Beauty and the cis

Most women hate their bodies. This is one of those boring facts that everyone knows and no one bothers to change. We half-heartedly order women to “love themselves” and “embrace their curves.” We encourage them to watch Dove adverts so that they may campaign for Real Beauty (while also worrying about ugly underarms). We eventually tell them fuck it, beauty is empowerment, why not embrace your self-hatred? Whatever we do, it’s not all that important since at the end of the day it’s all vanity. Hate away.

I can’t remember a time when I haven’t hated my body. Really, truly hated it, albeit in a way that I don’t tend to think of as hate (I think of it as “having a shit body” or “being a fat, ugly bitch” or in countless other ways which problematize not my hatred, but my body itself as an offensive object). At times my hatred of my flesh has almost killed me, leading to hospitalisations and force-feedings. I still wish there was less of me. Whatever my size I will always wish to be less.

When women like me shrink away, no one finds it strange. When we have our thighs sucked off, our breasts inflated, our cunts trimmed, we might find it an oddity – just about – but it will be positioned as personal choice. We don’t think of it as oppression. It is privilege and narcissism that makes us do it, a silly desire to be just like the women on the telly. The fact that we are susceptible to a mass of cultural influences telling us we should be bare, tiny and plastic is seen as weakness on our part. We are meant to overcome this (while also being bare, tiny and plastic, as if by magic, as if by sheer force of will).

In Redefining Realness Janet Mock defines cis as “a term used for people who are not trans and more likely to identify with the gender that correlates with the sex they were assigned at birth”:

Most cis people rarely question their gender identity because the gender binary system validates them, enabling them to operate without conflict or correction.

Has anyone who has been assigned female at birth ever been enabled to “operate without conflict or correction”? Don’t most cis women spend their whole lives trying to “become women”? I see this very much in the context of beauty ideals (amongst other things). Cis women do not get handed womanhood on a plate. On the contrary, most of us never escape the feeling of having failed.

We spend our waking hours trying to conform, trying to manage personhood, trying not to take up too much space.  We have ourselves sliced and inflated, we starve ourselves, paint ourselves, rip out our body hair, binge, vomit, cry at the sight of our ugly thighs and flabby stomachs. We live our lives on hold, waiting to blossom, then watch ourselves become invisible as we age. We do all this without even noticing, let alone protesting. Our dissatisfaction with our bodies in relation to how womanhood is perceived is viewed as our problem alone. We don’t talk about it to anything like the degree to which most of us are thinking about it (that is, most of the time).

Cis women – primped, primed cis women – are not believed to have a problematic relationship with gender, or if they do, it is seen to be of their own making. Because discomfort within one’s own body is so embedded since girlhood it is not remarked upon, which leads to the assumption that cis women do not even experience gender sufficiently to be able to critique it. This is of course bullshit. It is there with us every day of our lives. It constrains us. The idea that cis women don’t ask questions because they don’t have to – not because they are oppressed in ways others simply view as normality – betrays a shocking lack of empathy. Transitioning from male to female is no more a dramatic or meaningful expression of discomfort with one’s own gender identity than having one’s labia reshaped. Yet one is considered so extreme it must betray a deeper engagement with gender as a fundamental truth, while the other is seen as just some stupid thing cis women do.

All women are gender non-conformists, every single one of us. We have to be because we are human, something which gender itself does not recognise. We have to challenge the strictures of gender in order to assert our own personhood and we do so in different ways, in accordance with the conditions of our own lives. Anyone who positions themselves above this — who believes themselves to be queering gender in a way that other women don’t need to – simply can’t be bothered to consider the specificities of other women’s lives. It’s privileged nonsense. When we starve, when we binge, when we hate ourselves for taking up space, we are negotiating the same old shitty relationship with women’s bodies in the world. We should not make light of it nor should we accept it as the best we can have. If we want all people to love their bodies – or at least to live in them without hate – we need the space to critique what gender is doing to each and every one of us right now.


75 thoughts on “Beauty and the cis

  1. I’m sorry you suffered so much with your eating disorder and body image issues, and I think you’ve a lot of courage to write about it. I hope you do stop hating your body one day. You’re onto something here with the way that women are socialised to hate our bodies and how this isn’t talked about. Your article kind of reminds me of The Beauty Myth- objectification and sexualization through regulating the body. However “Transitioning from male to female is no more a dramatic or meaningful expression of discomfort with one’s own gender identity than having one’s labia reshaped.” is a huge erasure of trans women, and possibly hints at the erasure of non-binary people and intersex people, too. I also don’t think that every woman who has a cosmetic procedure doesn’t have any agency at all. There must be at least some agency present for most women, some reason that one woman chooses to have a boob job and another doesn’t, even if they both hate their bodies- or both are confident about their bodies. It’s a shame you had to include that erasing sentence, as well as linking eating disorders to more general body image issues (which some other ED sufferers might feel is trivialising their disorders, though clearly that’s your lived experience and I’m in no way challenging it) because without this stuff you make some good points about the expectation that girls will and should hate their bodies.

    1. In what way are transwomen “erased” here? Glosswitch talks about transwomen and trans folks specifically in the article.

    2. I don’t see why you find that sentence erasing – to suggest it is simply to trivialise cis women’s experiences and suggest that trans women experience something more authentic, which is bullshit. Moreover, I don’t think it’s for you to tell me what other ED sufferers may or may not find trivialising. There’s nothing trivial about putting EDs in a broader cultural context (nor does it suggest that they haven’t also been sparked by what you presumably see as more “real” problems, usually sexual abuse). All of this matters and all of this needs to be discussed. I am sick to death of cis women’s struggle to be accepted as women being naturalised when it’s a fundamental feminist issue.

      1. I don;t see problems as being more or less real than other problems. I know people whose lives have been affected by depression a lot, whereas people who’ve been sexually assaulted have been much less affected, so I definitely wouldn’t try to classify as more or less real- that’s just offensive. As to erasure, I feel that cis and trans women’s struggles with body image or to fit an expected image are not the same, or at least for the vast majority, a trans woman will face more struggle than a cis woman.But that’s just my opinion; I’m not trans. It just seems like a pretty wild idea to me that someone who identifies with their assigned gender would have the same struggles as someone who is forced into a gender they don’t identify with and have to deal with not knowing why they feel this way, then when they finally do hear about being trans, the transphobia and the medical stuff and process of transitioning. Like, yes it’s a struggle to never be thin or flawless enough, I hear ya, that’s what I experience. But if I had no breasts, had a dick, had to shave my face as well as my legs, had a man’s voice and was seen by everyone as a man, that would be (for me personally) more of a struggle.But again that’s just my opinion.

