Cis Is Not a Four Letter Word

I’ve been seeing an increasing amount of ire directed toward cis men. Primarily this is from some feminists and transgender folks.

For those who don’t know a cis person is someone who is comfortable with the gender in which they have been raised. So if you were called a male at birth, raised as a male, and have no problem with being male then you are a cis man. If you are not comfortable with the gender you were given at birth and you feel as if you should be another gender then you would be considered transgender. These are over simplified explanations, but for now simple works because my point here isn’t strictly about labels or identity issues.

Somehow cis has come to be slang for everything that is wrong with men. There is nothing wrong with being a cis man, or cis woman for that matter, just as there is nothing wrong with being a transman or transwoman. It’s just another form of being.

I understand that problems arise when cis men don’t check their priviledge and act in ways that marginalizes and harms others. I also realize that among all offenders, cis men are the largest group both as a population and as a percentage. 

A cursory reading of my writings here should dispel any notions that I go easy on men, quite the contrary. This is not one of those “not all men” writings. I’m not using this as a cop-out for me or anyone else. I give guys a lot of shit because I grew up around them, date them, and hear the dumb things they regularly say which indicates a lot of them haven’t done any personal searching.

What we should be fighting against is toxic behavior no matter who exhibits it. Having dated cis men, cis women, and trans women (sorry no trans men yet, but I love ya just the same) I can tell you that toxic behavior can be found in all of these groups. Also amongst these groups are some genuinely lovely people. Everyone has responsibility and thus should be held accountable.

There are a lot of cis men out there who can be or who are feminist and trans allies. We don’t need to push them away.

As you can imagine this is a little personal for me. I consider myself to be very much pro feminist, pro choice, pro trans rights, pro identity rights, and most likely a cis man. 

That last part depends on who you talk to; for instance Kate Bornstein in her book Gender Outlaws would posit that I am trans by bucking certain guy norms and by the fact that I’m also a queer crossdresser. Truthfully, how people describe me doesn’t much matter to me. However, since I am somewhat to mostly content with being a man let’s just say I’m cis for our purposes here.

If you’re trans, queer, and feminist, I’m doing my damnest to be there with you. I regularly check my privilege and allow others to check it for me. If I am called out, it does not diminish who I am. In fact, I make myself become a better person because of it so that I may help others, which is all I really want to do anyway. I live my life by a feminist/humanist ideology and owe much to the theorists from all walks of life who have helped me to see the world in all it’s complexity and with kindness.

And yet, I’m a cis man.

There are some real assholes out there, trust me I know, and I get it that men who have never had to question their privilege are most likely to be the ones to offend, but that is no reason to throw the baby out with the bath water. Maligning all cis men is the same as when TERF’s malign trans women as murderers and pedophiles, it’s the same as when fundamentalists call feminists nazis. Surely we have more compassion and nuance than those groups. 

I think (and hope) that when folks generically write about cis men that they really mean the ones who exhibit toxic behavior. Without that clarification though they are throwing their allies under the bus.

We need to do better. 

To be clear, this is not a call for moderation. I’m not asking you to be less militant. I’m not asking you to curb your anger. You have every right to be angry and you too deserve a hold on the reigns that guide society. Instead, what I’m asking is that in your anger, your militancy, your passion, your fire, and your drive that you bring some level of honesty and nuance to the world along with it.

I thank you, I support you, and I love you!

Signed,

A cis-man (mostly)

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