Welcome! In this bulletin, we will be discussing the topic of Cissexism, or the discrimination against and oppression of transgender, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming people. Included in this bulletin are definitions, general information, history, articles/handouts, videos, and questions to ponder. This bulletin can be used in clubs, classes, and companies, or shared with friends and family.
Gender: A social construct based on a group of emotional, behavioral, and cultural characteristics. Gender can be understood to have several components including gender identity, gender expression, and gender role. Gender is personal and specific to every individual, as everyone interprets gender differently.
Gender Identity: What we call ourselves in terms of our gender. Identities may be: man, woman, or any of a number of nonbinary identities.
Gender Expression: How someone outwardly presents characteristics and behaviors that are socially defined as masculine or feminine, including dress, mannerisms, and behaviors.
Gender Roles: The social expectation of how an individual should act, think, and feel based on the gender one is assigned at birth.
Transphobia: The root word “phobia” means an irrational fear of or aversion to something - in this case, to transgender and nonbinary people. However, this term is very commonly used to mean the hatred and discrimination that transgender and nonbinary people face, or any anti-trans sentiment or actions.
Transgender/Trans: A term used to describe people who do not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth. This term encompasses both binary transgender people (trans men and women) as well as nonbinary people. “Transgender” is always an adjective, never a noun.
Nonbinary: A term to describe someone who does not identify entirely or at all as a man or woman. Some examples of nonbinary identities include: genderqueer, agender, demiboy, demigirl, genderfluid, and many more. The term “nonbinary” can serve as an umbrella term or as an identity, itself.
Cisgender/Cis: The term used to describe those whose gender aligns with the gender they were assigned at birth. Essentially, not trans.
Gender Pronouns: Words used to refer to others without using a name. Some pronouns include she/her/hers, he/him/his, they/them/theirs, or xe/xem/xir.
Gender Non-conforming: Gender expression that does not conform to the societal expectations of gender roles.
Transitioning: The actions a transgender or nonbinary person may take to achieve a more comfortable gender expression. This can be social (asking people to use a different name or pronouns) or medical (hormones, surgery). Transitioning is complex and occurs over a long period of time. Additionally, the process is different for every individual, there are no established steps one must take to transition.
Many definitions provided from Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice
Edited by Maurianne Adams, Lee Anne Bell, Pat Griffin, SJTI Learning institute, and work from the GLSEN Start Up Guide: Where’s the T in your GSA.
A GLIMPSE INTO TRANS HISTORY
1923 – Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld opens the Institute for Sexual Science in Berlin which did research in gender studies and also provided some of the first sex reassignment surgeries in modern history. Dr. Hirschfeld also coined the term “transvestite.”
1952 – Christine Jorgensen is considered the first visible transsexual in the media after her sexual reassignment surgery is made public.
1969 – Transgender and gender-nonconforming people are among those who play a major role in the Stonewall Riots, which is often considered the start of the Gay Rights Movement.
1993 – Brandon Teena, a young trans man, is violently attacked, raped, and murdered in Nebraska. The movie “Boys Don’t Cry” starring Hillary Swank based around Brandon’s life and the attack was released six years late.
1999 – The first Transgender Day of Remembrance is held one year after the murder of Rita Hester to honor her and other victims on anti-transgender violence.
2000 – The Transgender Pride Flag debuts at a pride parade in Phoenix, AZ
2008 – Stu Rassmussen is re-elected as mayor of Silverton, OR, and is the first openly transgender mayor in the US
2010 – The State Department publishes new guidelines for correcting gender listed on passports
2012 – The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission declares that transgender people should be protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
2014 – A transgender teenager named Leelah Alcorn committed suicide, posting her suicide note on her Tumblr blog. Her death attracted international attention, and initiated widespread discussion about trans issues.
2016 – North Carolina receives international attention after it passes a law requiring individuals to use the public restroom that describes their gender assigned at birth, rather than their gender identity. (Therefore requiring trans men to use women’s restrooms, and trans women to use men’s restrooms.)
TRANSGENDER ETIQUETTE TIPS (for cis people)
- Remember that a trans man is a man and a trans woman is a woman. “Trans” is only an adjective used to describe a part of their identity (no different than saying a “smart woman” or a “nice man”. They are no less of a man or a woman than any cis man or cis woman.
- Never ask a trans person about what kinds of surgeries they have had, or any questions about their genitalia or body in general. This would not be appropriate to ask of a cis person, so trans people should not have to tolerate it either.
- Do not ask a trans person what their birth name was. These names are often associated with bad experiences and do not represent who that person is. Instead, use the name they tell you to use.
- Always use the pronouns someone tells you to use, even if they are not what you would expect them to be.
- If you accidentally use the wrong name/pronouns when referring to a trans person, simply correct yourself. Do not dwell on the mistake, as it will only make the situation feel worse to the trans person. You can work on improving your pronoun usage on your own time.
DarkMatter Poets: Moving Past Trans and Gender Nonconforming Stereotypes
Ethan Smith’s poem “A Letter to the Girl I Used To Be”
Of trans people surveyed in the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (2014):
- 46% of trans men and 42% of trans women have attempted suicide.
- 64-65% experienced physical or sexual violence at work
- 63-78% experienced physical or sexual violence at school
- 57-61% have been disrespected or harassed by law enforcement officers
- 60-70% suffered physical or sexual violence by law enforcement officers
- 69% experienced homelessness
QUESTIONS TO PONDER
- When you see someone whose gender is unclear to you, does this make you feel uncomfortable? Why?
- How do you decide what pronouns to use when referring to someone?
- What would our society look like if there were no gender roles? What can you do to help break the barriers of what is considered inherently “male” and “female?"
*All definitions and information provided is United States based.