Hookup culture is a cisgender privilege

Jesse Herb, junior digital arts major

Guest column by Jesse Herb, junior digital arts major

Have you ever been called disgusting? What about deceitful or a liar? I have been called all three of these things, some more than once actually. I wish I could tell you that for every time I was called these names it was for a different reason but, unfortunately, the answer always boiled down to anatomy. What’s under my bra and what’s between my legs has made me fear for my life while simultaneously worrying I might let the possibility of experimentation pass me by.

Sex and gender are two very different things, and yet to most cisgender people, they are entirely the same: genitals equate sex, sex equates gender and therefore sexuality, and “badda bing badda boom we’re in business.” To be able to normalize the idea that everyone’s genitals align to their sex because that’s just how “it is” or is “science,” is enacting cisgender privilege and perpetuates transphobia. However, in actuality, “Most societies view sex as a binary concept, with two rigidly fixed options: male or female, both based on a person’s reproductive functions,” whereas gender is defined by “our internal experience and naming of our gender,” according to genderspectrum.org.

Privilege permeates in all different facets, in every community. In my own community, I have privilege, due to being white and cisgender-passing, but I also face the implementation of privilege done by cisgender people. One of the biggest examples of cisgender privilege is that of “hookup culture.” Hookup culture is defined as “one that accepts and encourages casual sexual encounters, including one-night stands and other related activity, which focus on physical pleasure without necessarily including emotional bonding or long-term commitment.” I’ve said it before, and as a trans woman, I’ll say it again: Hookup culture is a cisgender privilege.

It always has been and always will be. For most cisgender people, excluding demisexual (a person who does not experience sexual attraction unless they form a strong emotional connection with someone), asexual (someone who does not experience sexual attraction), or non-sexually active cisgender people, it can be as simple as swiping right or finding someone at a party and going home with them. For trans people, it is an explanation. Sometimes, the explanation can happen at the beginning with “Just so you know, I’m trans,” or it can happen later after the “Why can’t we have sex?” talk. No matter what, the explanation will happen, and more often than not, it is greeted with rejection, erasure of identity or repulsion.

Some trans people, myself included, often feel we have to hide our identities as if it’s some shameful secret, rather than our gender. Not to mention, being hesitant to talk about our identities only reconstitutes the belief that trans people are always out to deceive. Or trans people, again myself included, experience the converse and are fetishized for our gender. I still remember my freshman year when some cisgender man told me, “I prefer trans women because, since they used to be guys, they know exactly what we like.”

Trans people are subjected to all of these treatments and are much more likely to experience violence due to sex than cisgender people, especially trans people of color. There are so many privileges to recognize that exist within hookup culture:

Not having to lie or hide your identity to a potential partner is a cisgender privilege. Having a one-night stand is a cisgender privilege. Unwavering sex positivity is a cisgender privilege. Stigmatization of no sexual activity/being a virgin is a cisgender privilege. Not being pressured into body-altering surgery is a cisgender privilege. Never having to worry if someone won’t like you because you’re transgender is a cisgender privilege. Not ever having to feel unlovable because of your own gender is a cisgender privilege.

The previous examples are only a small few of the long list of privileges that exist from hookup culture. Not to mention countless other societal institutions that also preserve cisgender privilege.

Transgender Day of Visibility is a day for members of the gender nonconforming community to feel proud, safe and valid. The best way cisgender people can present support is by understanding privileges within social constructs like gender and virginity, and actively combatting them. For example, when someone is complaining that “it’s so hard to find people” or “hookup culture is so annoying sometimes” remind them that not everyone, although still pressured by society to do so, can participate in hookup culture, and also face adversity, dysphoria or vilification for trying to.

9 Comments

  • Here is my argument against each of these privileges cisgender people supposedly have over trans people.

    [Not having to lie or hide your identity to a potential partner]

    You do not HAVE to lie or hide your identity from potential partners. Nobody is forcing you to lie. If you are seeking a potential partner, they should know about your actual gender before proceeding with sexual activities for obvious reasons.

    [Having a one-night stand]

    You can still have a one-night stand if you are trans. Finding a willing partner is not exclusive to cisgender people.

    [Stigmatization of no sexual activity/being a virgin]

    Being a virgin is a social stigma for everybody, not only transgenders.

    [Not being pressured into body-altering surgery]

    There is not any pressure from some unknown force for transgender people to get gender reassignment surgery. If anybody, including peers, is pressuring a transgender, then the trans person can walk away and cut off communication with them.

    [Never having to worry if someone won’t like you because you’re transgender]

    This is not a specific privilege; you can replace the word ‘transgender’ in the above sentence with any denomination of humans, and call it a disadvantage if you want to. Cisgender people might worry about other qualities about themselves they think others will dislike; regardless, people will either like you for who you are as a whole being, or not.

    [Not ever having to feel unlovable because of your own gender]

    Again you do not HAVE to feel this way, and if you do then you could seek medical help or therapy. Your birth gender does not force you to feel unlovable, that is a separate issue.

    If a transgender person is using a dating site or app like Tinder, they should be upfront about their scientific gender as soon as possible. It isn’t fair to lead on those who aren’t aware.

    • Why on earth are you giving us your opinion Jason?!! You are not trans, therefore your opinion in moot. Please mind your own business and don’t tell people what they should feel or not feel.

      Her emotions are valid bc she alone feels them- don’t negate her identity!

  • I think the article works as a very emotional look into the perspective of modern dating and hook-up culture from the perspective of someone who is trans.

    My issue with it is that it reads as an admonishment of the entirety of the cis-gendered world. It is a privilege, but being born the sex that fits your gender is far from the only hurdle in hook-up culture. Statistically, asian men and black women are the most denied groups on sites like tinder (a pretty fair example of hook up culture). The most obvious privilege for hook-up culture is just being attractive. Doesnt matter what you are, if you’re pretty it’ll be fine.

    I’ve gotten off on a tangent, but please don’t take this negatively. Im just trying to say that you don’t need a villain, and that your story stands so much stronger on its own rather than comparing struggles or comparing anything at all. This is your life, they’re your struggles, and I think it takes a lot of courage to say anything this personal.

  • I am cisgender, I suppose, according to the delusions of the liberal left.

    But, of course, I reject the term and prefer a straight white man.

    But you know what else? I happen to be attractive enough to gain the affections of women, and still remain firm in my celibate beliefs.

    To me, hookup culture is the practically the death throes of our society. If sex is so great, and drugs are so great, and both of them are so great, why do anything else?

    You’ll never be anything but unhappy if you choose to be a part of hookup culture. But you know what else? Blacks and Latin Americans have the worst single mothering rate. If you ask me, it’s not a white privilege; it’s a universal plague. Better to look towards a bright future than a dark and lonely bedroom.

    But what am I saying. If you’re transgender, sex and gender is all you really think about, apparently.

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