The mainstreaming of the word “transgender” has also brought its opposite – cisgender – into the spotlight. Whereas “transgender” means having a gender identity that doesn’t correspond to your birth gender, “cisgender” means gender identity does match what your momma gave you. There’s been some disquiet about cisgendered being “forced” upon us but you won’t find me among those complaining.
1. It Doesn’t Mean What Some Think It Means
The prefix “cis” comes from Latin and means “on this side of”. Cis has been misunderstood because it sounds a lot like “sissy”, a slur many of us gay men have been called, especially while growing up. I was never called sissy growing up – but I was called Madominic. The guys at school thought it was an insult. They were wrong.
2. No One is “Renaming” Me
I’ve seen complaints that in using “cis” trans people are renaming non-transpeople. Heterosexual people made similar complaints during the rise of the word “gay”, whining that they didn’t want to be called “straight”. The use of language is complex and complicated and no one wants to be labeled with a slur. But “cisgendered” is a descriptor, not an insult. And here’s the truth about labels – it doesn’t matter what anyone calls you, it matters what you call yourself. Don’t want to call yourself “cisgendered”, then don’t.
3. It’s Reasonable
Test: Describe someone who is not transgendered without using the term “cisgendered”. What did you come up with? Non-trans? Not transgendered? Biological man/woman? Ordinary? Normal? Yes, that’s where these slippery slopes tend to end up, in places of judgment. Plus, we’re happy to label trans people as “trans” and if we’re labeling one group, we should label everyone, anything else stinks of privilege.
4. It’s a Source of Belonging
Labels work in two ways – they can be used to oppress but they are also things we wear as badges to orient ourselves. I like being a guy who was born a guy. Cis is a label I can use to accurately pinpoint myself in the wonderful spectrum of humanity.
5. It’s Here, It’s Fair, Get Used to It
Cisgendered is a Facebook gender identification option, meaning it’s here to stay, at least for the moment. Yes, I changed my profile to “cis male” as soon as I learned it was available.
Will cisgendered become more widely used or will it wither and fade? Time will tell. I think the real thing counting against the term is that is looks and sounds a little gauche. There’s another prefix that means “one’s own” – idios. But somehow I think idiosgendered might also have trouble getting accepted.