Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Are Not the Same Thing
Recently the big boss of this website had some questions about what the prefix "cis" meant, as in "cisgender". I thought that as there has been so much talk online lately about LGBTQ rights and transgendered people in particular, that I would gather some useful information for you so that you can all feel a little smarter and less like you are going to make some dumb move and put your foot in your mouth. In addition, I will probably get riled up and yell at the general state of the world because I'm a little bit close to my limit on stupidity on the topic of transgender rights.
So here you go:
In Latin, the prefix “cis” means “on the same side” and “trans” means “on the other side”. So, a cis person is one whose assigned sex at birth is on the same side as the sex they are. Likewise, a trans person is one whose assigned sex at birth is on a different side from the sex they are. (from WhatDoesCisMean)
So I'll state right off the bat that I'm writing this from an outsider's perspective as it relates to transgender folk, since I am a boring old cisgender white chick. But, I vehemently support LGBTQ rights and equality for all human beings, so I'll punch you in your dumb face if you try to trample on anyone's rights.
I'm not quite sure why it blows some people's minds so completely that sexuality and gender are not at all the same thing. Many people have now stated it very clearly, so I'll quote smarter sources than myself and tell you: Gender is who you are, sexual orientation is who you love.
A person can be a cisgender lesbian or a cisgender gay man or a cisgender heterosexual or a cisgender pansexual or a cisgender asexual. Or probably a lot more shades of gray, I'm just trying to keep it fairly simple.
A person can also be a transgender lesbian or a transgender gay man... you get the picture.
Also, a person can be transgender without undergoing sexual reassignment surgery.
John Oliver had a great segment on transgender rights (and lack thereof) this week.
Here are some great excerpts:
It is no more OK to ask transgender people about their sex organs than it would be to ask Jimmy Carter whether or not he's circumcised.
Interestingly, their decision on this matter (whether to have sexual reassignment surgery) is, medically speaking, none of your *&%#ing business.
If you're still wondering, 'What do I call a transgender person?'... actually it's pretty simple. You call them what they want to be called!
It is not a great sign for how we treat transgender people that Afghanistan is 'a place where you can be yourself.'
But you should watch the whole thing.
And in case you haven't heard of this yet, there are "bathroom bills" in many states, designed to require people to show their birth certificate to prove what sex they were at birth before they are allowed to use a public restroom. I can't even list all the problems with this both completely obvious and even less so. And don't worry, it's not just a problem in the U.S. When Brae Carnes posted a selfie of herself in a men's restroom in British Columbia she started a huge social media response.
Michael Hughes, a trans man in Minnesota, started the hashtag #wejustneedtopee to call attention to this issue.
In addition, check out Buck Angel, another trans man making the point that it would be utterly ridiculous for him to walk into a women's restroom.
Of course outraged conservatives can't get enough of trying to find every opportunity to fear-monger.
Misleading ads asking parents if they are comfortable with a male who "wants to shower beside your 14-year-old daughter" have become commonplace for these transphobic, fearmongering campaigns.
In fact, it is trans people who face actual threats when they are forced to use the "right" (according to these absurd laws) restroom.
A 2013 study found that despite scare tactics indicating the opposite, trans people are actually more likely than others to face physical and verbal harassment when using public facilities. A staggering 68 percent reported facing verbal harassment, including being told they were in the "wrong" restroom, with some bystanders even calling police...
I have some hope that issues of transgender discrimination are going to work themselves out in the relatively short term because of stories like the Girl Scout council returning a $100k donation when the donor requested that it not be used to "support transgender girls". The response was basically 'Girl Scouts is for ALL girls. No thanks.'
Make no mistake, there is still plenty of prejudice and bigotry out there that trans people face every day. Do me a favor, educate yourself, and don't be a part of it.
In fact, I have a pretty simple request for you, to paraphrase John Oliver at the end of his segment. Think about and acknowledge what it means when you purposefully line yourself up on the wrong side of a civil rights issue. We know how it turns out when you deny people access to something they should be able to enjoy as a basic human right. History is not going to look kindly on you. Think about how horrified and embarrassed your kids or grandkids will be of you when they can't bring a trans friend over because you'll ask them weird questions about their genitals.
Exclusion is never, throughout history, the right answer to how we should handle differences.
Here are some additional resources for you:
- Trans educational resources
- Gender Justice League
- GLAAD Transgender FAQs
- PFLAG has a good list of other organizations where you can find a lot of useful information.