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“Maybe you should never transition."
January 22, 2012 8:18 PM   Subscribe

"We are seeing the emergence of a new variation on an old, cissexist theme: 'No, it’s not a good time for you to transition. This is going to be so hard on us. Oh won’t you wait or reconsider this choice for us normal people?'. Their subtext is plain and unambiguous to nearly every trans person: 'Maybe you should never transition.'"

From the link: This imperative to forestall transitioning is delivered by cis people who maintain that a trans child’s transition — much like any trans person’s transition — is a problem to be suppressed and averted at every expense.

It is now possible to recognize that there are four discrete corridors of cisnormative resistance toward trans people’s readiness to transition.

First corridor, pre-adolescence: "You don’t know any better. You’re too young to understand";
Second corridor, during adolescence: "It’s a confusing time. Wait until after puberty’s done";
Third corridor, late development: "You should wait until you’re totally sure. You’ll never pass"; and
Final corridor, maturation: "You’re having a mid-life crisis. What about your kids, spouse, and career?"
posted by cp311 (184 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

 
Genderbread person
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:32 PM on January 22, 2012 [29 favorites]


"Cis-" ?
posted by docgonzo at 8:38 PM on January 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


Hmm, I'm not disputing any of the arguments contained therein, but I didn't think that piece was very strong - though it certainly is very angry.

There's a lot of talk about corridors, themes, what cisnormative say and do etc, but the author only supplies two examples of this - which I am the first to admit are terrible examples but I'm unsure how representative these are.

I would have loved some quotes from any and all of the following:
Transgendered people
Doctors and counsellers working with the above
Parents of children of the above

Without that, I think it's very hard to make a convincing case as outlined, and without the above referring to a practice that may or may not be systemic as "cisnormative violence" is a bridge too far for me. I feel like it trivialises actual violence that trans people (and others) may receive, and it's unnecessary when making the case for the gravity of what the author's proposing.

I fully acknowledge everything the author says may be true; I don't know very much about these issues, but I certainly didn't come away from that knowing any more. It felt like angry, bloggy, black-and-white preaching-to-the-choir for me, and there's absolutely no acknowledgment of what is a very difficult decision where the personal, social and medical can intersect for different people in different ways, nor suggestions for practical and widely applicable ideas for addressing the challenges.
posted by smoke at 8:40 PM on January 22, 2012 [9 favorites]


Cisgender for anyone who's wondering. TL;DR - "Cisgender is an adjective used in the context of gender issues and counselling to refer to a class of gender identities formed by a match between an individual's gender identity and the behavior or role considered appropriate for one's sex."

I.e, you have the plumbing/physical attributes of a woman and you identify as woman (or vice versa with men).
posted by smoke at 8:43 PM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Cis-" ?
posted by docgonzo at 8:38 PM on 1/22
[+] [!]


Whoever proposed the whole "cis-" designation scheme should resign from the business of naming gender identities, because it fucking sucks.

It felt like angry, bloggy, black-and-white preaching-to-the-choir for me, and there's absolutely no acknowledgment of what is a very difficult decision where the personal, social and medical can intersect for different people in different ways, nor suggestions for practical and widely applicable ideas for addressing the challenges.

Well said.
posted by jayder at 8:46 PM on January 22, 2012 [11 favorites]


Call me a cisasshole, but I'm generally of the opinion that certain things, like, say, joining the military, getting a tattoo, getting married, adopting a religion, or transitioning, are best left to adulthood. I'm pretty sure most of the people being "cissexist" by trying to "delay transition" probably have this kind of attitude in mind.
posted by Jimbob at 8:47 PM on January 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


I had a conversation with a friend who has another friend who's wife is leaving him for a woman. The friend's friend is beating himself up, full of issues of inadequacy and failure.

I told my friend, "Look, whatever your friend is going through, his wife has been on this journey a lot longer than he has. There's no way he is going to be at the same stage of acceptance and comfort with this idea as she is right now."

That's pretty much what this is about. The transperson has been going through a journey which others around them aren't included in, and when they hear, it's new information, or newer information... certainly isn't a congruent point along realization and acceptance on any level.

I'm not saying there isn't prejudice against transpersons in our society, and that they don't have a struggle which I am greatly sympathetic with. But there is a period of adjustment to concepts required by anyone who is facing something they hadn't expected and perhaps have never heard of before.

There's groundwork to be laid and hard work to be done both by the transperson and the other people in their lives. Ultimately, the transperson has to make the personal choice to perhaps go against the expressed wishes of those around them. But a lot of misery could be alleviated if transpersons were to bring others along with them on the journey they've been on for years before they even spoke the first word about their true selves.
posted by hippybear at 8:47 PM on January 22, 2012 [11 favorites]


"Whoever proposed the whole "cis-" designation scheme should resign from the business of naming gender identities, because it fucking sucks."

Why? I do not understand your ire. What is wrong with this term/scheme?
posted by iamkimiam at 8:52 PM on January 22, 2012 [32 favorites]


I may be wrong, but to me the bottom line that people advocating against transgenderism and transitions in general need to wrap their heads around is that it isn't any of their business because it's not about them.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 8:53 PM on January 22, 2012 [34 favorites]


But a lot of misery could be alleviated if transpersons were to bring others along with them on the journey they've been on for years before they even spoke the first word about their true selves.

How could they do this?

certain things, like, say, joining the military, getting a tattoo, getting married, adopting a religion, or transitioning, are best left to adulthood

Yeah, except for that going through all the biological changes into a fully fledged adult male place certain (sometimes significant) stresses on your ability to physically transform later on into an adult female. Also this means that at a time when others your age are more or less comfortable in their own bodies, you'd get to go through a long SECOND period of physical and hormonal adjustment (that's the "second puberty" the article talks about).

You don't have to be an adult to take birth control pills; that's a hormone treatment.
posted by hermitosis at 8:55 PM on January 22, 2012 [46 favorites]


Jimbob: "Call me a cisasshole, but I'm generally of the opinion that certain things, like, say, joining the military, getting a tattoo, getting married, adopting a religion, or transitioning, are best left to adulthood. I'm pretty sure most of the people being "cissexist" by trying to "delay transition" probably have this kind of attitude in mind"

The body won't have fully developed the wrong secondary sex characteristics before puberty, so wouldn't it be better to transition before then?
posted by bleary at 8:56 PM on January 22, 2012 [9 favorites]


hermitosis said it better. I should have waited to see more followups
posted by bleary at 8:57 PM on January 22, 2012


Fair call. I'm pretty cisignorant on the issues, especially since I can't personally can't get past judging gender by the compliment of chromosomes...
posted by Jimbob at 9:01 PM on January 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I may be wrong, but to me the bottom line that people advocating against transgenderism and transitions in general need to wrap their heads around is that it isn't any of their business because it's not about them.

I agree with you, but I don't think that's very helpful line when you're talking about children or young adults that parents are frequently having to make decisions on behalf of, because they are responsible for their kids, and their kids may lack the knowledge or ability to make many decisions.

I mean, it's completely understandable that in these situations - like any situation that will have a long-term impact on a child or minor - people charged with responsibility for that minor will want to play a strong role, as they do with a host of other non-transgender decisions.

I think a more useful tack would be talking about how to actualise those desires in potentially transgender children/adolescents, and foster a rich decision-making process that empowers the kids and leaves the parents and doctors feeling satisfied that the right things are taken into account. I don't know what that process could be, or if indeed there are already many processes like that, but your line and the tack of the piece seems to be more focussed on division and disengagement.

Getting parents and others to cede to their child's wishes regarding their gender should come about as a result of more engagement, not less, imho.
posted by smoke at 9:04 PM on January 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


Fair call. I'm pretty cisignorant on the issues, especially since I can't personally can't get past judging gender by the compliment of chromosomes...
You just have to consider XY people with androgen insensitivity syndrome to see that's simplistic.
posted by planet at 9:08 PM on January 22, 2012 [16 favorites]


Totally true, Smoke. I feel like my knee-jerk reaction comes from seeing friends transition in high-school and college and supporting them when people on campus were actively dissuading them from making the transition that was theirs and theirs alone to make.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 9:14 PM on January 22, 2012


People don't want kids to make that big of a decision in case they'll regret it later. In most cases it's as simple as that. And that's not exactly an unfounded fear: kids and teenagers frequently make terrible decisions, blithely assuming that because they reallyreallyreally want something in the moment it'll all work out. Ask anyone who deliberately got pregnant at 15 or 16 and they'll tell you they didn't understand the implications of their decisions.

As an aside I have to say I find the whole "cis" thing irritating and it predisposes me to dislike the rest of the article. I don't need people assigning random terms to my gender or sexuality thankyouverymuch.
posted by fshgrl at 9:16 PM on January 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


Whoever proposed the whole "cis-" designation scheme should resign from the business of naming gender identities, because it fucking sucks.

Whereas I (a cisperson) think it's both clever and useful. But I guess if you want to get hung up on it, that's up to you.
posted by kmz at 9:17 PM on January 22, 2012 [9 favorites]


I don't need people assigning random terms to my gender or sexuality

That's funny, we feel the same way.
posted by hermitosis at 9:18 PM on January 22, 2012 [71 favorites]


I'm the cissiest cisperson who ever cissed her way out of CisVille, and I LOVE the "cis" designation. It's not random, it's utterly and perfectly descriptive.
posted by KathrynT at 9:19 PM on January 22, 2012 [36 favorites]


I find "cis-" useful as it levels the playing field, so to speak: a straight man who identifies as male is equally engaged and invested in performing his cisgender, just as much as a homosexual female who identifies as male is invested in performing a transgender. Gender is a social construct, and is heavily policed and affirmed with an enormous toolbox of weird, wacky stuff. Believe me, the one demographic that is the most sensitive about protecting their gender performance is heterosexual men. In that respect it's obvious why people get their haunches up about the term "cisgender," as it rejects gender essentialism and criticizes the reified notion of masculinity or femininity into which the offended cis-person is so deeply invested.

If the first gender anxiety you experience is being called "cis", check your privilege before you get upset.
posted by mek at 9:23 PM on January 22, 2012 [53 favorites]


This isn't meant for a general audience, is it? I assume the author isn't arguing for the right of children to present according to their needs, but to their right to hormones and/or reassignment surgery. Yes? I think I support this (of course who cares whether I support this) but I can't help but ask: are there any other decisions children are allowed to make that are this important? Any analogues at all?

Oh, wait, asked and answered, actually: they can report that something else is wrong with their bodies, that they feel pain, and they get taken to the doctor for the appropriate treatment. Within that context medical transitioning makes sense to me. But then, having the luxury of being ignorant, I want the answers to the old "how do we know this particular child is trans and not say genderqueer and temporarily locked in on something" question that I am sure the author has answered and/or seen answered a million times. I assume this has something to do with very diligent therapists but? I am trying to sort out in my head why some kinds of subjective self-reporting from children are taken seriously and others are suspect. Obviously kids are great fantasists but they don't keep up one unchanging game for years and years and they don't typically pretend to be in pain on account of their identity for fun forever. Argh, article, why did I have to do all this work for myself? Surely this is more of a statement of rights than a persuasive piece.

I don't need people assigning random terms to my gender or sexuality thankyouverymuch.

Who picked "woman"? I didn't. How come "man" gets to be the base word? I would like to send a strongly-worded letter to hundreds of years ago in England.
posted by Adventurer at 9:24 PM on January 22, 2012 [11 favorites]


As an aside I have to say I find the whole "cis" thing irritating and it predisposes me to dislike the rest of the article. I don't need people assigning random terms to my gender or sexuality thankyouverymuch.

What would you prefer?

I personally appreciate the term, as it's a nice alternative to the normal/not-normal binary. Why shouldn't my gender have a specialized, specific term? I'm a woman, but so is my mtf friend. We're both gendered -- I'm cisgendered, she's transgendered. Seems pretty inoffensive to me.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:26 PM on January 22, 2012 [16 favorites]


As an aside I have to say I find the whole "cis" thing irritating and it predisposes me to dislike the rest of the article.
I'm a right-leaning, cisgendered, cissexual white male (essentially a monster), and "cis-" doesn't bother me. If you're going to talk about variations and differences in gender identification and sexuality in any sort of evenhanded way, you need terminology to talk about every way people can be. And no, calling some people "normal" (either explicitly or implicitly) isn't going to meet the evenhandedness criterion.
posted by planet at 9:27 PM on January 22, 2012 [18 favorites]


Related inquiry: is there any reliable research delineating the experiences of children who went for a full transition and later regretted it and/or went to reverse what they'd had done as youth?
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 9:27 PM on January 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


people advocating against transgenderism and transitions in general need to wrap their heads around is that it isn't any of their business because it's not about them.
When I see transgender activists giving up their insistence that not only are they part of the gay community but always have been and in fact have always been the standard-bearers thereof, the I'll start taking seriously an order from on high that this issue is “not about” those on one side of that issue.

If transgenderism is “not about” people who are not transgender, then transgenders need to stop barging in in and attempting to reëducate people they are not.

Count the seconds before Hermitosis chimes in and Jessamyn deletes this comment.
posted by joeclark at 9:28 PM on January 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


People don't want kids to make that big of a decision in case they'll regret it later. In most cases it's as simple as that. And that's not exactly an unfounded fear: kids and teenagers frequently make terrible decisions, blithely assuming that because they reallyreallyreally want something in the moment it'll all work out. Ask anyone who deliberately got pregnant at 15 or 16 and they'll tell you they didn't understand the implications of their decisions.

