Mark, why do you find it offensive? I’m genuinely curious. If you’re heterosexual, are you also offended by that word? Or the word “straight?” Or “male?” Or female?”

Because I’m thinking maybe you wouldn’t find “cisgender,” or it’s abbreviation,“cis” offensive if you understood what it actually means.

  1. It’s cis, not CIS.
  2. It’s not “made-up.” Well, technically, all words are made-up, so I guess you’re right in that regard. However…
  3. It has nothing to do with sexual orientation, and thus, nothing to do with heterosexuals.
  4. The word “cisgender,” or “cis” for short, has been around for at least 25 years.
  5. The word “cisgender” originated in academic journals, usually first attributed to biologist Dana Leland Defosse, and is a latin-derived term (just like over 60% of the rest of the English language.) The “trans” in “transgender” comes from a Latin word meaning “across,” “beyond,” or “on the other side of.” The “cis” in “cisgender” comes from a Latin word meaning “on this side of.”
  6. “Cisgender,” therefore, refers to people who feel their sex assigned at birth is in alignment with their gender identity, and typically, their gender expression as well. In short, you’re cisgender/cis if your birth certificate says you’re “male” and you identify as male, or your birth certificate says you’re “female” and you identify as a female.
  7. “Cisgender” is the antonym of “transgender.”

All of us experience some kind of relationship between our bodies and our selves, whatever that relationship may be, however that relationship may look. Cisgender is simply another word to describe an identity.

I get that many cis folks don’t tend to “identify” with labels, and especially not with “cisgender,” but that’s because societal expectations already presume that everyone is cisgender.

Maybe you don’t feel like you “need” to label yourself, but again, that’s because societal norms have already done that for you, and moreover, have claimed you as the “default.” If you’re the default norm, you’re someone who never has to justify your mere existence.

Typically, people who take issue with a word like “cis” — which by definition is not derogatory — may actually not be uncomfortable with the “cis” label itself, but rather, with trans issues on the whole. And often, these same people are the ones who are unwilling to confront their own privileges, in whatever form those may exist or intersect.

I get why words like “cis” may seem offensive at face value, but when we dig deeper to understand the actual reasons and meaning behind why these words exist, we all benefit.

Written by

Seen in HuffPost, Scary Mommy, etc; heard @ NPR, SiriusXM, TIFO podcast & more. Gender dismantling trailblazer. Political news junkie. TikTok aficionado. Mom.

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