Understanding Cisgender Normativity and Its Impact on Society
Cisgender normativity is a pervasive force in society that affects the way people see and interact with gender. In this article, we’ll explore what cisgender normativity is, how it has developed, and the impact it has on individuals and society as a whole. We’ll also discuss efforts to challenge this normativity and future steps for creating a more inclusive society for all gender identities.
What is Cisgender Normativity?
Cisgender normativity refers to the societal expectation that people will identify with the gender assigned to them at birth based on their biological sex. This expectation is so entrenched that it often goes unquestioned. Cisgender people – those whose gender identity matches their sex assigned at birth – are considered the norm, while those who identify as transgender or non-binary are seen as the exceptions to this norm.
This normativity is reflected in language, culture, and institutions. It assumes a binary view of gender, with only two options of male and female, and reinforces gender stereotypes. It can also manifest in harmful ways, such as discrimination against transgender and non-binary individuals.
One of the consequences of cisgender normativity is the erasure of non-binary identities. Non-binary individuals do not identify as exclusively male or female, but rather as a combination of both or neither. However, because cisgender normativity assumes a binary view of gender, non-binary identities are often overlooked or dismissed.
Furthermore, cisgender normativity can also lead to the policing of gender expression. For example, individuals who do not conform to traditional gender roles or expectations may face ridicule or discrimination. This can be particularly harmful for transgender and non-binary individuals who may already face significant challenges in asserting their gender identity.
The History of Cisgender Normativity
The history of cisgender normativity is intertwined with the history of patriarchy and gender roles. The origins of these gender roles are complex and vary by culture, but in Western societies, they have often been based on the idea of men as dominant and women as submissive. These expectations were codified in laws and institutions, such as marriage laws and the exclusion of women from many professions and forms of education.
The idea of a binary gender system, with two distinct and complimentary genders, also emerged during this time. The term “cisgender” was created relatively recently, in the 1990s, as a way to describe those who identify with the gender assigned to them at birth. Prior to this, the concept of gender identity was less well understood and often conflated with sexual orientation.
However, it is important to note that not all cultures have a binary gender system or adhere to strict gender roles. Many Indigenous cultures, for example, have recognized and respected the existence of multiple genders for centuries. The imposition of Western gender norms through colonization has had a detrimental impact on these communities and their traditional ways of life.
The Effects of Cisgender Normativity on Society
Cisgender normativity has a profound impact on individuals and society as a whole. It reinforces rigid gender roles, which can limit people’s self-expression and restrict their opportunities. It also marginalizes those who do not fit into the binary gender system, such as transgender and non-binary individuals, who may face harassment, violence, and discrimination.
Cisgender normativity also affects our understanding of other forms of oppression, such as racism and ableism. It can operate alongside these other forms of oppression to further marginalize those who exist at the intersections of multiple marginalized identities.
Furthermore, cisgender normativity can also perpetuate harmful stereotypes and misconceptions about gender and sexuality. For example, it may assume that all men are inherently aggressive and dominant, while all women are passive and submissive. This can lead to harmful behaviors and attitudes towards individuals who do not conform to these stereotypes.
Additionally, cisgender normativity can also impact healthcare and medical treatment. Medical professionals may not have adequate knowledge or training to provide appropriate care for transgender and non-binary individuals, leading to inadequate or harmful treatment. This can have serious consequences for the health and well-being of these individuals.
The Intersection of Cisgender Normativity and Other Forms of Oppression
Transgender and non-binary individuals face discrimination and marginalization in many areas of life. This can include difficulty finding housing or employment, being denied healthcare, and increased risks of physical violence and hate crimes.
Cisgender normativity intersects with other forms of oppression to make these experiences even worse. For example, transgender people of color face disproportionately high rates of violence and discrimination, as do disabled transgender people.
Furthermore, the intersection of cisgender normativity and heteronormativity can also lead to discrimination against transgender and non-binary individuals who are also attracted to people of the same gender. This can result in additional barriers to finding acceptance and support within both the LGBTQ+ community and society at large.
In addition, the intersection of cisgender normativity and ableism can lead to the erasure of disabled transgender and non-binary individuals, as their experiences and needs are often overlooked or dismissed. This can result in a lack of access to necessary healthcare and accommodations, as well as increased isolation and marginalization.
