Cisgender (pronounced sɪs.ˈdʒɛn.dɚ) is a neologism meaning “not transgender,” that is, a gender identity or performance in a gender role that society considers to match or be appropriate for one’s sex. The prefix cis- means “on this side of” or “not across” (cf. cisatlantic, cisalpine).
See also, Cisgender privilege.
The oldest recorded use of cisgender is a document from circa 1904, at a time when modern transsexuality was first appearing in medical discussions. The term reappeared in modern writings thanks to Carl Buijs, a transsexual man from the Netherlands, in 1995. Along with the less commonly used cissexual, it originated as a way to shift the focus off of a marginalised group, by defining not only the minority group but also the majority.
This is based upon the hypothesis that categorising everyone will illustrate a difference between equal alternatives, whereas singling out the minority group implies some deviance, immorality, or defect on the part of the labeled group.
Some Transgender people hope that the use of the word cisgender will increase mainstream acceptance and eventually remove the taboos. Others point out that the term heterosexual is very widely used but seems to have done little for the gay rights movement. However, prior to 1995, there was no standard word used to describe non-Transgender people without the use of negative prefixes while still avoiding terms like “normal”, “born” or “genetic” (women or men).
Many (particularly transsexual-inclusive) communities use the term “non-transsexual” or “non-Trans”, perhaps because the more scientific-sounding term “cisgender” has not yet gained popularity or widespread usage in everyday English. Other groups, however, consider it inappropriate to define any group by what they are not.
Many Transgender people prefer “cisgender” to “biological”, “genetic”, or “real” male or female because of the implications of those words. Using the term “biological female” or “genetic female” to describe cisgender individuals excludes Transgender men, who also fit that description. To call a cisgender woman a “real woman” is exclusive of Trans women, who are considered within their communities to be “real” women, also.
Although it is gaining traction in the common lexicon, the word is still rarely used by people outside communities concerned with Transgender issues.
- Cisgender. n.d.
- Matthews, Donna Lynn. What Is Intergendered? October 1998, retrieved 24 November, 2005.
- —. Cisgender. May 1999, retrieved 24 November, 2005.
- Transsexual Roadmap. Transgender Glossary. 1996-2005, retrieved 24 November, 2005.
- [WordIQ.com]. Definition of Cisgender