Archive for October 11, 2014

Why Does the word “Cisgender” Offend You?

I keep hearing about non-trans people complaining about how offended they are by the term cisgender- which means non-transgender, a person whose gender identity “matches” the biological sex they were born with. I’m not clear if genderqueer people are considered cis or not, it’s a very broad term, so I suppose it may depend on the person. I consider myself *loosely* genderqueer (I’m a little old to be a tomboy…) but I do sometimes mention that I have cis privilege, if it’s relevant to the discussion.

I don’t understand why are they are so offended. I can think of a few reasons, but they are still bad reasons.

1) It’s unfamiliar, so it must be bad!  

If you don’t like unfamiliar words, get off the Internet. Hell just go jump in a time machine to a pre-literate age. ‘Nuff said.

2) It’s a term they didn’t choose, that’s being applied to them. I’ve heard my fellow pale-faced folk complain that “white” is offensive, and maybe it is in some ways, but did other people choose to call themselves Negros and Indians? No they didn’t! Cry me a river!

3) Because they’re “normal” or “real” men or women, and shouldn’t need a term to qualify that, gosh darn it! 

This is exactly *why* the term cisgender is useful, non-transgender gets awkward, it is intended to de-center so-called “normal” gender identity development into one kind of experience, rather than the standard one that other people are deviating from. It’s much like how in the autistic community, we’ve coined the term “neurotypical”. It’s not because we want to stigmatize being neurotypical- that wouldn’t help our NT friends and allies or ourselves, we just use it to point out that “standard” mental wiring shouldn’t be the standard for everyone to strive towards!

4) They first heard it in the context of “die cis scum” or other expressions of frustration and anger from transgender activists.

Part of the reason we need minority spaces (both physical and online) is sometimes members of minority groups need to express their anger and frustration with others who understand their experiences, without being judged by the majority group. Most people I find, who go through a process of politicizing or learning to be proud of a stigmatized identity go thru a sort of militant “Black Panther” like phase. Some people stay in that phase longer, others move on. It’s not OK to threaten violence (whether we mean it literally or not) against majority groups, however it should be remembered there is far more violence directed towards minority groups. Just because you first heard it in that context doesn’t make it a slur.

5) Maybe they’re insecure about their gender identity and super-defensive about it…

I’ve known trans people who were far more comfortable with their gender identity, bodies and sexuality than many cisgender people I’ve known. If you have such a reaction to the mere existence of trans people, maybe you should look at your own gender identity. Its something many us take for granted, and when we see other people who question their identity or don’t fit within pink and blue boxes it can be threatening to our worldview.

I also want to clarify that the words cisgender and transgender (or just trans) aren’t always necessary to put in front of woman, man or person. Most trans people just want to be people, men or women without any special qualifiers. Much like you!

(And there’s also non-binary folks who don’t identify as men or women, but this is enough to make some people’s heads explode, so I’ll save that for another day…)


October 11, 2014 at 3:07 am 6 comments


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