top of page

Binary trans privilege

What is it and where do i get some?

Seeing the phrase 'binary trans privilege' floating around in the absolutely terrifying Trans Twittersphere™ and, um, what? It's pretty bold to claim that a specific type of trans existence is on the same level as huge systemic privileges like race and class, and the term doesn't rlly hold up when u examine it - there are so many trans men and women who are GNC or non binary that are left out of this artificial divide, who use apparently 'binary' pronouns (like Hava!), who aren't obliged to clearly explain their complicated gender feels to randos. Quite wacky for trans people to be policing other trans people's gender like this, hmmmmm?

I think what people really mean is a perceived divide between cis-passing people and others, which sounds distasteful so a new term had to be made which sounds euphemistic and doesn't really mean anything (cus then everyone will have to admit that we’re still...centering the cis oops). I think people are also trying to be critical in a roundabout way of assimilationist transes, which - hate to break it to u, plenty of non-binary assimilationists! 


I don't know much about it because I use YouTube to watch old come dine with me clips and keanu reeves interviews (Hava watches train videos - much better trans content) but from what I've heard there is a subset of (often) wealthy, (often) white trans men and women who 'pass' and have large platforms. They use these platforms to pander to the cis, to push Truscum ideology that claims trans people are only valid if they manage to navigate a gatekeeping, cis medical establishment correctly to end up looking like cis people believe trans people should look. This system is racist, ableist and inaccessible (just like everything under capitalism lol) so it totally makes sense that trans people would be allowed a large platform to push this ideology: not just as a false mouthpiece for the trans to the cis but as a false role model to deter potential baby transes.


Transmedicalism is a cis ideology that certain assimilationist trans people have adopted to gain conditional acceptance in to cis society. It is not an identity or a side effect of being medicalised or identifying as a man or a woman. We need to be rigorous in countering and debunking the Truscum wherever they raise their gross heads, but weird discourse claiming that all trans men and women have privilege over all non-binary people only gets in the way of this. 


The artificial divide of binary/non-binary seems like an attempt to lessen the more pressing divides of race, class and gender in the trans community and allows for an erasure of the very real problem of transmisogny perpetuated by other trans people. Trans men and trans women's experiences can't be lumped together under 'binary trans privilege' - there are already words for male privilege lol. This feels like an excuse to dunk on trans women for being supposedly gender conforming, when we should all know the immense pressure on trans women to conform to a very limited notion of womanhood, that to not 'pass' as a trans woman or trans femme is to be in constant danger.


This pressure is only alleviated by unlimited access to wealth and security, not just to access treatments that help you pass but to have secure housing, travel, funds etc. Access to these things provides much more safety than 'passing', but for trans women and trans femmes not born in to wealth, passing can be very tied up in this access. (Don't wanna be a bitch but does Caitlyn Jenner 'pass'? It doesn't matter, she doesn't need to). To get a bit conspiracy theorist for a sec, a lot of this feels like terfy intrusion in the chat which is entirely possible given the nature of Twitter. Taking attention away from transmisogyny, race and class, and on to an idea of binary trans privilege, only serves white wealthy (mostly afab) non binary people, does nothing to truly question the platform of privileged trans men and women, and holds less privileged trans men and women to account for a division which likely hurts them too. 

In general we should not be assuming that we can understand anyone’s gender and how they feel about it. We also should know by now that pronouns are signposts that point towards things and is not the thing itself, that many she/her trans women identify as non-binary in some ways (like Hava), that being a woman does not mean being cis or wanting to pass or wanting to assimilate, that all gender identies are varied and twisty and contain multitudes, and that gender is a tricky lil dybbuk anyhows. We can, however, definitely judge people by their actions. Any high profile tran who has fucked up on non binary politics has likely done so because they have bad politics full stop. Linking everyone's politics to their identity, i.e. I hold these identities so I'm correct, radical and pure (often notably leaving out class and blackness) does not allow for critique of ideas, and at the extreme end leads to bad situations like having an evil white gay man rig an election and then be applauded because…. allegedly he's gay? 


Trans people of the same race and class don't rlly get to gatekeep each other cus often we’re just fighting to survive, and anyway gender is a white ruling-class invention. The cis decide our gender for us, and trans people who serve as representatives for the cis are just caught up in that mess - they are often complicit for sure, but their privilege is controlled by the cis.


Let's not forget the real enemy here. The cis are laughing at us right now for letting them divide us over ideas they invented to try and make us more palatable. What this comes from is an idea that binary trans people will be able to exist and be gendered correctly more in cis society. This is a tricky thing to claim because the cis are the ones who put up the goalpoasts of passing/not passing, but I understand the thought process. Sometimes I wonder: if I identified as a man and used he pronouns, would I be misgendered less? Would people take the hurt I feel at being misgendered more seriously? Maybe, maybe not. Tbh, I doubt it. Either way, it would be cis people's fault, not trans men. 

I think this chat, along with many others that happen mostly online, comes from a place of deep hurt and isolation. If the only person validating your identity is someone on the internet, and they fuck up, that's going to affect u a lot. The answer to this is not more policing of identities and division, but more care for each other and irl spaces without cis ppl around: the ability to explore ones identity outside of a cis gaze and without having to exchange your experience for acceptance or clout. The cis capitalists in power think we are all freaks anyway, binary or non binary. They are not very well versed in our intercommunity discourses because tran = freak. Even the most ‘binary’ trans person is, to them, still marked as a tran and can never really be just a man or woman.


It’s sad that some privileged trans people would rather fight for a recognition they will never achieve rather than lift up their siblings, but the problem here is power and people’s desire to be close to it. Developing an abstract idea of privilege in reaction to bad chat from (relatively) high-profile trans people only ends up giving more air time to their ideas and causing friction amongst the rest of us.


TLDR; stop making new privileges when u dont understand race, class and gender yet lol

bottom of page