|Me and Uncle Bill|
So it was a couple weeks ago I first saw someone refer to herself as “cisgendered” and had the usual reaction (“what now?“), and the prediction, made to Dave, that although I’d never seen this word before, I would now see it several times within the next week. Actually, I saw it twice more that same day.
I looked it up, of course. I don’t mean to be disrespectful with the “what now” reaction, but there is a rather large range of ways of being human, and more and more words all the time to slice the human experience into its component wafers, and it can be a little overwhelming for those of us who still routinely leave one ingredient out of a five-ingredient pie.
“Cisgendered,” a new coinage, refers to the state of feeling pretty much like the sex everybody always thought you were. In other words, “reg’lar.” And at first it would seem one didn’t really need a term like that, but, of course, the point is to drive home awareness of the existence of other ways of being. Which (the awareness) is a good thing. “I’m cisgendered, and you’re transgendered” is thus a replacement for the more common thought “I’m a man, and you’re just weird.” It’s a little like if we started calling ourselves “colored” so as to become more mindful that some people are albinos.
I probably got an introduction to the concept of transsexuality earlier than most in my generation. Nobody used to talk about it as much as we do now, but I learned I had a transsexual aunt when I was sixteen. I never had trouble accepting that there were people who did not feel any allegiance to the sex they were told they were, because clearly that was the case, but I didn’t quite understand it, either. And not because I felt so strongly that I was a girl, but because I didn’t.
I kind of don’t care, either way.
I certainly never felt like a boy. But I also had no interest in the sort of things girls were expected to do, or be. Pink horrified me. I was not a tomboy, or at least not a good one. Couldn’t throw a ball. Couldn’t get too far up a tree. I did like catching frogs, but I’d never have tried to frighten anyone with one (out of consideration for the frog). I had a huge collection of stuffed animals and every single one of them was a boy, except for one that was handed down–a bear with a rubber face and eyelashes painted on–“Mrs. Teddybear.” Mrs. Teddybear was the least interesting animal I had. I loved my own mommy but the prospects for females seemed dull.
When I tried to imagine what it felt like to be a girl, whether “in a boy’s body” or not, I couldn’t come up with much. Even now, if I were to prioritize a list of adjectives that described me, my sex would come pretty far down the list, and I’d put it in just to help you recognize me at the airport.
Maybe my confusion is because I’m so very cisgendered, but I don’t know. I tend to see my life as an adventure with a frame of mortality around it, full of opportunities to create and to revel in Creation, and the suit I get to wear for the ride feels irrelevant.
There’s a flap now over Bruce Jenner’s transformation to Caitlyn and in particular his introduction in a high-glamor shot. (I did find myself thinking: what 65-year-old woman is named “Caitlyn?” What’s wrong with “Debby?”) I used to be put off by done-up women, myself. Forty years ago a friend put it this way: “I don’t like female impersonators, and I don’t care what sex they are.” I thought that was cute, but it’s not really true. I think male female impersonators are a lot of fun.
So it’s fine for Caitlyn, and all the rest of the hair-dying, skin-slathering, Spanx-wearing, made-up women in high heels out there. I just don’t really get it.
I would, just once, like to be able to put on a nice blouse and skirt and have the right shoes for the outfit, all at the same time. Just once.
Not Debby. Debby's a generation later. As a 65-year-old woman, Jenner should be a Linda or a Mary.Or maybe Susan.
Oh, I think Debby is right in there with Mary and Linda and Susan. You know, none of those are back in, even yet.
As usual, you speak for me, especially where glamour is concerned;I don't have any, wouldn't know how to go about it, don't understand it at all.
Especially the shoes. I wonder if there's a special term for girl-identified-girls who like boy shoes?
People seem to have this overwhelming need to label themselves and others, which I don't understand. I guess they think that if they can categorize someone, then they know all about them. They don't have to actually get to know the person, or — god forbid — think! I personally live by the maxim "to define is to limit". Sure there are a lot of people who play out the stereotype — that's why there are stereotypes. But there are quite a number who don't, as well.
I am acquainted with a woman, probably my age, who has had so much obvious lifting and tucking that when I refer to her, I say, "You know… the alien", and my husband knows exactly who I'm talking about. Her poreless skin is stretched tightly across her skull, Her eyes are oddly wide, as if she's permanently surprised, and her lips are inflated in a manner usually not seen outside of an aquarium. When I look at her, I just feel so tired (and a little freaked out!)
As for Spanx, Paul and I were at a party, and as we left, he gave the hostess a hug. Once outside, he asked me in a worried fashion, "Do you suppose something is wrong with Beverly? It felt like she was in a body cast under her dress." "No, Sweetie — welcome to Spanx." Then I had to explain what Spanx are, which left him even more incredulous.
I can't think of anyone I know who's had cosmetic surgery, except for a nose job. I'm sure there are some. People who live in other cities tell me Portlanders are a lot more lackadaisical about their appearance (and they're not usually saying this to be kind). So maybe I am in YET another bubble.
