The Ciscentric Bargain

Hi everyone.

Sorry for being gone for so long.  I hit a seriously rough patch there and I’m just coming out of it.

Now that I’m back, I’m going to talk about a concept that I’ve tried for a good long while to get a grasp of, and finally found one.

The concept is that of the Ciscentric Bargain.

To understand this concept, though, I have to sorta break it down and explain the parts of it out.


There is a concept that is out there that describes how it is that women come to a decision to accept gender rules that disadvantage women in exchange for whatever power one can wrest from the system. It is an individual strategy designed to manipulate the system to one’s best advantage, but one that leaves the system itself intact. (Lisa Wade)

The concept is the Patriarchal Bargain. It is a way of looking at the system that is in place as the overarching institutional power and making a deal with it of sorts — “I will do this much that you require of me and in turn you will give me some form of power that I can use in my personal life so my life doesn’t suck”.

Trans people do that all the time when it comes to their gender roles and gender expression.  The methods that many of them select and the ways that they follow through with that are based heavily in such things.

Trans women make the deal in order to find a way to make it in the world, trans men do it so that they can be accepted among the world of men, etc etc etc.

That’s nothing new.  But it informs the concept of the Ciscentric bargain.


Ciscentrism is the institutional and social system structure that predicates that Cis folk are the dominant class. It is built for them, by them, and is about them.  It actively seeks to erase and discard trans people. In this system, trans people have no institutional power, have no institutional voice, and have no say in the decision that are made.

It is, then, focused on cis people and their needs, their goals, their lives.  This is why there can be moral outrage on their part when we point out things like Janice Raymond calling for the genocide of trans people. How dare we, they will say, and that’s not true, and then they will use that system against us if they can figure out a way to do so.

In order to silence and put us back into our place.

I see people use Cissexism a lot, but I am not particularly fond of the way that word is used, and I certainly do not like the way it is used, because, in my view, it is used improperly much of the time, especially by the younger at heart who have a low tolerance for delayed gratification.

most of the time, what they are really talking about is CisCentrism — a ciscentric focus on the world around tem, the systems in play, and the institutions that work against them.

Hence the preference for that term here.

The Bargain

The bargain itself is fairly simple. To adapt the earlier description from Lisa Wade, it comes out like this:

The CisCentric Bargain is the way trans people come to a decision to accept social rules that disadvantage trans people in exchange for whatever power one can wrest from the system. It is an individual strategy designed to manipulate the system to one’s best advantage, but one that leaves the system itself intact.


Passing is an example of this in play. Passing, itself, is not really a privielge. We call it that for a nice and easy shorthand, but, strictly speaking, it is an effort that is focused on appeasement in order to enable one to have access to power through mock privilege.

This applies to both men nd women — and I am stating that it, itself, is not actual privilege, but is instead a form of mock privilege.  The same sort that a person who has pale skin and is also Black has access to mock privilege as a white person.

It will last only as long as people do not realize that they are a trans person — and privilege in its actual form is not lost, merely made visible.

Another example is not telling people that you are trans in order to avoid that discrimiination and take advantage of what pwoer you can wrest from the system because they do not know.

A lot of people describe this as the way that people start to treat you different the moment they find out you are trans.  That is because of the discrimination one faces. That is the description of that discrimination — the treatment of trans people differently.

That’s just two, and the two I can readily think of at this time.

This concept is pretty potent, and allows us to see something that we do and talk about it, because,in the end, the overwhelming majority of trans people do this.

Some folks cannot access that bargain, but they are the ones that we are, ultimately, fighting for.