We are human, something which gender itself does not recognise

In a post from April 2014, Glosswitch says most women hate their bodies. I think that’s probably putting it too strongly…but Glosswitch likes the hyperbolic vein, and I do too, so I read her point as being that this self-hatred gets underestimated. (On the other hand, where would marketing be without it?)

When women like me shrink away, no one finds it strange. When we have our thighs sucked off, our breasts inflated, our cunts trimmed, we might find it an oddity – just about – but it will be positioned as personal choice. We don’t think of it as oppression. It is privilege and narcissism that makes us do it, a silly desire to be just like the women on the telly. The fact that we are susceptible to a mass of cultural influences telling us we should be bare, tiny and plastic is seen as weakness on our part.

Well, again, that’s hyperbole. I for instance certainly do think of it as oppression, and so do most of my friends, I should think…But then I’m a feminist and so are my friends.

In Redefining Realness Janet Mock defines cis as “a term used for people who are not trans and more likely to identify with the gender that correlates with the sex they were assigned at birth”:

Most cis people rarely question their gender identity because the gender binary system validates them, enabling them to operate without conflict or correction.

Glosswitch quotes that to dispute it, but let me just get in there first – that is such a wrong-headed and infuriating thing to say. The gender binary is a hierarchy, so no, it doesn’t “validate” “cis people,” it places them on a ladder that they didn’t ask to be placed on. And no it does not enable us to operate without conflict or correction; gender policing is absolutely ubiquitous.

Cis women – primped, primed cis women – are not believed to have a problematic relationship with gender, or if they do, it is seen to be of their own making. Because discomfort within one’s own body is so embedded since girlhood it is not remarked upon, which leads to the assumption that cis women do not even experience gender sufficiently to be able to critique it. This is of course bullshit. It is there with us every day of our lives. It constrains us. The idea that cis women don’t ask questions because they don’t have to – not because they are oppressed in ways others simply view as normality – betrays a shocking lack of empathy. Transitioning from male to female is no more a dramatic or meaningful expression of discomfort with one’s own gender identity than having one’s labia reshaped. Yet one is considered so extreme it must betray a deeper engagement with gender as a fundamental truth, while the other is seen as just some stupid thing cis women do.

I do think transitioning is more dramatic – and fraught with difficulty, danger, complications – than having one’s labia reshaped. I do think it’s a much bigger deal. But I do agree with Glosswitch that it does not signal “a deeper engagement with gender as a fundamental truth” and that many people talk as if it does.

That’s where the conflict is, I guess. Being trans is difficult and risky. Trans people need solidarity and inclusion. Yes and yes. But it doesn’t follow that trans people are the experts on gender.

All women are gender non-conformists, every single one of us. We have to be because we are human, something which gender itself does not recognise. We have to challenge the strictures of gender in order to assert our own personhood and we do so in different ways, in accordance with the conditions of our own lives.

We are human, something which gender itself does not recognise. Yes.

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