What is the “Cis Gaze” and Why Does it Matter?

June 18, 2014 in inQueery

headerNestled alongside popular social justice tags such as #YesAllWomen and #YesAllWhiteWomen on Twitter lives #Cisgaze. Originally, it began as a tag describing the ways in which trans* bodies are (both viewed and policed) by cisgender bodies. However, it has evolved into something much more than that; an offering of sorts, to help cis people understand their privilege and blindness regarding the experiences of trans* people; and also a way to help them understand how the world we live in, whether intentionally or otherwise, excludes trans people.

Endeavors to bring awareness to cis privilege and the struggles of trans* people has been attempted in the past, namely with the #fuckcispeople tag. However, where that tag received more hate than love, the #CisGaze tag was able to establish and promote a true dialogue among social media users. The creation of the tag is credited to trans* activist, Sophia Banks (@sophiaphotos). Her approach was decidedly aimed at trans* people, not cis people and rather than directly criticizing the cis community, she opened the floor by asking trans* individuals to explain their understanding and experiences under the cisgaze:

The flood of responses was almost instantaneous. Some ranged from larger, institutionalized experiences of cissexism and transphobia:

To everyday microaggressions:

To specific experiences of non-binary erasure:

To wider, encompassing thoughts that ring true to nearly all trans* experiences:

What #CisGaze stands to accomplish, on the heels of hashtags like #YesAllWomen and #YesAllWhiteWomen is the ways in which trans* people are left out of the conversation. No matter where you look, they are being left out of the conversation: trans* people left out of LGB conversations, trans women left out of women’s conversations, non-binary folks even left out of trans conversations. Tags like this are so incredibly important because they bring to light the people who are not being heard. These are experiences and thoughts that would not otherwise have been considered because cis privilege doesn’t consider them.

The tag did not come without push back, however. People criticized and satirized the #CisGaze tag, as well as an individual registering with the handle @CisGaze and posting really nonsensical things. However, what was interesting to find was that, proportionately, the ratio of true and honest conversation occurring and level of hate and satire was very much skewed in favor of productive conversations. That is, the hate was at a minimum. In fact, there were many who supported the tag and encouraged others to learn from it as well:

On that positive note, I urge everyone reading this, even if you don’t have a Twitter to go check out the #CisGaze tag. Whether it’s just to gain more knowledge for yourself, to like tweets on the tag in support or to participate yourself, this is a conversation that’s necessary and worth having and it’s being had right now.

Remy Lourenco is a Guest Contributor at InQueery.