Breaking the cis filter

// 31 March 2011

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Like a Tree in the Wind - Copy (2).JPG [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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Comments From You

Philippa Willitts // Posted 31 March 2011 at 7:17 pm

I’ve loved your posts, JKBC, thank you.

Kate McCarthy // Posted 31 March 2011 at 7:20 pm

I am a cis straight white woman and I hope this does not seem like a culturally superficial question, but have any trans men or women seen the recent storyline on Hollyoaks and if so, have any response to it? Having relatively recently (to my shame) become aware of the issues facing trans people, I caught it by accident (ahem) and was interested to know whether it was considered to be a positive representation.

Thank you for bringing the Day of Visibility to our attention and I hope I can play a small and appropriate part in the lessening of cissexism among those I encounter.

RM // Posted 31 March 2011 at 7:58 pm

Your posts here have all been fab, and I think you’re a such a courageous person.

Lisster // Posted 31 March 2011 at 8:08 pm


I just wanted to say thank you for writing your posts – you’ve genuinely broadened my mind and made me challenge some of my previous thinking which is great. Best wishes & thanks again.


Saranga // Posted 31 March 2011 at 8:37 pm

Thank you for your posts. I am sad to see it is the end of your stint here as I have enjoyed reading your writing. Do you have another online home?

The Nerd // Posted 31 March 2011 at 8:51 pm

Thank you for being visible!

I know what you mean about being the only non-cis person you know offline. I feel the same way, and I live in a big city! It’s making me ask myself how I can be more visibly genderqueer, to increase trans visibility locally.

Sophie // Posted 1 April 2011 at 2:22 am

As an agender person, what pronouns do you prefer to use for yourself? The only neutral thing I can think of is ‘it’ and that seems profoundly offensive. Do you pick he or she or is there a third option?



angercanbepower // Posted 1 April 2011 at 10:29 am

Thanks for this post.

Even on the internet I feel it’s hard. There was an argument a few months ago on the biggest UK BDSM forum where the moderators tried to ban the word “cis” as people thought it was offensive.

Since then, I’ve barely been back there, and I find it basically impossible to trust spaces which I would have thought were safe or understanding. We’re all familiar with the anti-[trans but not transexual] attitudes that exist in some ostensibly trans-friendly forums. (And given how easy it is for us to hide while they are discriminated against, I think you can to an extent see where they’re coming from.)

But I don’t really know any internet forums that I feel happy about being out in. And it’s weird, because I think I can actually take it offline or on unrelated forums quite easily. It’s only when a place is meant to be somewhere that is understanding and yet fails so hard that it hurts.

Do you mind if I ask, where have you come out online other than here? And how have you found it?

Kirsty // Posted 1 April 2011 at 10:31 am

@Sophie: there are a few sets of gender neutral pronouns around. The most common, in my experience, is sie and hir, but if you have a google you’ll find plenty of others – there’s even (if memory serves) a Wikipedia page on them. As well as those, many people also choose to use they/them/their, or it/its.

@JKBC – thank you so much for these posts. I second Saranga – do you blog anywhere else?

Kristin // Posted 1 April 2011 at 11:36 am


angercanbepower // Posted 1 April 2011 at 12:06 pm

Hang on, is this your blog: ?

If so, that’s quite the coincidence!

L // Posted 1 April 2011 at 1:48 pm

JKBC, people like you keep people like me sane.

sianushka // Posted 1 April 2011 at 4:53 pm

Just to second the general sentiment really, have very much enjoyed your posts.

JKBC // Posted 1 April 2011 at 6:50 pm

Thank you, everyone! I do indeed blog at Anger is Justified, although I haven’t been posting too well there recently.

@Kristin – I was told my stint was March… it’s now April. But I am still elsewhere!

@Sophie – there are loads of non-binary pronouns. Mine are ze/zan/zans (although no-one offline uses them), but there’s variants on the ‘ze’ theme, there’s ‘it’ – which is fine if used correctly, in a reclamative way, I’m all right with it from friends – there’s ‘ve/ver/vis,’ ‘ou/ous,’ ‘ey/em/eir’ (I don’t think I got that right…) and here’s the wikipedia link – And what Kirsty said.

@angercanbepower – Ouch, that sounds awful. I have tumblr (one public although anonymous, one private) and I’ve been open there from the start, only had a few hating anons. AIJ had a couple of hating trolls, but other than that my internet presence has been negligible since I came out generally, and I’ve just left any old profiles I had to rot since they’re awful.

And thank you, once more, to everyone.

Mia // Posted 4 April 2011 at 9:24 am

Very interesting article and i’d have to echo what was asked above about whether you think tv shows highlighting issues such as these are positive or negative, depending on how they portray.

One point i’d like to make though is regarding children. Children when very young are very broad and open minded, they don’t generalise or care. It’s adults and namely familiar adults that shape them and create intolerances that later create the society we live in.

My friend is a school teacher of ages 6 and up and she’s actually had one class for 3 years straight now, from age 6/7 to age 10. Within that class there was a child who identified as female and dressed in female clothes though been born male. The children grew up with her from nursery and for them it was completely how it should be and she wasn’t any different from them. But when at age 9, new children came into the classroom from another school-ones who hadn’t grown up being open inded and whose parents were (according to said friend) intolerant of pretty much *everything* and *anything*- you saw just how much adult teachings really do shape. The other children in the class rallied around their mate and my friend managed to actually get through to the kids that they were being intolerant but sadly once the kids had an understanding and relayed it to their parents, the parents got all angry and complained that my friend was teaching where she shouldn’t.

I guess my point is that changing societys views is a must, but it will only change when that’s taught to the children, rather then intolerance is taught and their minds shaped. Although the kids being taught intolerance will grow up to be adults who will/should think for themselves, it’s harder for them to lose that sense of understanding at that age when they should just get to keep the ‘who cares’ and open attitude they have as children. Which means all adults, not just ones with kids, and all people in positions of power and teaching-all of society- needs to think openly and promote that thinking.

I hope the unfortunte events can be rectified and you recover from your illness quickly, your posts are very interesting I’m sorry i didn’t catch more.

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