        1. You’re not listening. I’m saying I don’t identify with my assigned gender but this is not the same as identifying with another gender. Why is that so hard to understand? I’d have thought it was pretty fucking obvious. I have been forced into a gender I don’t identify with. So have most women who get dismissed as cis. It doesn’t mean we’re not women. If you’re fine with the cis definition – if you identify with the construct of inferiority bestowed on you at birth – then guess what? You’re really privileged, despite what you might feel about how you look. So as a privileged person, be quiet and listen to how others experience this.

        2. Slutocrat – as GW suggests in her comments the issue is exactly this idea of ‘identifying with our gender’. We don’t. And to frame the issue in this is way is experienced as an erasure by non-trans women, who are then told that they can’t talk about this erasure because they are privileged by virtue of not being trans. No-one is denying that trans women’s struggle with their gender is very difficult for them. What we are asking for is a way of articulating this which doesn’t involve a terminology and a definition of that terminology, which relies on positing a mirror image of non-trans women’s experience as ‘not difficult’ – and moreover, doesn’t require us to accept a reified or essentialised concept of gender which we oppose.

          And moreover, we are always being told that trans women have a right to define their relationship to gender themselves. That is true. But by invoking and defining cis in a certain way – they are also defining *our* relationship to gender. And we do not accept that non-trans women do not have right to draw boundaries about how they determine themselves.

          It may be the case that we will have to arrive at an understanding of how we relate to gender which is different for each type of woman. I think that’s okay. It’s not necessary or just, and it’s very damaging for gender non-conforming non-trans women, to be forced to accept an account which is foisted on them to meet the needs of one set of women at the expense of others.

    3. How ridiculous. Trans people are mentioned here. You read it right the first time when the author said: “Transitioning from male to female is no more a dramatic or meaningful expression of discomfort with one’s own gender identity than having one’s labia reshaped.” Nope, no erasure — it’s just that the trans experience has not been privileged or assigned more importance than the concerns of WOMEN. Get used to this, because the backlash against the regressive and woman-hating trans agenda has arrived.

  2. My first thought on reading this was that I have better body image than I thought.

    The level of body hatred you describe is not normal, and shouldn’t be normal. Sure, we live in a society that asks women to be perfect, but in the normal, humdrum society of people you see at the shops, work with or whatever it’s pretty clear how varied we women are.

    I see no real conflict between the truth of this post and trans identity, though. Our bodies, like our minds, move in the world in a myriad of contexts. There can be conflicts in one context – that of beauty standards – without necessarily other contexts – such as gender – being impacted. Suggesting that one can experience a conflict between body and mind in terms of gender does not negate the idea that other conflicts may (do) exist; nor that they can’t be just as life defining and serious as a gender-based conflict.

    I can see value in comparing experiences between trans and cis folks to better understand the varieties in how we experience ourselves. But what you seem to have done here is rather to conflate the two, and in doing so make the experiences of trans people just a trivial extension of something cis people (cis women) also face. That’s not fair, and I found it uncomfortable reading.

    Trans people have to define their experience against a background of cis-normativity. That’s our culture: cis is the default. But the definition is not about telling cis people about themselves, it’s about getting us to make space in our heads, and our language, and our culture for a concept we’ve never really needed, of gender as innate and distinct from sex or from culture. Trans people need that space; it’s where they find their existence.

    Yes, trans and cis people can hate their bodies to destructive lengths. Yes, society teaches women they must be perfect to have value and holds us to impossible standards. But we can fight that culture without having to deny trans people the space to exist and to experience gender in a way cis people do not.

    1. The level of body hatred that Glosswitch describes here is actually remarkably common. If you have managed to avoid it, then congratulations! But many, many women don’t. They aren’t especially feeble-minded or psychologically deviant. To suggest they are is to pathologise women’s minds, just as we pathologise their bodies, telling them the problem is always with them. “Hey, all you millions of women with low self-esteem and poor body-image! All you millions of women with eating disorders! There’s nothing wrong with our cultural norms about women’s appearance – you are just particularly psychologically disturbed!” It’s just another way of silencing women, by making them feel shame and humiliation at their normal, natural response to a set of oppressive social norms, and making them feel isolated and alone, so they don’t try to change it.

      I’m appalled that you would come on to Glosswitch’s blog and leave that comment.

    2. I don’t see why you find the comparison unfair unless a) you think beauty standards for women are unrelated to how they are supposed to relate to gender (which would be bizarre) and b) you think cis women already have the space and language to define their relationships with their bodies on their own terms (they don’t).

    3. The issue is right there Jobob, in the middle of your post: you talk about ‘a concept we’ve never really needed, of gender as innate and distinct from sex or culture.’ We need to examine, and be allowed to debate, what that really implies for feminism and to also understand why a lot of ‘queer’ trans women don’t believe in an ‘innate gender’ but many also do. I find it an incredibly controversial point and one that goes against everything I know about gender, constructions of identity and feminism.

      1. Exactly. The idea that we’ve never needed the idea of innate gender before is possibly one of the most mind-blowingly ahistorical suggestions I have ever heard. The idea of innate gender has been and still is the foundation of patriarchy. It is the operative idea of the oppression of women. To think that’s it’s radical and edgy is to rewrite history into an account which corresponds most closely to an MRA paranoid fantasy about feminist gynocracy, as if feminism represents some kind of hegemony, and is the thing which is most responsible for the struggles of trans women. And this indeed, is exactly how TAs not infrequently behave (in for example the repeated – absurd – suggestion that gender critical feminism is in some way responsible for the men’s patriarchal violence against trans women).

        Innate gender is deeply deeply conservative. We need to be able to at least talk about the fact that people are demanding we accept it.

    4. No, there is no “cis-normativity,” you’re just brainwashed into thinking that. Females did not create what is labeled femininity. We can not opt out of our oppression like MtT. Feminism prioritizes women and girls, you know, 70% of the world’s poor, the child brides, the sex slaves, the genitally mutilated, the honor killed.

    5. I have to say that way to many of my female friends all pretty much are , sadly, described spot-on in this post, either struggling with this or has been. Many have found comfort in basic rad fem theory but it’s still hard for them to cope with because they are constantly reminded about this everywhere in this society.

