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Cisgender (often abbreviated to simply cis) describes related types of gender identity perceptions, where individuals' experiences of their own gender agree with the sex they were assigned at birth. Sociologists Kristen Schilt and Laurel Westbrook define cisgender as a label for "individuals who have a match between the gender they were assigned at birth, their bodies, and their personal identity". They see cisgender as a complement to transgender.
There are a number of derivatives of the term in use, including cis male for "male assigned male at birth", cis female for "female assigned female at birth", analogously "cis man" and "cis woman", as well as cissexism (or "cissexual assumption" or "cisnormativity").
Etymology and terminology
Cisgender has its origin 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". This usage can be seen in the cis–trans distinction in chemistry, the cis–trans or complementation test in genetics, in Ciscaucasia (from the Russian perspective) and in the ancient Roman term Cisalpine Gaul (i.e., "Gaul on this side of the Alps"). In the case of gender, cis- is used to refer to the alignment of gender identity with assigned sex.
A number of derivatives of the terms cisgender and cissexual include cis male for "male assigned male at birth", cis female for "female assigned female at birth", analogously cis man and cis woman, as well as cissexism and cissexual assumption. In addition, one study published in the Journal of the International AIDS Society used the term cisnormativity, akin to sexual diversity studies' heteronormativity. A related adjective is gender-normative; because as Eli R. Green writes: "'cisgendered' is used [instead of the more popular 'gender normative'] to refer to people who do not identify with a gender diverse experience, without enforcing existence of a normative gender expression". In this way, cisgender is preferable because, unlike the term gender-normative, it does not imply that transgender identities are abnormal.
Julia Serano has defined cissexual as "people who are not transsexual and who have only ever experienced their mental and physical sexes as being aligned", while cisgender is a slightly narrower term for those who do not identify as transgender (a larger cultural category than the more clinical transsexual). For Jessica Cadwallader, cissexual is "a way of drawing attention to the unmarked norm, against which trans is identified, in which a person feels that their gender identity matches their body/sex".
German sexologist Volkmar Sigusch used the term cissexual (zissexuell in German) in a peer-reviewed publication: in his 1998 essay "The Neosexual Revolution", he cites his two-part 1991 article "Die Transsexuellen und unser nosomorpher Blick" ("Transsexuals and our nosomorphic view") as the origin of the term. He also used the term in the title of a 1995 article, "Transsexueller Wunsch und zissexuelle Abwehr" (or: "Transsexual desire and cissexual defense").
The terms cisgender and cissexual were used in the 2006 article in the Journal of Lesbian Studies and Julia Serano's 2007 book Whipping Girl, after which the term gained some popularity among English-speaking activists and scholars. Jillana Enteen wrote in 2009 that "cissexual" is "meant to show that there are embedded assumptions encoded in expecting this seamless conformity".
Julia Serano also uses the related term cissexism, "which is the belief that transsexuals' identified genders are inferior to, or less authentic than, those of cissexuals". In 2010 the term "cisgender privilege" appeared in academic literature, defined as the "set of unearned advantages that individuals who identify as the gender they were assigned at birth accrue solely due to having a cisgender identity".
In February 2014, Facebook began offering "custom" gender options, allowing users to identify with one or more gender-related terms from a selected list, including cis, cisgender, and others. Cisgender was also added to the Oxford English Dictionary in June 2015, defined as "designating a person whose sense of personal identity corresponds to the sex and gender assigned to him or her at birth (in contrast with transgender)."
From feminism and gender studies
Krista Scott-Dixon wrote in 2009: "I prefer the term non-trans to other options such as cissexual/cisgendered." She holds this view because she believes the term "non-trans" is clearer to average people and will help normalize transgender individuals.
Women's and Gender Studies scholar Mimi Marinucci writes that some consider the "cisgender–transgender" binary to be just as dangerous or self-defeating as the masculine–feminine gender binary, because it lumps people who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) arbitrarily and over-simplistically with heteronormative class of people as opposed to with transgender people. Characterizing LGB individuals together with heterosexual, non-trans people may problematically suggest that LGB individuals, unlike transgender individuals, "experience no mismatch between their own gender identity and gender expression and cultural expectations regarding gender identity and expression".
From intersex organizations
Intersex persons are born with atypical physical sex characteristics that can complicate initial sex assignment and lead to involuntary or coerced medical treatment. The term cisgender "can get confusing" in relation to people with intersex conditions, according to the Advocates for Informed Choice Inter/Act project. Hida Viloria of OII-USA suggests that, as a person with a body that doesn't meet male or female norms and a non-binary gender identity, this may arguably make Viloria "cisgender", but it fails to account for gender-based stigmatization of intersex bodies. Organisation Intersex International Australia argues that, while most intersex people are not transgender, the term is problematic because of intersex people's experience, or risk of experiencing, "involuntary medical treatment to impose stereotypical sex characteristics".
- Gender taxonomy
- List of transgender-related topics
- Womyn-born womyn
- Feminist views on transgenderism and transsexualism
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- Gender and Sexuality Center FAQ, University of Texas at Austin Division of Diversity and Community Engagement
- The Queer Community Has to Stop Being Transphobic: Realizing My Cisgender Privilege, Todd Clayton, The Huffington Post, 27 February 2013