Recently, there was a ‘debate’ on social media regarding the use of the term cis, or cis gender. The crux of the argument was that they found the term to be harmful and don’t like it, don’t wish to be called cis, and proceeded with the attendant “fuck political correctness” argument when it wasn’t explained to their satisfaction.
This post isn’t for them. They’ve made their decision, and no amount of discussion is likely to change their mind. This post is for those on the fence, the ones who are curious about language and about social issues.
When I came out, and was first discovering my transness, the general way to describe everything was in two categories, trans and ‘normal’. The conversation was immediately placing me and other trans folks in the category other, different, and wrong.
There is nothing wrong with being trans. And there is nothing wrong with being different. But in setting up a language as us vs. them, we’ve created a dichotomy and created social borders that highlights one group as the correct group and all other groups as outsiders and therefore incorrect.
Somewhere in the 90’s someone used the term cis to describe those folks whose gender is the same as assigned at birth. It comes from Latin and means “on this side” or ” on the same side”. Before being used to describe gender it was mainly used in chemistry to describe bonds.
But the English language is constantly evolving and the prefix is a nice one. It easily and very quickly denotes gender without prescribing or ascribing meaning. Cis gender literally means your gender is on the same side.
This classification is necessary to the trans discussion, because it removes the stigma from transness. There is no inherent opposition when speaking of cis and trans gender, because there’s no longer this assumption of normal vs abnormal.
Common does not equal normal.
And all metrics used to identify gender minorities have largely been self reporting, invasive or noninclusive. Therefore, the numbers do not reflect the actual numbers of those who identify on the gender spectrum.
While trans equality is still in question, while trans individuals can still be denied service, be fired from their jobs, lose their homes, lose their lives as a result of their gender, it is vital that we replace the us vs them discussion model, remove the stigma, and normalize the gender spectrum.
Until trans gender can be given the same respect and understanding and rights that cis gender receives, the term cisgender needs to stay.
This is how language works.
I’m not allowed to say “I’m a guy, ” someone will always be there to add the trans part back in. As long there has to be a qualifier on my gender, cis is necessary.
There is no negativity attached to it. It doesn’t change your gender. It is there to remove the assumption of normality.
I am trans, I am normal. And I will not let anyone tell me otherwise.