Wednesday, July 1, 2009

In the Margins

Abby just posted an entry over at her blog regarding cisgendered privilege and transphobia. It's got me thinking about marginalization.

I'm marginalized.

I'm marginalized, for example, in regard to my tastes in music. My tastes are eclectic, but do not run to the norm. There is not a single mainstream recording artist presently whose music I listen to. I don't know that it's a matter of choice; most pop does not fall pleasingly upon my ear. But folk, classic jazz, classical, tribal, etc. all give me pleasure and comfort. Thus I have always had to go far afield in order to find "my" kind of music. On one level it's a pain, but there are pleasures also to be had. Though I can't expect to find "my" music at mainstream record stores (now there's a term leftover from the Jurassic period), I have spent wonderful hours treasure-hunting through the odd corners and used stacks of the few privately-owned record stores left in my area (huzzah for Canterbury Records, Pooh-Bah, and Penny Lane - all in Pasadena, CA) and rummaging around online for odd mp3's. I've also made many friends with similar out-of-the-way tastes. Nonetheless, I am discriminated against (though unintentionally) by such mainstream purveyors of music as record stores and radio stations, etc. precisely because they cater to mainstream tastes.

I'm marginalized because I'm large by American women's standards and because I wear size 11-12 shoes, thus necessitating shopping at plus-sized dress stores and "mutant" shoe stores. It's not really Macy's fault that their shoe sizes stop at 10. They just don't get all that much call for anything larger. (Though, I suspect if they were to offer larger sizes they would have a market in frustrated trans women like myself.)

I'm marginalized because I am transgendered.

The power lies in numbers and in the General Will.

Cisgendered privilege lies in the numbers, and a member of that number might rankle at being called "cisgendered" as opposed to "normal." There are vast numbers of cisgendered individuals who do not know that they are cisgendered because they are unaware of the nature of transgendered people.

Case in point: the majority of my friends are cisgendered women. For many of them I am the only trans woman they have met. Many times I have had to teach a quick course in Transgendered 101. That being done, there is a context for the terms "genetic woman" or "cisgendered woman." Without the context, there is no need for the terms. Of course, I hang with an enlightened crowd, so the term "trans woman" is accepted and the context is agreed upon. If the concept of "trans" is not accepted, then there is no context for "cis." And in that circumstance, there is no context for communication and understanding either.

Frankly, I couldn't care less if "cisgendered" becomes part of everyday parlance. Neither do I want "trans" appended to me at all times. If I am with a group, I would prefer to just one of the group -- or to be numbered amongst the women if such distinctions are made. When I am among friends, "cis" and "trans" are completely out of context.

1 comment:

melody said...

Dear Gillian, Please let me know if you are dead. In fact if you are, please contact all the other transgender Gurlz that stop writing to me after years and even decades of personal,spiritual, and tender friendships. You already know who some of them are. I loved them as I loved you: a sweet, wonderous, caring and just a little naughty love. Only you all have ended contact without a goodbye. I have known your hurt, I have held you when you cried but even my most sympathetic ear and heart-felt love can't end your pain. So if you did choose to die and end your pain, please realize that your family does not know me or my contact info and would not call me and give me closure. And if you have gone from me, you have left me with nothing more than worry and my many prayers to Quan Yin hoping that your spirit has not been consumed by the misunderstanding of an often cruel society.
Love you always from your genetic Girl friend, Henrietta Higgins.