Trans 101: Cisgender

| October 9, 2011 | Comments (3)

You may have heard the word cisgender before, but you may not know what it means.  Cisgender is a term used to describe people who, for the most part, identify as the gender they were assigned at birth.  For example, if a doctor said “it’s a boy!” when you were born, and you identify as a man, then you could be described as cisgender. In other words, ‘cisgender’ is used to describe people who are not transgender.

So why do we say ‘cisgender’ instead of ‘non-transgender’? Because, referring to cisgender people as ‘non trans’ implies that cisgender people are the default and that being trans is abnormal.  Many people have said ‘transgender people’ and ‘normal people’, but when we say ‘cisgender’ and ‘transgender’ neither is implied as more normal than the other.

Using the word ‘cisgender’ is also an educational tool.  To simply define people as ‘non-trans’ implies that only transgender people have a gender identity.  But that’s not true.  Like sexual orientation, race, class, and many other identities, all of us have a gender identity. 

Language is important; it defines human relationships.  That is why it’s important to use language of equality and inclusion.  We’ll be covering this and a whole lot more in a trans ally education session at our upcoming trans justice summit.  Register today!

Category: News: Transgender Justice, Resources: Transgender Justice, Uncategorized

Comments (3)

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  1. Peter Smythe says:

    I’ve got an additional reason to use the word cissexual or cisgender:

    It makes sense.

    The terms “cis-” and “trans-” were not invented by late 20th century WGS or sociology professors to describe gender identity. They were only adopted by them. The prefixes are Latin loanwords. “Cis-” means “on the near side of” and “Trans-” means “on the far side of.”

    I.e. cis-lunar space is between here and the moon. Trans-Neptunian Objects are outside Neptune’s orbit. A cis-isomer is one where the same atom is on the same side of a pi bond. A trans- isomer is one where the same atom is on the opposite side.

    So saying “non-trans-” is like saying “non-male” when you mean female, or saying “non-short” when you mean tall. It’s at best annoying and obtuse, and at worst, insufficient to define who you mean. (agender?)

  2. […] Having just spoken about gender fluidity and how that would affect the power balance of the patriarchy, you might wonder why I am happy to claim a term that is applied to the very binary I increasingly reject. I think it’s important in the first instance to say that I am a cisgender woman because other women are trans* gender. Or as it states here: […]

  3. […] stigma associated with gender dysphoria, Jenner was forced to hide behind the guise of Bruce, the cis suit she wore every single day of her life up until late April, when she finally traded that in for […]

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