Cissexism

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"Unlearn Transphobia" banner at Trans Pride 2014.

Cissexism, commonly called transphobia, is a form of sexism. It is the belief that only cisgender people are seen as normal or right, and that transgender people are unnatural or dangerous. In action, cissexism opposes the legal rights of transgender people to transition or exist in society. Cissexism results in medical malpractice against trans people, and violence against trans people. Cissexism is harmful to all kinds of transgender people, including nonbinary people.

Casual cissexism[edit | edit source]

One form of this prejudice is casual cissexism, which often takes the form of an apparent "honest mistake," forgetting that anybody other than cisgender people exist. For example, resources on sexual health often give the idea that all women only have one kind of private parts, and men another. The resource fails to talk about the exceptions to this rule: transgender and intersex people, and in cisgender people with medical conditions. The people who wrote the resources didn't mean to leave people out. They just didn't know any better, or they forgot. It was an honest mistake, with no ill intentions. However, it was a mistake nonetheless, which can make trouble and do harm. For trans people, that resource might be no good, or worse than nothing.

Casual cissexism is common in language, and one way to address it is by taking up gender-neutral language.

Micro-aggressions[edit | edit source]

Cissexist micro-aggressions are small offensive things done and said toward transgender people, with intention and ill will. Though they are small, and might only be words, they can be so frequent that they can become overwhelming to transgender people.

Nonbinary erasure[edit | edit source]

See main article: Nonbinary erasure.

Another specific form of cissexism is nonbinary erasure, the common but wrong idea that there are only two genders. This comes with the expectation that everyone should fit into only one of the two parts of the gender binary. This can result in discrimination against people with non-binary gender identities. One way this problem can be addressed is by working for visibility and recognition of non-binary people.

Nonbinary erasure is connected to dyadism, the belief that there are only two sexes, and biological essentialism, the belief that one's body is what permanently makes somebody who they are.

Binarism[edit | edit source]

See main article: Binarism.

Binarism is a form of racist discrimination based in nonbinary erasure. Western culture typically erases nonbinary and transgender identities. As a result, Western colonialism puts pressure on other cultures to conform to its own form of the gender binary, based in white norms. This includes discrimination against gender roles unique to other ethnicities.

Trans-misogyny[edit | edit source]

Trans-misogyny is transphobia directly specifically at trans women. It is a combination of prejudice against trans people, sexism, and/or misogyny. As such, understanding trans-misogyny is an intersectional approach to the oppression of trans women. Transmisogyny can also be experienced by nonbinary people who align with or are partially women, such as demigirls or bigender people who identify as women.

Julia Serano made the word "trans-misogyny" for her trans-feminist book, Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity (2007). By far, trans women of color are targeted by more and worse transphobic hate crimes than any other transgender group. Trans-misogyny is such a big problem because a patriarchal society has contempt for womanhood, femininity, non-conformity, and gender variance. A patriarchal society sees a trans woman as a combination of all that that society tolerates the least. It is important for any activism for transgender rights to think of how their work could include trans women.

Transgender-exclusionary feminists[edit | edit source]

Transgender-exclusionary feminism, also called transgender-exlusionary radical feminism, or transgender-exterminatory radical feminism is the belief that transgender women are really men who are faking womanhood in order to be dangerous to cisgender women, and that transgender men are women trying to enforce the patriarchy by gaining male privilege. People who hold this belief call themselves feminists, but others call them transgender-exclusionary feminists (TERFs).[1] This belief is a form of biological essentialism, the assumption that one's sex invariably defines who one is, forever. Whether this kind of belief should be called a form of feminism at all is debatable, because feminism is about fighting for women's rights, but TERFs fight against the legal rights of transgender women.

When TERFS say they are "gender critical" or "gender abolitionist," these phrases mean that they don't believe in gender identity, and only believe in the sex that one is born with. This is a biological essentialist belief that they use to claim that trans women are really men.

Solutions[edit | edit source]

See main article: Activism.

Cissexism of all kinds can be addressed by means of activism. This activism can work to make visibility of transgender people, fight for their legal rights and recognition, defend victims of transphobia, and so on.

See also[edit | edit source]


  1. WARNING: Contains unpleasant verbal content. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/08/04/woman-2

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