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What Is Cisgender Privilege? Billie Lee Schools on Vanderpump Rules

What Is Cisgender Privilege? Billie Lee Schools on 'Vanderpump Rules'

What Is Cisgender Privilege? Billie Lee Schools on 'Vanderpump Rules'

The reality TV series is bringing attention to "cis privilege."

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Last week on West Hollywood reality TV series Vanderpump Rules, Billie Lee called attention to the term "cis privilege" in a confrontation with another cast member. 

As a first time watcher of the show, here's the gist of the tea. 

Katie and Billie have beef. Katie planned a Girls Night In event at the restaurant they work at and didn't invite Billie to be a part of it. Billie, who transitioned from male to female, is used to being excluded from these kinds of events her entire life and understandably, her feelings as a woman are hurt. 

"As a child, I wasn't allowed to girls things because I was born a boy," Billie says. "I would miss out on things, and it would just make me feel like I was wrong. I felt a rush of shame when I wasn't included."

When Katie tried to say her exclusion wasn't anything intentional, Billie called her out, yelling "cis privilege" at her across the crowded bar. (Watching Katie's jaw literally drop made me cackle out loud. I just might start watching this show...)

The problem here is that Lisa's more upset at the idea of being transphobic than actually trying to understand where Billie is coming from. "I don't exactly know what it means, but if it comes out of Billie's mouth, it's f**ked up," says one of the other girls in a confessional.

So what is Cisgender Privilege? 

Cisgender refers to someone who identifies as the sex they were assigned at birth. I, for instance, identify as a cisgender gay male.

Privilege refers to the conscious and unconscious advantages cisgender people have over transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming people. Cisgender people do not have to worry about which bathroom to use in fear of violence, or getting legally fired from their place of work because of their gender identity, or even getting attacked walking down the street for simply existing. Cisgender folks take a lot for granted that transgender people simply can't. 

Not being included in a girls night could lead Billie to question how the other girls see her gender identity, which can unearth a lot of insecurities and trauma. Discrimination isn't always an outward and intentional expression of contempt, it often expresses itself through exclusion. Billie's pain might not seem like a big deal to the other girls but that's part of their privilege, and their lack of understanding only exacerbates the issue. 

"I'm trans! And it's girls night! That's my f**king pronoun," said Billie. "I fought for that f**king pronoun, and you're not gonna invite me to a girls night or include me at all? She's not being sensitive."

So was Billie excluded because Katie simply forgot about her or because she didn't want her there? Is Billie's transness an issue or does Katie just not like her?

No clue. I just started watching this show today. But in this political climate, going that extra mile for our transgender family can quite literally be the difference between life and death. We should all check our privilege and go out of our way to make them feel included and welcome.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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Taylor Henderson

Taylor Henderson is a PRIDE.com contributor. This proud Texas Bama studied Media Production/Studies and Sociology at The University of Texas at Austin, where he developed his passions for pop culture, writing, and videography. He's absolutely obsessed with Beyoncé, mangoes, and cheesy YA novels that allow him to vicariously experience the teen years he spent in the closet. He's also writing one! 

Taylor Henderson is a PRIDE.com contributor. This proud Texas Bama studied Media Production/Studies and Sociology at The University of Texas at Austin, where he developed his passions for pop culture, writing, and videography. He's absolutely obsessed with Beyoncé, mangoes, and cheesy YA novels that allow him to vicariously experience the teen years he spent in the closet. He's also writing one!