Canned Gender Worms

Lately I have been thinking about worms and cans.


I came across this post about being cis-by-default, and that is definitely how I used to feel about my gender. I, and a proportion of cis people, happily identif(y/ied) as the gender we were assigned at birth because that’s what we were told, and we never had much reason to think about it.

If we define “having a gender identity that matches assigned gender” as being “true cis”, a significant amount of cis people are not truly cis in that sense, and are only cis-by-default. (The corollary is that defining cis that way, as most transpeople do, erases the experiences of and alienates cis people who do not experience being cis that way, and a better definition may be “not actively disidentifying with assigned gender”, an oft-conflated but non-equivalent alternative.)

Some survey results:

I only identify with my birth gender by default: 681, 45.3%
I strongly identify with my birth gender: 586, 39.0%

As for me, being female never bothered me until I started reading about gender theory and trying to put my finger on my gender identity, a thing I was told I should have. Since beginning to experiment with gender, I have discovered that I do have an internal sense of gender; it just hadn’t been announcing its presence too loudly, and I had to tune in to it with experimentation. In the process I also became gender-adjacent, and gender started taking up a lot of brain space and being very difficult to deal with.

My suspicion is that if many, or maybe even most, cis-by-default people spent a few months thinking about it intensely they might identify as something else. The flipside is that had I had less free time on my hands and been less motivated in trying to find accurate labels, I would still be identifying as cis. Would I go back to being cis? Had I never learned or tried out the word nonbinary, would I be happier, with less dysphoria, more accompanying cis-privileges and more mental capacity to think about other things? (And also, does this make me Fake Trans?)


Someone left a comment on my #31daysoftransvisibility series about ignoring their feelings about gender until “you find yourself married and realizing that you should have taken care of this before”. Then it hit me that unopened cans of worms are still there.

Lots, in fact the vast majority, of cis-by-default people live their entire lives being happily cis. But also some of them/us realise at some point that we are not, in fact cis, and adjust accordingly.

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Canned Gender Worms

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