To My Cis-ters

A feminine trans woman in the men's bathroom

Hey girl, we’re a lot alike. We recognize systems of oppression that impact us. We’re both women who were declared girls at birth. We’ve both grown up under a system of patriarchy that unfairly rewarded boys for the same things we were punished for. We’ve felt the weight of our gender and gendered violence.

It can be hard for some cis-ters to wrap their minds around the fact that our trans sisters share these experiences with us, but even more extreme versions of them. They grew up under the same patriarchy, as unrecognized girls.

They were simultaneously forced into the restrictions of the male gender role and also heard and internalized negative messages about girls, including them. The gendered violence trans women face exceeds that of cis women, who aren’t exactly sitting pretty in a fortress of femme solitude.

When cis women try to deny trans women entry into places men aren’t allowed, we’re saying that the oppression patriarchy inflicted on these women matters less, that the violence they face is not our problem, and that these women are really men. There is almost nothing more harmful and less feminist we could do. If there really is a “special hell for women who don’t help other women”, my transmisogynist cis-ters will fill it.

In response to various “bathroom bills” requiring people to pee in the room associated with their birth certificate gender, proposed primarily by the same male conservative politicians we’re usually eager to fight, some trans activists have started uploading photos of themselves in the wrong-but-legally-mandated bathrooms to show that they don’t belong there. While I absolutely support their activism, I need to make something clear to cis women.

Trans women who dress butch, don’t wear makeup, and don’t “pass” as cis have the exact same needs and rights to use the women’s bathroom as the most feminine trans women. Being a woman should not be about performing gender in clothing and style, and dressing femme is safer and more pleasant for some women than others, cis and trans.

It’s also important to recognize that femininity and masculinity are subjective and influenced by racist beauty preferences. Black women are viewed as inherently more masculine than white women, regardless of their trans status. Consider the highly negative commentary about black cis world star tennis player Serena Williams, versus the commentary about white cis Ultimate Fighting Champion and transphobe Rhonda Rousey. Both women are muscular and cis, but it is the black woman most often called a man.

The right to pee safely in the women’s room needs to be protected for all women, not just whites, not just cis, not just conventionally pretty. My feminism has never been about making other women adhere to my beauty standards, and it’s not going to start now.

2 thoughts on “To My Cis-ters

  1. Another good read Angie.

    People are pretty judgmental and inclined to set pretty high standards that one must reach to be called a true man or true woman. I’ve been guilty of unfair judgment, though I like to think that nowadays many of my unfair judgments are contained within me, processed and then dismissed as unfair before I hurt someone. I believe a lot of people go through fear that they’re not what those of their sex should be. Not man enough or not woman enough. I had a really bad time of that insecurity. I believe I’ve changed much since then though. I almost take pride now in the perhaps womanly qualities I have. I appreciate women who appreciate men for their more feminine qualities and don’t hold that those qualities are for women only and encourage men to be ashamed of those qualities.

    I’ve thought in the past about how there are men and women then there is what is labeled “manliness” and “womanliness”. Imagine if both men and women could be praised for their “manliness” or “womanliness” without shame? I sometimes watch women or listen to women and admire them for their “masculinity”. There should probably be a better word for that which I admire in them. As I was saying before, I’ve almost reached a point where I can take it as compliment if I’m called feminine. I expect there must also be women who are proud when they are called masculine. Imagine a world where people are allowed to take pride in what they’re good at. Imagine how someone feels when after failing at many things, they discover something they are good it, only to be told that it’s only acceptable for the other sex to be good at that. I think it’s true though that people fight against those who won’t accept their talents and sometimes win them over.


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