  3. The constant scrutiny and social demand that women somehow be perfect all the time without wanting to be perfect and certainly without trying to be perfect but nonetheless being damned for not being perfect and damned for not even trying to be perfect or not trying hard enough to be perfect or imperfectly trying to be perfect is our existence under social control system of gender. It’s relentless. It’s overwhelming. It’s cannibalistic.

    1. Spot on. Women are not suppose to care about culture pressure because it’s a sign of mental weakness, but at the same time we should ‘try to look our best’, which sounds like an innocent idea – but it actually means that there is always, always something that can be ‘improved’.

  4. I don’t know whether there’s something misleading about saying that all women are gender non-conformists based on the fact that a vast majority of women probably do battle with their bodies because many of the battles outlined here are battles to conform to gender expectations and strictures, not to defy them. It would be more accurate to say that gender conformity isn’t actually possible: ‘woman’ is not a category it’s possible for any human to match properly, not least because of its own internal contradictions. But most women, cis and trans*, do try to conform. To describe someone as a gender non-conformist implies that that person self consciously rejects gender or embraces the fact that they can never match their assigned category in the gender system perfectly. Most women are not doing that, as actually pointed out in this article: most women are trying to ‘become women’ all the time. Which is not an attack on women or Glosswitch. But it explains why many will take issue with a straight, cis, feminine presenting woman claiming all women are gender non-conformists with the implication that those who ‘proclaim’ themselves such are just trying to be special snowflakes. Dissenting from gender and not living up to it are two different things and the former does attract a lot of extra shit for the person doing it. I should know, as a varyingly butch lesbian. That’s not to say that gender isn’t oppressive of all women, but it certainly isn’t oppressive in the same way and to the same degree for everyone. Some actually do have it worse.

    1. I think many women do both. It’s not one or the other. You try to be a woman and you try to be a person and the two conflict. You might think that’s the easy option but that’s just a profound lack of empathy on your part.
      And actually, I’m seriously pissed off that you think a few words – cis, straight, feminine presenting woman – can belittle the shit I have been through because of the pressure to conform to womanhood. Maybe you have it easier. Maybe you want to play off hierarchies of suffering. Lucky you. Count me out.

      1. No, I don’t want to play off hierarchies of suffering nor belittle the shit out of anyone’s. But I do think you would have a hard job arguing that all ways of being a woman attract the same amount of social (for which obviously read patriarchal) disapproval. This is certainly not a post-lesbophobic society, for example. However, I absolutely take the point that not all ‘privilege’ feels like it, which is I think at root of the issue here. I prefer to talk about ‘shitty bargains’ ( because a lot of the ‘privileges’ which women enjoy are highly conditional in a way that is stressful to navigate. Nevertheless, to plug myself here, I recently had the experience of losing access to some of those shitty bargains when I realised I wasn’t read as femme any more, and it was scary and horrible (shameless self plug: You are actually one of the bloggers and feminists whom I usually most enjoy reading, so I’m actually flattered that you replied to my slightly repetitious comment, but I’m sorry to have angered you. However, I do think there’s a genuine misunderstanding of my intention here. I’m not denying that all women have it tough and I have a cis female body so I know that doesn’t always feel like the smooth ride it apparently is compared to being trans*. Nonetheless, it probably is a smoother ride.

        1. I honestly think if we took how cis women hate their bodies – and are told to hate their bodies, every single day – as seriously we we took gender dysphoria, we’d want to tear the whole world to pieces. Just because it’s seen as “normal” doesn’t make it any less deadly. I think there is a belief that the low-level “you don’t have the right body for a woman, you don’t look right, you need to change” message cis women hear all the time is a form of misogyny lite that doesn’t do harm on any deep, meaningful level, even if women are getting themselves sliced and diced and starving themselves to death. I don’t think you can tell from how a woman presents herself how much shit she has gone through to appear that way, or why, or the cultural pressures that surround her as an individual, or the abuse she’s suffered as a woman. You can only judge by what we can all see, which are the external pressures themselves, and I think we downplay them hugely because hey, it’s just cis women, those vain, frivolous, fluffy creatures, right?

    2. “many of the battles outlined here are battles to conform to gender expectations and strictures, not to defy them.”

      Well, duh. Because the only thing worse than the torture of trying to conform to the impossible demands of femininity is the punishment for not conforming to them. It is a system that gets you coming *and* going.

      If we don’t acknowledge the fact that femininity is a double bind, we just end up saying women go through these battles to conform because they’re somehow feeble minded enough to buy into the narrative. Er, no, sorry; women aren’t idiots. We are rational creatures operating within material constraints. And it’s killing us.

      1. “Because the only thing worse than the torture of trying to conform to the impossible demands of femininity is the punishment for not conforming to them. It is a system that gets you coming *and* going.”

        This. So so much. It is a double bind.

  5. Awesome post. I don’t know a woman in my immediate circle that has not hated herself or her body for not living up to some often unreachable ideal. As pantypopo beautifully describes the social control of gender is relentless, overwhelming and cannibalistic. The judgemental standards of an immature patriarchal society have been with us for centuries. Thank goodness for the supportive role of feminist discourse in challenging the stranglehold.

  6. Thank you for this. I am a person who has previously been quite involved in trans politics, for a time identified as a trans man, and I suppose still somewhat on the trans male spectrum in terms of social identity, yet I completely agree with all this you have been saying recently about gender, sex, bodies and trans and cis identities. I am worried about the de-gendering of reproductive rights rhetoric that is being done supposedly for my benefit, as as you say, it is not just about beliefs around those with reproductive capacity, but beliefs around women’s right to bodily autonomy (and as such affects all women, even if indirectly in the case of trans women and other women who are unable to reproduce). To use neutral language is completely missing the gendered dynamic of this form of oppression.

    I also agree it is highly presumptuous that some trans people act like we have the monopoly on complexities around bodies, sex, gender and right to speak about these. My sister, a cis woman, has had an eating disorder since she was 12 years old, so I know that her relationship with her body is no less complicated and painful than mine. I found the comparison made in an article you recently challenged, of a cis woman’s and trans women’s experiences of negotiating the world in their assigned bodies to the difference between passing sadness and severe depression to be very much trivialising cis women’s experiences. At risk of labouring the analogy, I’d say it would be more comparable to say, severe depression and severe anxiety disorder, i.e. different, not one inherently lesser. Nearly everyone, but particularly those who have been raised as/lived as/perceive as/understood themselves to be female, goes through so much to even just live in our own skin.

