I found this wonderful YouTube video with Janet Mock where she ‘flips the script’ on Fusion’s Alicia Menendez. She asks Alicia what it is like to be a cisgender woman. For those of you new to the term cisgender, or cis for short, it is a term used to describe a gender identity where the individuals experiences of their gender matches the sex they were assigned at birth. Simply put, a straight persons gender identity matches the gender they were assigned at birth.
I could not imagine asking someone what it is like to be a straight woman or straight man. But the questions go further than that. Mock ask’s questions like: “Do you have a vagina?”, “If I were to look at you I would have never known you weren’t trans.”, “Do you feel the idea of your cisness holds you back in any way? What’s the one thing they need to know about cis people?” These questions are personal and invasive, yet this is the experience Mock says she goes through in every interview.
What I love about this video is it flips the table on a perspective we think is acceptable when someone is gay or trans. I include gay in this because, while the questions as gay men that we get are not as invasive, they are often stupid none the less. A question I heard early on when I was younger is, “How do you know you are gay?” Gosh, how do you know you are straight?
While I am not trans, I do have a sexual identity which is different from what was expected by my parents when I was born. The question of how I know who I am is a central question to being gay or trans. Had society and family been supportive, knowledgable, and encouraging of who I was from an early age, so much of what I went through struggling with my sexual orientation would have been so much easier.
When I began coming out three and a half years ago, the most common response I encountered was: “You need to be true to yourself. You need to be who you are.” I do not think that this same response is what trans men and women experience. While there is a world of difference between gay and trans, one commonality is feeling different from a very young age and realizing, at whatever age you realize it, that you are not who you are supposed to be. Discovering that you are not who you are supposed to be is a confusing, often shame inducing experience that straight people have little or no concept of. Cis people are who they were expected to be at birth.
Mock continues to break barriers and I love watching her take on conventional thinking with humor and grace.