Normally I wouldn't argue with this, but generally speaking, trans folks aren't going to get over wanting to transition. And the earlier they start it, the better. It's not something that CAN "wait and see until you're 18" so much. Physically, it shouldn't be.

Most people know they're gay or straight from a ridiculously early age, long before they actually want to boink anyone. Same with being trans. Mostly it's not a "phase." And yes, that's what psychiatrists are for before they start taking meds or whatever. But I can't even think of anyone trans I've heard of or IRL that "changed their mind" and stayed the same gender after all, except for Mike Penner/Christine Daniels. And uh... that didn't end well.

These Birds: not sure on that, but what about the kids who had non-standard genitalia and had their gender chosen for them based on what was easier to surgically fix? I can't recall that kid's name right now, David something, but there was a big story on how wrong that went.

I am fine with "cis" by usage, but I'll admit that I don't find it to be a very attractive word. Kinda like "hir" and "zie" and the other gender-neutral-but-freaking-awkward-to-say words.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:29 PM on January 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


If you're going to talk about variations and differences in gender identification and sexuality in any sort of evenhanded way, you need terminology to talk about every way people can be.
You also need a term the population involved coined themselves, accept, and do not consider hate speech. It can't be imposed by the group’s adversaries. Otherwise “women's health clinics” really have been “abortuaries” all along, have they not?
posted by joeclark at 9:31 PM on January 22, 2012


Count the seconds before Hermitosis chimes in and Jessamyn deletes this comment.

Any comment that uses this kind of passive aggressive chickenshit should be immediately deleted, no matter what the content.
posted by kmz at 9:32 PM on January 22, 2012 [40 favorites]


JoeClark, can you elaborate on this point, please:

If transgenderism is “not about” people who are not transgender, then transgenders need to stop barging in in and attempting to reëducate people they are not.


What's transgenderism about in your eyes, then?
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 9:32 PM on January 22, 2012


You also need a term the population involved coined themselves, accept, and do not consider hate speech.

...hate speech?
posted by Kalthare at 9:34 PM on January 22, 2012 [10 favorites]


JoeClark: You also need a term the population involved coined themselves, accept, and do not consider hate speech. It can't be imposed by the group’s adversaries. Otherwise “women's health clinics” really have been “abortuaries” all along, have they not?

The term was coined by a member of the population involved:

The word cisgender has been used on the internet since at least 1994, when it appeared in the alt.transgendered Usenet group in a post by Dana Leland Defosse.[4] Defosse does not define the term and seems to assume that readers are already familiar with it. This may also have been independently coined a year later: Donna Lynn Matthews, the charter maintainer of the alt.support.crossdressing usenet group, attributed the word to Carl Buijs, a transsexual man from the Netherlands, claiming that Buijs coined the word in 1995.[5] In April 1996, Buijs said in a Usenet posting, "As for the origin, I just made it up. I just kept running into the problem of what to call non-trans people in various discussions, and one day it just hit me: non-trans equals cis. Therefore, cisgendered."[6][7]


via the wikipedia entry and other sources.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 9:35 PM on January 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


What?

Did you seriously just say that:
1) Cis and trans persons are adversaries
2) You consider "cisgender" to be hate speech?

wtf?

Also your other comment seems simply incoherent to me. Like I really don't get what you're even trying to say with that one.
posted by kavasa at 9:35 PM on January 22, 2012 [14 favorites]


I guess some people still think it should be GLBT. (I'm being generous and not automatically assuming they're biphobic as well.)
posted by kmz at 9:36 PM on January 22, 2012


In an effort to step away from the o-chem terminology and back towards the content of the post: the link was a little screedy for me so I tracked down these two articles that were referenced on Philadelphia's Mazzoni Center website. The latter article details a Trans-health conference held back in '06 that addressed the how-young-is-too-young question.
posted by The White Hat at 9:38 PM on January 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


I tried to read everything before posting this, but in latin, Cis- is the opposite of Trans-

Trans - other side
Cis - this side

It is etymologically appropriate to use the term 'cis' here
posted by Fuka at 9:38 PM on January 22, 2012 [38 favorites]


Not only is cis- a valid prefix that doesn't break pattern from normal English convention and a leveler as people have described above, but its presence in our vocabularies allows discussions like the one linked to progress without constant backtracking and qualification. Imagine how awkward the prose in this article would be if paragraph by paragraph the author had to find euphemisms for "consonant with socially determined gender roles"! Count me in as another cisperson who has a really hard time seeing this prefix as anything but neutral, functional, and descriptive.
posted by metaman livingblog at 9:41 PM on January 22, 2012 [18 favorites]


Most people know they're gay or straight from a ridiculously early age, long before they actually want to boink anyone. Same with being trans. Mostly it's not a "phase." And yes, that's what psychiatrists are for before they start taking meds or whatever.

But if it's your kid are you going to take the chance that they won't look at you in 20 years and go "why on earth did you let me do that? I was just a child." These kinds of things are fine to discuss in general terms but there are individual people making the decisions.

Not to mention you'd probably risk having your child(ren) taken by Social Services a lot of places if you did pursue this for them. And it would be something you'd be doing to your child- you'd be the one talking to the doctors, making the decisions on surgeries, medications etc. You wouldn't just be allowing the process to happen, you'd be vigorously pursuing it.

I'm not offended by the term cis btw, I just think it's an annoying construct.
posted by fshgrl at 9:43 PM on January 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


"I'm not offended by the term cis btw, I just think it's an annoying construct."

And why is it an annoying construct?
posted by iamkimiam at 9:48 PM on January 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


cis- is a terrifically useful wordage.

And back to the subject at hand: I'm very excited about the treatments they have to delay puberty. Unlike full transitioning, it is easy to reverse (stop treatment, and the biology takes over), but it acts like a "pause button" on developing secondary sex characteristics so that children have time to think about whether they wish to transition - instead of having to decide at 10 or 12, they can wait until they are 15 or 16 (or later? I don't know). And if they do transition, it's so much easier for them.

I do think it's best to wait past the early teen years (like 13,14) to transition, because it can be a very volatile period for people's sexuality and gender-identity. I went through a brief period where I wondered if I might be trans - I had many fantasies about "passing" as male, and I thought I might be much happier if I were male. But as I grew older I realised that while I am somewhat genderqueer, I am not uncomfortable in my birth sex (and indeed, have more scope to express feminity and masculinity as a woman then most men have) -- and that a great deal of my dissastisfaction with my sex had to do with being on the bad end of male priviledge (notably in theatre - more roles, better roles and 1/4 of the people going for them - male students in my drama class had it so much easier).
posted by jb at 9:54 PM on January 22, 2012 [15 favorites]


Fshgrl, did you check out the articles The White Hat posted? Particularly the latter?
posted by Adventurer at 9:54 PM on January 22, 2012


You know, when I started reading the article my first thought was "jeez, this again. Why can't people just leave gender reassignment until adulthood? It's an awfully big decision, and kids can be dumb." I'd seen stories in the news about kids reassigning, and though it never really bothered me I always had the thought in the back of my head that maybe it was irresponsible to let kids make those kinds of decisions.

But as I read the article and thought about it a bit more, I realized that the article is right -- asking people to delay reassignment is nothing more than cis*-normative.

Puberty is essentially nature's hormone therapy. Nature takes kids, who are essentially asexual**, and turns them into male or female adults. Now, from that perspective, why is it worse to allow a kid to get assigned to the sex they identify with than to force a kid (by inaction) to get assigned to the sex they don't identify with? If these are comparable errors, doesn't it seem like not allowing kids to transition is more likely to harm kids than allowing them?


*"Cis" is an incredibly useful term when talking about gender issues. Opposing it is essentially an argument for using "normals" instead

**A gross oversimplification, I'm sure, but I'm not sure how splitting hairs on this point would change my argument

posted by no regrets, coyote at 9:54 PM on January 22, 2012 [18 favorites]


My mother was having this sort of crisis while struggling to accept my younger sibling's trans-fabulousness, I'll tell you what I told her, that Justice Delayed is Justice Denied. To quote Dr. King,
    "I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection."
She has come around significantly since my brother, father and I were able to support them in obtaining body affirming surgery in her stead.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:55 PM on January 22, 2012 [19 favorites]


And why is it an annoying construct?

I find cisgendered annoying because it's sort of begging the question. It says we have this concept of physical sex characteristics and then a separate concept of mental gender identity, and that those two ... entities ... can be aligned or misaligned, and when misaligned (how? to what degree?) the owners often wish to "correct" their physical sex to match their mental gender

OK - great, interesting idea. But where's the evidence that this whole framework corresponds to reality, and that the correct response is these reassignment surgeries? Because of all of seems to be getting at the least, a large foot in the door once we start using this terminology
posted by crayz at 10:02 PM on January 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


Transitioning takes forever. It's a crazy long, and there are a ton of steps before something really irreversible like the gender reassignment surgery (which not all trans people ever want to get to). There is plenty of opportunity to stop and reevaluate what you're going through. It's not like the first hormone injection starts some unstoppable chain reaction.
posted by Garm at 10:04 PM on January 22, 2012 [10 favorites]


Someone sent me to transactive online when I had 101 type of questions. via there, puberty suppressing drugs mentions
What are the health risks for untreated transgender youth?
Transgender youth, whether male or female, may be at serious risk for self-harm and often engage in life-threatening behaviors related to their transgender identity. Patients sense that they are "trapped in the wrong body" and many experience verbal or physical abuse as a result of their gender expression. Many transgender youth report having seriously thought about taking their lives. Over 25 percent of the transgender youth who participated in a recent study had actually attempted suicide.
So if you don't do something, you'll end up with kids who hurt themselves or commit suicide.
posted by bleary at 10:05 PM on January 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


I find cisgendered annoying because it's sort of begging the question. It says we have this concept of physical sex characteristics and then a separate concept of mental gender identity, and that those two ... entities ... can be aligned or misaligned, and when misaligned (how? to what degree?) the owners often wish to "correct" their physical sex to match their mental gender

So in other words, you don't believe in transgendered people?
posted by Garm at 10:07 PM on January 22, 2012 [20 favorites]


The framework follows reality, not the other way around, or maybe I'm misunderstanding you, crayz. Is your question whether transgender people exist (well, yes) or whether the medical approaches we currently have on offer are sufficient (not yet)?
posted by gingerbeer at 10:08 PM on January 22, 2012


"But where's the evidence that this whole framework corresponds to reality"

The voices of those whose daily existence confirm this framework is your evidence for this reality. If you listen instead of deny, you'll magically see living proof all around you.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:11 PM on January 22, 2012 [17 favorites]


    "I find cisgendered annoying because it's sort of begging the question. It says we have this concept of physical sex characteristics and then a separate concept of mental gender identity, and that those two ... entities ... can be aligned or misaligned, and when misaligned (how? to what degree?) the owners often wish to "correct" their physical sex to match their mental gender"
This is actually exactly what the terminology is intended to do. It can be confusing but if it helps,

Sex is whether a person is biologically male or female.
Gender or Gender Identity is how a person feels inside.
Gender Presentation or Gender Role is how a person dresses, acts and behaves.
Sexual Orientation is about the gender which a person finds attractive.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:14 PM on January 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


But a lot of misery could be alleviated if transpersons were to bring others along with them on the journey they've been on for years before they even spoke the first word about their true selves.

This... is easier said than done. Growing up trans is extremely isolating, and you come to second guess everyone's reactions to transition, even your allies.

I've made this point before in other threads and I will do so again: A lot of misery could be alleviated if people just stop trying to think for others and make hasty assumptions.

I personally fell into the trap of postponing my own transition for over 10 years, partly because everyone was afraid of what grandpa* would think**. Turns out, no one bothered to ask grandpa 'til I just bit the bullet and did the deed... and he, of all my family and friends, is probably my biggest supporter and so fucking proud of me, it almost hurts.

*Not singling him out, but he's a good stand-in for the long list of "what will so-and-so think". The various church musicians who frequently employ me are also good examples. No problems with them, either, happy to report.

** And really, what kind of message does this send? "Hey, grandpa, we've always thought you were an insensitive prick at heart, happy 93rd birthday, fuck you." Kinda harsh.


On the flip side: A lot of folks really aren't aware of the ripple effect transition has, and many trans people (I went through this) get bitter when people can't immediately get 100% behind someone's transition. My family, friends, and employers have all had to come out on my behalf in one way or another; they have to share some of the burden of who to tell, how much to tell, etc. And most of them have also had to confront how much gender-related bullshit they carry around with them in a very compressed amount of time.

certain things, like, say, joining the military, getting a tattoo, getting married, adopting a religion, or transitioning, are best left to adulthood

Clearly, I am going to be biased here, because I'm the one who had to live with 30 years of soul-crushing depression from being closeted trans, plus the still-persistent sense that I was robbed of a childhood. Physical transition is only one of many options, tends to be after a good deal of traditional therapy, and involves a great amount of informed consent before anything irreversible is done. Though I will admit that, if you press me, I am going to struggle with the question of "how young is too young?" It feels like one of those scenarios where only a time machine (hell, let's wish for a wizard or a genie at this point) is going to make everything ok for everyone everywhere.

But, even if you want to be conservative and wait til whatever age of consent, there is still a lot of room for acceptance of behavior outside of traditional gender roles that would be beneficial to all children, regardless if they are on the trans spectrum.

