Sinclair brought up a great point the other day in his post define: cisgender that I want to touch upon and explore. Now, I’ve had cisgender in my lexicon since I started this site, and have been in the process of reading the book Sinclair mentions in his post, Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity for longer than that (though am currently starting it over now that I’m not in school and can devote more attention to it). Whipping Girl is also where I got the definitions of traditional vs. oppositional sexism used in my definition of femmeinism. Needless to say, I think it’s brilliant, and look forward to finishing it.
For those of you who have not read Sinclair’s post (though I highly encourage you to), here is a definition of cisgender: people whose gender aligns with the cultural expectations of their sex and who have only ever experienced their subconscious and physical sexes as being aligned (e.g. feminine female, masculine male). “The word has its origin in the Latin-derived prefix cis, meaning “on the same side” as in the cis-trans distinction in chemistry.”
Now, back to the point. I have used the term “bio-female” in my gender/sexuality/general description for quite some time, and quite purposefully. Ever since reading Sinclair’s post I have been questioning this, and as you may notice I have taken it out of my description on the sidebar and in my about page. I have done this for a number of reasons.
First, however, I would like to explain my initial reason for choosing the term bio-female when I have been fully aware of the terms cisgender and cissexual for quite some time. What I realize now I meant was assigned-female-at-birth, as opposed to cis-female, because I have never quite felt cis-female, my gender has always been a little (or a lot) queer. Not only am I not cis-female because of my femme identity, but then when other identities are taken into account they dispute this as well. While I often do appear to the casual observer to be cisgendered, there are also plenty of times when I do not.
Sinclair’s post got me wondering: why do I have that in there? Why does it matter what I was assigned at birth if I don’t believe in binary genders or sexes? What was the reason for me to include this in my own description? The only answer I came to was that I didn’t want my sex misinterpreted. When I realized this I mentally laughed at myself. I realized it was a safety blanket, my version of a blue-blanket, and something I didn’t need anymore (perhaps never needed).
Because of that realization as well as the realization of the incorrectness of the term “bio,” for as Sinclair put it “there’s nothing non-biological about trans folks,” I decided to take it out of my description. I simply don’t need it anymore. Obviously at one point I thought it was necessary, I felt threatened that I would be assumed for anything other than female. I say this with a little bit of shame, it was my own internal cissexism rearing it’s ugly head. Despite being a decidedly fierce trans supporter and advocate for years I am still subject to my internalized cissexism, but I’m working on it.
There were two distinct times I can think of where I was “mistaken” for a male queen. These were both many years ago during high school. Nowadays I would be rejoicing for such a reading of my sex and gender, but in those days I had not gone through much if any gender revelations and while I wasn’t disgusted or outraged I was confused and taken aback (mostly because my boobs were huge and in both instances I was wearing a low-cut top, in one instance a corset). I think my original adoption of “bio-female” was in part due to those instances.
I have more thoughts about the differences between femme and cis-female, but will have to save them for another time.