Definitions! Cissexism and binarism! For Google!

Posted: December 27, 2010 in Bodies, Damned binaries, Gender, Internet
Tags: ,

Enough people are getting here on Google search with things like ‘definition of binarism’ or ‘cissexism definition’ that I actually feel the need to write a definition rather than allow them to infer what they can from my post Definition of cissexism/binarism. Apparently for ‘definition of cissexism’ I am the second search result.

So. Definition of binarism. Binarism is the prejudice against people who are outside the gender/sex binary, or more commonly the stubborn belief that they don’t actually exist. Basically, it is extremely widespread, rarely acknowledged because the subject doesn’t come up often, and absolutely bloody horrible to confront. It’s a product of a ciscentric, highly binary culture that roots identity in gender/sex and refuses to acknowledge anything outside of the binary of man/male and woman/female. It manifests in many ways, both against people who lack binary gender and intersex people; you see it written less often about anti-intersex prejudice, but it is definitely applicable (as, I suppose, is sexism) and should be used. Binarism can also apply to the conception of gender as a spectrum ranging from man/male to woman/female with the idea that nothing can be beyond that spectrum. Any denial of existance for someone outside the binary is binarism, and any discrimination based on that is binarist discrimination. It can also be other discriminations founded on a deep belief in things as a BINARY!!!! and NOTHING CAN BE OUTSIDE OF THE BINARY!!!

And definition of cissexism. A cis person is one for whom assigned sex, internal sense of sex, assigned gender and internal sense of gender all match up. So that would be a male-assigned & identified man, or a female-assigned & identified woman, since our culture doesn’t assign people outside the binary. A person may also be either cissexual or cisgender without necessarily being both, although often the two correlate. Cissexism is prejudice and discrimination against people who are not cis. It is closely related to transhatred, but focusses more on the ‘rightness’ of the cis experience rather than the ‘wrongness’ of the trans experience and is generally used to refer to more subtle prejudice and discrimination against non-cis people than transhatred, which tends to be used to refer to acts of extreme bigotry.

So there you go, Google searchers. I hope you’re going to use this knowledge wisely. If you are experiencing any discrimination, know that it is not your fault, and that the kyriarchy is in the wrong. Know that there are always people who value you for you, even if you haven’t met them yet. Know that you are human, and worthy.

If you think you have been discriminatory, or don’t think it but have been told you have, think this all through. Binarism is so normalised as not to even be noticable to most people. Cissexism is very nearly as prevalent. You probably do have kyriarchally-instilled views of this type. Don’t dismiss how harmful they are to others, and don’t feel the need to hang onto them; they are not a part of you, they are an ugly parasite the kyriarchy has planted in your head. Educate yourself on privilege and move on, being considerate to all. Bear in mind that you probably also have many other kyriarchal views instilled by your privilege; there are many other prejudices that are massively normalised and equally unacceptable, and when I have time I will add a list of as many prejudices, privileges, blind spots and discriminations as I can think of as another page on this site so that they can be checked.

  1. Dreki says:

    I think that the idea that anyone outside the binary MUST be between male and female is an extension of binarism as well. It’s essentially upholding the idea that there are only two REAL genders- because everyone must be a combination of the two (and that isn’t a distinct, valid identity- and, besides, everyone has an [“opposite” of the assigned sex] side! Just like everyone’s a little bisexual).
    I can see peope saying “Oh, I’m not binarist! I know some people are both!” while erasing the genders of anyone else. Baby steps, but still pretty problematic.

    you see it used less often about anti-intersex prejudice
    I don’t think this is true, it’s just used in different ways. Because you can’t erase the physical evidence of intersex people, people instead grasp at straws to define intersex bodies according to thebinary, completely destroying any chance for intersex people to define their own bodies rather than just denying the existence of intersex people. (although there’s also defining intersex based on someone’s own idea of it, generally being whatever the personc onsiders “both sexes”)

    Binarism is what causes most of the abuse of intersex people at the hands of doctors and their parents. If people didn’t believe that there are only two valid sexes and only two genders (that match up to a certain sex), then it wouldn’t be as acceptable to put intersex people through non-consensual surgery as infants and young children, and all the other things that intersex people are put through throughout their lives.

    • JKBC says:

      Yeah, I see what you mean about people getting that people can be between male and female but not getting anything outside of that as binarist. I’ve updated the post to reflect that. That stuff is horrible, and I really dislike it when people say ‘everyone’s a little bit bisexual,’ because I think, yeah, but what does that MEAN? Which two genders? I know they mean the binary pair, and that’s bad because the word doesn’t have to be binarist.

      With that sentence about intersex people, I meant that I haven’t seen the word binarism used about the abuse of intersex people – changed it to say written to better reflect that, it wasn’t very well worded. It certainly is binarism, and it causes some absolutely terrible violations of bodily autonomy and the right to self-definition.

      • Dreki says:

        Yeah, it is REALLY awful. I got it a lot on a trans forum- it was disgusting. When I was trying to figure myself, someone condescendingly rolled her eyes at me that I couldn’t be my gender, that if you aren’t a man or a woman you MUST be both. Common sense! And then, later, a mod would bully people who had a gender identity he didn’t like, finally telling me that my gender is inhuman (did you know that EYEBALLS have a binary gender? I didn’t!). The most the admods offered me for that was “Well, labels don’t really mean anything, we’re all just people, right?”. Eurgh.

