Community Comment: Different identities NEED a different name

By Jen Laws

Regarding the “I’m NOT Cisgender” HuffPo opinion piece that seems to have a ridiculous amount of shares among our community:

Community Comment is an occasional column written by community members on various topics of living a leather, bear and kink lifestyle.

I am deeply disappointed to see this short-sighted, self encompassed, article being shared. Here (in our community), especially. Not only is the article simply a drooling monologue of wound measuring, it lacks cultural context and expansive recognition of the struggles that are uniquely defined in the transgender and gender non-conforming communities. See? There is a fucking word for not cis and not trans. AND that requires understanding and nuanced experience consciously living as “not-cis” and owning that particular experience as something other than “male identified, male assigned at birth”….which clearly the author does not.

Further, the author conflates gender identity with society assigned gender normative expectations around sexuality. And those are VERY, VERY different issues.

The author does seem to give voice to something few seem to understand: intersectionality (thank you Kimberle Crenshaw).

And his lack of understanding seems to be the origin of the disconnect throughout his piece

The principle behind intersectionality is that multiple things are true at once, especially in regard to the dynamic relationship of society, communities, and individuals as defined by our identities (to do a distinct injustice in summarizing the complex nature of this expansive and encompassing term).

And so for the folks who are in the “I don’t get it, Jen, chill,” crowd that may not be commenting or engaging openly, the following is for you.

Yes, the author is gay and that comes with societal injustices specifically targeted at the gay community.

Yes, the author openly admits to struggling with mental illness, that also comes with societal injustices.

However, neither of these things are “visible” without distinct chosen action to make them visible. That means the author both benefits from assumptions and may struggle with feeling invisible. BOTH of those things are true at the same time.

Yes, the author is white male identified, male assigned at birth, that comes with societal Power that no other intersection can compare to. NONE. The author is more likely to be hired for a job, find housing, less likely to be assaulted by a cop, less likely to experience bias in healthcare, less likely to be sexually assaulted, less likely to experience imprisonment or judicial bias, more likely to be approved for a loan or accepted into college and more “benefits” that come with being white appearing cisgender male. He doesn’t get to choose that AND he certainly benefits from it. That is TRUE.

Furthermore, the author goes on to cite the fact that he fucks other man identified individuals (whom may or may not be trans or cisgender). This is not a challenge to his identity as a man assigned male at birth. This is an issue of societal expectations around whom his partners “should” be, not who he “should” be. Those are very distinct and different issues. The author does not cite gender expression outside of the “norm” beyond his sexual expression.

Multiple things are True at once. And the intersection of the author’s struggles and privilege is where he lives his life. No one, no one challenges that he may struggle based on certain pieces of his identity and no one is saying gay white cisgender men do not struggle at the intersection of their sexuality in a heteronormative world. What is being challenged is that “cisgender” identity does not cause harm.

It doesn’t fucking hurt you. It does not preclude any other aspect of one’s identity. Cisgender identity does not result in increased risks to life, livelihood, or safety.

On the other hand, trans and gender non-conforming identity and expression absolutely comes with a risk to life, livelihood, and safety. Those risks increase with additional marginalization such as race (POC identity) and gender spectrum “passing”.

So, I’ll leave you with a challenge to consider, to chew on, and a statement.

Challenge: Consider just for a moment if you believe the risks to life and safety and success in life can be assessed based on gender identity. If they can, if you can accept the statistical FACTS of increased suicide attempt, homelessness, joblessness, the fact that bathroom bills are being passed, that in the United States alone transwomen of color are being murdered at a rate higher than the combined deaths from domestic abuse worldwide, if you can accept that fact that “trans broken arm syndrome” (experiences where emergency room providers are not treating complaints from transgender individuals because they are trans) is actually a thing, if you can see that our lives are harder simply BECAUSE we are transgender…

Then we need you to accept that your lives are inherently different than ours. And we need a fucking name for that.

Statement: I get asked frequently by well meaning folks “Jen, what pushed you to transition?”

My answer is always the same: “Who wouldn’t want to be a white man in America?”

Jen Laws is an activist living in Florida.