In my view, “cis” does not denote someone who does not suffer from GID. It denotes someone who does not suffer from (or must manage possibility of suffering from) transphobia on a regular basis, except perhaps in rare, exceptional circumstances.
But then butch lesbians, effeminate men, anyone consistently misgendered because of their haircut/clothing/behavior/etc. would not be “cis”, whether or not they were actually transsexual, therefore rendering the term useless?
How does the presence of borderline cases or grey areas make terms that describe institutional oppression and privilege (whether it is “cis” or “white” or “able-bodied” or whatever) “useless”?
I don’t really like this idea either because what does “suffering from transphobia” mean? Stealth trans people are not cis, but may not suffer from transphobia. I pass as a cis woman and I’m totally fine with admitting that, but that does not make me less trans*.
Not to mention, I think that people under certain intersections are more likely going to be attacked than others. Trans women of colour are more likely to be killed than any other trans people. Does that make them more trans and others less trans?
Is it the word “transphobia” that means you don’t like this idea, and its association with interpersonal attitudes more than structure? For me, Emi’s ideas of “suffer from / must manage possibility of suffering from transphobia” unite under the idea of “cis” status indicating to what extent someone’s life is not structured in negative ways by transphobia and cissexism (and this is what I understood Emi as meaning…)
“What about ‘stealth’ trans* people?” is often brought up in questions about what constitutes trans* oppression, but of course transphobia and cissexism are likely to have significantly negatively structured many trans* people’s lives, even those who are not recognised on the street at a particular moment as trans*.
I think we can and should make the argument that trans* people are an oppressed class and that there is a materiality (without implying that it’s uniform) to that oppression (i.e. that it consists of things that can be talked about), that it’s in some way categorically different to identity characteristics which don’t connect to systems of oppression.
I find it very hard to imagine that people exist who experience sex dysphoria, and/or who identify themselves with a gender significantly different to that which they’re assigned within society, whose life has somehow remained completely unstructured in any negative sense (externally, internally) by the ways in which society is set against them.
But if a person like that does exist, I think that in some situations, yes, it might be useful to understand them as moving through a very different reality to most trans* people, and a very similar reality to that of cis people, to the extent that functionally their situation is cis. And as Emi says, edge cases don’t always make terms “useless” anyway.
Regarding the point about trans* women of colour, the woman who originated this idea is a trans* woman of colour, so I’m going to assume this is something she’s thought about, and after thinking about it, she’s decided the idea is still useful. I can think of various ways that would be the case but I’m taking my lead from Emi here.
If you’re not convinced, can we find some common ground anyway? Can we both agree that there are times when it’s useful to approach a question from the angle of “is a person’s life negatively structured by transphobia/cissexism or not?”, whatever words we may choose to describe those situations? And also that thinking about this question is a useful way to inform our thoughts on how trans* people’s oppression is constructed, what trans* people’s situations look like, and how they differ from majority “cis” experience?
I just think that in general it’s not entirely that useful. At the end of the day, “cis” and “trans” are labels that we have to trust people to be honest about within their experience. Who gets to judge how much or to what extent someone’s life has been “structured” by transphobia? If my life has been “structured” more by ableism than by cissexism does that make me less trans*? It’s a lot more complicated by that, especially when you apply other intersections. Not to mention, gender is not an identical concept within all cultures nor is it practiced or viewed in the same way. Granted, “Trans/Cis” are arguable Western concepts so within the West we can apply them, but I think that at the end of the day I have a theoretical problem with any classification system that merits someone a more valid identity by how much they suffer. That’s not a quantifiable thing and I don’t find it helpful personally.