A while back, I asked the readers of Ask Addi to make comments on why they may have a problem with the term cisgender. The answers I received ran the gamut from “it just sounds weird” to “it’s a slur you trans people made up to attack people like me.” There were also a few who said that people should be able to identify as they wish and not have a term forced on them. Those people are usually cisgender, straight and white; people who have never had an identity marker forced on them. Well, at least not since birth.
The impression I got was that a lot of people didn’t think that they needed a term to describe them because they are “normal.” Trans folx, like me, are the weird ones, so we need a word to define us. Rejecting cisgender is just a symptom of believing that trans people are the other, a sign of transphobia.
Let’s step back and look at what these terms mean. Transgender is an adjective that indicates a person’s internal gender identity doesn’t match the gender that society, in general, would assign them usually based on external physical characteristics. This means a person whose experienced gender is a man, but they were born with a female body or vice versa. It can also include people whose internal gender doesn’t fit nicely into the societal definition of man or woman, otherwise known as a non-binary identity. The word transgender consists of the Latin prefix “trans,” which means “on the other side of” and gender. It’s reasonably straightforward.
Cisgender means that a person’s internal gender identity does match the gender that society, in general, would assign them usually based on external physical characteristics. It’s merely an academic term that means the opposite of transgender. It’s formed by applying cis-, “the Latin prefix for “on the same side of,” to the base word gender. Again, it’s straightforward.
Cisgender is a term that was made up by a German researcher back in the 1990s. Technically, they created a German term, and it became the Latin/English word that we know today when editors translated the article into English. Cisgender is just a word meant to make communication easier and academic writings shorter. Creating a slur was the furthest thing from the author’s mind. It is not an insult of any kind. The trans community did…