It feels in the past 5 or so years alone, there has been a palatable shift in acceptance of behavior outside of traditional gender roles -- the little girl who wanted her Star Wars thermos, the boy who liked his nails painted, bronies, etc, etc. I think this is awesome. As a trans person, I sometimes wonder if people think I have an "obligation" or "mission" to promote gender non-normative behavior in cis-gendered people, especially children. Well, not entirely. As the uncle of an extremely girly-girl niece, I am totally fine with her predilection towards pink and dolls if she chooses these things because they make her happy. And not because she thinks they should make her happy, especially by virtue of pleasing someone else. (Same goes for my nephew and all his sports.)

cis cis blah blah blah....

In my early days of participating in online trans groups, we used "bio man" and "bio woman". Which made me feel like I was some kind of robot or something.
posted by Wossname at 10:24 PM on January 22, 2012 [47 favorites]


You wouldn't just be allowing the process to happen, you'd be vigorously pursuing it.
I can certainly empathize with this. As an individual parent who has to decide what's best for one's child, the available information about young trans people must seem grossly inadequate.

The solution is surely to take the issue more seriously from a scientific and medical standpoint, though. Because the unfortunate truth is, if you fail to accommodate the reassignment of someone who needs to be reassigned, you've fucked up just as bad as someone who facilitates the reassignment of someone who shouldn't have been reassigned. People take a certain moral comfort in failing to act over acting wrongly, but that does no good for the person who had to live as the wrong sex.

If parents today are in the position of just not knowing what to do, then the solution has to be working to reach a medical and scientific consensus of how to help trans young people and communicating that to parents. And that is directly contrary to the "wait until [whenever]" attitude that the article is arguing against.
posted by planet at 10:28 PM on January 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


I found a case study on the outcome for someone who got puberty delaying treatments starting at 13, and eventually had surgery at 20. Puberty Suppression in a Gender-Dysphoric Adolescent: A 22-Year Follow-Up. outcome good.
posted by bleary at 10:33 PM on January 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


Thanks, bleary. That was an interesting case study.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:39 PM on January 22, 2012


I can't be the only person who is tickled pink about prefixes normally seen in organic chemistry trickling out into the common parlance. During discussions of gender I get to titter in my head about functional group orientation about multiple bonds. How delightful!
posted by schroedinger at 10:44 PM on January 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


So if you don't do something, you'll end up with kids who hurt themselves or commit suicide.

This point really should be emphasized. We do not have large-scale studies on the long-term effects of puberty-delaying drugs. We do have large-scale studies on the mental health issues associated with being a transperson, and the depression, suicidal idealation, anxiety, self-hatred, and other host of terrible effects are severe. Whatever you worry about the physical side-effects of the hormone treatments, it's hard to argue death is better.
posted by schroedinger at 10:48 PM on January 22, 2012 [26 favorites]


If parents today are in the position of just not knowing what to do, then the solution has to be working to reach a medical and scientific consensus of how to help trans young people

This. There's a world of difference between "it's just a phase" and "it could be just a phase, let's try to figure this out".

I think the majority of people simply aren't aware that transition is an actual, paced out Thing with a defined* process having an underlying medical framework to support it. Yes, some people go outside the system, but that's no excuse to dismiss the entire process as some kind of whimsy.

* Though not "well-defined" in many areas. Especially when insurance is involved.
posted by Wossname at 10:51 PM on January 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


"I can't be the only person who is tickled pink about prefixes normally seen in organic chemistry trickling out into the common parlance. During discussions of gender I get to titter in my head about functional group orientation about multiple bonds. How delightful!"

You have no idea, every year these days gender aware O chem students discover cis/trans nomenclature in chemistry and they get really fascinated with nomenclature, for once. Every time I've seen it* the undergrads realize that, even though it provides wonderfully abstract symbols untainted by other relevant associations, it is too abstract and unknown for it to ever be useful.

*Yes, I was a doe eyed undergrad who got excited, but I already loved nomenclature.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:54 PM on January 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Call me a cisasshole, but I'm generally of the opinion that certain things, like, say, joining the military, getting a tattoo, getting married, adopting a religion, or transitioning, are best left to adulthood.

Maybe this has been addressed but I'd like to put a finer point on it. Reaching some kind of harmony between your gender and your sex is actually one of the things that childhood and young adulthood are for. You shouldn't have to wait for adulthood to become comfortable in your own skin.

If your belief is that people should be balanced adults before they take on life, you should probably feel the opposite about the timing of transitioning.
posted by fleacircus at 10:54 PM on January 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


Whoever proposed the whole "cis-" designation scheme should resign from the business of naming gender identities, because it fucking sucks.

Are cisgendered people even allowed to get angry over what their sexuality is called like LGBTQ people are?
posted by BiggerJ at 10:55 PM on January 22, 2012


Thanks for those links, The White Hat. They're very useful in sorting out my sometimes-confused thoughts about trans kids. The personal stories in the Bay Area Reporter article are fascinating and heart-warming both. I also liked the way it addressed the lack of a good consensus on how early medical interventions should start:

Physicians in attendance said that it's still difficult to know if and when medical transition is right for young people, given that there is a lack of trans-specific research, particularly when it comes to kids.

"I don't have the answers," said featured panelist Dr. Robert Winn of the Mazzoni Center, Philadelphia's LGBT healthcare center.

Winn noted that while once it was more commonplace to refuse transsexual treatment to anyone under 18, even the conservative Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association Standards of Care make a case for hormones in kids as young as 16, and he prefers to deal with people on a case-by-case basis, operating from a variety of health models, including harm reduction...

Some parents said their doctors have advised them that their best options, assuming their children consistently express a desire for physical transition, is to allow some natural development but administer hormone blockers to delay puberty. Such a process leaves fewer undesired gender traits to overcome later in life without causing permanent effects, and for FTM boys, allows that often-desired extra height since testosterone can be administered at an older age but before the bones are closed.


A psychiatric assistant is paraphrased saying that "parents' decisions to allow or delay physical transitions would not, in the long run, matter as much to a child as parents who handle the process in a loving and accepting manner," adding, "The most critical thing is less about hormones and surgery and more about compassion and love." She believes "there is more than one cause to an effect" when it comes to identity and that the "mind, body, soul, and spirit cannot be disconnected" in such a discussion.

Ahzjane Silver's story at the end nicely captures some of the "if kids were allowed more free gender expression they might not feel the need to transition" argument.
posted by mediareport at 11:00 PM on January 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


I don't like cis-. I think it's too obvious.

Three groups make up any audience:

1. The people in favor of my argument
2. The people ignorant of my subject, who can be informed and persuaded one way or the other
3. The people opposed to my argument

In this context, cissexual and cisgender only mean anything to the people in groups 1 and 3. Choosing to use cis- signals to group 1 that I'm on their side, I recognize their nomenclature, and I'm part of the 'in' group—but the actual meaning of my communication should accomplish that anyway. The cissexuals in group 3 have a convenient flag that signals they need to ignore or attack my argument, as suits their mood, but they don't actually need to think about it.

Meanwhile, the people in group 2 literally don't understand what I'm talking about, and they're the ones I most need to convince. Sure, some of them will take the time to find out what cis means (as happened in this thread), but how many more will walk away assuming that if they don't know what I'm saying, that it probably doesn't apply to them?

Avoiding the cis- constructions dodges both of these pitfalls: you don't alienate the people you most need to educate, and you aren't as obvious a target for your antagonists.

Having said this, I recognize that othering has long had strategic validity in other rights struggles. Maybe I have poor judgment of strategy, and maybe it's my cisprivilege (and really, there's no reasons it can't be both), but it doesn't strike me as rhetorically useful. If you have a different opinion, I'd really like to hear it.
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 11:07 PM on January 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


    "I don't like cis-. I think it's too obvious."
This must be the most terrible argument against a word I think I have ever read
posted by Blasdelb at 11:08 PM on January 22, 2012 [22 favorites]


Care to elaborate?
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 11:10 PM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Are cisgendered people even allowed to get angry over what their sexuality is called like LGBTQ people are?

I don't know any gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, or queer people who get angry about these specific terms. But I guess you're allowed to be as irrational or belligerent as you care to be, no matter what you are.
posted by hermitosis at 11:11 PM on January 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


it doesn't strike me as rhetorically useful

So what term(s) would be better/more rhetorically useful?
posted by kmz at 11:12 PM on January 22, 2012


Also, I can only assume people opposed to "cis" also oppose the term "heterosexual". If not, why not?
posted by kmz at 11:15 PM on January 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


"Cisgendered" bothers me some because it's such a transparently political move to reframe the way transgenderism is perceived -- as merely the flip-side of "cisgenderism" rather than a condition that a person may have.

I actually agree with this, but for some reason I find hard to explain, the attempt to linguistically force the issue gets my back up. It feels dishonest somehow, and strikes me as unproductive; it assumes everyone's already on the same page, which isn't true. Maybe because you don't otherwise *need* the term -- "not transgender" works just fine, and you're just creating jargon to make a point. Which kind of offends me as a fan of the English language.

And the word is kind of unwieldy and ugly, which doesn't help.
posted by eugenen at 11:19 PM on January 22, 2012 [9 favorites]


The reason "cis-" terminology is annoying is the same reason terms like "womyn" are annoying. Used towards a general, non-trans audience it can come across as a sort of chiding, scolding assumption of ignorance in the audience, sort of like walking up to someone you've never met and saying, in effect, "you and I are having an argument, and I win."
posted by anazgnos at 11:21 PM on January 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


"Cisgendered" bothers me some because it's such a transparently political move

No more than the word "heterosexual" is a transparent political move by homosexuals. If homosexuals and transgendered hadn't been diagnosed/categorized/marked as different by a dominant culture, there would have been no "normal" category defined in opposition to them. But here we are. Blaming the oppressed minority is just absurd.
posted by mek at 11:24 PM on January 22, 2012 [20 favorites]


I feel like cisgender and womyn/wimmin/etc are in different categories, though. Cisgender sounds like it came about in order to provide a scientific label for people who are not trans. Womyn/wimmin/etc came about as a reaction to the patriarchal roots inherent in the word "woman" and are used in rebellion to that word as a gender.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 11:26 PM on January 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


you're just creating jargon to make a point

sort of like walking up to someone you've never met and saying, in effect, "you and I are having an argument, and I win."

People sure seem to project a lot into the use of a helpful term. Again, are y'all also bothered by "heterosexual"?
posted by kmz at 11:26 PM on January 22, 2012 [9 favorites]


Group 1. What's so wrong about using accepted, non-inflammatory terminology? Or signaling to people that we support the idea of doing so, even if our meaning is already clear to those people who already agree with us? I personally like to reinforce the meaning of what I say with terms that fit those descriptions, especially when those terms are created and supported by the community that primarily uses them.

Group 2. I think this is a good opportunity to educate the ignorant, rather than try to accommodate to their lack of awareness by continuing to avoid terminology that is apt and descriptive, just because we don't think they'll understand.

Group 3. I don't think we should choose terminology based on trying to minimize our target-potential from the opposition...I also don't see why this particular term needs minimizing (what makes it target bait, other than that it exists?). In other words, the cissexuals in group 3 will always have a convenient flag that will signal their need to ignore or attack an argument, as suits their mood, and they won't actually need to think about it if they don't wish to (which in this case, they clearly don't wish to think it through, which sort of puts them in group 2 in my mind. And is therefore a good opportunity to educate and a reason to fight the fight).
posted by iamkimiam at 11:27 PM on January 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


So what term(s) would be better/more rhetorically useful?

What I found less rhetorically useful is the practice of othering. Othering helps to reinforce the fact that people who are trans really are trans and specifically aren't cis. The downside of othering is that it's adversarial. When you put the uninitiated on the defensive from the beginning, they do not want to be educated about their errors.

I don't have a problem with divisive language, in general. Lapses into privilege notwithstanding, I do not think privileged people are delicate flowers whom we must shelter from foreign terminology. And like I said before, it's entirely possible that my objection here is still the product of privilege—the fact that I grew up with heterosexual and homosexual, but didn't grow up with trans and cis could be influencing me. In my experience, people can be convinced that some people are born the wrong sex, and the transbashing is always worst when the term cis appears. Maybe I need to stop relying on episodic knowledge.
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 11:46 PM on January 22, 2012


I have sympathy for jsnlxndrlv's argument, insofar as the term signifies more than what it's literally intended to (the alignment of a person's sexual plumbing and their sexuality) - its use, at the moment, is a political statement on behalf of whoever uses it - one that can derail a conversation (hello there everyone!).

And I do confess that the term made me itchy too, until the arguments in this thread won me over. (Education!) It's unsettling to have a new term applied to yourself, especially one that reminds you that your comfortable majority status doesn't accord you the "normalcy" you took for granted.

The fact that the word is politicized is natural, since the word is new. Wedging a word that describes peoples' relationship with their own sexuality into the lexicon is going to ruffle feathers.

But! None of that detracts from the fact that the word just plain makes sense. As this thread has pointed out, it's even-handed and etymologically sound, and without it we'd be grouping the world into "trans" and "normal." The more it's used, the more comfortable it will become, the less it will become a political statement, the more it will become a simple descriptive word, and the less we'll have to have this conversation.
posted by bicyclefish at 11:56 PM on January 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Maybe because you don't otherwise *need* the term -- "not transgender" works just fine, and you're just creating jargon to make a point.
Except any extended discussion of "not transgendered" people qua not transgendered people would read as a studied exercise in not talking about what you're trying to talk about.