    There has been and still is much transphobia in feminist discourse, but this is not it. We need a real and honest conversation from a place of empathy and shared aim of ending all gendered oppression and male supremacy, not of one-upmanship.

    It’s funny, I’m not sure her take on this all, but one of the most prominent trans feminist writers, Julia Serano, who many making these dismissive arguments probably (rightly) admire, argues that a source of many forms of oppression faced by trans people is ‘gender entitlement’, that is, “when we project our own assumptions, meanings, and value judgments regarding gender onto other people” – is this not *exactly* what some of us are doing to cis women?

    1. I think there is a tendency to downplay all the suffering women are subjected to, because patriarchy. But I don’t think the form of suffering talked about here is unique to cis women, I think trans* women get dysphoria + the body hatred that cis women get, possibly more of it. I don’t think trans* women are immune from eating disorders and many of them get cosmetic plastic surgery, for example. Much like cis women. And honestly, whilst within certain feminist bubbles there may be a lot of respect paid to trans* experiences, I think in mainstream society those experiences are very depreciated and belittled, more so than cis women’s, which is already a lot. But the thing is, even within feminist circles, cis women don’t lose out if trans* women win some respect.

      1. I don’t think anyone is saying this is unique to cis women, but rather simply it is not unique to trans women either.

        1. Sorry, that was meant to be in response to a conversation Glosswitch and I were having above.

          As a side note, I agree with many of the points you make in your comment about reproductive rights discourse and it’s important to hear them from a perspective such as yours, so thanks for sharing (hope that doesn’t sound too pompous, it’s so hard when writing online).

      2. I’m sorry, my suffering – my response to my body, deemed inferior as a female body – IS unique to women who get dismissed as cis because we have to live with the disjuncture of being born female and wanting to be women while knowing we’re not what women are claimed to be. Trans women don’t know what that’s like. They have no fucking idea – how could they? And it doesn’t say anything about the distress they themselves experience to point this out. If you don’t experience it, then you are very lucky indeed and need to listen more to those who do. I think a lot of “okay with being cis” women need to check their “okay with being cis” privilege. What about women who want to identify as women and see this as entirely contrary to their being assigned femaleness at birth given what femaleness means? Do you even get it? Do you not see how offensive it is to deny the extreme pain caused by this disjuncture and many of the abuses – many of which trans women, due to reproductive difference, do not experience – that are part and parcel of it? If you disagree with my definitions here, then you’re basically saying I’m not a woman and if you can’t see why that’s hurtful and dehumanising then I can’t tell you. I’ve said as much as I can and people like you have pissed all over it. And no, being a victim of transphobia doesn’t trump this any more than being a victim of classism or racism does. It’s a different thing and if you respond to these issues with whattaboutery, then what is the fucking point?

      3. Sehaf – since by definition, there has never been a person who was both cis and trans, nobody is in a position to make comparative judgments like “Trans women get the dysphoria and body hatred that cis women get, possibly more of it”. There’s no basis in fact for that assertion at all.

        Furthermore, if I’m not mistaken, I thought many transgender people don’t experience any sex dysphoria or hatred of their bodies? I have seen trans people say that they want the body they have to be socially recognised as belonging to a person with a different gender from the one they were assigned at birth, but that they have no desire to change that body in any way. If that’s true, then I’m not really sure what form their gender dysphoria takes, or how it’s different from the struggles many women have with gender norms – and it certainly rules out making the kinds of comparisons with a cis woman’s body dysmorphia that you’re making here.

  7. I wrote a post in response to this yesterday trying to keep it simple. I am not optimistic that posting it here will be useful, and nervous because I don’t want a comment war, but anyway… here’s the text of it:

    Hi, I’m a cis woman.

    Now I’ve told you that, you know that I was classified as female at birth, and that I identify as a woman now.

    That’s it.

    You don’t know anything about my sexuality, my mental health, my feelings about my appearance or how I dress and present myself.

    If you’re trans I expect you know all too well an agonising experience of misgendering I haven’t been through.

    That experience is qualitatively different from the body dissonance I’ve almost certainly struggled with under patriarchal expectations.

    As I understand it, transsexual people can end or greatly relieve their dissonance by transitioning. For most, nothing else works.

    Not even becoming a feminist!

    I’d love to talk about how important for feminism the body dissonance and self-destructive behaviours induced by patriarchy are, and how we can understand and tackle that in intersectional praxis, bringing the voices of the marginalised to the centre of the struggle.

    But it seems many of us are still not even getting to what seems to me to be the 101 understanding that being trans is not the same as wanting to reject patriarchal gender roles and isn’t the same as the patriarchy-induced bodily self-hatred experienced by cis women. When cis feminists claim that being trans is similar to their own issues with gender roles and body image, to be battled by awareness raising, feminist solidarity, and working to dismantle patriarchal power, they risk undermining hard won trans acceptance and still precarious rights to access transition, which we should be fighting for and upholding.

    People can identify as they wish, but suggesting that ‘cis’ means ‘comfortable with my body’ is a basic distortion of the term.

    1. Saying “I’m a cis woman” actually says quite a lot about one’s physical make up, the expectations placed upon it, its exploitation for reproductive purposes and its vulnerability. I am not okay with this. I have every right not to be okay with it.
      Moreover, I find it utterly unacceptable to claim that highlighting what non-trans women experience with their bodies is somehow “undermining” the struggles of others. No it isn’t.
      When I had anorexia nothing made it better. Nothing. I am still not better now insofar as I have to live in a body which I do not consider my “real” body but society has told me “tough”. You might think being trans is completely different and special and real in a way that having a perceived (yet utterly logical in its cultural context) mental health disorder is not. I don’t. You have no right to define what my relationship with my body should be and no right to say that the relevance of gender to someone else’s comfort with their body is more true and less socially defined than what I go through. The lack of heart and compassion shown here blows me away.
      Most trans women don’t go through what most non-trans women do. Experiencing your body as “not what people say a woman is” is not the same as experiencing it as a male body (as I’m sure trans men and women would agree) but it is presumptuous in the extreme to claim this is not painful in a different, equally damaging way, let alone that it is a privilege.
      I wouldn’t want to accuse trans activists of undermining feminist concerns in the way you’ve accused me of undermining trans concerns. I think that would be rude, dismissive and hurtful and it’s not what I think. I do however think the word “cis” and the whole concept of “cis privilege” is deeply damaging to those assigned a subordinate gender status at birth.
      Oh, and seriously, check your privilege. Because if you are okay with being defined as a cis woman, you are seriously privileged and should listen and learn from all the non-trans women who are not.

