For reference, I never agreed to the categorization “cisgender” and I feel very stigmatized by the word. I’m not being a smartass or provocateur. I’m upset.
I learned this word recently and that an identity label has been assigned to me upsets me. A lot.
And then I saw this graphic, a stigmatizing, fabricated, and manipulative “checklist of privilege” that included the “cisgender” identity label I never agreed to. This upsets me. A lot.
I’ll be transparent. This upsets me so much because my entire mission with Stand Up To Stigma is to look beyond generalization and see the individual. HAVING bipolar is different than being told I AM bipolar. Bipolar is a label defining my identity. My disease is not my identity. A label like “you are ‘bipolar'” and “you are ‘cisgender'” is integral to marginalization and stigmatization, especially when assigned by somebody else.
Being further transparent, I’m viscerally torqued seeing this unsolicited word “cisgender” included on the “privilege checklist” that also includes white, male, and Christian. I am male, I strive to live a Christ-like life, and I’m of half white ancestry, and it troubles me to my core to be categorized as someone who benefits and capitalizes at the expense of others based on such contorted criteria.
White, male, Christian, and “cisgender” is a checklist so broad and blanketing that pays no courtesy to the individual …
This is stigma.
Gathering together these broad and blanketing generalizations and creating a negative portrayal of people who were unwillingly shoved into this newly divined stereotype …
This is stigma.
Here’s full transparency: Being thrown into a nomenclature hierarchy I had no say in is what upsets me. Being told who I am and what I believe is what upsets me. Using a farcical stereotype to claim explicitly I’m entitled believing I’m better than others is what upsets me.
Fighting with every atom I possess in breaking down the inequality of biases, stereotypes, and prejudices is a rallied personal sensitivity that leaks into the everthing I do and everything I am. This is partly from my life experience, and in larger part the peers who partner with me and their life experiences. A constant of my advocacy platform in behavioral health is dispensing with this sort of biased identity label, and I’m a lifetime supporter of changing the narrative to be inclusive rather than “something other.”
Gender fluidity and gender identity advocacy is admirable. However, it isn’t something I signed up for and I really don’t appreciate the liberty being taken defining my identity for me. And, I really l don’t appreciate using this bogus identity label to claim I take advantage of others. The existence of the word “cisgender” runs absolutely contrary to my strongly held values of inclusivity and not segregation.
Want to know who I am? Just ask. Don’t assume.
Hi, I’m Steve. I’m a dad. I’m a son. I’m a brother. I’m a friend. I’m a best friend. I’m a significant other. I’m a public speaker. I’m a stand up comic. I’m a writer. I’m a geologist. I’m an advocate. I’m a lover of music, mosh pits, nature, history of science, astronomy, Route 66, archaeology, national parks, road trips, rockhounding, caving, camping, hiking, skiing, rockclimbing, surfing, physics, chemistry, using campfires for science experiments, reading, travel, road trips, learning, culture, people, education, and understanding.
These qualities and values are how I define myself. This is my identity.
I am not “cisgender.”
If the intention of creating a stigmatizing identity label like “cisgender” is social justice and social equality, then the intended target was completely missed. Somewhere between repurposed ironic and unintentionally hypocritical is how I see this.
I have a few additional comments for clarification, based on feedback I’ve received from people whose voice I value.
The first thing I’ll share is it’s a non-negotiable for me to apologize for my emotions. When I feel an emotion it’s for a reason that makes sense to me. Anyone who is recovering from a close relationship with someone who has narcissistic personality disorder understands this.
The second comment I’ll share is words are important, and how words are used are at least equally important. Anyone backpeddling from a late night texting blitz understands only too well.
Next, I’m fully responsible and fully cognizant of my writing style. It’s an exact reflection of how I speak, which is forthright, honest, and passionate. Like my emotions – of which my writing and speaking are my emotional conduit to the world – I can’t apologize for the things I say (caps for empathis) UNLESS WHAT I WRITE AND SAY IS INTENDED TO HARM SOMEONE ELSE. And since I never intend to hurt anyone else with my words, all’s good.
Finally, I want to share something Jim Ogle at NAMI Albuquerque instructed me on several years ago. I would get bent at behavioral health meetings because a participant would offer their view which ran entirely contrary to my beliefs.
Jim said, “Did you even listen to what they said? Have you bothered to understand why they feel like they do? No. You just got mad because what they said you took as an attack and an insult.
“Let me give you advice from what I learned in mental health advocacy. People can be on the same side and still disagree. Go ahead and get mad. It’s what you do with you anger next. When someone disagrees, take it as the opportunity to learn something you didn’t know.
“Sometimes you get so caught up in your own righteousness you don’t realize you’re being hypocritical. It lessens your effectiveness.
“Everyone’s advocacy needs occasional course corrections.”
Ultimately, Jim’s advice (after cooling down from being called a hypocrite) sank in and manifests in my worldview as this:
People can support my cause and still not agree with how I carry it out.
Just the same, I can support a cause and still not agree with how it’s carried out.
So now I listen to more than simply my kneejerk reactions. Now I accept that when someone passionately disagrees with me it’s okay, they don’t hate peers and peer needs. Now I’m open to course correction.
It (jokingly) pains me giving props to Jim calling me out. It’s good advice he shared. It’s great advice. And while I’m every bit as passionately controversial now as before (only at times), it’s tempered by the reality I haven’t thought of everything and how I advocate is going to piss someone off … and always with good reason.
Dedicated to my friends John and Bethany.