Cisterhood Is Powerful

I need to be honest with you, Internet.

I am completely bored by the conversation about your gender, your gender identity, your gender expression. I find the endless selfies and YouTube introductory videos disturbing and evidence of a nation in the grips of a narcissistic delusion. I am weary of the hyperbole that any trans-critical analysis kills thousands of trans women every year (because, let’s be honest, we all know who kills trans women).

Indeed, trans-critical analysis isn’t that hard, and it is pretty obvious. And writers much more interested in it than I have skillfully unpacked bizarre post-modern concepts like “cisgender.”  So, my interest has waned, significantly, and I have been putting my political attentions towards other things.But this cisgender thing, it just sticks in my craw.  It has become so completely accepted for Women who consider themselves to be Feminist activists to say things like “Everyone has a sex AND a gender.”  It has become required for supportive allies to affirm that THEY are cisgender.


What is it?

Well, it used to be, if you were not Trans, you could call yourself “not Trans.” (Just like it used to be that you could say “I am transgendered,” but try doing that now and watch how quickly you are told to DIAF).

But it’s not enough to be “not Trans”  now. To create something like a “class” out of a group of special snowflake Men and Women (i.e., the Trans people), you need something to be in opposition to, to be contrasted with, to be “against.”

Enter Cis, man.


If transgender means your subjective self-identification as a Woman or a Man, regardless of your actual sex, cisgender must mean your self-identification as a Woman, because you actually are a Woman. But, apparently, that’s not what cisgender means.

According to dikipedia, the entry for cisgender (which is no doubt endlessly edited by White formerly heterosexual males with careers in IT) is defined thusly:

“cisgender and cissexual gender identities are two related types of gender identity where an individual’s self-perception and presentation of their gender matches the behaviors and roles considered appropriate for one’s sex.”  

So, behavior and roles “appropriate for one’s sex.”

Hmmmm. Ummm. Hmmmmm.

So, I am Female. This means I have a Female reproductive system and am vulnerable to impregnation, like all Females, by Males (this is a class analysis. I know, believe me, I know, that some Females are infertile – that doesn’t change that they are (correctly) perceived as and included in the class of humans subject to impregnation).

What are the behaviors and roles considered appropriate for one’s sex?

This is a serious question.

What are the behaviors and roles considered appropriate for one’s sex?

If you are a Feminist (even a Liberal Feminist or a Fun Feminist), the answer to this should be “There are no behaviors and roles considered appropriate for my sex because Females can be and do anything.”

If you are not a Feminist, your answer might be “My role as a women is to be a Wife (fuckhole) and Mother (breeder).” But, more likely than not, your answer (if you are a Woman) will still be “There are no behaviors and roles considered appropriate for my sex because Females can be and do anything.”

Because that is true. There are no behaviors and roles considered “appropriate” for the Female sex because Females can be and do anything.

So who is this “cisgender” label aimed at?

Let’s go back in time in the United States to post-World War II days. Remember, during World War II, millions of Women went to work in factories and enjoyed a new measure of freedom because their husbands, brothers, sons, uncles and boyfriends were off fighting Hitler. Working in a factory was not “considered appropriate for one’s (Female) sex” at the time, but necessity required it.  Oh, and let’s not claim all those Women are Trans, I am far too irritable to indulge that poppycock.

When WWII ended, those Women were fired from the factories so that their (insert male here) could go back to work, in the factory, where he “belonged.” And Women could go back to the kitchen, in the homemaking sphere, where she “belonged.”

Does this get us closer to what cisgender actually means? Is cisgender a class of Back to the Future Housewives who want to make you a sandwich?

Let’s look at another country: Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, Women and Girls are murdered for rejecting “marriage proposals.”  Those murdered Women were (most certainly) bucking the trend of the expectations placed on them by virtue of their sex. Are they “transgender”? They certainly aren’t “cisgender.” What is the proper language we would use for these brave Women seeking some measure of humanity?

And, what of the Women who comply with rigid social customs (probably, I would venture a guess, because of fear of violent repercussions if they didn’t comply). Are those Women “cisgender” for embracing the social roles and customs thrust on them by the dominant culture? Does calling them “cisgender” transform them from victims of Patriarchy into oppressors of men in dresses?

Back to the United States. We don’t live in the 1950s, and the Women’s Rights Movement actually happened (thank you, feminist Women for teaching us that Women can be and do anything, even though these post-modern sex positive morons make a mockery out of how far you moved the needle for Women. Also, thank you Marlo Thomas.)

“cisgender and cissexual gender identities are two related types of gender identity where an individual’s self-perception and presentation of their gender matches the behaviors and roles considered appropriate for one’s sex.”  

This definition, again, wants to bring us back in time, back before the Women’s Right Movement. It wants us to pretend that the Women’s Rights Movement did not happened. It wants us to pretend that there really are only two choices – you are either Trans, or you are upholding stereotypes about your sex. This definition does not withstand the critical gaze of anyone willing to examine it for more than two minutes.

Are you “cisgender”?

