Power disparities from Unexamined Privilege

As an Intro: I feel folks need a reminder. Cisgender allies — talk to your peeps about this. Do The Work of allyship. I really want to see communities live out their claims of allyship and “welcoming to trans folks” by listening to us (this essay has good action items). I’m sure us trans folks can crowdsource more action items (please do so in comments if you’d like).

I know I’m just “a” trans person with one perspective, but this essay was influenced by a lot of my Black Trans friends (Lexi, Buffy and others), as well as trans bloggers (Sam Dylan, Rest for Resistance) and Trans Language Primer (especially editors and sensitivity readers we have for that project). One perspective is never just one — it is infused with the influences of many. I am forever grateful for their wisdom and all they have taught me. May we continue to teach each other and support one another in the times ahead.

So sit down and listen for a bit. Thanks.


White cis people hold more privilege in society than trans people, and thus are afforded more leverage and respectability and more power than trans folks. Cis people have control of their narrative — trans people have to fight to win back the right to our stories.

Society treats trans people as less than, where we are not “neutral” or “impartial” enough, but (often white) cis people are viewed as “neutral” and “impartial” despite the fact that many are socialized with anti-trans bias from a young age. No one is immune to this socialization; we were all socialized with the gender binary and anti-trans bias, and unless cis folks actively acknowledge their bias and the power differential they hold, they will continue to cause harm with their Not impartial and Not neutral commentary about trans people’s lives and stories.

Cis folks are treated as default. Dismantle this within oneself and your church and organizations. Use trans-made resources to do so as so many trans folks have created resources for this.

White cis folks are treated as default. Dismantle this within oneself and your church and organizations. Use trans-made resources to do so as so many trans folks have created resources for this.

Recognize the power differential here, and dismantle it. It’s the only way we can stop normalizing anti-trans bigotry and elevating it to the status of “it’s-okay-to-debate-a-trans-person’s-existence.” Our existence is being made political by trans-exclusionary people and (often white) cis folks who do not check their privilege in discussions. That’s not okay.

Cis folks, especially white cis folks, we need you to really understand this and aid in the fight to dismantle white cis supremacy. To recognize it:

  •  To ask “why is there no trans people in this documentary or panel or policy discussion?”
  •  To ask “why is white cis folks being treated as the default and “neutral” experts on trans people’s lives and stories?”
  • To ask “why is there no trans people of color? Why is their stories not uplifted too?”
  •  To ask “why is no trans-made resources being used?”
  •  To ask “why can’t we use trans-made resources? And if we don’t know which are, why don’t we ask trans people?”
  •  To ask “how can we compensate trans people, especially trans people of color, for their emotional labor and creative work/resources?”
  •  To ask “Is this show, article, news story using binary language (like male and female, man and woman) and if so, can we push for more inclusive language (such as people, y’all, people with x reproductive organ)?”
  • To ask “is there accountability when those with privilege cause harm to marginalized people? What ways can that accountability be achieved? How can it be realized in a healthy way for victims and perpetrators?”
  • To Ask “how do we dismantle the treating cisgender people as default and create a safer society for all people of all genders?”

Cis allies, we need you to really think hard this year and evaluate your news, your informative articles and shows, and to really help us in this fight. Our lives should not be up for debate. Our stories should not be a fight for us to reclaim. Our words, art, creative work, and resources should be seen and used more than cis-made resources, and should be promoted.

We fight to reclaim our stories. Fight for our creative work to be seen as valuable, where when it is used we are compensated and promoted.

We fight to be seen as equal to any cis person.

We fight for equitable solutions to the many oppressions we face, especially for our trans siblings of color, where we dismantle these oppressions.

This will mean white cis folks will have to give up some of their power and privileges, but that is part of being an ally.

By Aibird

Open the door, step inside. Here you find a forest, teeming with animals and birds, which sweeps up the sides of snow-capped mountains. Here in the small pocket of beauty, one finds the essence of my soul. A writer at heart, I delve deep into the finer details of humanity's spirit, and seek to share with others what gems I uncover. I find life exciting and full of interesting surprises, and despite the great pain that often confronts me, I persevere with the joy in my heart still bubbling, and the light of my soul still aflame. There is a time and a place to introspect one's self, but often enough it is best to not look back in regret, but leap forward in the present toward the achievement of one's deepest dreams. I am a wanderer. An explorer. One place cannot contain me for long, but to my friends and family, I remain loyal, for love is not bound by time nor place. Once cultivated and nourished continuously, it binds people together on a journey through the unknown reaches of life.

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