Breaking the cis filter
JKBC // 31 March 2011
[Image shows a bent small tree visible against a cloudy sky on a ridge on which grass unevenly grows. The picture is in black and white.]
When I was younger, I thought I was the ‘opposite’ binary gender to my assigned one and expressed myself accordingly. I was asked if I wanted to transition (in their words ‘have a sex change’) when I was older. I replied no. Scornfully. Why would I do that? How would that even work?
Such was the cis filter on my life that to me, at the age of thirteen with a lot of gender-related Feelings, trans people ‘were’ the crossdresser in the charity shop in town and the ‘tranny’ comments people made when they saw me. I had no idea that these genitals did not make me my assigned gender, that there was a possibility of not being my assigned gender, that there was a whole world outside the binary.
Because where do we see ourselves reflected? Even putting aside the personal fact that I’ve never been one for television and magazines, non-cis people barely ever crop up, and if they do it’s people who have been deemed – or forced – to fit the ‘trans narrative,’ to express their experiences in terms that favour a cissupremacist culture. I once heard mainstream representation of trans people’s stories dismissed as ‘toilets and tolerance.’ And in fictional media? We are rare, and when we crop up it is often in a bad context, villifying or fetishising or delegitimising. As for non-binary people… [blank space]
For me, breaking through the cis filter on my life required the internet. The internet, and all the non-cis people active and accessible here, building their community, creating their own language when existing words failed them, standing up for themselves.
So when I came out, I joined them.
Since I came out, breaking the cis filter has been one of the things that has kept me going with the endless cycle of coming out and forcibly fighting to avoid being pushed back into the closet. Offline, I am the only non-cis person I know of. This doesn’t mean I’m the only non-cis person around. If, by being open about my identity, I can bring even one person comfort that their identity is legitimate and worthy, I have done good in the world.
It would be ‘easy’ to hide – and unfortunately there are circumstances where I do, and that is not something I or anyone else need ever feel guilty about, since often it is a matter of personal safety – although that is both denying my own truth and perhaps denying someone else a much-needed crack in the cis filter on their life. I try not to do that. I can’t know who needs that or not – all I can do is hope that in living my own truth, I may give others help in realising theirs.
Today, it is the Transgender Day of Visibility. For the cis people out there, talk to the people around you if it is safe. You don’t know who is listening. Be a supportive voice in a cissexist, binarist world. Speak to your children, if you have any, about non-cis people. Cis children will have their minds broadened and will be more likely to accept non-cis peers; and non-cis children will be helped infinitely by both knowing that they are not alone and by knowing that their parent/s mind is open. For those of you who aren’t cis – stay safe. You do not have to, in fact should not, come out if you feel unsafe. But know that you are worthy, you are wonderful, you are brilliant, and that you are not alone.
My name is JKBC and I am agender. I am here. I am myself. I exist. So do all of us. Through all our oppressions, through every rotten cabbage or cannonball the kyriarchy throws our way, we are worthy, we are human, we are part of the infinite variety of the human experience. We do not deserve the oppression perpetuated against us and we do not deserve the privilege accorded to us by a corrupt system. This is a hard fight on our hands, but we are infinitely strong and worthy, and it is a just fight.
Blogging here has been an outstanding experience, and I am very sorry I didn’t do more – my offline world decided to assert its authority through illness and a couple of unfortunate events. You’ve been great.
*Edited for picture size sorry folks.
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