Friday, December 3, 2010

Unpacking the Cis-Hetero Knapsack

 I'm a 23 year old Sinhalese woman in Minnesota by way of Dubai by way of Sri Lanka. I am a Womanist, and part of my womanism is figuring out how to be in solidarity with my transnational sisters worldwide. I'm a daughter, a sister, a partner and a writer. I'm a brown girl who knows Shakespeare by heart and devours anything Toni Morrison. I believe in radical, revolutionary living and loving.  I blog at Irresistible Revolution.

**this post is dedicated to my friends S.B, S.R, J.B, and M.B who daily inspire me with their courage, humor, warmth and allyhood. And to my brave, brave little brother, D**

Recently, the boyfriend and I were discussing white privilege and family dynamics in multiracial families. Our discussion culminated with us both reading over Peggy McIntosh's article on unpacking the knapsack of white privilege. At the end of her list, she talks about how writing down her privileges, enumerating them systematically, made them unavoidably, viscerally real to her. And so I started thinking, what privileges do I walk around with, encoded in my body, that are invisible to me? What follows is a result of this rumination. I decided to unpack my knapsack of cis/hetero privilege, and do it in a public forum so I can remind myself to always be accountable to the words I'm publicly attesting to. The list was intended primarily to enumerate my cis privilege, but of course it's almost impossible for me to separate my cis identity from my heterosexuality. So here goes:

1) I can openly, freely declare my identity as a woman and not be questioned/ harassed/ laughed at/ threatened

2) I can choose sexual partners in the assurance that they are comfortable with how my genitalia "corresponds" to their expectations of my gender presentation

3) I don't ever have to think about the life-threatening consequences of disrupting the expectation listed above

4) If I wanted breast augmentation/ reduction, lyposuction, botox, vagina-lift, or laser hair removal, I will not have to go through mandatory evaluative therapy beforehand

6) Most of the procedures for enhancing femme, cisgender identity (like those listed above) are fairly affordable and widely provided by physicians

5) My form of gender identity is not listed as a disorder on the DSM of the American Psychological Association

6) I can indulge my particular aesthetic need for feminine apparel 24/7, 365 days of he year, in any social or private setting

7)I can have my pick of gynecologists without worrying about their reaction to my genitalia

8) I can go to most hospitals/ doctors reasonably assured that my genitalia won't count against me

9) If I choose to become pregnant, I won't be called "monstrous", "freak of nature" etc

10) I can freely contemplate pregnancy without also thinking about my gender identity/ presentation

11) I can legally marry my partner

12) When we walk down the street holding hands, we are fairly safe from harassment

13) We can be publicly affectionate without worrying about our gender presentation inviting unwanted attention

14) In Women's Studies classes, I can be assured of cis-female experience being widely discussed/ represented/ centred

15) I can join in discussions about sex/ sexuality and be assured that most people won't look askance at me

16) I can enjoy most forms of media without worry that my sexual/ gender identity is caricactured/ reviled/ constructed as 'false' or 'misleading'

17) I can sit/ stand/ dance/ walk/ talk the way I'm comfortable without my gender identity being questioned and my physical safety threatened

18) I can CHOOSE whether to support transphobic events like the Michigan Womyn's Folk Festival

19) I'm fairly assured that I wouldn't be questioned about my participation in "women's rights" issues

20) When women's issues come up, whether in the media, in informal settings, in academia etc I can be assured that I count under the label 'woman'

21) I can browse clothing stores/ try dresses and shoes on, without inviting suspicion and harassment

22) I can secure a passport, driver's license, state-issued ID etc that matches my lived gender identity

23) As far as my gender identity is concerned, I can travel without fear of detainment/ harssment/ embarassment

As you can tell, this a bit rough, but I've committed myself to continuing this list and writing down more instances of my cis/hetero pivilege as they come up.