The other day the #fuckcispeople hash tag began making the rounds amongst Twitter trans folks. A thorough overview of the origins, motivations, and reactions to the tag can be found over at cisnormativity – I don’t think there’s a whole lot I can add to that analysis. I did however want to discuss how complex a reaction it did have for me personally.
First off, I believe the anger and frustration behind the tag is completely legitimate and whatever I say is not intended to challenge that. I think the kernel of resentment I feel towards cis therapists is evident in my previous post and I believe such people have a LOT to answer for. At the same time, I think folks like me have a lot to answer for as well.
Comparisons between #fuckcispeople and #solidarityisforwhitewomen are easy to make but I think for me there was a critical difference. #solidarityisforwhitewomen was aimed towards white feminists who claimed to be representing all women. It was calling out those that professed to be enlightened with regard to (at least) one axis of privilege. It called out those that should have known better. #fuckcispeople is a scattershot that indiscriminately targets everyone between those that have no idea what “cis” means to professed allies that advertise some level of enlightenment – those that should have been aware of the harm they cause trans folks.
I should have known my actions caused harm. I was willful in suppression of my identity and visibility and actively contributed to the culture that allows trans people to be harmed and othered. A lot of cis folks cause harm to trans folks through no conscious effort on their own part – it boils down to ignorance. For me, it was a known byproduct of my actions. I tried to integrate into cis society and appropriate cis norms (unsuccessfully) for two decades. In that time I was complicit in stigmatizing trans folks just as much as any other cis person, if not more so.
I guess my issue is that #fuckcispeople doesn’t call out either the right people or enough people. It doesn’t call out the folks like me – who aren’t cis by definition but who’ve purposefully tried their damnedest to live and be perceived as such. I set a negative example for all my cis friends who might come into contact with visibly trans people. I’ve helped prime their own expectations with my internalized transphobia and denial of who I was.
I accept that in part I am the product of a gauntlet of cis gatekeepers. I could have defied them but there would have been consequences so I chose the easy route. For me, it’s not #fuckcispeople – it’s #fuckcisnormatives, Vichy trans folks like myself included.
This subject requires more skill and nuance than I’m capable of delivering and I would love to see it addressed further by more capable minds. Too many trans folks, particularly of the white/middle class/”passable” variety, get a free pass. We’re partly responsible for propping up the system that keeps others that don’t have those particular privileges in the direct path of harm and we need to be called out for it.
(Incidentally, posting this is very difficult. In acknowledging my shortcomings in this regard I publicly put myself in the crosshairs for those that would discriminate against me with regard to employment or social security. I guess I’m starting to value self-integrity over security but that’s a luxury 18 years of relatively uncomplicated employment give me. It’s unfair to expect more vulnerable trans folks to put themselves at this disadvantage – this is why solid, staunch cis allies and us older and more established trans folks really need to step forward.)