Hannah Witton posted a video today about a Twitter thread posted by Heather Flowers (they/she), who happens to be a trans game developer. In the thread Heather Flowers asks CIS identifying people to take thirty minutes and consider their gender identity. They then go on to ask seven questions as a jumping off point to start the introspective conversation.
Hannah Witton expounded upon the idea, and presented the thought that since CIS is the statistical/societal norm, that it's treated as the default and thus not considered a gender identity. I found the idea to be intriguing, and anecdotally true, so I decided to go through and answer Heather Flowers's list of questions myself:
I enjoy my privilege, I generally feel safe, I don't have to think about walking at night, I usually am not afraid of strangers, etc. I enjoy my assumed strength, and my actual ability to build strength. I enjoy my libido. I enjoy my aggression, especially paired with joy. I enjoy male camaraderie. My sexual organs, I know that there's a distinction between gender and sex, but, for me, my sexuality is very much tied into my gender identity. I don't think this is a hard rule, but it matters to me, for me.
My experience is most aligned with that of CIS male. While I don't agree or align 100% with anyone else, I mostly align with other people who identify as CIS male. My struggles, my pain, my joy, my belonging, my overall experience in life so far isn't really relatable to the trans, female, or gender non-conforming communities, and visa versa. There are parts of my experience that do align better with different communities, but I think that many non-CIS, non-male identifying people would find my story mostly not relatable, and, in turn, I'd find theirs not relatable.
Leader, breadwinner, strength, solidity, emotionally grounded, emotionally stable, impenetrability, virile, monogamous, stoic, aggression, fighting spirit, egotistical/egomaniacal, conservative, protective, enduring, and probable much more.
Overall, no I do not enjoy these expectations. I do enjoy some of them, or I enjoy feeling some of them, but the expectation, both from myself and society, are heavy and unwelcome. My moment to moment, day to day, and year to year feelings don't always align with the expectations, also many of these traits are contractions of others. It's impossible to be a person exemplifying all of these traits.
It's also very painful to find yourself failing at any of these, or worse, to be perpetually bad at them. I've often felt alone because I'm failing the societal standards and discouraged because I find myself failing the standards I expect of myself.
More recently, I've made a conscience effort to not put gendered expectations on people, but, obviously, I'm not perfect. At this point, I still assume an overall delicateness and softness to people presenting feminine, and an aggression and roughness to those presenting masculine. I assume I do this from social conditioning, but I don't know for sure. Part of it seems to be to be tied to the inherit traits of the superficial presentation, e.g. if someone is wearing delicate or soft material/colors/etc. I assume they are presenting as feminine. I think potentially contradictory, I don't associate most traditional western clothing styles very gendered anymore. For instance, I don't think of nail polish or dresses as feminine, nor jeans or flannel as masculine. It's the characteristics of both that I take my cues from. If the nail polish is hunter green: masculine, if the dress is black, and harshly cut: masculine. If the jeans are form fitting and cleanly distressed: feminine. If the flannel is jewel-toned and formed: feminine. I don't mean these to be moral judgements, just an insight to me assumption judgements.
I'd say greatly, but less so than the average CIS man. I'd like to present more extreme, both more traditionally masculine and feminine, but I'm scared of breaking certain gender norms. I'm deeply scared of being thought of as whimsical and playful, even though those are large parts of my personality. I'd like to dress more extreme, but some days I want dress more conservative. I'd like to be more whimsical, but I feel like I'd be stepping into gender territory I'm not welcome in. I'm comfortable with my own sexuality, but I don't want to offend another gender or sexual identity by acting in a way that could be taken as appropriation or mockery.
I also often make self-destructive decisions in order to appease the societal gender expectation.
I'd like to learn how to process pain better. I used to think I needed a thicker skin, but that makes one calloused. What I think I want to be able to do is be empathetic and sympathetic, take in the pain, but process it faster, not dwell on it and turn it into shame.
I could also take presentation risks. I know that statistically, most of my friends, family, and strangers will not honestly care about my self expression, and I need to just present more closely to my identity and let them get used to it. Some people will never accept me, because of choice, wounding, or ignorance, and like I said above, I need to be able to take it in, process it, and grow.
The way I interpret this questions is that I see visualization of one's gender as an extension of one's internal identity. I'm going to wear clothes, make fashion choices, with or against tradition, to make statements about how I internally feel about my gender identity that day. For me, I wear a present as fairly traditional CIS male, but with better than average tailoring. My facial hair is often more playful than average. I tend to choose strong and passionate colors. I'd paint my nails, but the damn things chip to easily, and I'm too indecisive (at least in polish color) to stick with something for a longtime. When I could grow my hair out, I'd often mix up my styles. I also want to look sexy, though I don't do this. Being desirable and desired is a part of my gender presentation. I lean less toward the stereotype of lone wolf, and more toward cult leader. Neither is a good model for society, but I think they are pretty good distillations of CIS male stereotypes.
So, I wanted to post my answers to these questions, not because I think they are applicable to anyone else, but because I think that, as a society, we need to normalize the difference between personal truth and global true, as well as the difference between opinion and moral imperative in this space.
I will make the moral declaration that I think need to accept that someone's personal truth should not be taken as applicable to anyone other than themselves. This, obviously, bumps up against cancel culture, but I'd rather not focus on that in this post.
What I'd like to focus on instead is that: people's internal assumptions and meanings are theirs, and theirs alone, and making moral judgement calls isn't the purview of anyone but those that individual deems them to be.
For instance, while I associate certain traits with masculinity or femininity or conflate sex and gender identity or even have opinions on visual presentations and my assumptions of their gender identity meanings, I am not applying —and, to be clear, don't feel I have the right to apply— those assumptions as globally true or moral imperatives. These are my thoughts, pre-judgement, pre-morality. What should happen next is I apply morality to those thoughts and then act according to my moral judgement.
What I'm saying is that I want to normalize people talking about sensitive subjects and speaking their truth without fear of moral punishment, specifically around gender identity.
As I said in my answering, I identify as CIS male, because the majority of my experience resonates with others in that identity, but it by no means defines my identity, it's a one-way street of me identifying with it, not the other way around. I'll talk about this more in another post sometime, but, in short, the misogyny, hatred, and ugliness associated with CIS male-dom isn't a mantle I want to put on. I wonder how many CIS men feel forced into taking on pieces of CIS male identity they don't identify with, and that ends up breeding more self-hatred, which is then taken out on other identities, perpetuating the cycle of misogyny and toxic masculinity. Again, too big to talk about here, but I think it's related.
I'd encourage any and all, CIS male identifying or otherwise, to take thirty minutes (or an hour in my case), and think about these questions. You may discover something about yourself, even if that something is that you're exactly the way you perceive yourself to be it's worth the introspection.