      1. I’m very sorry to have caused you distress. I wish I had not posted the comment here – next time I will try to be more sensitive.

        I certainly agree that you shouldn’t have to let people know you have a vagina et cetera in public. This is one reason I hadn’t thought of why it’s problematic to suggest that cis woman = woman with vagina. But people make assumptions about others’ genders & genitals all the time. If people see me as a woman, they’ll treat me as a woman and as a person with a vagina. Marina S wrote a comment saying the same thing about female vulnerability on Sarah Ditum’s post, (but I can’t reply as the thread is apparently closed) and she said that saying “I’m a cis woman” is like hanging a sign saying “kick me” on my back. But to me it seems clear that admitting that I have always been identified as a woman, or that I have a vagina and can get pregnant (actually I can’t but I recognised that’s not typical for a young cis woman) doesn’t mean I condone the treatment I have received because of it!

        I thought what I wrote was very clear and I did not say, and certainly did not mean to imply that your eating disorder and body issues, and those of other non-trans women (I have struggled with my body image and eating all my life too) aside from gender dysphoria are not painful, and I said that they are important and central for feminism. I feel you might have misunderstood me so I must have been less clear than I thought:

        Gender dysphoria can usually be cured by transition – that’s great! we can fix this agony! Let’s help people get that cure! (of course culture has to change to make this happen. I know it’s not simple)

        As you say, other female body image issues don’t have simple cures and we should be helping each other and challenging the cultural BS that causes them, not telling women it’s all in their heads, they need to get over it or just try harder or whatever horrible dismissive crap…

        Just to make a simple intersectional point – trans women also have eating disorders and other body image problems – not curable by transitioning.

        1. Well, I feel the same about the technical, space-making word cis, which is not meant to be freighted with attributes as as essential category, as I did at the start of the conversation, but don’t want to add to frustration with further argument. I have never condoned any abuse of you and I don’t want to facilitate abuse of you, so please delete my comments if you interpret them as an attack on you.

        2. I’ve deleted some of my comments to you because I was very upset and frankly I don’t want my own blog to be a place where I showcase how upset I am by people’s responses to these issues. They matter to me more than that.
          I’m sorry for saying you weren’t a feminist, that was unfair of me. Since it is not really bodies we are talking about at all but language and the violence language – its application and its withdrawal – does it is ridiculously hypocritical of me to then say “and you can’t have that word, actually!”

        3. I appreciate that 🙂
          But I was expecting to be disagreed with and kind of prepared myself. I wasn’t expecting to upset you, and I’m genuinely sorry. I hope I can keep on engaging and dissenting within feminist movement passionately and compassionately trying to make sure *nobody* gets thrown under the bus in the struggle, obviously including you.

        4. I think the conclusion I am coming to is quite simple: no one has the right to impose a gender identity on another person. If an AFAB woman does not feel she has an innate gender identity – if she believes gender to be a construct – then it is wholly against this principle to demand she identify as cis, in the same way it would be wholly against this principle to tell a trans woman or man that they couldn’t identify as transgendered. If gender was not a cause of so much pain – and if our society was not utterly obsessed with a divisive gender binary – perhaps we’d be shrugging our shoulders and all agreeing this was fine. But right now AFAB non-cis women are being asked to compensate trans women for the pain they suffer by giving up their own right to self-definition and acting as a foil to authenticate trans identities. This is not fair and it doesn’t address transphobia in any way.

        5. Well as I understand it, cis woman = AFAB woman, neither more nor less. The reason I think refusing to be called cis is potentially incursionary is that if the word cis does not carry the freight of being not-trans, then the word woman must carry that freight, and by implication only a person AFAB can be a woman.

        6. But it AFAB woman doesn’t mean cis (the clue is in the “a” for “assigned” – it has nothing to do with how she experiences herself). Cis describes a gender identity – a relationship with gender – which no one but the subject has the right to define. And if a woman feels gender is purely an oppressive construct, what right has anyone to say “no, you must have that relationship defined by me since you’re not authoritative enough”?
          Non-cis non-trans women experience gender differently to trans women. You cannot demand the former deny their own experience and reading of oppression in order to validate the latter. That is using one group of oppressed people as a foil for another. It is unjust. You can argue that how non-cis non-trans women see themselves has implications for how validated trans women feel as women. But to what end? Even if that’s true, how on earth can your logical conclusion be that millions of women who may associate gender with rape, abuse, lack of self-definition etc. fall on their swords and say “well, I guess me feeling validated doesn’t matter”? It’s better to live and let live, accept that some people have an undying faith in gender, some people don’t. Otherwise you’re just treating non-cis non-trans women like shit in order to make trans women feel better when in fact, if I can live with feeling hurt by what a trans women feels about gender (as long as she doesn’t wish me harm), she can damn well offer me the same in return. As a feminist – as someone who as a point of principle opposes the gender prejudice that harms trans women – I think it’s the very least I’m owed.

        7. But… no! Cis is not meant to express a specific relationship to gender. It is technical. (I accept it simply because I don’t think my claim to be a woman is more valid than others)

          “I don’t label anyone cis, society did when they started labelling people like me “trans” but cis people are never forced to wear their label”

        8. “Cis people are never forced to wear their label”??? Are you kidding me? Women are forced into “femaleness” every fucking day. The belief that women naturally “matches” them is murderous.
          “I accept it simply because I don’t think my claim to be a woman is more valid than others.” Well, good for you. As pointed out earlier, this is because you have the privilege of feeling your body matches the gender you were assigned. Most women – me included – don’t. And you are skating over the point that trans women feel they are women on grounds that are different to why I feel I am a woman. I think the grounds on which they feel they are women are offensive and oppressive. Does this mean I go “no, you bigots, you’re not women!”? No, I don’t, because I’m an empathetic human being who can live with diversity of beliefs if they cause me no harm. So why the fuck should I get the “you’re a bigot” shit in return?
          If you think “the reason you think you’re a woman isn’t valid because trans women are right” you should ask yourself why you’re not the bigot. Because you are erasing my experience and invalidating my womanhood with your arguments. It wouldn’t matter if you weren’t insistent on making non-trans women use the word cis (and your insistence and the quote you used demonstrate that its purpose is to render non-trans women a foil, not to reflect their own complex, tortured relationship with womanhood).
          I’m too cross to debate this any more because I think what you are saying is deeply offensive and you don’t show any willingness to explore why. Trans women have real feelings about gender but I don’t in your world. It’s a shitty attitude.

