Why Can’t We All Just Hug?: The problem with doing away with “cis” and being “just people”

Over the last few months there has been a proliferation of feminists writing posts which seem to repeat the same phrase “Why can’t we all just be people?” This makes it sound like a Utopian idea where people will no longer be segregated by labels and we can just hold hands and run under rainbows. Or does it? These posts rarely to never want to abolish the terms men & women. Their focus is squarely on the terms cis and trans.

Firstly, let’s go back to that idea of doing away with the labels “man” and “woman”. If we got rid of those words (and did nothing else), would the oppressions women face disappear over night? Would women no longer be expected to be the parent who takes a career break in most heteroxexual family units? Would they no longer have to face more violence (sexual and otherwise) than men? Would their female clothes suddenly be replaced with a unitard a la Bowie? Or Women’s mags all suddenly go bankrupt? Would the diet industry stop fat shaming women? Would our worth no longer be judged by our appearance? Just by getting rid of those words we wouldn’t get rid of all the other crap that comes with womanhood. But it would make it harder to identify the ways in which one set of people’s (women’s) experiences differ from another’s (men’s). And if we can’t identify those problems they’ll become much harder to solve. If anything, no longer being able to name that experience would make things significantly harder to improve. I’d hope that even the gender abolitionists could see that in order to “abolish gender” removing the terms men & women is probably not the best place to start. By erasing the words we use to define an experience, we erase the ability to fight that experience in the public consciousness.

Secondly, and back to my earlier point- they only want to do away with the terms cis & trans (and possibly queer/ non binary) so why don’t they say “why can’t we all just be women & men?” It never happens. None of the “I’m not transphobic but….” people ever just argue for calling trans women, cis women and other femme folk “just women”. That’s pretty revealing of their true intentions. There’s the implication that these people aren’t “like us”. Which potentially kind of puts any none cis femme people in the category of “____” a group of people who can’t identify themselves, their shared experiences of oppression, nor their shared efforts to end those oppressions.

Thirdly, because they’re not really interested in the term trans at all, and they don’t really care if trans people are “just people”, really they just don’t want to call themselves cis or any other term that means “not trans”. I’m generally of the belief that people should be able to self-identify how they’d like BUT let’s think about this for a minute what if we broke the world down into these binary categories: “Disabled: Just People”, “Black: Just People”, “Lesbian: Just People”, “Old: Just People”, “Women: Just People”. It’s pretty clear that that would be tremendously othering. By identifying one demographic by a specific name but giving all other possible demographics the title of people, you’re implying that the specifically named demographic isn’t “just people”, you’re implying that they’re not people at all, or if they are they are lesser people or to quote the Nazis “untermenschen” (Yeah I Godwinned- so sue me).

Until we are all equal and oppression is a thing of the past doing away with all demographic descriptors would be a pretty dangerous thing. I write about my life as a disabled person because I want to fight the way I am treated, and also because abled people don’t experience a lot of what I (and many other disabled people) do. If I can’t give that experience a name that experience will still be there, but how could I fight it? And how could I find my comrades in arms? Of course they’re not arguing to do away with the term “disabled”, just like they’re not fighting to do away with the names of races and ethnicities, or “men & women”. Their “just peopling” has a pretty limited and some would say biased focus.

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