Monday, April 4, 2011

It Comes with Privilege: on being Cissexual

Yesterday, I wrote about how women are disconnected with their vaginas, and sometimes hate them based on societal cues about what is acceptable and not acceptable. While this is completely valid for many women, there are other women who do not have the privilege of having a vagina to hate. And many men who have vaginas that they hate more than words can express, and not for the same reasons that women hate their vaginas.

Time for a little trans 101:

Transsexual: For the purposes of this post, we're going to say that someone who is transsexual feels as though they were born in the wrong body and they are either in the process of, planning on, or already have taken action to change those body parts in order to match their gender identity. Trans means change, sex means biological.

*note, not everyone agrees with this definition, and that is ok. This is just the one I'm using for the purposes of this post.

Cissexual: Cis meaning same, sex meaning biological. Someone who is cissexual (or cisgender in some uses of the term) feels as though they were born in the correct body and feels no need to change their genitalia due to gender identity.

And while we're at it, let's quickly go over the difference between biological sex and gender identity. Just so we're all on the same page.

Biological Sex is what's in your pants, or skirt, or whatever. You can be Female, Male, or Intersex. And there are a couple different types of intersex, but I don't know too much about that so I'm not going to try to explain it, just in-case I fuck it up.

Gender Identity is who you feel like in your head. I see it as a spectrum from feminine to masculine, but sort of a scatter-plot of a spectrum. Most people identify somewhere in between masculine and feminine, but some people identify outside of that spectrum altogether. That, however, is another blog post.

Sometimes gender identity coincides with biological sex, but sometimes it does not. Society says that it does, and when it does then female bodied people are expected to be feminine, male bodied people are expected to be masculine. There is not supposed to be a grey area, and intersex people don't really exist. Super black and white.

So, cissexual people often fall into the category of genetalia-matches-gender-identity and they have very few problems navigating within society with regards to their bodies. A cissexual woman may have a distant relationship with her vagina, she may hate how it looks, and she may never touch it, but she does not feel as though it is the wrong part.

A transsexual woman, however, is sickened by her "down there" everyday until she gets surgery to change it. Same with a transsexual man. This dysphoria is something that I will never fully understand.

I am cissexual. I do not hate my cunt, at all. And regardless of how I may feel about my chest, stomach, hips or thighs (and how they all need to be smaller), I will never know what it feels like to be born in the wrong body. I will never go through sexual reassignment surgery, because I do not feel as though I need to reassign my sex. This makes me part of the majority, and that comes with privilege.

I have cissexual privilege. I have it, and I need to be aware of it. At some point I will need to use it to help those who don't have the same privilege. See, just because I can't quite identify with the feelings that others have does not mean that I can't help.

Think of it as a spiderweb. These things are so amazingly engineered, it's awesome. The inside of the spiderweb takes all of the impact, and therefore is the strongest part of the web. The outside is where resources like food and water are gathered. People with privilege are on the outside of the web. They have more access to resources, but are so far apart sometimes that they don't see the inside of the web, where all the people without privilege are. The people on the inside of the web are those with less privilege, and less access to resources. These are also the people who have more shit to deal with. They take the beating.

So, me and my privilege have access to resources that can help break down transphobia and cissexism. But I cannot do it alone. If I break down my little piece of the web, that spider will come right back and fix it. No real damage done to the web, or transphobia. But if the people on the inside of the web break down their piece of the web, that's a whole other story. This does some real damage to the web.

So, my privilege and I come in by helping those on the inside break down the web, because they need the resources to do damage. We all need to work together.

Bottom line: use your privilege wisely.

My Vagina, My Vagina, Me

also published in the community blog. see it at

This weekend, I performed in The Vagina Monologues. I would love to go on and on about how amazing the entire experience was and how great our cast was, and how it was a great bonding experience that will bring our feminist community on campus together. Or even how we raised a whole lot of money for a really necessary office on campus. But, this post is not about that.

No, this post is for a woman whose name I never learned. A woman who probably does not realize that it is her, and not the performance, that inspired me. I met her after the Friday night performance, and I may never be the same.

This woman was an older woman, maybe in her fifties or sixties. She was short and quiet, and had a limp. She did not seem very sure of herself, but she needed to tell me something. She waited quietly as I socialized with other members of the audience, my conservative parents included, she waited as the crowd died down, she waited as we cleaned up for the night. She waited, and she mustered, and she glowed.

Finally, she came up to me. She told me that she has a mirror at home, and that she would, finally, after all these years, look at her vagina for the first time, and she expected that she would be in awe. She was inspired by our performance. She was inspired by what we did. She was inspired to do something that is not socially acceptable, or even spoken of. She said she was inspired by us.

Wow. I can't begin to explain how amazing this makes me feel. And also, how sad. How sad is it that we live in a culture where a woman can go her entire life without looking at her vagina, or having an orgasm? How did we become so disconnected from our own body part? It's as normal to have as an arm, or a toe, yet far more integral.

Tampons even have applicators so that we don't have to touch it.

Something went drastically wrong here. See, a man would never go that long without looking at his penis, or pleasuring himself. It is expected and even celebrated when a man is proud of his penis, whereas even saying vagina makes a woman uneasy.

It was not always like this. At one time, the vagina, or cunt as i like to call it, was revered as the center of creative power. Women were revered because of the amazing things our bodies can do. We bleed with the moon, we create life, and we have earth shattering orgasms, sometimes many in a night. When did this stop being awe inspiring? When did vaginas become dirty?

I don't know those answers. Maybe I will someday. What I do know is that this lack of respect for women, and their vaginas needs to end. Just think what could happen is we all started loving ourselves. Women and men, and everyone on between. When our bodies stopped being the enemy and we weren't trying to either adhere to, tear down, or enforce these crazy ideals and boxes and roles. If we could all just... be. How great would that feel?

How many stress related disorders would no longer exist?

Just a thought to leave you with for now.