        9. No! I haven’t met anyone outside of feminist & trans activism who even knows what it means, much less expects me to use it! Cis is the alternative to ‘normal’ ‘real’ etc

        10. Why not non-trans? (I think because trans women want to feel non-trans women are not the default woman. But we are – it’s why we’re frogmarched into femaleness from birth – and that’s the whole basis on which misogyny is founded. Trans women being volunteers doesn’t change the reality of non-trans women being conscripts. Cis implies consent where there is none).

        11. why not ‘cis’ which is shorter and lexically opposite to trans? Why not ‘non-gay’ for example?

          You imply that trans women consent to sexism, which is surely unfair?
          No more time to comment, sorry x

        12. Except for, like, 2 books in the 70s or something, nobody has ever said that we should withhold treatment or transition from trans people. Not me, not Glosswitch, not even Big Bad Bindel (not even Big Bad Burchill, come to that!). So what are we arguing about here, Zanna? That it’s somehow erasing for individual women to talk about our bodies without reference to trans women? That if we don’t mention them, centre them, and prioritise them in every breath, we’re problematising their very existence? Who the hell needs that level of pandering from women?

          Except for men, of course.

      2. The abuse Glosswitch has received since the NS article has been off the scale. Even if one disagrees with every word she wrote, it did not warrant the sheer nastiness and barrage of misogynistic language that came in response. What made me so angry witnessing the abuse was the victim blaming of it all. The idea that she had ‘brought it on herself’ for writing about this subject.

        How misogynistic is that? It’s pure sexist online abuse. The idea that if women writing online don’t want to get shit – and really nasty shit – thrown at them, they should simply not write at all. How many times have I had MRA types say that to me? I do not expect to see that shit from other feminists! I’ve been amazed and horrified by the abuse she received and the willingness of women and men who ID as feminists to shrug off the abuse because she ‘wrote what she wrote’. We would not, as feminists, accept that attitude from anti-feminist men and yet somehow we have started to accept it from one another. It’s not ok.

        There’s also no thought given to how the abuse might be triggering or upsetting. It’s the setting up of certain women who it’s “ok” to hate on, and that sickens me.

        In other news, I found this a very moving blogpost that I think a lot of women will recognise – the idea that as women we learn from an early age to hate our bodies (to the commenter above who said this ‘wasn’t normal’ – it is not just normal, but re-enforced at every turn). We are constantly told that our bodies don’t live up to the ideal, and so we strive to match the ideal and then BAM! the ideal changes again. We are never good enough. It is hard to live with this message every day. Very hard. I consider myself a confident woman and yet I have not been, and continue not to be, immune to the message that in a patriarchal capitalist society, my women’s body is wrong. My tits are too big or too small, my waist is too big or too small, my hips and thighs are too big or too small, my hair is too long or too short or too straight or too flat or too wavy, my cunt is too hairy or not hairy enough, my legs are too stubbly – the list goes on and ON and ON and I am expected to spend my hard earned cash to change, I am expected to starve to change, to fit an impossible ideal. This is the reality, and yet when we talk about it, we are mocked or silenced for ‘caring’ about something ‘trivial’. But it’s not trivial, it is our lives. And we have to speak out about how living under patriarchy impacts on women’s relationships with our bodies.

        Finally, I think it’s important to note that in this post GW talks about a very personal and very painful experience which most commenters who disagree with her feel happy to ignore, or worse, diminish. That’s not kind. As I say above, even if we disagree, we can still show compassion and kindness to one another. And we can’t ignore the personal experiences of an individual, or silence them, just because it might seem ‘inconvenient’ to the argument. So much of feminism has been about consciousness raising and giving women a voice to speak their reality. It frightens me that we are moving away from this, or not supporting women who do this.

        So, in short. As feminists we must be able to disagree, to debate or argue. But we also need to hear one another, and we need to stop this culture where we abuse and attack. Feminists and women get enough shit from men who hate us. We don’t need to do it to one another.

    2. “If you’re trans I expect you know all too well an agonising experience of misgendering I haven’t been through.”

      I’m a ciswoman, and I’ve been misgendered multiple times throughout my life. A few times seemed to be honest mistakes; a few other times, going by the gleam in the eye of the man (it was always a man) calling me a man, I could only surmise that it was intentional. I should note that I’ve never been butch. I’ve always been easily identifiable as a woman since I wear my hair long and normally wear feminine clothing. That said, I’m not a particularly attractive woman, thus the misgendering, which I should also note often happened when I was in the company of more attractive women.

      Good for you for not being unattractive enough to merit a man calling you “sir”, “he”, or “him”.

  8. Having read what Glosswitch’s words, what strikes me is that women are told they are cis, and that privilege automatically comes with being that, when in fact we experience it as anything but privilege. Cis women are told we should cut ourselves via surgery, be smaller by dieting, sculpt our faces with paint and on and on…This is privilege?

    I am not, and would never deny that trans people suffer outrageous prejudice; I cannot wait for that prejudice to be over. But to greet any analyis of what cis women go through with ‘By talking about this, you’re erasing trans people’ is merely constructing a hierarchy of the damned.

    The huge sodding irony, of course, is that many of the same people who demand that first person arguments are accepted in other contexts, refuse to listen in this one. To then complain about ‘erasure’, as some (not all, but some do), is breathtakingly hypocritical. There are no winners here – except patriarchy.

  9. I’m really intrigued about why “cis” is supposed to be necessary for “space making”, as you put it Zanna. I want trans people to have the space to live in, the treatment they need to feel OK with their bodies, fairness, all the that is necessary to the happiness that I think any person is entitled too. But I don’t see how any of this is contingent on me and other women accepting the label “cis” and all it implies. I am not “on the same side as” my gender: gender is a structure I have to negotiate because it is socially imposed, but the fact I am an adult human female who does not wish to be other than an adult human female does not mean that I feel “identity” with everything that the gender “woman” entails. Gloss is right. When you insist women call themselves “cis”, you insist that they accept the place assigned to them in the gender binary. You may be happy to occupy that place. However, I don’t see why adult human female as a class should be further othered simply to provide a backdrop to trans politics – and I don’t see why this othering is necessary to the progression of trans rights, which as I’ve said, I support.

