A New Copernican Shift: Dissecting Gender through A Privilege Shift

Featured image: Nicolas Raymond, “Rainbow Planet

AN: A “Copernican shift” refers to when information is re-examined from a different perspective in order to gain a new understanding about the world.

Most people are familiar with a European conception of gender – a dichotomy, usually assigned at birth, based on external genitalia and divided into a set of discreet skills and interests. Below is a quick video, which explains the difference between cisgender and transgender, both terms I will be using in this post.

The existence of transgender people – both those who identify along the gender binary of “man” and “woman” and those who identify outside of it – in positions of public influence will lead to a Copernican shift when it comes to gender studies, mostly because it is one of the few instances where an individual undergoes a privilege shift in regards to a physically present quality (as opposed to a class shift).

For example, a transgender woman exhibits a privilege shift from going to being perceived as a man to realizing her existence as a woman. Although transgender women are not men, the fact that they were perceived as men means that they experience “passing privilege” – the ability to be perceived one way or another – as men.

Note: I would like to mention that I don’t believe in the concept of social conditioning in regards to gender, as I believe dysphoria is evidence enough that transgender people cannot be ‘conditioned’ one way or another. However, the simple explanation given may give the indication that I believe this to be the case. I do not.

Although the experience as passing as a gender other than the one that you identify with is uncomfortable at best and often damaging, many transgender people – with much credit going towards transgender women – have documented the experience (whether a gain or loss of privilege) during their transition. Transgender women find that they are often talked over, and transgender men find that their opinions are taken more seriously.

I believe there will be a Copernican shift, based on the experiences of transgender people documenting their own individual journeys towards self-realization, in which we examine the origins of individual privileges and the perception of what gender actually is based on the experiences of transgender people, who hold a unique perspective.

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