I am definitely a girl/woman but never was big on pink as it was too popular and I did like being somewhat different, so preferred cranberry. I still remember to put on earrings and lipstick, but I resent that Caitlyn feels a need to be sexy more than feminine at her age! I did not look that good even back when I was 18. Waiting until the final act of your life to find your true self seems an overwhelming loss of time to me.
Oh I'm fine with however she wants to look. I'm sure she thinks it was an overwhelming loss of time too. Folks who want to change suits are a lot better off if they can get it accomplished while they're still teenagers. I did think that it's kind of a shame, if you want to go for that kind of beauty, to have to start out as a 65-year-old. I'm only 61, and theoretically my skin is too, but the bag's a lot looser than the contents.
The problem with slotting people into pigeon holes is that there are no hole-shaped pigeons, and no pigeon-shaped holes, and the damn birds won't stay in them anyway.
I agree with this. The labels should really apply to preferences, not the people who have them; as more and more desires become open and defined and legitimate, it will be more and more clear that each individual bears several of them and cannot be characterized by any one of them.
I've got a hole-shaped pigeon on the wire right outside my window. Just wanted to point that out.
but there is a rather large range of ways of being human,
You ain't seen nothin' yet 🙂
Feel free to amplify!
Yes, it took me a long time to take trans people seriously, because I've never identified strongly with either gender. The genders are just weird, and the farther out on the spectrum you get the weirder they are. You get out to the people who don't enjoy a good sweat (because they're women) or don't think kittens are cute (because they're men) and you've lost me. And, as so often, I assumed I was the way I was because of my splendid character and depth of perception. But it turns out, as so often, that this business of gender identification is at least somewhat a matter of genes or genetic expression or whatever the current phrase is for "just born that way." I, like you, was just born pretty much smack in the middle. (I hasten to add, because of course everyone is deeply interested in my sexual orientation, that sexual orientation appears to be an entirely different, though similarly just-born, spectrum. My position on that spectrum is extreme. I *really* like women.)
Oh. See? That. That's how I feel. I am very familiar with the spectrum of sexual orientation, but hadn't really thought that the gender identification business was on a spectrum too. Duh. Okay, everyone, carry on.
I would be remiss if I didn't duly report that my father got all huffy about people using the word "gender" to mean "sex." He thought gender should be reserved for French nouns and stuff.
Martha gets similarly bent out of shape when I dismiss the difference between "genre" and "gender." "They're the same word, you know," I say dismissively, and she rolls her eyes and says "They're NOT the same word." Whatever.
I'm afraid that I'm guilty of using the term "gender" anymore, simply because "sex" has come to mean the "act", rather than a category. Everything in our culture has become so sexualized that the very word sometimes gives me a headache.
Dad knew that was why, but he thought it worth fighting for. Eh. It was always in the same lecture as how "Pisces" should be pronounced "Pisseez" too.
HA! I had the same reaction a few weeks (days?) ago when I first heard/saw the word "cisgendered." Say what now? As a child I was something of a tomboy – which is to say I climbed well up into trees, and spent my days in the woods turning over rocks. I had some dolls in which I had no interest and lots of male stuffed animals. I never could throw a baseball properly, but wasn't bad as a receiver in football. Then I tried pretty hard to be a girly girl for a short time when I was about 16 or 17, but fortunately a couple of years later being a Hippie was invented and I was able to stop worrying about: fashionable clothes, high heeled shoes, shaving, having my hair *done* in any sense of the word – the list goes on and on. All of it just makes me tired. I also agree with you that when a situation arises where *dressing up* is somehow required, I do wish I had the ability to put together an outfit, including a pair of shoes that could somehow be appropriate while at the same time being wearable for however long the event requires. I've never felt like I was assigned the wrong gender, but at the same time I'd a hell of a lot rather be wearing pants than a dress. That said, it might be entertaining to be dressed and made up by the folks at Vanity Fair just to see how different/glamorous they could make me look! I trust Caitlyn enjoyed herself.
Jeez, we sound like the same person. And it WOULD be interesting to be placed in the hands of a team of makeover artists. Clothes, hair, makeup, the works. It all reminds me of when I went into a beauty salon (to deliver their mail) that had a sign in front that said "Beauty Makeover $10." I said, "you can really make me beautiful for $10?" and the fellow said (aghast) "well, NO," and then stumbled all over himself when he realized what he'd said.
Now that was a lot of fun.
HAHAHAHA! But I'm pretty sure that the first thing I'd do after my hair had been done, and the make-up slathered on, would be to go home and take a shower and get rid of it as fast as ever I could!
My daughters decided to "fix" me for a big wedding. They did my hair, critiqued my clothes, and did my makeup. As soon as they pronounced me perfect, I went to the washroom to look at the mirror, and then washed my face.
My hair was fine, though. There's not much you can do to ruin my hair if it's cut short enough.
Yeah. I'd go for the hair. Makeup looks ridiculous on me. And a lot of it smells, too.
Have butt in here and say I never felt as pretty as I did on my wedding day when my sister-in-law to be did my make up for me. She'd been using cosmetics since she was about 12 and was an expert.