    1. I agree with all that Sarah has said (in a less annoyed manner than me). I do feel quite hurt by a lot of the comments here as I think there has to be a deliberate attempt being made not to understand in order to preserve some sense of “being inclusive” even if in fact you’re not (otherwise I seriously don’t get why people are incapable of empathy on this).

    2. I agree with all of this, and it seems like we’re getting to the heart of the disagreement here – or perhaps I mean the bedrock, the point at which the two sides are just in fundamental disagreement and neither is going to budge. We object to the label “cis” because we’re told it means identifying with the gender you’ve been assigned, and we cannot accept that label because to us, gender refers to socially constructed and externally imposed norms about how people with certain physical characteristics are supposed to behave. But the opposing view defines gender as an innate feeling or identity, that’s not imposed from outside, but essential to the person’s inner life or identity, and exists entirely independently of physical characteristics.

      If this is the case, if this is the source of the disagreement, is there any hope for progress? Can we move beyond this stalemate, if we recognise that neither side is likely to change their definition of gender? I’m starting to feel like we’re all doomed to keep banging our heads against a brick wall and talking past one another, using the same words but understanding them to refer to different concepts, and making no progress.

      Although, another part of the reason for the lack of the progress is the bad faith many participants to the disagreement bring to the table, assuming that if you can’t accept the other side’s definition of gender, you’re a raging bigot who wants people dead. That definitely impedes progress.

      1. But gender as a construct can be verified, gender as a feeling cannot, so it ends up being “battle of the feelings”. And that’s what I find particularly hurtful, the fact that if I say “no, I do not have an innate sense of gender and I hate the gender construct ‘woman’ yet I am AFAB and I am a woman” I am called a bigot. That statement merely says I am not cis. Why is it not believed? Why is my experience not valid? It is not that I don’t notice gender, I do, and I reject it, and the refusal to accept my rejection *does* replicate other ways in which women’s lived experience is devalued. To say that might make trans women uncomfortable but it needs to be said, at least if trans women see non-trans women as equal human beings and not objects against which to define their own personhood (and I think most trans women do not see non-trans women in such a negative light, but this is what the pro-cis argument necessarily presumes. It reduces non-trans women to functions of trans women’s self-definition and given that we’re already reduced to that by non-trans men, it really is unfair).

        1. This, I think can be explained by the logic of identitarianism, that denies you the right to define yourself in more general or universal terms – the only way in which our self-definition is permitted to go is towards the more particular, the more specific. So you can say “I’m not cis”, as long as by that you mean “I’m genderqueer, I’m agender, I’m pangender”, or some other particular label that differentiates you from others. What you may not do is refuse to define yourself in these particular, differentating ways, or refuse to play the identitarian game altogether. That threatens to disrupt the project of shaving our identities down into ever more fine-grained distinctions.

          There’s no arguing with the logic of that. The identitarian thinks that me refusing to accept one of their many labels is bigotry and colonisation. I think that them forcing a label on to me that I don’t want, and trying to get me to accept the logic of their politics of differentiation, is oppressive and fundamentally conservative.

  10. I’ve very recently woken up to the fact that I absolutely unaccept being called, ‘cis’. My reasons are that I don’t accept the idea of the female gender as it was assigned to me, so I can’t recognise an accord between my sex and it. I have an issue with religion, in the same way as I have an issue with gender. So I won’t describe myself as atheist or agnostic either. Not unless I also want to label myself with a word that means I don’t believe in ghosts (an unphantomista?) or aliens on Mars. If Trans people do believe in gender then knock yourself out. But don’t evangelise to me.

    1. In many ways I feel this should be unproblematic. Once we’re over the hump of saying “I reject cis” – which is a bizarrely controversial thing to say – isn’t it just basic that you don’t tell someone that they relate to gender in a different way to how they claim? Don’t you just respect that, especially if the person saying that has experienced gender-based oppression all her life?

  11. I think Glosswitch has expressed many key points on how the social construct of gender chews our bodies up and spits them back out, regardless how well our exterior matches up with current moment gender ideals. But gender represents more than simply how we look.

    And these additional constraints are what most male-born genderists ignore when I say, “I am not cis” and my needs, as a female, are vastly different from those of a male, regardless how feminine he may look. Gender dictates our physical movement, how our walk should look, our mannerisms, how we sit, the tone of our voice, it dumbs girls down, it restricts our choice of childhood toys and teenaged sports, it chases us out of STEM subjects, it tracks us into lower paying career opportunities, it guilts us into constant caregiving, it despises us as we age, it mocks and belittles our concerns, it says we lie about rape, it prostitutes us, it marries us and beats us, it denies us control of our own bodies, it keeps our brain-dead bodies alive against our express wishes, so that the government may harvest another citizen from us, it aborts us or abandons us 10 days after birth simply because we are female.

    Women and girls are oppressed on the basis of our biological sex. That oppression takes many forms. The social control system which is used to frame all of this oppression as natural and desirous is called Gender. Femininity, with all it’s harmful effects, is forced onto females.

    1. This is a great comment – but I can’t believe we are still having to argue it! “I am cis” forces consent to gender on non-trans women. It demands that they swear allegiance to something they don’t wish to uphold and which harms them. It is cruel. However trans women feel, they should all have the basic human empathy to see how cruel this is. And if we have reached a point where non-trans non-cis women are just seen by some trans activists and allies as a foil against which trans women define their womanhood, then I think this is a disgrace. It’s misogynist and it’s dehumanising. That in itself is offensive enough without the self-centred cries of “bigot!” the moment you point it out.

  12. I can’t understand the objections to cis or cisgendered, except in this way.

    When I came out, I found that some (not all) straight people objected to being identified as straight. They were fine with me identifying myself as a lesbian, they said, or gay, but they were unhappy with the idea that there was a category “straight”, meaning “sexually attracted to the other gender”, and that they were in that category.

    Some of their arguments sounded superficially like discussions you hear at any BiCon: that people aren’t just defined by the gender they’re attracted to, that there are nonbinary categories of gender and of sexual attraction. But coming from people who were actually and definitely attracted only to the other gender, who were in fact heterosexual, these arguments did not really hold up. What these arguments really amounted to was the annoyance that they were no longer “Category: Default Human Being”, and they could think of me safely as “Category: Other, sub-category: Lesbian”.

