trans privilege

July 5, 2009

It’s been asserted (link here) that trans people benefit from “trans privilege”. The implication I draw from that statement – assuming that “trans privilege” exists, of course – is that we are somehow using this privilege to attack cissexual people because they’re not trans.

However, “trans privilege” doesn’t seem to have been defined anywhere, so I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what it does mean. I wondered if I could find a definition by means of a reversal/substition of the term “cissexual privilege”, which has been given a now well-established definition by Julia Serano:

cissexual privilege
The privilege that cissexuals experience as a result of having their femaleness or maleness deemed authentic, natural, and unquestionable by society at large. Cissexual privilege allows cissexuals to take their sex embodiment for granted in ways that transsexuals cannot.

(Via Julia Serano – Whipping Girl: a glossary of sorts…)

I think that’s clear enough, so let’s go through the looking glass and see how that works with the appropriate reversals:

The privilege that transsexual people experience as a result of having their trans identities deemed authentic, natural, and unquestionable by society at large. Transsexual privilege allows trans people to take their sex embodiment for granted in ways that cissexual people cannot.

Frankly, I just can’t see that at all. It seems to me that if society at large really did accept our identities, then we’d have no need for the descriptors trans and cis in the first place. We are defined by cis people’s society; their privilege of having their subconscious sexes and their physical sexes in alignment gives them the power to position us as the Other. We are consequently at an immediate and significant disadvantage as we are the people who forever have to justify our identities, our selves, to them. At least, that’s my direct experience: all else follows.

As for the second part of the reverse definition, all I know is that my gender dissonance has had, and continues to have, such an immense and immeasurable impact on my life in so many ways, for so many years, that taking my sex embodiment for granted is simply not even an option, full stop.

“Trans privilege”? It’ll take a lot more to convince me that such a thing exists – and certainly not as a weapon with which to attack cis people. But I do wonder if there may be, amongst some cis people, a misapprehension of what it means to be a member of the marginalised and oppressed minority that is the trans community.

4 Responses to “trans privilege”


  1. […] is no such thing as trans privilege.  For necessary 101, here is a great and important post on vocabulary when it comes to gender and […]

  2. Katie B. Says:

    The concept that there is some sort of “trans privilege” is ridiculous. I have to wonder how cisgendered people end up feeling marginalized by pointing out their privilege? I just don’t understand it.

    Is it because we’re pointing out something that they take for granted as part of their lives? Reminds me of the male privilege I had when I was male-bodied and didn’t know I had until I started transition and had it rudely yanked out from under me. If someone had mentioned male privilege to me then, I would have gotten defensive as well. I figure dialogues like that need to happen, though, otherwise no one learns anything and the playing field still stays uneven.

  3. jemimaaslana Says:

    It’s exactly the same reaction as white privilege and male privilege etc etc. Being told that you’re not really qualified to make a judgement or even an argument because no, your experiences are nothing like those that are relevant, that will rub many people the wrong way, especially those who are used to being listened to.

    White cis feminists are used to being the ones everyone’s talking about, so when the talk falls on the topic of black women, well, my experiences as a white woman are hardly relevant. And since privilege induces blindness and deafness, being told that your experiences are irrelevant, means you’ll hear that YOU are irrelevant and that’s rather hurtful. Pity they’ve nobody but themselves to thank for the hurt.

    I suppose that’s what happens to some cis persons when they were told that they would be hard-pressed to weigh in with something relevant in regards to trans issues.

    I owned my privilege some time ago – it wasn’t an easy process. I still fuck up at times. But damn, how anyone can claim that the marginalised group has privilege… It’s not privilege to be telling others that their experiences are irrelevant, it’s privilege to be thinking your own experiences always ARE relevant.

    More and more blogs disappear from my blogroll because of privilege.

  4. n Says:

    the only context that “trans privilege” makes sense to me is within the trans community itself. where sometimes folks feel excluded for not being “trans enough” because of not meeting certain expectations (i.e. not taking certain physical/medical steps to transition, or not having a gender identity that fits into the binary). though i’m not sure that i would actually call that “trans” privilege, either.


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