I'm only partially disagreeing with you. Of course "cisgendered" is political -- but it's political in such a fantastic way. Giving a name to something that people might otherwise consider to be just the absence of a condition is a great way to encourage thought about what it actually is. So I have trouble seeing it as not needed.

I don't think giving it a name forces any sort of judgment either. "Healthy" is not etymologically "not sick" in any way I can see, but I don't think people find the terminology an impediment to judging whether healthy or sick is more natural, desirable, or anything else.
posted by planet at 11:58 PM on January 22, 2012 [11 favorites]


Othering helps to reinforce the fact that people who are trans really are trans and specifically aren't cis. The downside of othering is that it's adversarial.

So functioning as other in society is fine, but calling attention to the difference with clinical terminology is adversarial?
posted by hermitosis at 12:00 AM on January 23, 2012 [8 favorites]


You also need a term the population involved coined themselves, accept, and do not consider hate speech.

This is a blindingly stupid sentence. I don't really have a response to it outside of that. "Hate speech?" Goddamn, that's seriously super dumb.

I'm honestly stunned by the objection to the term "cis" prefix - it's useful and descriptive and it strips cisgender people of the implied claim to "normal" that current culture mistakenly grants them. The gender identity discussion required a succinct term to describe those people whose gender matches up with their biological sex and English - adaptable little dynamo of a language that it is - filled this gap in its lexicon with "cisgender." I've described myself as such for years with no idea the word was somehow political - my only concern was that it was accurate.

Maybe because you don't otherwise *need* the term -- "not transgender" works just fine, and you're just creating jargon to make a point. Which kind of offends me as a fan of the English language.

"Not transgender" is a terrible replacement for "cisgender" - you're only describing what a person isn't with that approach, which is pretty goddamn inefficient. For instance, I could write an article about Teddy Roosevelt where I refer to him as "not a duck." That phrase doesn't say what he is only what he is not, which doesn't do much to narrow things down, does it?

The "don't muck with English" argument against is an especially foolish one, as English is totes changing all the time, has been for as long as it has been spoken and anyone trying to stand on the wall to keep this or that word out is obvi doomed for realz. The idea that there's such a thing as "pure English" is a prescriptivist myth - where would one even begin to look for it? Old English, Middle English, Elizabethan? When does the reshaping of English to suit the culture speaking it reach such a point that one is no longer speaking "proper English?
posted by EatTheWeak at 12:01 AM on January 23, 2012 [17 favorites]


To reply to eugenen's comment: "not transgender" is problematic in that it is marked in the same way that "woman" is the marked version of "man", "abnormal" is the marked version of "normal", the "ette" suffix is the marked version of the bare noun, and on. It's defining one thing/person/group in the absence of another. Terms like "woman" are deeply entrenched into our vernacular and there's no changing it, which is why trying to convert an entire culture to a new form as a replacement of the ingrained one is agenda'd and practically impossible. And also why terms like "womyn" can become especially marked in their often futile attempt to turn things around. Not to say that it can't be done...there are cases where common labels have fallen out of fashion, for similar motivations.

With new terminology, new societal awarenesses about civil rights issues, we have opportunities to create and use nomenclature that is balanced, i.e. does not frame one group in the terms of the other. We should seize that opportunity, instead of falling back into old labeling practices, which may or may not perpetuate othering or add bias to referential use (in the case of "not transgendered", both of these problems exist).

Also, there is nothing inherently wrong, clunky, ugly, offensive or otherwise terrible about the letters c-i-s, the phonemes [s]-[ɪ]-[s], the prefixing process, the etymology and semantics of 'cis-' or the sound symbolisms they connote. It is our associations we have and MAKE with the prefix that can take on any one of those pejorative flavours. The great thing is, each and every one of us has the power to change that. Instead of focusing on the negative associations you hold and promote with regard to this prefix, take time to hear and understand the positive associations and the benefits that it has. Carry those around instead.

It's all a shame really, to be having this particular debate about nomenclature, when there are much bigger issues at hand (as outlined in the FPP link). But we can't get there until we clear out all this semantic derailing BS. I'm looking forward to when this particular aspect is a non-issue and the term is accepted and used without question about its validity, goodness-of-fit or pleasingness-of-form. It will be nice when attitudes about the term are no longer proxies for attitudes about the people they represent (or are associated with by opposition). Meaning, gender awareness and acceptance for all; not just for those we feel ready to embrace, grudgingly or passionately as the case may be.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:02 AM on January 23, 2012 [27 favorites]


By referring to you as heterosexual, am I reinforcing the fact that people who are homosexual really are homosexual, and specifically aren't heterosexual, in a way that is adversarial?
posted by hermitosis at 12:02 AM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Good lord.

Really?

I would suggest the transbashing is always at its worst when one or more angry people start kicking the shit out of a trans person.

I am also continually surprised at how resistant people are to requests like this.

"Please don't use sexual assault as a subject of humor."
"Please don't call things you don't like 'gay'."
"Please use a prefix for yourself if you're going to use one for me."
"Please don't call it "Jewed" if you think you got ripped off."
"Please don't use "downsy" as an insult."

Etc. Every last one of these requests meet with continual pushback, and in turn I'm continually mystified.

Is it political? Uh yeah I guess? In the sense that persons who have been treated poorly would like that to stop happening and that requires politics.

Why does this bother you?

Going back to fshgrl's comment - all words are constructs. Language is a living, breathing thing. It changes over time. New words are coined and come into common parlance every year. So why does this one make people so annoyed, uncomfortable, and suspicious? Why?

It serves an obvious purpose and it does so elegantly. It has no drawback I can see. It's not even phonetically awkward! "I am a cisgendered man." Precise, economical conveyance of specific information.

What is everyone's deal, yo?

On preview: this comment seems superfluous. BUT I'VE WRITTEN IT DAMMIT, TO THE POST BUTTON AND DAMN THE CONSEQUENCES!
posted by kavasa at 12:03 AM on January 23, 2012 [40 favorites]


If I'd never heard the term heterosexual before, I might think so! Any time you call me something that I don't understand, you are demonstrating my need to learn more about the world. Many people do not like to learn; they do not like discovering that their understanding of the world was incorrect. It is possible to say that things exist in the world without saying anything about me as your audience.
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 12:06 AM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


To put it another way, why must trans people be defined as the opposite of something? Why do we need to say anything about cis people in order to articulate trans needs?
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 12:08 AM on January 23, 2012


it doesn't strike me as rhetorically useful

Until there is a clearer understanding between gender, sex, and sexual orientation among the general public, I'd argue that any jargon is going to fail your criteria.

I've seen people use "assigned male/female at birth," and some of the studies linked in this thread use phrases like "natally female". Both of which still require further explanation to the ignorant.

Even "transgender" has its problems and causes confusion between "sex" and "gender" among the uneducated. It's generally used as a catch-all for those who spend a significant portion of their lives outside gender norms.* Gay drag queens, heterosexual cross-dressers, the gender queer, and transsexuals are all "trans" in some way, but have very different needs and interact with society in very different ways.

I can understand the problem of "othering," yes, but maybe part of the problem is the inclination to think of "cis" as one side of a coin, rather than a point on a spectrum. If your hackles are raised because of the connotation that being labeled as "cis" too neatly boils down your own gender expression... well, the idea that there is only "one way" to be FTM or MTF still crops up as a source of conflict within those respective communities. Gender expression is a hot topic, it seems, regardless of how you identify.

In any way, I find all these terms useful, though imperfect.

*I've also seen it used to denote a temporary state before someone "graduates" to being a "full" transsexual, which is extremely unfair to the happily gender-queer, as well as those who do not choose any/all of the options for a physical transition.
posted by Wossname at 12:10 AM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can't be the only person who is tickled pink about prefixes normally seen in organic chemistry trickling out into the common parlance.

I'm familiar with them from Roman history, Cisalpine Gaul versus Transalpine Gaul.
posted by XMLicious at 12:28 AM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Holy shit. Every time.

I've said it repeatedly on Mefi: cis people had decades to come up with a better word for themselves. Christine Jorgensen's case was widely publicised in the 50s and Dana International won Eurovision in 1998; it should have been clear to anyone without their head in their anus that trans people were here to stay. Cis was coined in the 90s but only rose to prominence in the last half-decade or so. If it was so extraordinarily important for cis people to name themselves, why didn't they do it?

jsnlxndrlv: "To put it another way, why must trans people be defined as the opposite of something? Why do we need to say anything about cis people in order to articulate trans needs?"

Because there are vital differences between the cis and trans experience of the world that have to be discussed if headway is to be made in discussions of human rights, medical treatment, and so on. A number of examples have already been given in this thread.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 12:34 AM on January 23, 2012 [39 favorites]


If you care enough about the cause to argue in its behalf, then this is what you signed up for: the endless education of the ignorant majority. Not saying you're wrong to be upset, but you really should have expected this.
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 12:58 AM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Personally, as someone who discovered the term "cisgendered" in the last...when was this post made?...I love it. I've always wanted a unique, special label that defined me and my experience of the world. Looking forward to coming across a survey or form where I can tick the little "cis" box!
posted by Jimbob at 1:12 AM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, the oppressed are well aware of their burden to educate their oppressors. The question is whether you want to help or hinder them.
posted by mek at 1:13 AM on January 23, 2012 [15 favorites]


Didn't like the cis terminology initially, but it's grown on me. If it makes transgendered people feel a little less horrible about themselves, I see no harm. Better prefixes may be available, but this is the one people are using.
posted by seanyboy at 1:48 AM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


By referring to you as heterosexual, am I reinforcing the fact that people who are homosexual really are homosexual, and specifically aren't heterosexual, in a way that is adversarial?

Weren't the terms hetero and homo sexual an attempt to make both seem normal?
So where does the term “heterosexual” come from?

“Heterosexual” was actually coined in a letter at the same time as the word “homosexual,” [in the mid-19thcentury], by an Austro-Hungarian journalist named Károly Mária Kertbeny. He created these words as part of his response to a piece of Prussian legislation that made same-sex erotic behavior illegal, even in cases where the identical act performed by a man and a woman would be considered legal. And he was one of a couple of people who did a lot of writing and campaigning and pamphleteering to try to change legal opinion on that matter. He coined the words “heterosexual” and “homosexual” in a really very clever bid to try to equalize same-sex and different-sex. His intent was to suggest that there are these two categories in which human beings could be sexual, that they were not part of a hierarchy, that they were just two different flavors of the same thing.
I dislike 'cis' for the same reason, as a black guy, that I dislike 'African-American'. I spent close to 20 years as identifying as 'black' and then one fine day in 1989, I read in the fucking newspaper that I am now 'African-American'. It committee of black (?!) lawmakers and leaders had decided that would be the new term. *My* identity was being watered down for political reasons.

The intentions behind the term 'cis' are good, but reflexively I loathe someone renaming my identity. I've gotten more use to the term over the years, but no, I'll probably never love it or be comfortable with it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:19 AM on January 23, 2012 [10 favorites]


The intentions behind the term 'cis' are good, but reflexively I loathe someone renaming my identity.

What did you call it before it was "cis"?
posted by mek at 2:20 AM on January 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


What did you call it before it was "cis"?

I get your point, there wasn't a particular designation (that I can think of offhand)and it wasn't something most of the population had to think about. It was just what was considered 'normal' and those who wanted to change their sex were considered abnormal.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:28 AM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Rules for a mefi trans thread

Roll a D6. 1-3 means the thread proceeds without incident. A 4 means someone towards the end of the thread takes issue with the word cis but substantive discussion has happened by this point so it doesn't really matter. A 5 or 6 means someone early in the thread takes issue with the word cis for poorly articulated reasons and the whole thing is hopelessly derailed.

If you roll a 4-6 you can attempt a saving throw to patiently explain the etymology and justification of cis and get the thread back on track, but the save is high on a D20 so you need a bit of luck.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:57 AM on January 23, 2012 [52 favorites]


I think cis is different to African-American in that cis is used to name the majority. Pardon the possible naivity in this, but I see it more in terms of changing the hypothetical phrase "black people and normal people" to "black people and white people".
posted by seanyboy at 2:57 AM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


But on preview, you've already said what I was clumsily trying to say. Blergh.
posted by seanyboy at 3:00 AM on January 23, 2012


Some Mefi linguist should come in to explain Markedness Theory.

Not me however.
posted by spitbull at 3:03 AM on January 23, 2012


I am okay with "cis" but totally feel Brandon's viewpoint Some of us already have a bunch of designations we already have to deal with, you know? Designations that already separate us and are easily and sometimes inhospitably heaped onto us by others on a day to day basis.

Please forgive me if it takes me a moment to get comfy with yet another name I didn't choose for myself....
posted by The ____ of Justice at 3:06 AM on January 23, 2012


To anyone who objects to the prefix "cis-" as the opposite of "trans-", I have a simple challenge for you.

Find me a better term.

If you can do it, fine. We'll talk about changing it. If not, you learned a new and useful term today. Rejoyce. Or at least stop trying to defend the purity of a language that clubs other languages over the head so it can steal pieces of spare vocabulary. Or make the case that there is no point to a word there.