I think I had a little mascara on for my wedding. I don't know what we found to hang it on.
The analogy of the suit is a good one. Of course the suit you were given feels irrelevant because you're quite happy with it. But if you're given a suit and it just feels plain wrong, and everything about it grates on you, then you're desperate to change it for a suit that feels right.
Oh I don't know how HAPPY I am with it. I could think of some improvements. No, I totally get that. But I think the way I feel about my suit is more along the lines of what Dale was talking about.
How nice to hear of other people who somehow just can't achieve the 'dressed up' look. Or not all of it at once.
I hope Caitlyn, who I am very glad didn't choose to be Kaitlyn, finds some comfort and some peace.
And yes on tripping over words everywhere once we have found them. It always makes me think I must have had my eyes shut not to have come across them before.
Works with names too. You no sooner see a name that strikes you as the perfect fit for your pet, than you find out every third pet is now named that. It was bad enough with our dog Boomer, who slightly predated the TV show about the dog; but now there's a Modern Family episode about a female cat named Larry.
No, not bothering to look up Spanx.Someone else is sure to do that and then drench me with the explanation…
I think we need to add cisgender to the ever-growing acronym LGBTQQIAAP (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Ally, Pansexual). I'm pretty sure that last P could also stand for polyamorous.
I really think acronyms should be pronounceable. See if you can work on that. And Questioning just shouldn't be in there. It's too much luggage, won't fit in the overhead bin.
Murre, Kimb, you speak for me. Pants, please. I can't do jack s— in a skirt (garden, climb stairs, run). I admire you for tackling this subject in your kind and unaccusatory way. I've been shushed on the subject several times by my daughter, newly refined in the hyper-progressive fire of a small East Coastal college, so I'm keeping my head down and my mouth mostly shut. I share Kimb's desire to see what Vanity Fair's airbrush, hairweave and corset artists could do with me. If they can turn a 65-year-old man into Brooke Shields, my God! Sign me up. Might be fun for an hour or two.
Then we'd have to scrub it off just because of the fragrance alone. I will say I prefer a nice soft long skirt for evening beer time. No underpants. Nice breezes.
I love you both, but they turned a 65 year old woman into Brooke Shields. I think the plastic surgeons and urologists did the man-to-woman thing.
I know, I know. I sound like a hyper-progressive. Really just obe who wants to accept people for who they are.
Right you are–I believe Julie was just typing fast. Here are two current-culture things I don't understand. And I truly mean I don't understand, and would like to be educated. Why are there so many more man-to-woman transsexuals than the opposite? And why are there so many more white women with black men than black women with white men? And are both these things true, or just my faulty observation? Do with these what you will. I'm not passing judgment but I am curious.
I'm another girl with little or no interest in girly things, but I don't recall ever wanting to be a boy either. I'm happy as myself.
Good thing, too!
I could echo many of the comments, especially those about not caring so much. I do want to make one different comment about clothing. I wear skirts and dresses mostly. I wear them because I find them more comfortable. As a woman of substantial and sometimes changing size, it works well for me to have a closet of loose-fitting shifts, and elastic waist skirts. I know which ones work well for bike riding – more straight skirts, and which for gardening, etc. – loose flowing skirts. So if you see me, or others, wearing "traditionally female clothing" please know that for me at least, I'm not trying to be more feminine, just more comfortable.
Me too. The right skirt is like wearing nothing. Also, you can pee right there in the garden. I'm not saying I have. I'm not saying I haven't.
Yes, you can pee right there in the garden. And yes, I have.
The current cover story for Time magazine is about plastic surgery. They would have us believe that we've reached the tipping point where those who do not have nips and tucks are the outsiders. And as for Spanx–back when I came of age, you couldn't get dressed without wearing a girdle. Even thin women wore girdles to prevent jiggles. Then hippies came in and girdles went out. So, I was annoyed when Spanx was touted as being this new idea when it was just a girdle repeat!
Once again I hit my timing with perfection. I do recall having a garter belt but no one tried to talk me into a girdle, which would have been ridiculous. There wasn't that much of me at the time. And then a few years later it was all work shirts and patched blue jeans plus a new dress code at school. I totally hit it right.
This is the first I've heard the word cisgendered — thanks for educating me!
But mark my words, not the last. You're welcome!
Hadn't run into "cisgendered" yet but they don't tend to talk like that in gardening magazines or pre-1900 literature. I tend to like colours that don't show it too much when the dogs rub their noses on me. My bug hat and my gardening gloves match but that was an accident. I shower regularly, like clothes that move the way I do (and in the same direction), and want my shoes flat on the earth. I didn't like dolls as a child, much preferring the company of books. And it never crossed my mind to even think about what I was. I just was. And am.
Me too, but many people feel strongly about this. The range of human experience is huge.
Cisgendered, transgendered, gay, straight….othergendered. Whatever. It seems everyone needs a cubbyhole in which to be placed. I hope everyone finally settles into that hidden cubbyhole labeled: Just people.
Most of us have many cubbyholes. I don't think you're going to get your wish.