A Modest Proposal: Die Cis Scum

I sometimes worry that we no longer teach people how to read for subtext or understand meanings when we teach about literature.  Nothing makes this more evident than when a (frankly mildly threatening) piece proclaiming supposed malice of “Die cis scum” is taken as something horrible, inappropriate and fomenting actual harm.  For reasons I can’t understand, people refuse to see this for what it is: apt and pointed social commentary.

We live in a society where trans people, especially trans women, especially trans women of color, DIE. They are raped. They are beaten.  They are abused and belittled.  Their very existence is proclaimed to be one of perversion and threat to all around them.


We live in a society where these beatings and brutalizations and murders go entirely unpunished because, as the Joker says, it’s all “according to the plan” though the plan is horrifying.  And we’ve seen what happens when someone dares to deviate from that plan: we prosecute them for the crime of survival.

Jonathan Swift is well-known for an iconic piece of truly cutting satire which contains heartless and savage threats that are greater than anything that could be imagined in Die Cis Scum.  In it, Swift suggests that Irish problems of poverty and oppression by English landowners can be easily solved by eating Irish children.  And not only does he suggest eating children, he details even the culinary means by which these babies may be prepared.

I shall now therefore humbly propose my own thoughts, which I hope will not be liable to the least objection.

I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricasie, or a ragoust.

I do therefore humbly offer it to publick consideration, that of the hundred and twenty thousand children, already computed, twenty thousand may be reserved for breed, whereof only one fourth part to be males; which is more than we allow to sheep, black cattle, or swine, and my reason is, that these children are seldom the fruits of marriage, a circumstance not much regarded by our savages, therefore, one male will be sufficient to serve four females. That the remaining hundred thousand may, at a year old, be offered in sale to the persons of quality and fortune, through the kingdom, always advising the mother to let them suck plentifully in the last month, so as to render them plump, and fat for a good table. A child will make two dishes at an entertainment for friends, and when the family dines alone, the fore or hind quarter will make a reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper or salt, will be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in winter.

I have reckoned upon a medium, that a child just born will weigh 12 pounds, and in a solar year, if tolerably nursed, encreaseth to 28 pounds.

I grant this food will be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for landlords, who, as they have already devoured most of the parents, seem to have the best title to the children.

Yet we do not suggest that Swift meant that anyone should eat Irish babies, or that the Irish were remotely at fault for their abysmal status and oppression.  No one thinks Swift was supporting English cruelty because he truly meant the Irish were savages or livestock.  I would have thought that the same was obvious with Die Cis Scum and those who feel most strongly its social impacts and ramifications, trans people who daily face not just hatred for living as themselves but who face the daily risk of physical harm and death.  Trans commentators and allies were more than clear in discussing the purpose as holding a mirror up to privilege when they expressed opinions and support.  But the blinders of privilege are strong.

They are so strong, in fact, that despite the fact that the commentary proposed is clear in not intending any literal harm whatsoever, that someone who dares to support the ideas in “Die Cis Scum” has been attacked as supporting violence, engaging in hate speech and my fucking favorite, being responsible for pushing someone to contemplate suicide.

These privilege denying assholes have engaged in so many bullshit tactics that I’ve nearly lost count by now.  It’s not simply a matter of creating a false equivalence between a threat of trans attack and cis, but a near total misunderstanding of how to have an honest conversation about the tools of outrage and anger for minorities seeking equal rights and protections.

  • These assholes are telling us that they get to veto tactics and rhetoric of minorities if they don’t think they are effective or could have repercussions from misunderstanding.
  • They have said that privilege itself is meaningless in this discussion because people from industrialized non-impoverished countries can’t win the oppression olympics. They tell us that we shouldn’t complain about injustices in our midst and lives because it is worse somewhere else, because they would really like us to shut up.
  • They ask us to give up our anger to avoid alienating others regardless of whether it robs us of one of our most powerful tools and motivating forces.
  • They claim to simply be trying to look out for our best interest, because they’re so fucking concerned that what we say could backfire.
  • They ask us to simply play nice, speak delicately and hope if we wait quietly someone with power will start doing the right thing.