This is not like Womyn. This is a word to express a concept there was no word for before.
posted by Francis at 3:13 AM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just be glad we picked out cis for you guys. It's a pretty nice word, all told. Better than tranny, shemale, freak, ladyboy, or chick with a dick.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 3:15 AM on January 23, 2012 [38 favorites]


It was just what was considered 'normal' and those who wanted to change their sex were considered abnormal.

Exactly!
posted by mek at 3:32 AM on January 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Any time you call me something that I don't understand, you are demonstrating my need to learn more about the world. Many people do not like to learn; they do not like discovering that their understanding of the world was incorrect.

Did you intend this to read like satire? Because it reads like satire.
posted by Acheman at 3:35 AM on January 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


But if it's your kid are you going to take the chance that they won't look at you in 20 years and go "why on earth did you let me do that? I was just a child." These kinds of things are fine to discuss in general terms but there are individual people making the decisions.

Of course you always have to worry about false positives as well as unrecognised/rejected negatives in these circumstances and obviously there is a screening process already before you get to transition anyway, even for adults, but to worry too much about this to the point that you won't allow any minor to starts transition whatsoever is worrying too much about the lesser risk.

Experience shows that there are vastly more transgendered people delaying or rejecting transition unnecessarily and being damaged by this than there are people who transition too soon or regret transitioning and are damaged by that.

Our "common sense" and understandable reluctance to do potentially irrepairable harm bias us against transition when the reality is that vastly more people benefit from starting it sooner rather than later. This is a common fallacy in lots of fields, where some more exotic danger is vastly overrated compared to more normal risks.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:41 AM on January 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm amazed that, on Metafilter, no one has come along and pointed out how langauge is used to identify and divide people. The cool kids all know the cool kids terms. If you don't know, you ain't a cool kid. Right? There is a point as one ages, when this stuff gets annoying.

So now it's this 'cis' word. So you claim 'cis' is inoffensive? ORLY? Were you born yesterday? CIS stands for Compuserve Information Service. $6.25 an HOUR connection time. And you say that's not offensive?! Compu$erve is a much older use of the $ sign than that in Micro$oft. (I'd say original, but I doubt that).

'cis'. Oh, a new term to get used to. I suppose that's really okay. But what a pity we have argue about language and labels , when the REAL FUCKING PROBLEM is kids growing up miserable and killing themselves. Perspective, please?

So a kid feels they are transgender. This just means we have to make accommodations or we end up with a dead kid. How hard is that to understand? Yes, it's a real thing, and no one is out to convince any child that they should become the gender their body isn't (except maybe a crazy parent, and those aren't likely to get very far).

We have an obligation to make the world a safe place for ALL the children, and do our best to make things right for them.
posted by Goofyy at 3:41 AM on January 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


Speaking as a boring heterosexual ciswoman, this thread is so full of privilege it makes my head hurt.

Cis- does not mean you are "not trans", the same way that heterosexual does not mean you are "not homosexual", the same way that man does not mean you are "not woman", the same way that adult does not mean you are "not child". The world does not exist in black and white binaries, and we need accurate descriptions for the agents we are trying to involve in some sort of social change in order to address everyone with clarity. If the term bothers you, it's because you are experiencing being labeled for the very first time. You've been the dominant and default model for so long that to be labeled implies that other models exist that could be just as important and just as normal as your model, and that is a jarring realization.

If the term bothers you because you don't believe the concept of gender aligning with sex organs, then you effectively don't believe transgenderism exists, in which case I don't think we can have this discussion.

Trans- people are involved in LGBTQ communities because, theoretically, there's some solidarity to be found in a subculture that identifies itself primarily through non-adherence to heteronormativity (though the value of this solidarity is questionable, given the disturbing transphobia often exhibited within "the community"). However, transgenderism is about as much about non-trans members of the LGBTQ community as a gay man's homosexuality is about a straight woman's heterosexuality. Yes, Virginia, not everything is about you. If you have issues with trans-rights activists speaking out as members of the LGBTQ community, consider that your stance is effectively "why can't [members of oppressed minority group] just get over it already and stop rocking the boat".

My best friend is undergoing FTM transition right now and watching his struggles has opened my eyes to so much of the prejudice and pain that transfolk face that are utterly invisible to most of us. I've observed his severe depression since adolesence. I've seen him struggle with gender norms and family pressures. I've seen how much happier and more comfortable he is with himself as a man, and how relieved he was to finally figure this out, despite the social and familial blowback. I'm immensely proud of him for how brave he has been. It's not an easy life, and it's understandable that parents would want to spare their children that wherever possible. But speaking for this individual case, if I could travel back in time and teach him about gender dysphoria and transgenderism when he was 11, just so he has a very basic frame of reference for what he was feeling, I would in a heartbeat.
posted by Phire at 3:45 AM on January 23, 2012 [36 favorites]


Just be glad we picked out cis for you guys.

This reads as "fuck you, we picked the term for you, get used to it". I'm not sure that's going to accomplish much.

It was just what was considered 'normal' and those who wanted to change their sex were considered abnormal.

Exactly!


Very much so, but whether that works on the larger populace remains to be seen. African-American worked (Goddamn it) because it was a subgroup redefining its own name. To have a subgroup rename the majority strikes me as less guaranteed success, but who knows.

Find me a better term.

What's a positive or at least neutral sounding term for 'abnormal'? By any definition, being trans is not even close to the majority of the populace, as far as I know. So abnormal, while maybe technically correct, has too much of a negative connotation to it.

Part of the reason I personally loathe African-American is that it seeks to make me overtly different. Africa is a fine continent but my people have lived there in over a century and a half. I am, for good or ill, American first and resent anyone trying to say otherwise.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:47 AM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


MeTa
posted by Acheman at 3:50 AM on January 23, 2012


[Yeah, it would be great if this thread could get back on topic, and further conversation about whether the term "cis" should be used can be diverted over there, along with other discussion of how Mefi handles the subject. Thanks, all.]
posted by taz at 3:54 AM on January 23, 2012


I don't know any gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, or queer people who get angry about these specific terms.

I don't like that "bisexual" has "sexual" in it. I guess there's "bi" but that feels like a fraction of a word.

"Cisgender" may be an ugly word (so is "transgender" imo - fucking organic chemistry) but it really seems like people's aesthetic concerns could bear a little putting aside for the time being. Like, stand back a bit. Seems clear that there are other matters that deserve this attention, no?
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 3:54 AM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think (part of some) people's opposition is a sort of gut level linguistic reaction to unfamiliarity. It's pretty common to have a prefix that negates (anti-,de-,trans-,etc), but it's pretty rare to have a pair like cis/trans. I'm love language , I love speaking and writing with precision, and I have a pretty technical education, but I didn't know until THIS THREAD what the origin of cis- was, even though I've encountered its use in gender discussion before.

I write this because I'm someone that is extremely in favor of GLBT rights (and was bothered by the use of the word "gay" as an insult in elementary school, before knowing anyone that was gay, just because it seemed... wrong), but who is mildly put off by the terminology, and I was trying to figure out why. I don't have a better answer, and I am in no way saying people shouldn't use it, but I am trying to give some reason why people who support you politically, socially, ethically, morally, and just about any other -ly I can think of might be put off by the linguistic aspect of it, and if you combine that with different politics than mine it might explain some of the otherwise non-sensical objection.

I hope the world keeps getting better about letting people be who and what they are and lead lives full of acceptance and love, regardless.
posted by flaterik at 3:54 AM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Once again, it seems like maybe a post about the terminology might be of interest to many people, but this post is actually about something different and specific. Maybe somebody could make that post, and this one could get back on track. Meanwhile, there is the discussion in Metatalk happening now.
posted by taz at 4:18 AM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


So, I'm going to have lunch at one. My friend points out that I had breakfast at 5am, so I'm probably going to be hungry before then. What about eleven? Another friend points out that if so, I'll be ready to gnaw my own arm off by dinner at seven. Noon! Happy medium! Except, says a third friend, have you seen how busy any of the places on or near campus are at noon?

Are they all against my having lunch? Are any of them going to end up caring if it turns out I have lunch quite happily at the time they advocated against? Probably not. Will I get at least one 'I told you so' if I run into a problem? Almost certainly. Everybody's got an opinion.

Which might seem glib, but I've had people give opinions about when I should come out to my family, too. Some of them very in favor, some against, for years now. Most people have a point of some variety. Most of these are people who care about me. Very few of them are anti-gay in any way. I will certainly believe that people with opinions about when other people ought to transition could be (a) wrong and (b) needing to mind their own business, but it doesn't necessarily follow that those people really *all* want it to just go away and never happen, just because they have often-legitimate concerns about the difficulties.
posted by gracedissolved at 4:42 AM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Very few of them are anti-gay in any way. I will certainly believe that people with opinions about when other people ought to transition could be (a) wrong and (b) needing to mind their own business, but it doesn't necessarily follow that those people really *all* want it to just go away and never happen, just because they have often-legitimate concerns about the difficulties.

The issue isn't the perhaps well-meaning suggestion that one shouldn't come out or transition now, it's the continual moving of the goalposts. 'Wait a year and see how you feel.' A year later, 'wait another year'. Ad infinitum.
posted by hoyland at 5:04 AM on January 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


There is nowhere near the body of knowledge required into psychology, sociology and physiology to assume we can "correct" gender "problems." We don't understand how it happens, why it happens, or if there's an evolutionary and/or cultural purpose to it. We don't understand the long term ramifications of transition using modern hormone techniques. We can't identify which cis-identification is genuine and permanent, and which sorts itself out after puberty. We can't reliably define a spectrum of gender identification, never mind reliably put a prepubescent child on it.

The science isn't there to support childhood gender re-assignment as anything other than pseudo-scienctific political posturing, with a child's body and mind on the line.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:00 AM on January 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


hoyland: "it's the continual moving of the goalposts. 'Wait a year and see how you feel.' A year later, 'wait another year'. Ad infinitum."

I had a rather depressed moment when I realised that the entire foundation of transsexual health care is to protect cis people from making a terrible mistake, rather than to help trans people transition with as little added pain as possible. Many of the principles in the standards of care seem nonsensical until you realise that.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 6:00 AM on January 23, 2012 [29 favorites]


This thread reminds me of that scene in Mad Men when Betty Draper comes home and her maid, Carla, is listening to MLKJr speak at the funeral of the four girls killed in the bombing of the church in Birmingham and Betty's reaction is, "How terrible. You know, maybe it's just not the right time for Civil Rights" and it's all Carla can do to avoid staring at her like she's got three heads.

Betty Draper. Means well, gets it wrong.
posted by entropone at 6:12 AM on January 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


What's a positive or at least neutral sounding term for 'abnormal'? By any definition, being trans is not even close to the majority of the populace, as far as I know. So abnormal, while maybe technically correct, has too much of a negative connotation to it.

There's a difference between abnormal and uncommon. Being trans is within the normal range of human experience. It's just less common than other experiences.
posted by entropone at 6:15 AM on January 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


There is nowhere near the body of knowledge required into psychology, sociology and physiology to assume we can "correct" gender "problems."

From my understanding, there's a reasonable case to be made that some subset of the population have gender identity problems and that subset can be shown to have better mental/physical health outcomes if they transition to the gender they feel themselves to intrinsically be

But it's absolutely true that we need a dramatic increase in research and understanding of people who identify as transgender - are we seeing one phenomenon on many, and is there one best solution or many?
posted by crayz at 6:27 AM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Many people do not like to learn

Mine is an unpopular opinion in regards to this.

I consider myself and other people like me to be 'people,' if you will, they are 'my people.' People who do not like to learn are not, however, my people. I am completely uninterested in doing anything for them, do not want to interact with them and urge them to stay away from me and out of my business.
posted by Fuka at 6:28 AM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


What is wrong with this term/scheme?

It's using an unfamiliar technical term (cis-5 oxene) to describe a subjective phenomenon specifically to avoid using another thenical term that means within a few standard deviations of the mean. I suspect the idea is to replace a word that has been associated with a stigma but the problem is taht those who have most created the stigmatized association will just pack up and move all their old associations to the new word if they even bother to adopt the new vocabulary at all.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:29 AM on January 23, 2012


Maybe I'm an ignorant nitwit, but for me the problem with the usage of the cis- prefix is that to my limited knowledge, there's no clear opposite.

e.g.: Homosexual:Heterosexual::Cissexual:?

Is that clearer? If we use the cis- prefix to denote a state, what prefix denotes the opposite state?

And if it's "not cis-" than THAT is the problem for me. If that's the case, isn't it grammatically clumsy?
posted by mikelieman at 6:32 AM on January 23, 2012


Acheman: "MeTa"

taz: "[Yeah, it would be great if this thread could get back on topic, and further conversation about whether the term "cis" should be used can be diverted over there, along with other discussion of how Mefi handles the subject. Thanks, all.]"

(reminder comment)
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 6:34 AM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


If transgenderism is “not about” people who are not transgender, then transgenders need to stop barging in in and attempting to reëducate people they are not.

Hm. So, I scanned the rest of the thread (stopping to carefully read things that caught my eye, then skimming more and more over the "cis-" debate which the topic inevitably morphed into) and no one really called you out on this, so I guess I will. This is pretty crazy. Seriously. I don't know what else to call the idea that "transgenders" (that's incredibly condescending and offensive, by the way; maybe you aren't aware of that, since "transgender" is the preferred term for the big umbrella of gender variance, but it is not a noun--you should say "trans person," with a space, instead) hijack and willfully distort narratives. I've seen that idea before, and it has no basis in reality beyond Group X encountering trans people and experiencing cultural dissonance and getting all angry and bigoted at those people who just aren't like them at all.

