Elsewhere on the internet I recently saw the following loaded question:
I have been told by numerous people and have read even more comments from those who object to the terms Cis, cisgender, cismale and cisfemale.
My question for those who use the terms, why should someone be allowed to ID another group without their consent, and not care if the terms may be offensive to the person or many in a group, then turn around and expect that offensive terms towards them never be used and demand the right to self-ID?
Given that cisgender, cismale, and cisfemale originated as completely clinical terms, I failed to see how these could be offensive. Further, the original question is a strawman, because self-identification is not the only way people get identified. However, in the spirit of participating, I went looking.
First, as to origins, I found this:
Cisgender has its origin in the Latin-derived prefix cis-, meaning “on this side of,” which is antonymous with the Latin-derived prefix trans-. This usage can be seen in the cis-trans distinction in chemistry, or in the ancient Roman term Cisalpine Gaul (i.e., “Gaul on this side of the Alps”). In the case of gender, however, cis- refers to the alignment of gender identity with assigned sex. The terms “cis” and “trans” were used by Seymour Benzer in genetics,in his analysis of different senses of the word “””gene” in 1955-7 to represent two forms of mutations, when both on same chromosome or on separate chromosomes or DNA strands. Benzer distinguished the muton (smallest unit of mutation) from the codon (smallest unit of coding), and the recon (smallest unit of recombination), from the cistron, or gene analyzed by crossover.
German sexologist Volkmar Sigusch may have been the first to use 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”).
So it is immediately obvious that cisgender/cismale/cisfemale are terms not developed as social taunts or insults. They were coined by social researchers seeking to distinguish non-transgender people from transgender people in an attempt to understand gender identity. It is also easier to say than many of the alternatives. Given that it has never had a negative intent that I can find, this word is nothing like “tranny” or the n-word applied to people of color, both of which are intended to be offensive, insulting, and demeaning.
Also consider the following thought: “the most useful thing about the word cisgender is that it *avoids* value judgments like calling people whose physical and psychological gender are the same ‘normal’.” This avoids automatically painting transgender people as ‘abnormal’. This is brilliant and a good thing because it removes value judgments from whether a person is trans or cis. They simply are biological conditions and neither one is “wrong” at all.
I found this comment at Transgriot and I liked what it said:
“If we’re going to make the point that being transgender is an everyday biological/medical/social condition, we had to have some word in the vocabulary that describes most of the people walking Planet Earth who are not trans.
It’s the same concept that underpins why gay people call non-gays ‘straight’.”
Hence I kept looking for the evidence of it being “offensive”. And lo and behold, I began to find who finds “cisgender” to be offensive.
In a discussion of the term cisgender, I found this comment:
“…to identify the term as a neologism coined by radical homosexual activists.”
Radical homosexual activists? Who uses language like that? Radical right wing extremists, that’s who!
And this comment:
“I’ve ONLY ever heard it used as an insult. I’m very surprised the article doesn’t touch on the subject, I’m sure many other normal people (sorry, ‘cis’ people) have only ever heard it as an insult too. Most of the time with the reaction of “what the shit is ‘cis’? You hate normal people so much you have to invent new terminology??”
Note the automatic assumption that a clinical definition of gender normative individuals must be because of “hate”. Note the automatic assumption of privilege in that only the cisgender community gets to name “others”.
So who posts narrow minded crap like this? Radical right wing extremists who want to deny that transgender people even exist and who want to legislate us out of their reality. The same people who don’t want transgender anti-discrimination laws passed. The same people who constantly try to pass absurd bathroom laws hoping to force a transgender woman into the men’s room (where one prominent Tennessee politician promised to “stomp a mudhole” in such a person).
There is one other group that loudly objects to the term cisgender. That group are the radical feminists who, just like Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell, insist that transwomen don’t really exist. They are often referred to as “RadFems” and they call themselves that so it’s not a term we are inventing for them. These people object to anything that attempts to recognize or legitimize transgender people. Some of them have even petitioned the United Nations demanding that anything related to discussion of transgender persons be stricken from UN debates.
These are the kind of people who object to cis as “offensive”. Am I going to give a damn about such people? Only insofar as how I can muster good and honest people into silencing their bigotry and removing the enactment of their hate from our public lives. This also suggest to me a bit about the kinds of people that the original questioner seems to try to associate with and find acceptance from – radical right wingers or RadFems. Good luck with that as a transwoman!
Finally there’s been a lot of additional discussion at the forums where this originated. There’s been some wild leaping to conclusions too, that anyone who argues in favor of the term cisgender is “trying to redefine trans as normal”, something I disagree with completely. What the cis/trans discussion does, as stated above, is remove value judgments from the discussion.
And that is the center of all this, isn’t it? Oh, by the way, please read Zinnia Jones (I love Zinnia’s writings!) take on this: “Cisgender is not a slur, John Aravosis.” She says so much more and so much more eloquently.