Trans 101: Cisgender

| October 9, 2011 | Comments (4)

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 (4)

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  1. E says:

    Thank you! I have now heard/read this word three times in two days and decided it was time to learn what it meant. Just in time, too! My daughter is in a local theater org with a girl “Jana” who, last season, was a boy. She had many questions about, “Do I have to act like she wasn’t a boy before? Can I talk about stuff we did before even if it reminds her she was a boy?” Really thoughtful Qs from a 9 year old. And me, hoping I’m up to the task of helping her understand–for both kids’ benefits. Cisgender is a good and excellent word. No value judgment, no hierarchy. And good news: based on the collective yawn of the other kids to “Jana’s” identity, I have hope for the world. Lets hope the parents are as decent as their children. Thanks again!

  2. Barbara says:

    the origin of the term cis is “in the Latin-derived prefix cis-, meaning ‘on this side of,’ which is an antonym for the Latin-derived prefix trans-, meaning ‘across from’ or “on the other side of’” (from wikipedia’s “cisgender” page). i am a cis woman and i don’t find the term cis offensive at all. crushton, i think need to get off your high horse and realize that no one is trying to identify for you, nor is anyone just coming up with a random term to describe you (obviously its origins make sense as being the “opposite”, for lack of a better word, of trans). if you arent trans, you’re cis. that’s all there is to it.

  3. margie says:

    Thank you for explaining this! I was curious because I keep seeing this word on the internet (meaning tumblr.) However, I am saddened, because I kept seeing it used in a way that implied all cisgendered people were horrible, sick, dispicable people. Evertime I saw a comment like that I thought “Wow, how terrible! Cis people must be the worst people in the world!” Now I realise I am one.

  4. Kat Gamage says:

    Hallelujah! Finally, something that actually makes sense. It’s about time we started restructuring language to reflect diversity and equality (and other social/cultural evolutions), instead of just inventing new languages for areas of specialty! Until it becomes the norm in our everyday language, it isn’t accepted as ‘true’ or real.

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