As for the main topic, I read this I think last week and it's angry and I absolutely hate sweeping arguments about "cis normativity" (I'm not a big fan of "cisgender," either, actually, but it compliments "trans-" and it's necessary; I just think it looks a bit goofy, as a word, while "transgender" honestly looks pretty cool) but it hits very close to home. I'm a trans person. I was denied transition, and still have to somehow try and work with people who want to deny my transition. It didn't make my decision more reasoned and rational--it made me panicky and careless and waiting ten years irreparably fucked me up both physiologically and emotionally. It'll take a long time for me to work through that, if I ever can.

No, it's probably not a good idea to allow your child to transition without the supervision of an experienced therapist and physician, but that applies to any medical condition. It's a much worse idea to indefinitely deny treatment to someone claiming to be trans regardless of their age. There is such a strong taboo against being trans in US (and presumably UK, Canadian and anywhere else in the world that trans people are even acknowledged as existing) society that if someone is claiming to be trans, and discussing their gender identity with you, they probably are. They may need more time to work things out, and some people may question their gender identity for a time, then find a place they're comfortable with that isn't full on gender transition. Those people exist, but that's not the average experience for a trans person. Most of us are unable to function as the gender we are assigned. Deny that kind of person treatment and hope and they will kill themselves or grow up damaged--and however nice they may seem, they will never forgive you for that.

Arguments against transition stem either from ignorance (of the details of HRT, of the experience of being trans) or hate. I'm aware that that sounds unnecessarily strong, and I try to avoid statements that divide people, but I really do not see a third position there. You either don't know what the hell you're asking, or you do and you're just a hateful bigot.

Anyway, that's as much as I can manage right now.

Also thanks for almost making me late to class again, MetaFilter!
posted by byanyothername at 6:42 AM on January 23, 2012 [15 favorites]


Part of the reason I personally loathe African-American is that it seeks to make me overtly different.

I guess I always thought the idea was to bring home the fact that African Americans are in fact *Americans* who deserve rights and protection equal to that of any other American. Which surprisingly and depressingly isn't obvious to everyone. For too many centuries the terms Black and Negro had been used to imply that fellow citizens of African descent were others who weren't really as American as those of European descent and didn't really belong (and in the case of "Negro," maybe weren't even quite human). As time goes on and the racist generations gradually wither away and die, one hopes such racial identifiers as "African-American" (or Asian-American, etc.) will one day come to be unnecessary, but obviously we're not at that point yet.

In the case of cis- and trans-, I have to admit as a once-upon-a-time chemistry major I frowned a little the first time I heard the term, because it was jarring hearing cis- connected to anything but a stereoisomer, but it has come to make more sense to me over time, and I fully acknowledge that terms are needed and these are probably as good as any that are likely to be made up.

(Disclaimer: I'm cis-, hetero-, European-American bleeding heart liberal, for what it's worth.)
posted by aught at 6:49 AM on January 23, 2012


I've gotta say, I don't see the relevance of any theory of gender to whether (or at what age) people should be allowed to get hormone treatments or surgery. All that matters is outcomes -- what percentage of people are (self-reported) happier for having done it? From what I've read, that percentage is very high, even for people who transition as minors. The desire to change your biological gender does not seem to be a common adolescent whim, like getting a tattoo, that people frequently change their mind about later. So just on that basis I see no reasonable objection to sex changes, and if I had a kid that wanted to do it then I'd like to think I would feel the same way.

I'm just not sure how the (pretty much unresolvable) questions of why they want to do it, or the extent to which biological and 'identity' gender are truly independent, or any of this other stuff, would really change my views. I mean I can see why it's an interesting subject, but isn't it a separate one?
posted by pete_22 at 6:55 AM on January 23, 2012 [9 favorites]


Slap*Happy: "The science isn't there to support childhood gender re-assignment as anything other than pseudo-scienctific political posturing, with a child's body and mind on the line"

I don't think the current state of medical research in to this is bad enough to be considered pseudo-scientific posturing. but I feel completely inadequate to be the person to talk about the science, arg! but if no one else is going to (maybe they are all 'gendered out') I will try.

That's what I was trying to do with my comment above referencing the case study, Puberty Suppression in a Gender-Dysphoric Adolescent: A 22-Year Follow-Up.

If you want to make the claim that this is pseudo-science, it behooves you to first read the current state of the science. Well, that paper was Received March 22, 2010; Revised February 14, 2011; Accepted February 16, 2011 and it seems a good place to start tracing citations.

And what are the consequences of not transitioning? suicide, depression, ... certainly you can find research that talks about this with respect to adults. I don't know where to begin for children, but I imagine it is the same, but even more, it sounds like the earlier someone transitions, the more they can pass,and what are the consequences of not passing? murder, abuse? I don't even know all of the consequences but those are the first two off the top of my head.


grar, I am upset that I have to point out that people should find a paper and then trace the citations backwards and forwards, and I'm just flailing around trying finding the first paper I can that seems to be current. (I started following links from pflag and landed on a page for a group in Toronto that had a helpful document for parents of transgender children, which pointed me to some references of papers starting in mid-nineties, etc. etc. etc.)

posted by bleary at 7:07 AM on January 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh and now another consequence just occured to me. What are the sheer biological consequences of someone going through puberty twice? I have no clue. Maybe you are asking someone to accept increasing their mortality, living with physical health problems, I just have no clue.

so, it seems like the medical science isn't perfect, but that is true for a lot of other conditions, and it is completely unjust to deny someone medical treatment when in other cases you would not. delaying puberty seems like a good compromise until there is a way to know more.
posted by bleary at 7:10 AM on January 23, 2012


Please someone who is good at explaining medicine and knowledgeable at about trans issues follow up! (because that is just me, but is unjust if no one says anything!)
posted by bleary at 7:12 AM on January 23, 2012


"I had a rather depressed moment when I realised that the entire foundation of transsexual health care is to protect cis people from making a terrible mistake, rather than to help trans people transition with as little added pain as possible. Many of the principles in the standards of care seem nonsensical until you realise that."

One of my childhood bestfriends frequently dressed and as a woman and talked about wanting to be a woman during the sexual experience fairly often. He identified as gay. He later became bisexual and now dates women more than men.

I think knowing someone like this who thought about being a woman and liked the idea of being a woman and sometimes felt like a woman in a man's body, but really went through the process ok with a lot of love and support and now enjoys his penis--- I understand not wanting to jump to transition a young person just because they talk about gender identity issues. I think so many of us had lot's of ideas as children and teens that seemed really important and our thoughts changed a lot.

I had a feeling when my gay highschool best friend was telling me that he wanted to experience sex as a woman he was also telling me he had sexual feelings about women (me at that moment) that he was conflicted with judging from the vibe of the conversation. Considering that he later did make sexual advances somewhat out of the blue I think my instinct there was correct. I think his experience of gender identity issues is likely very different than most because his parents wisely put him in a very open minded school (you know, with weirdos like me) where he could dress as a male or female, express his feelings about his gender and have it be ok with his friends no matter what the feelings are-- and he got a lot of external support that I think is missing for a lot of people who question their gender.

My question is how easy is it to reverse a transition? If reversing a transition is harder than going through transition, than wouldn't it make sense for people to be more worried about young people transitioning young?

To me it's like circumcision. If you're the sort of person who WOULD want to be circumcised then getting it done as an infant s probably the way to go. But you can't really UNcircumcise yourself. Which is why I think it's better to let men wait til adulthood and if they want to be circumcised in adulthood they can go through the process. This means more pain and a more difficult process than what I imagine it is for infants and it also means years of being uncircumcised that maybe they wish they could have had as a circumsized person--- I just feel like irreversable alterations to a persons body are best left to adulthood.

I want to see more research too, and I feel like delaying puberty might be a good idea for some kids. I guess I don't actually trust therapists that much to help kids figure this stuff out but maybe that has something to do with going to a lot of useless therapists as a kid and adult. Saying someone is a "trained professional" doesn't really mean they are helping the situation. I want to see more research and I absoultely believe more is needed and that people who are questioning their gender deserve all the love and support from their external environment as possible. And if all the pros and cons are wieghed extensively and it can be deduced accurately whether a kid is like my friend and sort of gender flexible and open but mostly ok with their body as it is and able to enjoy themselves and have meaningful relationships OR really in a severe condition where immediate initiation of the trainsition process would significantly benefit the child-- then I am open to that being the best course of action for some people. I understand why it's controversial and there are a lot of real concerns on either side of the decision to allow or not allow gender transitions in young people, or to delay puberty. I actually worry about the effects of hormonal birth control as well so you know... I just go around and worry about everyong. Worry worry worry. Don't offer me a xanax I'm worried about the side effects of that too.
posted by xarnop at 7:36 AM on January 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


One of my childhood bestfriends frequently dressed and as a woman and talked about wanting to be a woman during the sexual experience fairly often. He identified as gay. He later became bisexual and now dates women more than men.

Using this as a data point without knowing what any therapist would have said about him, then or now, is totally useless -- if not hazardous. You have no idea whether he would have been considered a candidate for transitioning, and your comment implies a fear that we will take questioning young people and rush them down to the local Transatorium and make irrevocable changes to them.

You know it's a long process, right, and it's more than just getting a dick chopped off or stapled on? The comparison to circumcision -- an out-patient procedure for children -- is just laughable.
posted by hermitosis at 8:05 AM on January 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


Maybe someday we'll have a thread about gender issues that doesn't involve re-discussing "cis" ... it's a profound waste of time. The linked article has a whole lot that could be discussed, but somehow this gets derailed by a completely unrelated discussion early on.
posted by odinsdream at 8:12 AM on January 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


mikelieman
Maybe I'm an ignorant nitwit, but for me the problem with the usage of the cis- prefix is that to my limited knowledge, there's no clear opposite.

e.g.: Homosexual:Heterosexual::Cissexual:?


Um...transsexual?
posted by omnikron at 8:12 AM on January 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think knowing someone like this who thought about being a woman and liked the idea of being a woman and sometimes felt like a woman in a man's body, but really went through the process ok with a lot of love and support and now enjoys his penis--- I understand not wanting to jump to transition a young person just because they talk about gender identity issues. I think so many of us had lot's of ideas as children and teens that seemed really important and our thoughts changed a lot.

I know what I'm about to say is likely to be mis-interpreted, but I can recall at least two AskMes that essentially boiled down to "Am I alone in feeling like I'd be OK as either gender?"

So, isn't it at least conceivable that your friend in this example would have been OK through both paths? Unfortunately this particular avenue of discussion is often seen as a threat by trans people who want to just as fully invest in the gender binary as cis people. There's a lot of work to be done, for sure, about the myth of a gender binary.
posted by odinsdream at 8:16 AM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, MetaFilter? When should I transition?

Every time I've ever asked a close friend this question, or help with dealing with this question the most common answer is "never" or complete avoidance of the issue.

Right now I'm weeks or months into heavily withdrawing and pushing people out of my life and I sincerely wish I was dead. I wish I didn't have a life to have to deal with. I hate my own body to the point that it's making me toxic waste, and I live in a brutal world that doesn't seem to care.

I wish I was dead. I can barely read this fucking thread.
posted by loquacious at 8:21 AM on January 23, 2012 [9 favorites]


I don't have any real opinion on 'cis,' so I'll just leave that whole mess alone. But adjusting to this kind of stuff is actually not that hard once it actually happens. I remember as a kid seeing, on Real People and That's Incredible type of shows, stories about "Men Who Became Women," and the like. My little brain boggled a bit but the concept wasn't alien to me. Growing up I knew some 'tomboyish' women and 'effeminate' men (yes, I use both those terms advisedly) but never knew any full on transfolk till fairly recently. They were both OK. I remember once one of the transpeople in question helped me haul a dollyload of boxes to the frieght elevator. Once I was riding up, the operator, a big macho latin dude, asked "so what's the story with that one? Do I say she, he, what?" "hey," I answered casually "She want's to be called she, call her she, besides she's good people." He shrugged, "True, she's nice." There you go, adjusted easy as pie. Although I really some people are tougher nuts to crack.

I am not without sympathy for those confused by all this but let me tell you afew things as one of your own:

1. These people mean you no harm. If you get to know them you might like them.
2. There's places to go to get your questions answered.
3. It's often struck me that hating is awful hard work when you think about it. It's just easier to let people be.
posted by jonmc at 8:29 AM on January 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


loquacious: you have mefimail.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 8:32 AM on January 23, 2012 [16 favorites]


"Using this as a data point without knowing what any therapist would have said about him, then or now, is totally useless -- if not hazardous. You have no idea whether he would have been considered a candidate for transitioning, and your comment implies a fear that we will take questioning young people and rush them down to the local Transatorium and make irrevocable changes to them."

You're absolutely right and it boils down more to my distrust of therapists than that a quality therapist might not be able to address this accurately. If this is a common fear that is preventing young people who would benefit from delaying puberty or initiating transition processes before 18 than I think it would best be addressed by researched that helped the public and more specifically parents charged with helping make this decision with their children understand that therapists are doing a good job handling these issues.

loquacious--- When I read threads here about adoption, teen pregnancy, and other issues deeply related to my identiy and personal trauma I find that I have very deep emotions and it's very hard. I believe in remaining involved in such discussions because increasing the publics awareness of these issues makes the world a better place for people like me.

