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.