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The gay rights bus has undoubtedly come a long way toward equality. But it has done so by repeatedly jettisoning transgender rights and concerns out the window because they deemed trans folk too freaky and not respectable enough for the cautious, tepid strategies of the mainstream gay/lesbian movement, a movement started in no small part by trans women in response to the sustained harassment of trans women.

—Amy Dobrowolsky[1]

"Stonewall instigators Silvia Rivera (far left) and Marsha Johnson (with umbrella) protesting for 475 – a comprehensive LGBT rights bill – which followed the Stonewall Riot in 1971 and 1972."[2]

Ciswashing is a form of historical revisionism that erases to various degrees the lives of trans people from cultural memory. It removes, diminishes, or alters the contributions to society of non-cis people (e.g., non-binary, genderqueer, etc.) denying them of appropriate recognition. This can be done intentionally or unintentionally.

"Ciswashing" is a portmanteau or chimera of whitewashing and the prefix cis.


An infamous example of ciswashing is the story of the Stonewall riots. This pivotal event for all LGBT people is often retold without mentioning the vital contributions of trans people, like Silvia Rivera and Marsha Johnson.[2]

Stonewall the charity has taken some measures to curb this issue:

At Stonewall we're determined to do more to support trans communities (including those who identify as LGB) to help eradicate prejudice and achieve equality. There are lots of different views about the role Stonewall should play in achieving that. We're holding roundtable meetings and having lots of conversations. Throughout this process we will be guided by trans people.[3]

Although, arguably not enough has been done yet.[4] Importantly (as of the 20th of June 2014): "Stonewall in England and Wales does not currently campaign or lobby on transgender issues. However, Stonewall Scotland campaigns on transgender issues and its research is trans-inclusive."[5]

Other examples

Two-spirit people at San Francisco Pride in 2014.

Non-binary people from history are often either left out, or their gender identity is not discussed.[6]For example: Frances Benjamin Johnston[wp], Willa Cather[wp], Virginia Prince[wp], Joan of Arc[wp], Hua Mulan[wp], and many other individuals who fought in wars,[wp] as well as other trans and non-binary people.[wp]

Even more ciswashing occurs at the intersection of cisnormativity and colonialism.[7] People who identify with a non-Western gender, e.g., two-spirit, hijra, etc., face varying levels of intersectional oppression in the form of ciswashing and whitewashing.

See also

External links