The Impact of Cisgender Normativity on Mental Health
Cisgender normativity can also have a profound impact on mental health. Transgender and non-binary individuals often experience high rates of anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns as a result of the discrimination and marginalization they face.
This impact can be compounded by the lack of access to affirmative healthcare, such as hormone replacement therapy or gender-affirming surgeries. Medical providers who are not trained to work with transgender individuals may also be dismissive, unsupportive, or even harmful.
Furthermore, the societal pressure to conform to cisgender norms can lead to internalized transphobia and self-hatred, which can also contribute to poor mental health outcomes. This pressure can manifest in various ways, such as feeling ashamed of one’s gender identity or feeling like they are not “trans enough” to be accepted by the transgender community.
Challenging Cisgender Normativity: Progress and Resistance
Efforts to challenge cisgender normativity are ongoing and take many forms. Activists and educators work to raise awareness of transgender and non-binary experiences and promote inclusivity. Laws and policies are being reevaluated and changed to provide greater protections for transgender individuals.
However, there is also strong resistance to these efforts. Some groups argue that transgender and non-binary identities are invalid or against the natural order. Others claim that efforts to promote inclusivity are actually infringing on the rights of cisgender individuals and threatening their way of life.
Despite the resistance, progress has been made in challenging cisgender normativity. More and more individuals are coming out as transgender or non-binary and finding support within their communities. Companies and organizations are implementing policies to support transgender employees and customers, such as gender-neutral bathrooms and pronoun usage.
However, there is still much work to be done. Transgender individuals face high rates of discrimination, violence, and suicide. Many are denied access to healthcare and face legal barriers to changing their gender markers on identification documents. The fight for transgender rights and inclusivity continues.
Strategies for Dealing with Cisgender Normativity in Everyday Life
For those who experience cisgender normativity in their everyday lives, there are strategies for coping and resisting. Seeking out supportive communities, whether in person or online, can be a valuable source of validation and connection.
Advocating for oneself, whether at work, school, or in healthcare settings, can also be effective. This can mean asking for accommodations or using legal channels to seek recourse for discrimination and harassment.
Another strategy for dealing with cisgender normativity is to educate others. This can involve having conversations with friends, family, and colleagues about the experiences of transgender and non-binary individuals, and the impact of cisgender normativity on their lives. It can also mean advocating for more inclusive policies and practices in institutions and organizations.
Empowering the Voices of Non-Cisgender People in the Fight Against Cisgender Normativity
Perhaps the most important strategy for challenging cisgender normativity is to support and elevate the voices of non-cisgender individuals. Transgender and non-binary activists are leading the way in the fight for equality and inclusivity, and their perspectives are essential for creating change.
By listening to and centering the experiences of those who have been marginalized by cisgender normativity, we can begin to create a more just and equitable society for all gender identities.
It is also important to recognize that the fight against cisgender normativity is not just about gender identity, but also intersects with other forms of oppression such as racism, ableism, and classism. Non-cisgender people who also belong to marginalized communities face compounded discrimination and must be included in the conversation and solutions.
Conclusion: Moving Towards a More Inclusive Society for All Gender Identities
Cisgender normativity is deeply ingrained in our culture and institutions, but it is not invincible. By understanding its impacts and working to challenge it, we can create a more inclusive and just society for all gender identities.
This will require ongoing education, advocacy, and support for those who have been marginalized by cisgender normativity. But with determination and persistence, we can create a world where everyone is free to express their gender identity without fear of discrimination or violence.
One important step towards creating a more inclusive society is to recognize and respect the diversity of gender identities. This means acknowledging that gender is not binary and that there are many different ways to express one’s gender. It also means creating spaces and policies that are inclusive of all gender identities, such as gender-neutral bathrooms and pronoun options on official forms.
Another crucial aspect of creating a more inclusive society is to address the intersectional nature of oppression. Transgender and gender non-conforming individuals who also belong to marginalized communities, such as people of color or those with disabilities, face compounded discrimination and violence. It is important to recognize and address these intersections in order to create a truly inclusive society for all.