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Cissexism (or cissexual assumption) is the appeal to norms that enforce the gender binary and gender essentialism, resulting in the oppression of gender variant, non-binary, and trans identities.
Cissexual privilege, a term coined by Julia Serano in Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity, is "the double standard that promotes the idea that transsexual genders are distinct from, and less legitimate than, cissexual genders". In 2010 the term "cisgender privilege" appeared in academic literature, defined as the "set of unearned advantages that individuals who identify with their biological sex accrue solely due to having a cisgender identity". Cissexist ideas of what bodies must correspond to what gender presentations and identities is the root of transphobic and transmisogynistic violence.
In her book, Serano argues that cissexual people, lacking discomfort with their biological sex, project that experience onto all other people, "thus transforming cissexuality into a human attribute that is taken for granted". Serano writes that cissexual assumption is invisible to most cissexual people, but "those of us who are transsexual are excruciatingly aware of it."
Words and concepts like "genetic" or "biological" males and females foster the idea that cissexual genders are more authentic than those of transsexuals, but Serano argues against the validity of such terms. "Genetic sex", in fact, cannot be determined by looking: we are unable to readily see people's sex chromosomes and, furthermore, "a person's genetic sex not matching their assigned sex occurs more often than most people would ever fathom." The term "biological sex" is often used to refer to the matching up of particular gender presentations with particular genitalia, but this again is a cissexist assumption based on what is visually discernible.
"The truth is, when we see other people and classify them as either female or male, the only biological cues we typically have to go on are secondary sex characteristics, which are themselves the products of sex hormones. That being the case, as someone who has had estrogen in her system for five years now, shouldn't I be considered a 'biological' woman?" – Julia Serano, Whipping Girl
The term is often considered to refer to a more subtle form of transphobia, that makes the assertion that being cisgender is the default and being transgender is abnormal or unnatural.
- Serano, Julia (2007). Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity. Berkeley: Seal Press. pp. 162–173]. ISBN 1580051545.
- Walls, N. E.; Costello, K. (2010). Explorations in diversity: Examining privilege and oppression in a multicultural society, 2nd ed. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole. pp. 81−93.