Sam Dylan Finch+ Your Authors @samdylanfinch Words on mental health & being human. 🌦 Writer. Optimist. Gentle soul. 🍓 Editor @Healthline, Columnist @Greatist 🌿 May. 20, 2019 4 min read + Your Authors

I understand the desire to break privilege down into really formulaic statements.

But I think when we're talking about gender especially, there are so many moving parts (expression, sex assignment, medical transition, etc etc) that make it very difficult to distill.

There was a tweet floating around recently that said something like "deep down, you know what will get you cancelled" and I couldn't help but think about a conversation I had recently, where I mentioned that I think my life would've been very difficult had I been cisgender.

And I think it's an example that gets at the heart of why this is so complex. Because I'm very effeminate — I move through the world being perceived as an effeminate gay man. But that's not the perception that I've always navigated. And I'm glad for that, to an extent.

Many of the effeminate, cisgender gay men that I've known endured so much trauma. The virulent femmephobia and homophobia that defined their earlier life experiences left scars that they still contend with to this day.

But I'm transgender & transitioned later in life, I was given latitude for my femininity, spaciousness for emotional expression, flexibility in how I explored gendered clothes. I was able to step into the world as a gay man at precisely the time when it was safest for me to do so

Does that mean cis people don't have privilege or systemic power? Hell no. But it complicates the idea that cisness by itself is the defining characteristic that determines privilege, or that privilege is distributed "equitably." Gender is not, in reality, a binary experience.

Femmephobia, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, transmisogyny, fatphobia, cisnormativity, even ableism all have some proximity to how someone's gender is interpreted and reacted to. There are so many dimensions to this and they change all the damn time.

Hell, why do you think Black women, even the most high femme, are so often masculinized? Gender is not a static thing — it interacts with our whole being — because we gender qualities, we gender size, we gender... just about everything.

It's why I think it's so funny that people reel against nonbinary folks. In reality, they're just being the most accurate out of anyone, because they're naming these subtler gendered nuances that already exist in our world and, in many cases, correcting those assumptions.

I think we have to accept some of the discomfort that comes from the fact that gender is messy. And it's not actually transgender or nonbinary people that made it that way — it's always been muddled, it's just that it's not always been confronted on this level.

Which is to say, yes, being transgender has created obstacles in my life. Yes, cisgender people have privilege. AND, I also think the ~discourse~ or whatever needs to move way beyond that. Because that's not the only dimension to gendered experience. Far from it.

As far as gendered trauma goes, there are effeminate cis gay men who are scarred in ways that I will never be, simply because how the world received their femininity and how the world received mine was drastically different. That doesn't make it better or worse — just distinct.

And I think it's okay to say "this is complicated and cis people can be invited into that conversation, because sometimes it IS about them" without it feeling like a betrayal to the entire trans movement, you know?

When we're talking about liberation, I think it's actually really necessary to confront the ways in which rigid, binary gender/norms have harmed cis people in ways that can and do fuel violence against trans people, and allow that to complicate certain conversations.

And most importantly, see and acknowledge the ways in which those struggles are connected to those of trans folks. There is not always the distinct separateness that we'd like to believe that there is.

I think @alokvmenon in particular does an EXCEPTIONAL job of speaking to that pain, and making those connections between transphobic violence and cis pain. A lot of trans folks of color talk at length about how colonialism fuels the myth of that separateness.

I don't think there's a universal, exclusive transgender OR cisgender experience for exactly that reason. And I believe that we would all be better off if we dismantled that assumption. Not for the sake of oppression olympics, but for the sake of nuance that keeps getting missed.

Anyway, a spontaneous Twitter thread is not going to capture even a fraction of what I feel or think about this. But I feel like it's worth mentioning, because it's nuance that even I end up losing at times. And the grey in life is actually where most people live.

You can follow @samdylanfinch.


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