If this is how you are feeling, please reach out for help. You don't need to read threads that make you feel this way-- and metafilter (or any random people on the internet anywhere) should never be what determines how you feel about your body, your worth, or your very self. People on metafilter can be wrong, that is the point if discussion to express ideas and get closer to the truth-- many of the ideas expressed will be wrong or hurtful.

I understand that when you see the community doesn't understand your pain and seems to be closed off to learning it can feel like there is no way to ever be a part of that community while being yourself and respecting who you are and how you feel. I feel this isolation too. But I think people-- slowly-- DO want to learn and understand. I am not trained to know what the best support for you right now is, but there is a GLBT hotline specifically to help people facing what you are dealing with:

1888-843-4564
They also have online peer support.
Please reach out to someone in your life immediately.

I support you doing whatever you need to do regarding your gender and sexuality and any transition process that would help you. I am certain a lot of people here are thinking about you and caring very much right now and not sure what to say because most of us are not trained in crisis support.
posted by xarnop at 8:43 AM on January 23, 2012 [8 favorites]


There is nowhere near the body of knowledge required into psychology, sociology and physiology to assume we can "correct" gender "problems." We don't understand how it happens, why it happens, or if there's an evolutionary and/or cultural purpose to it. We don't understand the long term ramifications of transition using modern hormone techniques. We can't identify which cis-identification is genuine and permanent, and which sorts itself out after puberty. We can't reliably define a spectrum of gender identification, never mind reliably put a prepubescent child on it.

Actually...

What you're doing here is disregarding the experiences of all those people who have transitioned and felt better for it just because "the science" hasn't been proven enough for you, which is a bit presumptious.

Scientific explenation often is behind our state of knowledge of the universe (to name but a few examples, evolution was proven before we knew the mechanisms behind it, so was continental drift, while currently we're dealing with things like dark matter and energy that are almost completely unknown to us other than that we know something like it has to exist for our universe to make sense), it should not be an excuse to delay treatment to people who are clearly suffering.

As somebody else has said, standards for transition are already much higher than for other medical procedures, as almost everybody sees the harm in transitioning people who are making a mistake, but are much more sanguine about leaving people to suffer in the wrong gender identity.

Also also, transition is not a binairy process, you're not hauled off to the surgeon to rearrange your bits just because as a boy you like pink clothes a little bit too much...

The science isn't there to support childhood gender re-assignment as anything other than pseudo-scienctific political posturing, with a child's body and mind on the line.

And this is just offensive and wrong. I've seen friends struggle with their transitioning and gender identity and posturing is the last thing on their minds. True, some people do get more political because of it, but that's because like everybody else who doesn't quite fit in the accepted categories you bump into the borders of the acceptable quite soon and have to get political to get them moved.
posted by MartinWisse at 8:47 AM on January 23, 2012 [8 favorites]


loquacious: now. The point of the original link is that there's never a good time if you are trying to please other people. There's always going to be some loved one(s) who's not comfortable with it and thinks that if you just shove it back in the closet for a few years it'll go away. No matter when you pick, it's not a good time for other people because it'll be changing other people's heads.

So you might as well do it now before you kill yourself. Now is a good time FOR YOU.

Other people won't be happy with it. They'll have to learn to live with it, or else the option is that you withdraw and die. Fuck them. Do what you need to do.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:00 AM on January 23, 2012 [11 favorites]


Whoa, whoa, time out, full stop or something.

Loquacious just expressed the desire to be dead. I think that needs to be addressed and the back and forth over the meaning of word suspended.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:05 AM on January 23, 2012 [20 favorites]


Perhaps part of the discomfort with 'cisgender' is an interest in some kind of kinsey scale or bisexual equivalent for those of us who feel as if we just identify less with our mental or internal gender. Cisgender seems to assume a binary situation where some people match and some people don't. But maybe some people don't really experience the same identity?

I fully admit we have no way to know, but we do know there are tomboys and effeminate men, and just kind of nerdy types or specifically androgynous people... they may not be trans or cis, or if they are meant to be included under the umbrella of cis, they may not like the implications of the word.
posted by mdn at 9:15 AM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


as an ally, essays like this are not that helpful. it's really a 500 word undergrad gender studies essay worth of content. the author tries to be overly formal to try to give the essay some authority. that combined with the passiveaggressiveness are a big turn-off to what is otherwise decent content.
posted by cupcake1337 at 9:21 AM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Please, can someone explain this question, "When should I transition?" ? I don't understand how this is a question that one asks. Or of whom it would be asked.

Seriously. For all I hear and read, it seems more like, "Why not now?", as the reasoned, rational question. Maybe a person asks themself, "Am I trans?" Certainly at some point I briefly wondered at the notion, since I was gay. But it required no deep soul searching to understand I was male.

Why would anyone suppose it is some terribly difficult question to ask oneself? Are you unsure of your gender identity? How long did you take in coming to your conclusion about yourself? Why should a transgender person find it any more difficult to know themselves, than you know yourself?

See, I'd like the kids that knows their own difference to just be able to choose and get on with life and never have to feel singled out. Just being what they are. Isn't that a desirable state of affairs?

That being said, the technology of delaying puberty sounds frightening in the hands of some parents.
posted by Goofyy at 9:25 AM on January 23, 2012


Why should a transgender person find it any more difficult to know themselves, than you know yourself?

Because they're swimming against the tide of overwhelming cultural expectations?
posted by desjardins at 9:35 AM on January 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


cupcake - basically anyone that's not as eloquent as MLK gets told that their tone is off when they're asking for fair treatment. Personally, I am just done with that non-argument. Absolutely done. I really do not care if you feel put off by the tone - do you agree with what's actually said, or not?

Yeah I mean, as regards the linked post in the OP: from everything I've understood, there are a variety of options for transitioning at a young age that don't have any really permanent effect. Especially at a really young age, where transitioning means "wearing different clothes".
Why would anyone suppose it is some terribly difficult question to ask oneself?
Why wouldn't it be? Especially in our culture. That's part of the whole crappy cis/trans thing upthread: there's no social framework for a young child to say they feel that they're trans.

I mean, I get what you're trying to get at ("why would we doubt anyone that says they're trans"), but I feel like minimizing the difficulties is not really a great way to go about that.

Ironically, I personally don't feel like there's a lot to discuss with the actual OP. Yes, people should be able to start transitioning whenever they feel comfortable with it. If they're very young, some care should be taken to ensure that steps taken aren't permanent.

That would actually be a great study for someone to actually do - comparing rates of people unhappy with assigned gender vs. rates of people unhappy with a previous decision to transition and consequences thereof. Go forth, my sociologist minions! Go forth and research!
posted by kavasa at 9:36 AM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


That being said, the technology of delaying puberty sounds frightening in the hands of some parents.

Where exactly is the potential for abuse here, though? I would submit there are already excellent, widely-available tools of control and abuse out there. I don't think controlling parents would go for the expensive, time-consuming route where you have to maintain the impression that it was all your child's idea to an outside doctor and a therapist who will be talking to the child alone.
posted by en forme de poire at 9:40 AM on January 23, 2012


as an ally, essays like this are not that helpful. it's really a 500 word undergrad gender studies essay worth of content. the author tries to be overly formal to try to give the essay some authority. that combined with the passiveaggressiveness are a big turn-off to what is otherwise decent content.

As an ally, I'd say that it's not an ally's place to dictate modes of expression.
It's an ally's place to support and translate if necessary, but not to judge what is and isn't helpful.
That's not being an ally.
posted by entropone at 9:40 AM on January 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Would you have done it over, emmtee?
posted by desjardins at 9:41 AM on January 23, 2012


Please, can someone explain this question, "When should I transition?" ? I don't understand how this is a question that one asks. Or of whom it would be asked.

Read this AskMe posted recently asking for advice on how to discuss his transition with his family around the holidays. One of the popular answers in the thread advised the OP to tell his family that he has decided to "try living like a man", because the very thought of opening up a discussion about transgenderism and body dysphoria is so uncomfortable that most shy away from it. The OP was encouraged to play up the fact that he was now into dudes, and may one day have biological children if he does not have get gender reassignment surgery, rather than actually be open about the transition.

I realize that's just one answer, but they are certainly not alone in their views. (For a counterpoint, see the OP's explanation of why that answer is othering.)

For all the social and familial pressures against trans-folk, they still want and need to be accepted. Some try to do that by trying to make sure their transition is as non-stressful as possible on those around them. As the discussion in this thread has evinced, this is often futile, and usually heartbreaking.
posted by Phire at 9:54 AM on January 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


Thanks for sharing, emmtee.
posted by ODiV at 10:08 AM on January 23, 2012


Loquacious, hugs and love to you. Seriously. Know that there are people on metafilter who very much want you to be alive, and to do everything you need to do to be happy.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:09 AM on January 23, 2012 [32 favorites]


Why would anyone suppose it is some terribly difficult question to ask oneself? Are you unsure of your gender identity? How long did you take in coming to your conclusion about yourself? Why should a transgender person find it any more difficult to know themselves, than you know yourself?

Some people might go through a period of questioning and exploring their identity, but often you're not asking yourself--you're asking the people in your life to accept you with the full understanding that they're more likely to reject you, and you're asking the people who can provide help to you but are under no obligation to actually do so. Gender transition is often not something you just decide to do, and go do it; there's an element of utter helplessness which is what the link addresses. Your identity, your body and your being are at the mercy of cultural standards and individuals who don't understand and don't care, if they're not actively hostile to you.

That's crushing. Overcoming it is incredibly difficult.
posted by byanyothername at 10:32 AM on January 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Apparently it's Trans Discussion Bingo time again! That's an unenthusiastic, not-yay exclamation point.

Because hitting lots of comments with the derail flag is not a good use of my time (and maybe there should be a Repeat or Bingo flag because our precious cisthoughts on trans issues are not as original as we think they are, cispeople):

For people who would like to discuss the article's points about transpeople expected to adhere to SOCIETY's timetable for transitioning, there is this thread. For people who would like to discuss Intro to Transgender Issues 101, your very important feelings on Latin words created without your consent, your advice to transpeople on how they are Doing It (activism? life??) Wrong so they should feel terrible, and your thoughts on yaoi, there is the entire internet. Let me Google that for you.
posted by nicebookrack at 10:41 AM on January 23, 2012 [8 favorites]





As an aside I have to say I find the whole "cis" thing irritating and it predisposes me to dislike the rest of the article. I don't need people assigning random terms to my gender or sexuality thankyouverymuch.

We put the label "trans" on trans people to call out that they're different. It hardly seems unfair for trans people to talk about the rest of us using their own label. Your comment sounds suspiciously like a "reverse racism" argument to me.
posted by deathpanels at 10:48 AM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


(I'm not a big fan of "cisgender," either, actually, but it compliments "trans-" and it's necessary; I just think it looks a bit goofy, as a word, while "transgender" honestly looks pretty cool)

Maybe you're just mistaking word for the reality - we cis people are a bit goofy, while trans people are pretty cool :)
posted by jb at 11:12 AM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Loquacious - you might find good support here. My daughter says the community there is enormously helpful to people questioning, transitioning, dealing with depression and other issues. Hang in there - a lot of us are thinking of you, wishing we could help.

I'm watching multiple friends wrestle with these issues and transitioning or getting ready to do so - ranging from teenaged to middle aged folks. Everyone I know who has moved on to transitioning seems to be so much happier in their own skin.

To come back to the initial point of the thread, I think the puberty delaying drugs make a great deal of sense for trans kids. The tall craggy young guy I know who is thinking of transition would have had an easier time if he hadn't gotten so tall and rangy. No one makes these choices lightly and buying time this way seems to me to be well worthwhile, not to mention making people's lives much easier. Often (always!) the urge to tell someone to delay transitioning is entirely about the teller and not about the welfare of the trans person - to my cis-gendered, middle-aged female point of view.
posted by leslies at 11:36 AM on January 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm 40. I started transition when I was... I dunno, I've lost track. I started taking hormones when I was like 32 I think?

I wish I'd had the concept hanging around the culture so I could have addressed it around when I was 11 and wrapping myself up in a sheet like it was a dress, and looking in the mirror and wishing the figure I'd created by judicious stuffing was the one I had. I spent years in deep depression due to my father's abrupt and untimely death; in my late twenties I kept on making excuses to not transition like "I'll do it when I have a stable job with insurance" which is something I still don't have.

Eventually I started on grey-market hormones anyway; last year I finally went legit after several years of living as a woman.

I wish I'd started earlier. But I don't beat myself up over it. I'm lucky; my frame is such that I pass damn well despite starting in my thirties. You wouldn't know I'm trans if you met me in passing, and aren't aware of the little cues.

I think there's a "too early" until we have a better idea of the exact mechanisms of what drives someone to transition, so we can say with real statistical significance that no, this is not a passing whim, and this will be a problem all your life until you transition. Single digit ages is pushing it right now IMHO. But I am all for puberty-delay drugs and for starting around then.

I am a LOT happier with myself and my life now that I've transitioned. I don't have this constant weight dragging me down. There's a part of me that really would rather have a vagina, but not enough to spend the cost of a new house on it. I'll wait until I can just leave this unmaintainable piece of meat behind for a sleek robot body with hot-swappable bits or something. (Transhumanism is a small step away from transgender, in my experience.)

