On Cisgender Privilege

Privilege represents an interesting phenomenon, if only because it is least visible to those who possess it. Describing male privilege, Simone de Beauvoir says: “Man superby ignores the fact that his anatomy also includes glands… he thinks of his body as a direct and normal connection with the world, which he believes he apprehends objectively,” (33). As man sees himself as a natural state, blind to his privilege, so too do white, straight, wealthy, or cisgender individuals. For many people, this last form represents the most illusive form of privilege, manifesting in people never misusing “sir” or “ma’am”, being able to use the “Men’s” and “Women’s” clothing signs in Target to quickly find your section, or never having to wonder which bathroom to enter to minimize conflict.


A more global example of cisgender privilege can be seen in the Caster Semenya Controversy. Not only was privilege present in the fact that only Semenya, and not other female athletes, was tested – implying that society was unwilling to believe that she actually fit neatly into the gender binary – but the delicate nature of this privilege can be seen in the fact that “Caster will probably face unfair prejudice the rest of her life,” (Wonkam 3).



Beauvoir, Simone De. “The Second Sex: Introduction.” Introduction. The Second Sex. New York: Knopf, 1953. 32-40. Print.

Wonkam, Ambroise, Karen Fieggen, and Raj Ramesar. “Beyond the Caster Semenya Controversy: The Case of the Use of Genetics for Gender Testing in Sport.” Journal of Genetic Counseling 19.6 (2010): 1-4. Print


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