2015-01-18 – I’m not exactly sure where to start. I think I’ve always known it, but I never had a word for it. I do now and I don’t want to keep it a secret any longer. I am a cisgendered male.
Those of you who know what this is may sneer at this announcement or brand me as deviant in some way. The truth is, I’m not really comfortable yet with the label, but I am convinced that it is true. If I am using the word wrong or in an offensive way, let me know.
For those of you who are unaware, as I was until a few weeks ago, of the meaning of the term, here’s my shot at a definition. A cisgendered person’s gender identification agrees with his or her bodily equipment. I identify as a male and I have a penis, so I am a cisgendered male or a cismale. You may identify as a female and have a vagina. Then you are a cisgendered female or cisfemale.
You might ask: “what’s wrong with simply calling myself a male or a female?” Well, not all people with penises self-identify as male and not all people with vaginas self-identify as female. They are transgendered. Cisgendered is the opposite of transgendered.
A little research reveals there is some controversy over the term. Some gender scholars prefer the term “non-trans” precisely because people don’t really know what cis means. They believe that use of the term “non-trans” makes the word trans more “normal” in people’s minds. Another synonym for cisgendered is “gender-normative.” You can see why transgendered people might prefer either “cisgendered” or “non-trans” to “gender-normative.” Calling someone like me gender-normative might imply that transsexuals are not normative—or really, not normal. The sound of the term is bad.
Language has a tendency to create words for non-normative characteristics without creating words for their opposite normative characteristics. There are transsexuals but, until recently, there wasn’t a word for people who aren’t trans.
The term cis quite obviously comes from academia—and not from the streets. Cis is a Latin prefix meaning “on this side,” which is the opposite of the Latin trans, meaning “on the other side.” Before being used in connection with gender, the term was used in organic chemistry where cis and trans describe different isomers of the same molecule. The term is part of DNA chemistry, but I have no understanding of that whatsoever.
I think some people liked the term cis because it kinda turns the table on taunts of “sissy.” In fact, if you do a little research, you’ll find that some regard cisgendered as a derogatory term. I can certainly see that. Humans have a great capacity to be derogatory.
The thing that interests me about this term is that there are a lot of words that lack opposites. Take the word “bigot” for example. Here is what I find: “moderate,” “liberal,” “tolerator,” and “humanitarian.” That’s pretty lame, don’t you think? And certainly nonspecific.
Wouldn’t you think we need a word for a person who accepts others for what they are?