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Cisgender – Becoming aware of our privilege

May 13, 2012

 I learned a new word today. Cisgender. Thank you to Stepping Into the Beyond blog writer at

for introducing me to the word and for Wikipedia for defining it for me. The fact that I see myself as a women and most people in society also see me as a woman makes life easy for me in ways that I had not even considered. Just the other day I referred to a young woman as ‘he’ because when I first met her, she was living as a boy. I wonder what that feels like to her.

I know that the majority of people – at least in my culture – perceive their gender to be the same as what others perceive it to be. But what about those who don’t? I wonder if it is similar to the experiences of people with invisible (or at least not immediately apparent) impairments. How often have we heard someone make a disparaging comment about a young adult who has ‘done nothing’ since high school graduation? I worry that I may even have made a critical comment like that some time in the past. I wonder how often that young adult had a mental illness or a learning disability or an illness causing chronic fatigue or …. We forget that our workplaces are not very accommodating to young adults with visible and invisible impairments. I live with depression and work in a place that can accommodate me. However, that is because I am in a job with a lot of autonomy that requires qualifications that someone who just finished high school would not have.

 It is important for those of us who live without obvious impairments to frequently remind ourselves of our unseen privilege. Well, unseen to us. Our privilege is seen daily by people with obvious impairments. The young woman I referred to as ‘he’ likely feels a jab every time her gender is incorrectly described by others. People with obvious impairments likely feel jabs every time they experience prejudice and oppression by those of us who may not even be aware that we are excluding them/us.

 Once we are aware of how we exclude others, what can we do to change that?


  1. It is likely that initially the LGBT community unintentionally excluded and possibly even oppressed peoaple with impairments and the disabled community did the same with people with sexual orientations other than strictly heterosexual. Feminists did this initially with women of colour as well. All of us other than the white, middle-class, Christian Protestant, heterosexual, able-bodied man between the age of 25 and 45 – I’m sure I’ve missed something about this mythical “normal” being – experience oppression in some areas while at the same time most of us are also in a position of domination (or privilege) in other areas. Often the oppression and the domination are internalized. Maybe in both of our blogs, people can comment/dialogue and we can share ways to become aware of and then stop our related behaviour. Thanks for your comment and your great blog. Sheila

  2. imgls1989 permalink

    Thanks for the mention! I am very fascinated by the ways in which disability and gender and sexual orientation align. In doing research on disability theory and disability studies, I have found that there is a strong connection between the LGBT community and the disability community. Both have a strong connection to the body, and individuals in each group are affected by how others view them.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

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