I’m not.

But if I *was* cisgender, let’s unpack that.

Even in the United States (where we think we are free and exceptional), Women are still socialized to be Wives and Mothers.  This is the dominant culture here.  We haven’t quite achieved the vision of the Women’s Rights Movement of Equality or Liberation (depending on your feminism). If all Women and Girls are socialized to accept their roles (based on the sex) as Wives and Mothers, “cisgender” seeks to punish them for being subjected to that socialization and (seemingly) complying with it/internalizing it. The fact that some Women and Girls have internalized these coded messages of what is acceptable for Women to be does not render their identity or presentation oppressive to so-called Trans people – it makes it oppressive only to themselves (but luckily, choosey choice feminism is here to tell you that you can CHOOSE to be a wife, mother, sex worker, whatever, so don’t question it).

Cis and Trans people – whoever they are – are both victims of the same old Patriarchy, either conforming to sex stereotypes and adopting those behaviors and roles Patriarchy says are appropriate for girls (again, ignoring that the Women’s Rights Movement ever happened) or “fucking with gender” in that way that does nothing but AFFIRM the idea that there are ways of being that correspond to your anatomy.

I am not cis. Millions of Women aren’t cis.

I am not trans. Millions of Women aren’t trans.

Indeed, millions of Women don’t know what the fuck this stupid endless conversation is about, because they are too busy trying not to get beheaded or raped.

Trans people, if your identity depends on telling Women who they are, if your existence depends on invalidating the lived experience of millions of Women and Girls, if you cannot be “oppressed” unless you create an oppressor class called “cisgender” and blame them for all your problems, I might suggest that Transgender isn’t as real, meaningful, deep or significant as you think it is.

Just a suggestion!

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14 Responses to Cisterhood Is Powerful

  1. brrp says:

    Actually I don’t think is a concept that hard to understand. Cis means that you are comfortable with the sex and gender you were assigned at birth, because society binds one sex with one gender (regardless of how useful would it be if gender wouldn’t exist because is just another social construct). Therefore, if you were assigned female at birth, and you feel comfortable with your genitalia and feel that it matches your self-perception as a woman, you are cis. If you were assigned female at birth based on your genitalia but you’d feel male, or none, you’d be trans. Not cis.

    I want to add another question I have been wondering for some time: what do radfems think about trans men?

    Att: non-binary demigirl afab

    • Transmen are female.

      Cisgender is garbage.

      • brrp says:

        Trans men are female just because they have “lady parts” (if they haven’t go under T or have passed)? What about how they feel?

      • Feelings aren’t material reality.

      • Ella says:

        Feelings are reality. Stigmatization is reality.
        Social categories pressing people into only two restricted genderd categories are real and also – by fact, by reality – limiting and opressing.
        Thus, arrogance by people who think they know better about realities of someone than the person themself are reality, too.
        Guess what, the way a persons genitalia is shaped (in many more than just two clearly distinctable ways) and how and which sexual organs are formed is not the one and only reason for a persons gender. Transmen are men whose body is not absolutely and since forever male. Their body and appearance might be very feminine but as a Transmen they are, well, men.

      • Badhbh Catha says:

        No, transmen are female.

    • Why says:

      “non-binary demigirl afab”

      So you were born with female parts and some of your self-identity stems from the social expectations of womanhood and some of it does not. Can you PLEASE explain how you believe that is any different from the experience of any “cisgendered” woman on the planet?

  2. brrp says:

    I though this was dead and these replies surprise me, to be honest.

    Now, back on track, a year between.

    @Why: Born with “female” parts and currently identifying as outside the binary, when not plainly agender. None of them suits me, I feel them too closed to define myself. But back on how I felt a year ago, demigirl as “the majority of my identity has nothing to do with the one experienced by a cis woman, and at the same time I still feel some ties to the typical female identity. I don’t feel like girl can define my identity as a whole”, that’s why I used demigirl. I dropped it when I learned more about myself, a year is a lot of time to think.

    @Babdhbh Catha: transmen are men, transwomen are women. Period. Just because they don’t fit in the typical/normative/established binary between woman/man, it doesn’t mean they don’t exist/their identities are less valid. They are what they feel like it, it can match their appearance or not. They can undertake processes to change their bodies, or not. But they are the gender they feel, and misgendering them adds nothing.

    • Badhbh Catha says:

      trans men are women
      Trans women are men

      Have a nice day!

      • brrp says:

        Each have our own opinions and, even if it saddens me to see that you won’t even try to look some information and try to comprehend other people’s experiences and lives, and choose to see things in such a narrowed way, I won’t comment anything else on this topic.

        But it’s free to be respectful to other’s peoples identities, just a note.

      • Badhbh Catha says:

        Be respectful of women and girls, maybe.

  3. annamirandarose says:

    A lot of energy has gone into analysing something that obviously doesn’t affect the writer in any way. It takes less energy to just respect other people’s identities and experiences. My thoughts are this article isn’t as ‘real, meaningful, deep or significant as you think it is!’

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