinion on this? You are cisgender.” “What, holy shit, really? … What is that?” You can put your bottom dollar on the fact that Carol never heard that term before, or even knew it was a thing. Most people have never encountered someone transgender, and being in the super vast majority, probably figure they don’t need a special designation to differentiate themselves from trans folks. After all, they are the “normal” ones. Honestly, I never even heard the term until a few months ago, and since then spent an inordinate amount of time explaining it to people who really didn’t care, but too polite to say so.
The term ‘cis’ is a problem in and of itself. Many people upon hearing it immediately think that we are the ones who should be called cisgender. “You know, cis, sissy, it makes sense, right?” Ugh. Really, I’ve heard this a few times now. Being female does not make one a sissy, and as someone willing to kill spiders by smooshing them with her bare hands, I can attest to this. Be that as it may, I assure you my face is red as I admit I thought this as well and was confused by the term for a while. Getting to the point, using a term almost no one has ever heard before and counterintuitive to boot is fairly pointless. A far greater proportion of the population knows how to say ‘fuck you’ in Klingon or Dothraki, sad to say.
Accusing someone of being cissexist is likely to earn you a blank expression. Yes, it hurts our feelings, self included, when people throw out ‘he-she’, ‘shemale’, ‘it’, and my personal favorite, ‘chicks with dicks’. It doesn’t sound nice, but the vast majority are not doing it to be offensive, they simply don’t know. I probably say things all the time that are horribly offensive to ethnic Inuit’s, but I don’t know any, nor does anyone I know. A small group of them might be huddled around a computer right now reading my blog, filled with seething rage at how blatantly nasty pants I’m being; how could she not know? But I don’t, and neither do most cisgender people.
Right now it’s a good time to be trans. Ever since Chaz Bono came out we’ve been featured in CNN articles, see Dr McGinn looking stunning on Dr Oz, specials on Primetime, and Jenny Boylan’s book flying off the shelves. It’s not going to last though. No one likes to hear this, but we are a flavor of the month and hold a momentary fascination due to the freak factor. It seems like trans-America right now, but in another few months or a year we’ll go back to being an urban legend in most people’s minds. The world at large has a very short attention span. Right now is a good time to try to educate the public, but making it stick is going to be harder. As always, we stand the best chance of reaching those immediately around us, which ends up being like 3% of the population.
So yes, we are going to hear cissexist things and it is going to upset us. We do our best to educate and get the word out, but we also need to protect our own hearts by having reasonable expectations about it as well. Most people are not out to hurt our feelings. Calmly explaining when we can is the best approach and in those cases where it is not, best just to walk away. Nothing we have to say is going to change the mind of someone determined to be mean.