Longtime LGBT activist and AmericaBlog founder John Aravosis is kind of a legend. He defended a gay sailor in the earlier days of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” He led a successful boycott of Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s racist and homophobic show and he outed GOP press bitch Jeff Gannon as a conservative operative and male prostitute.
But when it comes to the word “cisgender,” he’s largely ignorant.
In an article about Dan Savage’s second glitterbombing, Aravosis claims “cis” and “cisgender“—terms used to designate non-trans people in academia since at least the 1990s—were slurs akin to referring to heterosexuals as “breeders,” African-Americans as “colored” or transgender people as ‘trannies.” He implies that trans people use “cis” as a way to assert power and privilege over non-trans folk.
It’s kind of surprising that a white male would complain about privilege. As blogger Zinnia Jones points out, people seldom get to decide on the words used to describe them.
Of course, Aravosis seems to have a bigger beef with the trans community. In a Salon article from 2007 he questioned how the “T” got into LGBT in the first place, and suggested it was transgender rights that was holding back the passage of ENDA.
In this instance, though, by calling cisgender a slur rather than accepting it as a connotation-free taxonomy, Aravosis seems to want to avoid any identity label that might put him at a disadvantage.
That’s a weird position for a writer, LGBT activist and lawyer to take.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The first sentence of the last paragraph has been edited since publication for greater clarity.