Gender[queer],  Queer[ness]

let’s talk: the trans/cis binary

note: this post is also a YouTube video, which was made in response to commentary made on another video about identifying as non-binary but not trans. you may want to watch the latter video before reading this.

let’s talk about gender. let’s talk how you may or may not be aware of the false binary or dichotomy of male / female gender and how it erases non-binary people. then, let’s talk about how that isn’t the only binary that exists involving gender and identity. let’s talk about how even if a non-binary person manages to navigate the male / female gender binary within society and exist openly as a non-binary person, they’re then faced with yet another binary, another dichotomy from within the very communities that they should at least be able to feel safer in. let’s talk about how within the LGBTQIA there is / are:

  • questionnaires, registration forms, etc that expect you to choose between “cis” or “trans” as the only options and / or reference transition with the phrase “trans status”
  • organizations, centers, shelters, etc that assume that all non-binary people feel included by the T in the acronym or by mention of the word “trans” without mention of “non-binary” because the former is assumed to include the latter
  • activism that contrasts trans people with cis allies, without mention of anyone else due to the assumption that if you’re not cis you automatically “count” and identify as trans
  • medical professionals and your average LGB and even T person alike who qualify your gender (binary or not) by holding it up to a binary trans narrative, deciding that you must be cis if you don’t meet their definition of trans; some even going so far as to use lack of trans identity as ‘proof’ of you being cis
  • activism that promotes itself as being inclusive of trans, non-binary and gender diverse people, advocating for “trans rights” under the assumption that “trans rights” automatically encompasses rights for all non-binary and gender diverse people*
  • etcetera

let’s talk about how even in the most gender diverse spaces, the gender binary often just gets swapped out for another binary: the trans / cis binary.

  • “if you aren’t male cis, you’re female trans.”
  • “if you aren’t female trans, you’re male cis.”
  • “you’re either male cis or you’re female trans.”
  • “there are only two genders ways to relate to your assigned gender at birth (AGAB), male identifying as it (cis) & female not identifying as it (trans).”**
  • etcetera

let’s talk about how the trans / cis gender binary is no better than the male / female gender binary that some of us are working so hard to do away with.

let’s just talk.

let’s talk about how yes, inclusive definitions of trans such as “someone whose gender / sex differs from the gender / sex they were assigned at birth” are really great! but let’s also talk about how a definition, no matter how inclusive, does not automatically translate into an identity. let’s talk about how there’s a lot more attached to and involved with an identity than there is with a definition and how the definition of a word being an accurate description of someone does not automatically mean that it is comfortable as an identity.

as redundant as it may seem, let’s also talk about how inclusive definitions do not translate into obligatory identities. let’s talk about how no one is obligated to identify as anything nor are they obligated be comfortable with being referred to as something even if a word happens to theoretically “fit”.

let’s talk about how a non-binary person can simply identify as non-binary. let’s talk about how an agender or genderless person can identify as agender or genderless without also identifying as trans OR non-binary. let’s talk about how someone who was assigned male at birth (AMAB) can identify as a woman without also identifying as a trans woman JUST LIKE how someone who was assigned female at birth (AFAB) can identify as a woman without identifying as a cis woman. that’s right, your average AFAB woman walking down the street does not identify as a cis woman and even if you explained to her what cis means, she may still not identify in that way even if by definition cis theoretically “fits”. let’s talk about why, then, a trans woman is expected to identify as a trans woman in addition to identifying as a woman. hint: trans misogyny and respectability politics, that’s why.

let’s talk about how not only may a person explicitly not identify in a certain way, but also how even if they do identify in that way that identity may not be an active one. let’s talk about how intimate or private an identity can be and how it’s okay not to ever tell anyone about it. let’s talk about how private identities are no less real or valid than shared or public ones.

while we’re at it, let’s also talk about how someone may not identify as anything, explicitly or otherwise. let’s talk about how unhelpful and even damaging it can be for someone who is questioning to be expected to choose a side in the trans / cis binary– not only by cis or trans people but by everyone.

oh, and wait. my personal favorite. let’s also also talk about how not everyone can, should or even has to identify in a way that juxtaposes their gender with the gender that some doctor wrote on a certificate forever ago. let’s talk about how not everyone wants to or should be expected to reference their AGAB in any way, be it even to say whether they identify with it or not. because, you know, that is exactly what words like ‘cis’ and ‘trans’ do.

so yes, by all means, let’s talk about how to make things as inclusive as possible for trans people, but let’s also bear in mind that not everyone identifies as or even is cis or trans. let’s not leave those people out of the conversation, least of all throw them under the proverbial bus because it’s easier for you to see and think of the world as black and white, cis and trans.

let’s talk about how we can diversify our language and how sometimes it is not better to use umbrella terms with the assumption that everyone identifies with at least one of them. let’s talk about how even umbrella terms have their pitfalls and can leave out or alienate people. let’s talk about how much more validating and empowering it can be for someone to explicitly state who you are referring to, supporting, advocating for, etc if at all possible.

let’s just talk. let’s talk as a community, because i sure as hell don’t hold any sort of power nor represent anyone but myself so talking to me won’t really get us anywhere, but if we talk to each other then just maybe we’ll get somewhere.

let’s start a conversation.
let’s start many.

* an example of advocacy of ‘trans rights’ falling short for non-binary people:
the lack of advocacy by major trans organizations for legal reform that would allow non-binary people to have legal gender markers that reflect their gender. gender markers, a fundamental need for non-binary people, isn’t even what comes to mind when you hear talk of ‘trans rights’, is it? while there certainly is overlap between the rights & needs to trans people in general and those of non-binary people, there are rights & needs specific to non-binary people that trans organizations are less mindful of in their fight for ‘trans rights’. both in practice and in name, ‘trans rights’ is not necessarily interchangable with ‘non-binary rights’.

** “you either identify with your AGAB or you don’t” is a false assumption as a person can identify in part or otherwise not entirely with their AGAB but also explicitly not identify with it at the same time. gender and identity sure are complicated.

YouTuber and Blogger, Vesper is an American expat currently living in Japan.

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