Loqu, it may be getting late, it may even arguably be "too late" - I dunno how old you are, how your body's shaped. But it's sure not gonna get any less late as time goes on. And it doesn't get any less miserable.

I have a friend who probably should have transitioned, but didn't, because they didn't like how the hormones were changing how they thought. They're bitter and depressed. I used to be just as bitter and depressed; now I'm pretty happy as a rule.

And finally: cis cis cis cis cis.
posted by egypturnash at 12:09 PM on January 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


Also. Maybe this is just my passing privilege speaking, but oh god I so could not make it through the linked article, or do more than skim the ensuing discussion here of the word "cisgender". Theoryville gives me a headache, and I start feeling like I have more important things to do, like draw robot spider titties.
posted by egypturnash at 12:13 PM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Blasdelb Sex is whether a person is biologically male or female.
Gender or Gender Identity is how a person feels inside.
Gender Presentation or Gender Role is how a person dresses, acts and behaves.
Sexual Orientation is about the gender which a person finds attractive.


Diagram of Sex and Gender presents that information in a helpful scale format.
posted by mlis at 12:40 PM on January 23, 2012


kavasa and entropone, you didn't seem to really read what i wrote. that kind of shutting-down-a-conversation is not going to help either.

"cupcake - basically anyone that's not as eloquent as MLK gets told that their tone is off when they're asking for fair treatment."

"As an ally, I'd say that it's not an ally's place to dictate modes of expression."

... the original article is in a style that seems very popular in geneder/sexuality activism/pseudo-academics. it's hard to put into words.

i this essays like this are really more for people in those circles to help them define their identity by emphasizing an us vs. them rhetoric. which, OK, you can do whatever you want, i don't care. but, if you want to try to convince people who don't understand what you're all about, or convince people who disagree with you, i would just like to give some feedback: you might consider demphasizing the more sweeping generalizations.

here's an example:

"For trans people, perhaps the only noteworthy step forward about 2011 was knowing that cis people — who have collectively upheld this cisnormative social order in which we all find ourselves — have begun to recognize our life-long realities as plausible, if not entirely probable."

apparently the author knows ever cis person, and none of them were OK with the trans people until 2011. and without that aside, i wouldn't have know that cis people have been collectively holding up the cisnormative social order.

the author did have a good point about how there is social pressure to not transition at every stage in the life cycle.
posted by cupcake1337 at 1:21 PM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I find cisgendered annoying because it's sort of begging the question. It says we have this concept of physical sex characteristics and then a separate concept of mental gender identity [...] But where's the evidence that this whole framework corresponds to reality[?]

Whoa. I think that's because, at least to most other people here, and perhaps more critically to most mainstream medical professionals operating in that field, it's a settled question.

Sort of like how you might begin a modern discussion of gay issues by taking on premise that homosexuality is not a pathology, or a discussion of race by taking on premise that black people aren't untermenschen... it's not really a stretch to begin a modern discussion of transgender issues by taking on premise that transgendered people aren't just putting everyone else on. I mean ... really?

But to try and answer your question at face value, at least to the best of my knowledge, "that framework" (that there is a sexual identity distinct from physical sexual characteristics, and that the two do not necessarily align in some people) is widely accepted because it's the simplest explanation for a variety of observed phenomena, e.g. the existence of transsexual people, and in particular it matches to their description of their own experience, in many cases. That's about as close as you can get to validating a theoretical model when it's modeling complex aspects of human psychology; it's not something that you can test empirically, except insofar as adoption of the model (as opposed to the previous model, which involved pathologization of transsexual feelings and people) has led to better outcomes in clinical settings.

There may be in time -- and perhaps is today, I'm not sure -- some level of empirical, neuropsychological evidence for gender identity and its divergence from physical sex characteristics, but to be honest I'm not sure that's really important, and it certainly isn't required for us to just agree that trans people exist for the purposes of discussion or even public policy.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:26 PM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Loq, please take and write if you would like support or discussion, okay? (Full disclosure: I'm trans and, well, would like to help if I can.)

Transphobia, cissexism, etc. have real effects and hurt real people. The Net can be a very depressing place to be trans -- there's a lot of horribleness out there. But there are a lot of people who want to make the world a better place, too, and it's possible to be trans and do very well. Loq, and anyone else, please take care -- you're valuable, whatever your gender.
posted by jiawen at 1:30 PM on January 23, 2012 [8 favorites]


This is the first time I've seen the word cisgenered or cissexual. How is it pronounced? Like cyst? Or like size? Or sizz?
posted by allseeingabstract at 2:56 PM on January 23, 2012


I just wanted to say hugs to everyone. I'm rooting for Loq and everyone going through this.
posted by arcticseal at 3:08 PM on January 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


... also, instead of arguing about whether using the "cis-" prefix is ok or not, we could try to do something about how (apparently) in Sweden you have to be sterilized if you want to legally change your gender.
posted by cupcake1337 at 3:17 PM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've been trying for some years now to try to think of gender as a spectrum, rather than a binary, if only because I think the binary strengthens patriarchy. I really appreciated your comment, emtee, because it helped me recognize that the transition is also a spectrum instead of a binary. That's useful because some of the flinchier aspects of the prospect of kids transitioning arise because of this idea of the permanence and the absoluteness of a transition.
Also I found AoK's comment about how trans health care is directed at protecting cis people enlightening and heartbreaking. It's reassuring, though, and it may help with the reframing of trans health care to be about trans people, if we know about more narratives like emtee's, illustrating that it's still better to get it wrong and get closer to matching one's internal gender, than it is to have to live without options in the interest of protecting some construct of a cis person who "just thinks" s/he's trans.

I found the discussion here valuable despite the cis derail, is what I'm saying, and it helped me sort out some of my thinking about when kids should transition (when they want, and how they want, with the guidance and help of loving adult family and expert medical providers.) I hope that day comes.
posted by gingerest at 3:17 PM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


it isn't any of their business because it's not about them.

Oh but it is! A huge percentage of gay men and lesbians -- some studies say the majority -- have had gender non-conforming childhoods. This fact is also "observed phenomena" and should be part of the narrative, because the narrative shapes how gender-nonconforming kids are regarded and how urgently they are treated. It certainly is not a "settled question" as to whether medical intervention is necessary for most gender-nonconforming kids, or what criteria constitute a clear indication for said intervention. It does not follow that because gender transition is necessary in order to prevent suicide in some, that kids who do not need medical intervention should get it just in case. It is standard practice to avoid medical intervention that isn't needed, especially in children. Surely more research is needed.
posted by Wordwoman at 3:31 PM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


No one is forcing kids to have gender-reassignment surgery or to undergo hormone therapy. It's perfectly fine to be gender non-conforming, and just be that. If you can point out a study that says that a huge percentage of gay men and lesbians actively express a desire to be a different gender in their childhoods, well, then that'd be a different matter.
posted by Phire at 3:45 PM on January 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh, Loquacious, I wish I could give you a hug.

I don't pretend to be an expert on this topic, but as the friend of a transman and was fortunate enough to watch him transition, and the teacher of another (for a guy to present openly as a girl in an inner city high school and survive? Definition of amazing.), I do want to ask those who have never known a trans person before or really listened to their experiences first-hand to stop and seriously listen to their stories when and if they choose to share them. At the very least, respect their humanity and pursuit of happiness inside their own skin.

Finally, to the main topic at hand, I wonder how much of this would be an issue if our society, in general, didn't so heavily gender activities, toys, and clothing of our children? If gender was less of an issue, the stakes would be less high, more transgender children would be able to present however they wished, and these kinds of decisions could be discussed by the child, his/her family, and qualified trans-friendly medical professionals together as a team. ...Because as I've learned from my friends, gender reassignment isn't an either/or proposition. Not everyone gets surgery. Not everyone does hormones. Some do a little of both, some neither.
posted by smirkette at 3:52 PM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


loquacious, my friend, I can't speak to your personal hells, but my body has also been betraying me in its own deviously painful ways for many years now, and I do know what it feels like to honestly think death would be preferable. But you aren't alone, even when it feels like you are, and even when it feels like it would be easier if you were. You matter to too many people not to matter to yourself. And you don't have to be anyone but who you are. The ignorance of others is never a reflection on you.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:33 PM on January 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


I always get transhumanism mixed up with transhumance, and I think transhumance is cool, but I'm not sure why people are so excited about seasonal pastures.
posted by jb at 5:02 PM on January 23, 2012


It certainly is not a "settled question" as to whether medical intervention is necessary for most gender-nonconforming kids, or what criteria constitute a clear indication for said intervention. It does not follow that because gender transition is necessary in order to prevent suicide in some, that kids who do not need medical intervention should get it just in case. It is standard practice to avoid medical intervention that isn't needed, especially in children. Surely more research is needed.

Phire has already addressed this comment, but, basically, any studies you'd find are rigged to the outcome Wordwoman seems to desire/believe. As it stands, you can diagnose a child with GID(Children) for gender non-conforming play, pretty much. The proposed revision for the DSM 5 would require the child to actually express an opinion regarding their gender assignment. So it's pretty easy to find studies noting that more gender non-conforming children (in terms of GIDC) turn out to be gay than turn out to be straight (and that fewer straight people were gender non-conforming children), and that a relatively small number of children diagnosed with GIDC turn out to be trans as adolescents/adults, but that's not really meaningful because our clinical definition of gender non-conformity is hopelessly broad. (There's a whole theory that GIDC was included in the DSM as a backdoor way to keep homosexuality as a mental illness and allow continued attempts to make 'pre-gay' children straight. See the page where I linked to the DSM-IV criteria.)

What we can do is figure out that transition is by-and-large good for people, in that they're happier afterwards. We can also figure out that trans adolescents with access to hormone blockers tend to transition. (I need to go to bed, but I'm thinking of a Dutch study looking at kids whose puberty was delayed and all ultimately chose to transition. Hell, I think most of the ones they declined to give hormone blockers to ultimately transitioned, though that sample was really small.) We can also observe by thinking about it for, oh, three seconds that doctors hand out neither hormone blockers nor hormones like candy. The whole point of this post is that the system is set up not to err on the side of enabling people to transition.
posted by hoyland at 8:01 PM on January 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


holyland, maybe Puberty suppression in adolescents with gender identity disorder: a prospective follow-up study. results: "No adolescent withdrew from puberty suppression, and all started cross-sex hormone treatment, the first step of actual gender reassignment."
posted by bleary at 8:48 PM on January 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


... also, instead of arguing about whether using the "cis-" prefix is ok or not, we could try to do something about how (apparently) in Sweden you have to be sterilized if you want to legally change your gender.

This is the de facto or de jure state of a affairs in a number of US states and a number of countries. And then there's Ohio, which flat out refuses to change birth certificates.
posted by hoyland at 6:15 AM on January 24, 2012


From what I've heard, Ohio (as mentioned), Kansas and Tennessee won't change birth certificates at all, nor will some counties in Texas. Other counties in Texas apparently will change birth certificates but probably require bottom surgery & sterilization first. Some places do let you have your doctor just say "this person has undergone appropriate clinical treatment" - but there are a lot of places where the "appropriate" clinical treatment also requires bottom surgery & sterilization in someone's view.

In some places it's easier to change the gender marker on your driver's license, which is useful for day-to-day life since it means you won't be outing yourself every time you get carded, but which can cause problems of its own since now your driver's license doesn't match the gender indicators on everything else in your life...
posted by titus n. owl at 7:08 AM on January 24, 2012


I thought Trans people must be sterilised was bad enough but they also require you can't store any frozen eggs or sperm, which I can't help reading as if your Trans your not fit to be a parent.
posted by Z303 at 8:06 AM on January 24, 2012


It goes beyond that, Z303: it's rank eugenics.
posted by gingerest at 2:56 PM on January 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


Cisgendered is a ridiculous word; the prefix cis- may be used in organic chemistry but is employed nowhere else, and the etymological derivation is suspect. If you need a technical term, use congendered.
posted by anigbrowl at 9:15 AM on January 25, 2012


If you need a technical term, use congendered.

You're uh, a bit late.
posted by odinsdream at 9:58 AM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


There's no deadline for these things, and it's plain that 'cisgendered' rubs a lot of people the wrong way. I submit that this is mainly because of its linguistic idiosyncrasy. Consider transform-conform, transfigure-configure, and so forth. 'Cis-' is a linguistic anachronism that obscures rather than clarifies, and IMHO perpetuates the ghettoization of transgendered people. If enough people find 'congendered' more useful and accessible/explicable as a descriptive term, then it will catch on and displace 'cisgendered' in its own good time, much like any other linguistic development.
posted by anigbrowl at 10:40 AM on January 25, 2012


Great, go ahead and use congendered then. Knock yourself out.
posted by KathrynT at 3:37 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


[discussion of Cis prefix is happening in Metatalk so that this thread can be about the posted link, and further cis-commenting needs to go there. Problems anyone has with the site also belong in Metatalk.]
posted by taz at 6:16 AM on January 26, 2012


[Folks, that conversation needs to be happening in MetaTalk where it is already happening, not here. Sorry. Please go there.]
posted by jessamyn at 7:44 AM on January 26, 2012


Brandon Blatcher: "Whoa, whoa, time out, full stop or something.

Loquacious just expressed the desire to be dead. I think that needs to be addressed and the back and forth over the meaning of word suspended
"

Yes.

In memory of another Natalie.
posted by bleary at 11:38 AM on January 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


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