Check your privilege, learn something, read and educate yourself, continue being obtuse and wander away when you can’t win an argument you’re on the wrong side of; I don’t fucking care what you do, but stop pretending you give a shit about trans people. You don’t get to attack, gaslight and shit all over someone and then pretend you really cared about doing something positive or that you were in any way, shape or form a victim.  I repeat, fuck you.

I’m starting to think the problem is the original message was too polite.  Too well-mannered.  Maybe trans people need to start a modest proposal of their own.  Perhaps it will take satire taken to the point of absurdity for people to see this for what it is.  In any case, I want to officially and loudly add my voice to others; I stand with all those who want to live honest lives in the open without fear:


8 responses to “A Modest Proposal: Die Cis Scum”

  1. Classical Cipher says :

    This post is great. I’d love to read a “modest proposal” from you too, if you do think that’s what it takes. Thanks, slignot.

    • slignot says :

      While I like the idea of helping in this conversation, I’m just an ally here. I don’t have the right to make that kind of step and try to speak for trans people.

  2. Classical Cipher says :

    Well, that’s a good and should-have-been-obvious-to-me point. I misremembered the context of the original Modest Proposal, is part of what happened there, whereas the rest was me tripping over my privilege 🙂
    Still! Will read other writings by slignot!

  3. Tim says :

    A Modest Proposal is satire. To compare your little slogan to a satirical piece would mean that you’re not at all serious, that in fact, what you’re really trying to say is the opposite of what you say. So unless you’re as anti-cis-privilege as Stephen Colbert is right wing, then you shouldn’t compare yourself to a satirical piece.

  4. Dean Buckley says :

    Someone needs to hit their history books. When Swift wrote “A Modest Proposal”, it was taken very seriously and caused a great deal of outrage. It’s only now, with retrospect, that we look back on it as obvious satire. However, the historical facts here are immaterial, the real problem is that your argument is very flimsily based on the idea that all cisgender people who are against this phrase are privileged. I mean, I’ve never known the abuses and disadvantages that come with being transgender, but I know those that come with being atheist, economically disadvantage, mentally ill, bisexual and I still wouldn’t stand for anyone saying “Die Theist Scum”, “Die Rich Scum”, “Die Mentally Well Scum” or “Die Straight Scum” and I especially wouldn’t stand for it being said on my behalf, like how so many trans* people using this phrase claim that it’s a response from the trans* community. This brings me pleasantly to my next point.

    I’ve also seen plenty of transgender people, or more generally non-cisgender people, since there are those people in the blurry line where they’re unsure whether they’re cis or trans* or what, who are also against the phrase. I’m curious to see how you explain that away, since your whole argument seems to be predicated on “privileged cis people don’t understand our problems”. And, for the record, I’m not going to deny that the anger behind this phrase is understandable, because it is, it really is. But “understandable” doesn’t equal “right”. I also understand the anger that many Palestinians have towards the Israeli state that oppresses them, that doesn’t mean I condone their launching of missiles into Israel. You know what? Hostility against the oppressor IS counterproductive, whether it’s said by a cisgender person or not. Who was the most successful part of the African-American Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King or Malcolm X? Who achieved the most for Catholics in Northern Ireland, John Hume or Gerry Adams? I’ll give you a clue; Martin Luther King and John Hume won the Nobel Peace Prize, whereas Malcolm X is considered a racial supremacist and Gerry Adams is widely reviled as the murdering terrorist that he is. Were either of them justified because they were struggling against privilege? No, they weren’t, especially when they were hurting the people they were fighting for, especially in the case of Gerry Adams who had plenty of Catholics blown up or kneecapped on his orders.

    Expressing your frustration is fine. Being hostile back is not.

  5. Kintis says :

    “And no one cares.”

    I’d like to think I care, but it’s really hard to care about someone who says things like “die, you scum”, even if it is apt and pointed social commentary or whatever you call it. I’m glad that no LGBT friend of mine says such things. I don’t wish death upon them either, that’s not what friends are for.

  6. http://yahoo.com says :

    I really wonder as to why you titled this specific blog, “A Modest Proposal: Die Cis Scum ”.
    Regardless I personally admired the blog!Many thanks,Constance

  7. danah gaz says :

    And as if to underscore the point slignot was making, two commenters drop by to reiterate the same privileged nonsense we rail against. Even in this post. Die Cis Scum.

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