Cissexism is a relatively new term that describes the ways in which we as a society assume that being cisgender is right or normal among other things.  The thing about cissexism is that it is incredibly ingrained into our every day life. Our language, our understanding of gender and sex, the way we perceive others are all shaped by cissexism (along with many other isms as well!). And there are so many different ways that cissexism plays out and harms many people, especially trans and nonbinary folks.

There are many ways in which cissexism presents itself and many ways in which many of us have committed cissexist acts, whether we knew it or not! Some of these ways cissexism presents itself include:

  1. Causal Cissexism -this is definitely one of the biggest ways in which we see cissexism play out in everyday life.
    1. In particular, this is assuming that everyone is cisgender and can take many forms – from leaving out trans, intersex, and nonbinary people out on resources or education around health and other things to assuming people’s genitals from how they present or preform their gender.
  2. Microaggressions – related to casual cissexism, microaggressions take many forms and can be based on many different identities.
    1. But in regards to cissexist microaggressions, they can range from using the wrong pronouns to asking about someone’s “real name” to asking very personal questions about genitals and The Surgery™.
  3. Transphobia and Transmisogyny – these two issues are larger issues at hand that are related to cissexism but definitely important.

There are many, many cissexist ways that are considered normal and socially acceptable that we’ve all probably committed at some point. James St. James wrote about this a couple days ago, highlighting many of the cissexist ways we act whether we realize it or not. Some of the examples St. James mentions have already been covered here but others include:

  1. Asking a pregnant person if the baby is a boy or girl
  2. Related: assuming you know a child’s gender before they tell you themselves and yes this includes your own child if you have one.
    1. We put an incredible amount of pressure and assumption onto newborns and children based on gender and their assigned sex when we really should be more gender neutral and allow for more self expression and determination.
  3. Believing that reproductive health is only a women’s issue. Reproductive justice is incredibly important and there are many ways in which women’s bodies are regulated. But we should also be inclusive of the many genders and expressions that exist.
    1. There are so many off putting messages we send trans men who are considering pregnancy.
    2. Related: Katherine Cross wrote about how trans rights are reproductive rights.

4 thoughts on “Cissexism.

  1. Can I ask you a somewhat kind of related question, since it’s been on my mind? I’m taking a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) training right now because I’m an emergency preparedness geek. It occurred to me during Medical Ops that I don’t have a gender neutral way to address a stranger who I need to help. I know if someone is trapped under a collapsed building or lost a leg or something, probably their highest priority isn’t whether their rescuer misgenders them, but… it still feels wrong. I can get away with no having to use sir or ma’am in most of my daily life, but this possibility has me stumped. Have we (English speakers) figured out a good word to use when politely addressing a stranger that doesn’t presume their gender?

    • That’s a totally related question and something I’ve thought about a lot over the past couple years because we do have so much gendered language in how we address others.

      I usually go with “friend” but that’s very familiar? Honestly I wish I had an actual answer but unfortunately I’m just as stumped.

      • Darn. Oh well. 🙂 My default when addressing a group of people is to use “folks” – too bad it doesn’t really work to address a single person as “folk”…

  2. Pingback: When I’m Not Writing: I Read | Notes from an Aspiring Humanitarian (N.A.H.)

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