Thursday, March 13, 2014

Charlie Glickman on How We Identify Ourselves, Outside of the Gender Binary

Part of what got me to read this article was the title, Cisgenderfluid. For those outside the gender studies world, cis refers to a biological male or female, while trans refers to a a person who has adopted their natural gender in opposition to the one in which they were born. The terms cis and trans come from the world of chemistry.

I was drawn to this article because I have often identified myself over the last 2-3 years as cisgenderfluid, not knowing this was not an actual term in use. I live as a cis gendered man but experience myself as gender fluid:
Sometimes we feel male, and sometimes female. Often, we're someplace in between...or else we're both or neither . . .
Charlie Glickman wrote a brief but interesting post on this topic, and I guess he gets credit for adding the term cisgenderfluid to the lexicon of gender studies.


Charlie Glickman
Mar, 08, 2014

“How do you identify?”

That’s often a tough question for me to answer. As a general rule, I’ve shifted away from identifying as anything because I’ve found that when I do, it can be hard to let go of that self-identity when things change. In my experience, life brings lots of surprises that are difficult enough to navigate without adding the challenges of changing an identity. When I hear people say things like “I can’t be attracted to that person. I’m straight/gay/queer/lesbian/kinky/vanilla/etc.”, I see how their identity crisis is complicating their situation and I try to avoid setting myself up like that.

At the same time, there are words that I sometimes use to describe myself because they convey some useful information. Some of them are: queer, kinky, poly, able-bodied, white, Jewish, pagan, atheist, male, and cisgender. But many of these have been mutable over time.

In the last couple of years, I’ve been playing more with gender. I’ve always run a lot of yin energy and I’ve had a lot of fun exploring how that plays out in my life. On an energetic level, I feel very balanced between male and female and I like how that works for me. At the same time, using words like “genderfluid” to describe myself hasn’t felt accurate. I’ve called myself cisgender because it seems to accurately describe my baseline. I’m very present in my masculine body and in being a man. I’m also very aware of how I move through the world and that I receive the privilege that cisgender folks accrue. I know that receiving cisgender privilege feels like a misgendering to some people, but it doesn’t feel like that to me (even while I resent living in a world that gives me that privilege while denying it to so many others). I don’t experience tension or conflict between how I feel physically and how I feel energetically and emotionally, and I don’t think that transgender fits how I feel. So how do I describe myself when I’m simultaneously a cisgender man and genderfluid?

Obviously, by creating a new word: cisgenderfluid. It honors the cisgender aspects of my life while making room for the gender-creative parts of my psyche and my life. It acknowledges that I don’t face the same challenges that most trans* and other gender-transgressive folks do, and recognizes that I don’t fit into the standard box that masculinity comes in. It gives me the freedom to play with gender and to queer it, and it provides a foundation on which to stand. It makes room for the fact that my baseline is cisgender while creating space for me to step away from that when I feel like it. It expands the conversation about gender in some ways that I really enjoy, and it recognizes that I often occupy the space of both/and.

I’ve been talking with friends about this over the last few weeks and the more I have, the more this word feels like a good description for where I am at this moment in my life. I think there’s a lot of room here to play in and I’m going to check it out for a while. And if you’re curious about these terrains or if you think you might want to explore them, I invite you to come and join me.

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