NOTE: Some of this post was revised on 15 April 2013.
What is "privilege" and what different types of privilege are there, particularly in the U.S.? Here's a good resource to answer that question. Note that it is a PDF file and so needs to be downloaded or opened in something like Google Documents. It is concise and clearly presented. It does note that for privileges to be challenged, the social/structural systems of power that maintain them must be challenged.
Practically by definition, if one is socially marginalised from dominant cultures and groups, one will experience a loss of some privileges afforded to those who are viewed as normal, acceptable, respectable, "like us", "one of us", etc.
What follows later is one of the most prevalent lists of cisgender privileges, sometimes also termed "non-trans privilege" that I could find. There are others. *Here's one* that is far more extensive.
If you click on and read that list, ask yourself this question: who is the "I" that is the speaker? (It is written in first person, from the point of view of someone who is not transsexual or transgender?) As I read over the list, more and more people came to mind who do not have the privileges listed.
The list does not apply to most girls and women I know.
It does not apply to most people of color I know.
It doesn't apply to most poor people I know.
It doesn't apply to most queer and gender non-conforming people I know.
There's no way in hell, for example, that the "I" in the list linked to above, is an Indigenous North American woman who is not transsexual or transgender. There's no way the "I" is a fat woman. There's no way the "I" is anyone who doesn't have education privilege. Or who is poor. Or who doesn't speak English as a first language. This is to say, most people who are NOT transgender and transsexual also don't have most of those privileges, and the assumptions about what it means to be transgender or transsexual are tremendously bound up with having enormous privileges to begin with. I'll expand on that point throughout the rest of this post.
From the above list, the "I" appears to me to be only this narrow demographic of person; the "I" is almost no one else, beyond the narrow demographic. The "I" is someone who is a sexuality-privileged, class-privileged, size-privileged, gender-privileged, age-privileged, able-body-privileged, government status/immigration status-privileged, ethnicity-privileged, religion-privileged, education-privileged, person who is not an incest, rape, battery, pornography industry, prostitution, trafficking, or slavery survivor. Über alles (above all else), the "I" is someone who must possess and be structurally located to receive and benefit from white and male privilege.
The "I" who has most or all of those privileges is only a white het man with every other form of privilege imaginable. Put most simply, most of the privileges on that list are privileges that most non-trans women do not have.
From that list, I'll note this last item:
My right to inhabit my currently chosen gender is universally considered valid, regardless of my gendered behavior as a child, or how I felt about being forced into the gender I inhabited then. If I require medical treatment to keep up an appearance that matches my gender, it will be granted immediately and without question.
There is a presumption there--quite a massively privileged one--that "gender" is chosen at all. This goes against what I know, see, hear, experience, and realise from almost everyone I know who is gendered, including transsexual, transgender, intergender, and what is termed 'cis' gender people. Gender is the following, for most human beings I am aware of in the West and many beyond the West: medically and governmentally mandated; culturally imposed and enforced from birth and at least until death--and usually after death; religiously and secularly bolstered; customarily assigned-at-birth; politically enforced; structured into interpersonal and institutional practices; enforced and regulated by CRAPs officials, including by the population "men" and also through these ideological and social forces: male supremacy, heterosexism, white supremacy, and capitalism.
What gender is not, usually and fundamentally in CRAP, is this: held primarily as a subjective experience. For most women I know, "gender" is a way of being treated, responded to, ignored, mistreated, abused. It is a way of being ostracised, degraded, humiliated, discriminated against, disenfranchised, marginalised, violated, subordinated, terrorised, and targeted for all manner of interpersonal and institutional violence and contempt. The way of understanding "gender" or "the gender I inhabit" (in italics above) is, to my way of thinking and in my experience, profoundly privileged.
Building from this, and every other observation made thus far, it is appearing to me that the group which identifies itself as "transgender" or "transsexual" and who writes about their experiences, who claim to be the spokespeople for "the group", may well be a very, very privileged group of people: people with these privileges, at least: race, education, class, and gender. How can a group marginalised and misunderstood or utterly ignored by mass media and beyond also be privileged? I'd argue many groups with enormous power are not identified, described, or presented accurately or responsibly in the media and beyond. Among those groups are: the rich, the most privileged men, the most privileged whites, and the most activist among male supremacist and white supremacists. How often do such groups get identified as terrorists, genocidalists, rapists, and callous, inhumane criminals? How often do such groups get portrayed, because they are of that group, as dangerous, untrustworthy, threatening, tyrannically domineering, oppressively controlling, and largely responsible for the maintenance of enormous atrocity?
What follows next is the list I see most often online used to educate non-trans people about transgender experience, specifically by alerting the reader to non-trans privileges. It is from this URL, and others:
This is the contents of that posting. I will place in brackets, bold, and italics my own critiques of these passages.
Please read and re-post this list to make people aware of the hardships often faced by transgender individuals that cisgender people take for granted on a daily basis.
My analysis brings me to conclude that the many, but not all, of the political origins and effects of the term "cis gender privilege" function to reinforce male supremacy, misogyny, and CRAP in ways its most privileged proponents won't or don't yet own. My conclusions thus far are that the social construction in language of a way of "being privileged" or "not being privileged" is mostly being used against non-trans women, and is strategically designed--consciously or not, to further oppress non-trans women as a class of human beings, and to subordinate that class to people who have had or currently have male privileges, among others.
I welcome readers to draw their own conclusions about this list of "cis gender privileges" as it applies to most non-trans women on Earth.