"But there was nothing about the little, low-rambling, more or less identical homes of Northumberland Estates to interest or to haunt, no chance of loot that would be any more than the ordinary, waking-world kind the cops hauled you in for taking; no
small immunities, no possibilities for hidden life or otherworldly presence; no trees, secret routes, shortcuts, culverts, thickets that could be made hollow in the middle – everything in the place was right out in the open, everything could be seen at a glance; and behind it, under it, around the corners of its houses and down the safe, gentle curves of its streets, you came back, you kept coming back, to nothing; nothing but the cheerless earth."
Thomas Pynchon, "The Secret Integration"
This is Ian Mathers' Tumblr. I live in Canada. I've written about music and other things for Stylus, PopMatters, Resident Advisor, the Village Voice, and a few other places. Hi.
A sex worker friend complains of discussions about sex work where every participant prefaces their anti-abolitionist stance with “I’m not a sex worker but”. She is left with the options of saying silent, lying, or outing herself.
That’s how felt last Friday, when I saw another friend recommending that everyone who is cis take advantage of Facebook’s new gender options, to say “cis female” or “cis male”, to remove the assumption that “cis” is the default. This was a fairly clued-up friend, but I don’t think she’d thought the implications of this.
I used to be stealth, kind of. I was never very good at it (both in the passing department and in the not telling anyone section). Now, I have it in my fucking twitter bio, and my god it reduces the anxiety about wondering who knows. I can do that because of other privilege I have - I am white, middle class, with high earning potential, and live in a city where I have a support network.
But just because I’ve been fortunate enough to make a decision doesn’t mean anyone else should be forced to make the same one. There are lots of people who aren’t out, for various reasons. That’s entirely up to them, and we need provide a context where they do not have that silence/lying/outing trilemma.
Imagine you’re trans and stealth and loads of your friends on Facebook have changed their gender to “cis male”/”cis female”. What do you do? You can’t put it to “trans” without outing yourself, something that may well affect your personal safety, employment status, etc, regardless of whether some set of your Facebook friends are going to be cool with it. You could change it to say “cis”, I suppose, but you might well think that is a crossing the line into a lie. (Stealth is not lying. Stealth is keeping quiet and sometimes fudging things.) So, stay silent? The thing is, at some point, if “cis” catches on as an identity, an unadorned “female” or “male” will become suspicious.
And then what if you are trans and pre-transition, either because you haven’t quite figured out what you are yet, or because you are not in a position to be able to. You would have to call yourself “cis” even though you don’t feel it’s quite right, or know it’s not true.
As an abstract concept “cis” is absolutely needed, but as an identity it has problems. When it’s relevant go ahead and acknowledge it, but don’t go flaunting it just as a default. And perhaps - sometimes - in solidarity - it would be better to refuse to confirm or deny.
As a trans woman, I can’t:
- Be femme (because I’m “over-performing” my gender, to quote Julie Bindel, and reinforcing the patriarchy besides by relying on harmful stereotypes of womanhood)
- Be butch or even not femme (because therapists wouldn’t even listen to me if my gender expression wasn’t Princess Peach [you ever think of that as an explanation, Julie Bindel?])
- Be assertive (because I’m “exercising my male privilege” and “innate masculinity” [because saying women can’t be confident is good feminism])
- Be passive (again, reinforcing the patriarchy)
- Be straight (because I’m “actually a deranged gay man desperate to fit into the patriarchy”)
- Be gay (because I’m “actually a deranged straight man desperate to get my dick into lesbian-only spaces”)
- Have sexual reassignment surgery (because it’s “unnecessary genital mutilation” according to people for whom it is completely unnecessary and “won’t make [me] a woman any more than shoving a vacuum down one’s pants makes them a man” [how right you are, BEING A WOMAN MAKES ME A WOMAN])
- Not have sexual reassignment surgery (because I’d be faking it if I wanted to keep my penis and having a penis makes me a horrifying nuclear reactor of masculine rape energy that will trigger everyone around me even if I wear two layers of tights over underwear and under pants and never remove any of them)
- Ever use a bathroom ever, you disgusting deviant, just your existence is harassment
- Get any support from the Salvation Army, who would literally just let me die on their steps
- Automatically assume that someone who identifies as feminist or even queer is a friend to me
- Ever know with certainty that I wasn’t fired or just didn’t get a job at all because someone along the line realized I’m trans
- Travel without being detained for years because my passport says M and I’m F
- Date anyone without being afraid that telling them will repulse them to the point of murdering me and then literally submitting to a jury of their peers that my being transgender was so horrifying that it drove them temporarily insane
But, you know, being called ‘cis’ on the Internet sounds rough too.
"It’s the social economic version of “just stop being depressed”"
thats exactly what bothers me about “forget money follow your dreams” like lol ok poor people just stop being poor and do things start a business
just acknowledge we live in a capitalist society and that following a dream isn’t achievable for everyone like. be real. i’m a positive person but i’m not full of illusions about how things work.
Ha, what an appropriate day to run into this post. I’m not in the UK and it sounds like things are a little more horrific there in general, but I identified painfully with a lot of this. Emphasis here mine.