        Ah, that makes a lot more sense. I’ve actually seen dyadism a bit with intersex people, but I’ve seen binarism as well from intersex people. It wouldn’t surprise me if some intersex people are trying/would try to distance themselves from the non-cis movement so wouldn’t want to use binarism because we do.

        • JKBC says:

          Ew, yes, that forum sounds awful. And that totally appalling cover-up phrase, ‘well labels…’ – fair enough if you don’t want to label yourself, and fair enough if you don’t want to get involved in other people’s processes of self-discovering that involve labelling, but it’s a really shitty thing to do to deny someone’s identity and then hide behind an ‘I don’t believe in labels.’ If you don’t believe in labels, you shouldn’t disparage other people who want their identities respected.

          Dyadism is a pretty useful word, and valid, as is binarism – I think there may be slight differences in use between the two words, but I’m not sure (possibly dyadism is more related to sex, and binarism to gender? Not sure…). It wouldn’t surprise me if some intersex people are trying to distance themselves from the non-cis movement; while it seems that the two movements would be complementary, the amount of binarism/dyadism in many binary trans areas must be very painful for intersex people, and there have been instances of transphobia from some intersex people and communities towards non-cis communities. But that’s how kyriarchy works, through divide and conquer; there are so many axis of oppression and it becomes easy to divide people along them, helped by the neglect of intersections from some communities.

          • Dreki says:

            Exactly, that’s the biggest problem. And so often people pull that one out while identifying as something (straight/gay in terms of sexuality, man/woman in terms of gender), so clearly they do care about labels. Just not ones they don’t like.

            I’m not sure if there are real differences beyond who I see using them, I think the first intersex person I saw talk about dyadism talked about sex and gender dyadism. It may just be more meaningful for intersex people than binarism. It’s sort of odd for me, personally, because in polyamorous communities “dyad” has a different meaning.

            There’s a lot of ignorance about intersex stuff from non-cis people, which can be pretty painful as well. Apparently non-cis people have even said that intersex people are “lucky” to have been subjected to non-consensual surgery as infants because non-cis non-IS people have to wait until they’re adults to get it. Or go into intersex spaces trying to find out how to be diagnosed as intersex/appropriate the label, thinking that they get free transitions or that it’ll bring them societal acceptance. The binarism is bad, but I think those may be a bigger problem. They also have the problem of facing transphobia when they come out (so do a lot of cisLGB people), which is aggravating that some people respond to transphobia by being transphobic, but does happen even to non-cis people, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they’re also taught transphobia even more than most people by doctors and parents who want to justify playing God as well.

            It is how the kyriarchy works, not really much we can do about it. It’s pretty sad that I have to brace myself for transphobia when I try to educate myself about intersex people to try and break the cycle, and I’m sure intersex people have to brace themselves for interphobia if they want to educate themselves about trans people.

  2. […] Definitions! Cissexism and binarism! For Google! […]

  3. JKBC says:

    ‘Hypocrisy, damned hypocrisy’ on the part of the anti-labels folk. I don’t mind if people don’t like labels, as long as they’re consistent regarding themselves and don’t try to tell other people what to do.

    I don’t know, it was my impression that there might be a subtle distinction but I’m not really sure. Yeah, that must be a bit odd; the two evidently come from the same root but have ended up with pretty different meanings. I believe it can also refer to something in chemistry as well.

    Non-cis appropriation of intersex identity, ouch. And nobody should ever say someone is lucky for having their bodily autonomy compromised, that’s a massive degree of insensitivity. It’s terrible that people do respond to transphobia by doing it themselves, but… people trying to dispell transphobia try to do it any way possible, and if engaging in it themselves seems the easiest way, they’ll do it. It doesn’t make it right, but it makes it understandable.

    Hopefully eventually enough people will do the necessary bracing to bring various branches of the anti-kyriarchy movement together. It sucks that people have to brace ourselves and no-one should do it if they don’t feel safe. Bringing together the movements with education and consideration is the only way I can see to end kyriarchy, but it’s hard when we’ve been divided so much, so often and so deep.

    • Dreki says:

      Yeah, I can understand anti-label people who don’t really identify as anything and are anti-label partly because of the trouble they’ve had failing to find a label that fits them and how not having a label when everyone expects you to makes them feel. But if you’re going to identify with a label and then say “labels don’t matter” to justify attacking someone else’s, it’s just problematic.

      There probably is a distinction, I just haven’ seen enough use of dyadism to be sure of what it is. I feel like they have different connotations, but I’m not really sure what they are.

      • JKBC says:

        Problematic and plain bigoted, unfortunately. It must be kinda hard to be fully anti-label, I think.

        Yeah, fine language distinctions are… difficult, especially for language that’s not really got to the mainstream yet.

  4. […] Enmeshed in this movement are gross statements of classism, racism, ableism, sexism and cissexism (which is assuming that all individuals are the gender they were assigned at birth, one definition given here). […]

  5. aoawaywego says:

    Thank you for posting this! I tend to use this word a lot, not realizing that there are limited (accurate) definitions. I linked to you in one of my blogs on Why I will not join the “occupy” movements and am going to link you in another post or two! Thanks again.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s