    Cis / cisgendered fills an obvious lexical gap. I am cis, because when I was born the hospital staff and my parents looked at me and saw a baby girl: and the issues I went through, some of which I am sure you experienced too, others which I suspect you did not (butch lesbians, which I was, get a whole other array of issues) did not change the core of my knowledge: girl grew up to be woman. I did not transition. I want a word for myself. I do not need to demand that I be “Category: Default Human Being” while pushing trans sisters into “Category: Other, sub-category: trans.”

    1. There’s absolutely zero attempt here to engage with anything Glosswitch has argued. You’ve just turned up and asserted that all cis does is fill a lexical gap, without actually responding to any of the points Glosswitch makes – namely that contrary to what you’ve suggested, we are constantly being told that cis means a hell of a lot more than just “not having a desire to transition”. It’s almost as if you haven’t read even her post.

      If you are happy to call yourself cis, knock yourself out. But you have no right to demand that other women label themselves that way.

      1. I read Glosswitch’s post.

        I could have argued with it point by point, but that struck me as being both petty and irritating. So instead, I chose to respond to Glosswitch’s misunderstanding of what cis and trans mean.

        A trans woman was identified as male at birth, and transitioned to be a girl / a woman.

        A cis woman was identified as female at birth, and did not need to transition to be a girl / a woman.

        If you are “constantly being told” that cis means something else, then I think the argument is with people who tell you that. As Vanna pointed out upthread, when a woman says “I am cisgendered” she is not telling you anything else.

        But you have no right to demand that other women label themselves that way.

        If by that you mean that other cisgendered women should have the right to label themselves “not-trans”, or “born-woman”, or “default woman” well, sure, it’s a free country: obviously people can identify themselves as whatever they like. Just as straight women are free to insist “I don’t want you to identify me as ‘straight’. I am NORMAL.”

        But just as I ignored the homophobic straight women who preferred to think of themselves as normal and me as, you know, ABnormal, because that was just annoying and condescending and alienating, so too I intend to ignore the condescending cis women who prefer to think of us cisgendered women as normal and those trans women over there as something other.

        1. If you’ve read the post, then you either haven’t understood it, or you’re here arguing in bad faith. You’re still suggesting that the only reason anyone would object to the label cis is because they want to define themselves as default or “normal”, when the whole post is Glosswitch explaining why she doesn’t accept the label cis, and it’s not for that reason.

          I’ve got no issue having a label that means not-trans, if by that you mean “having no sex dysmorphia and no desire to change my body or my biological sex”. But I will not accept a label that means “identifying with the gender you’re assigned”, because the whole reason I call myself a feminist is because I don’t identify with the gender I’ve been assigned, and because I feel that that gender oppresses me.

          It’s incredibly uncharitable and pretty bad faith to disregard all of that and tell me that the reason I don’t want to accept the label “cis” is because I deliberately want to Other trans women and present myself as “normal”, when I’m telling you that that’s not the case.

        2. You’re still suggesting that the only reason anyone would object to the label cis is because they want to define themselves as default or “normal”, when the whole post is Glosswitch explaining why she doesn’t accept the label cis, and it’s not for that reason.

          Glosswitch’s post suggests strongly that she doesn’t know what cis or trans mean, just as it appears you yourself do not. As this seems improbable, there seemed no point arguing with her statements point by point. Further downthread, Glosswitch clarifies that she does want cisgendered to be dropped because she thinks of cis as “default woman”.

          But I will not accept a label that means “identifying with the gender you’re assigned”, because the whole reason I call myself a feminist is because I don’t identify with the gender I’ve been assigned

          Really? The reason I call myself a feminist is because I believe in and work towards equality for women. (I also identify as the gender I was assigned at birth.) I object to the idea that the gender I was assigned at birth oppresses me: it’s not the gender but the patriarchial paradigm that is oppressive.

          It’s incredibly uncharitable and pretty bad faith to disregard all of that and tell me that the reason I don’t want to accept the label “cis” is because I deliberately want to Other trans women and present myself as “normal”, when I’m telling you that that’s not the case.

          Well, true, as you appear to be identifying yourself as trans in this comment.

  13. surely if this was a technical, space-making lexical category-word, then there would be no people going around talking about “cis privilege”, “cis tears”, etc. If it was just a neutral term, to do that sort of thing would actually sound linguistically wrong. In fact, there are loads. It’s quite clearly used as a politically loaded category, intentionally, by the *overwhelming* majority of the people who use the word at all. I don’t think this innocent interpretation is going to fly and nor is the analogy with “straight”, which was also quite definitely meant to be a political category.

    I don’t think any attempt to separate the bare word “cis” from the meaning under which “cis woman” is implicitly stated to be an intrinsically privileged category of person relative to “trans woman” is going to get off the ground. If someone wants to create a terminology which doesn’t have that loading then they’re going to need to start again with a new word it seems to me; otherwise, the alternatives are to stop using it, or to own the implications and defend the (in my view rather unlikely) categorical interpretation.

  14. the concept of ‘cis’ also completely evades the fact that there are AFAB people who experience sex and gender dysphoria- to a more severe extent than that reported by many trans-identified individuals- and yet because we do not seek transition and do not otherwise seek to position ourselves rhetorically away from the woman-ness imposed on us by society, we are supposedly in collusion with the forces of gender.

    I experience horrible feelings of disconnection from the femaleness of my body and at times abject horror at my sex characteristics. if I brought these feelings to a doctor I am certain I would be put on the course towards FTM transition. but because I live as I am and try to come to terms with my femaleness and my lesbian orientation, and understand my feelings of body hatred and dysmorphia as things created in my mind by a deeply misogynistic society, I am “cis privileged”, and somehow deeply socially advantaged at the expense of trans-identified individuals (because that is what a claim of privilege means; the privileged gain their power not through magical means but through exploitation of an oppressed class). for all I live my life as a painfully visible butch lesbian, my decision not to pursue a life as a surgically-created straight man supposedly gives me great advantages over, say, a married heterosexual female who calls herself “genderqueer”.

    I have yet to see a satisfactory explanation of where exactly the line between trans and cis lies, other than the nebulous and equally unexplained idea of how one “identifies” with regards to gender. the lines between straight and gay people, white and black people, upper and working class people, are fairly easily defined and enable the oppressed class in each case to identify one another and organise as a group. the boundary of “trans” seems to ultimately be only “because I say so”.

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