Cisgender (often abbreviated to simply cis) is a term for people whose gender identity matches the sex that they were assigned at birth. Cisgender may also be defined as those who have "a gender identity or perform a gender role society considers appropriate for one's sex". It is the opposite of the term transgender.
Related terms include cissexism and cisnormativity.
Etymology and terminology
German sexologist Volkmar Sigusch used the neologism 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").
Cisgender has its origin in the Latin-derived prefix cis-, meaning "on this side of", which means the opposite of 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), in the ancient Roman term Cisalpine Gaul (i.e., "Gaul on this side of the Alps"), and more recently, Cisjordan, as distinguished from Transjordan. In the case of gender, cis- describes the alignment of gender identity with assigned sex.
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". 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, and 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".
The terms cisgender and cissexual were used in a 2006 article in the Journal of Lesbian Studies and 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".
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".
While some believe that the term cisgender is merely politically correct, medical academics use the term and have recognized its importance in transgender studies since the 1990s.
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 2013, 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 people 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 Interact Advocates for Intersex Youth Inter/Act project. Hida Viloria of Intersex Campaign for Equality notes that, as a person born with an intersex body who has a non-binary sense of gender identity that "matches" his/her body, s/he is both cisgender and gender non-conforming, presumably opposites according to cisgender's definition, and that this evidences the term's basis on a binary sex model that does not account for intersex people's existence. S/he also critiques the fact that the term "sex assigned at birth" is used in one of cisgender's definitions without noting that babies are assigned male or female regardless of intersex status in most of the world, stating that doing so obfuscates the birth of intersex babies and frames gender identity within a binary male/female sex model that fails to account for both the existence of natally congruent gender non-conforming gender identities, and gender-based discrimination against intersex people based on natal sex characteristics rather than on gender identity or expression, such as "normalizing" infant genital surgeries. 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". Intersex professor Cary Gabriel Costello has proposed using the term "ipso gender" instead of cisgender for intersex people who agree with their medically assigned sex.
- Crethar, H. C. & Vargas, L. A. (2007). Multicultural intricacies in professional counseling. In J. Gregoire & C. Jungers (Eds.), The counselor's companion: What every beginning counselor needs to know. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. ISBN 0-8058-5684-6. p. 59.
- Schilt, Kristen; Westbrook, Laurel (August 2009). "Doing Gender, Doing Heteronormativity: 'Gender Normals,' Transgender People, and the Social Maintenance of Heterosexuality". Gender & Society. 23 (4): 440–464 . doi:10.1177/0891243209340034.
- Blank, Paula. "Will the Word "Cisgender" Ever Go Mainstream?". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2018-05-13.
- Sigusch, Volkmar (February 1998). "The Neosexual Revolution". Archives of Sexual Behavior. 27 (4): 331–359. doi:10.1023/A:1018715525493. PMID 9681118.
- Sigusch, Volkmar (1995). "Transsexueller Wunsch und zissexuelle Abwehr". Psyche. 49 (9–10): 811–837. PMID 7480808.
- "Definition of cisgender". Merriam Webster. Retrieved April 20, 2016.
- Brydum, Sunnivie (July 31, 2015). "The true meaning of the word 'cisgender'". The Advocate. Retrieved March 15, 2017.
- Serano, Julia (2007). Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity. Berkeley: Seal Press. pp. 164–165. ISBN 1580051545.
- Logie, Carmen; James, Lana; Tharao, Wangari; Loutfy, Mona (2012). "We don't exist: a qualitative study of marginalization experienced by HIV-positive lesbian, bisexual, queer and transgender women in Toronto, Canada". Journal of the International AIDS Society. 15 (2). doi:10.7448/ias.15.2.17392. Retrieved January 17, 2013.
- Ou Jin Lee, Edward; Brotman, Shari (2011). "Identity, Refugeeness, Belonging: Experiences of Sexual Minority Refugees in Canada". Canadian Review of Sociology. 48 (3): 241–274. doi:10.1111/j.1755-618X.2011.01265.x. PMID 22214042.
- Green, Eli R. (2006). "Debating Trans Inclusion in the Feminist Movement: A Trans-Positive Analysis". Journal of Lesbian Studies. 10 (1/2): 231–248 . doi:10.1300/j155v10n01_12.
- Serano, Julia (2007). Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity. Seal Press. p. 12. ISBN 978-1-58005-154-5.
- Sullivan, Nikki; Murray, Samantha (2009). Somatechnics: queering the technologisation of bodies. Surrey, England: Ashgate Publishing. p. 17. ISBN 0-7546-7530-0.
- Green, Eli R. (2006). "Debating Trans Inclusion in the Feminist Movement: A Trans-Positive Analysis," Journal of Lesbian Studies. Volume: 10 Issue: 1/2. pp. 231−248. ISSN 1089-4160
- Pfeffer, Carla (2009). "Trans (Formative) Relationships: What We Learn About Identities, Bodies, Work and Families from Women Partners of Trans Men". Ph.D dissertation, Department of Sociology, University of Michigan.
- Williams, Rhaisa (November 2010). "Contradictory Realities, Infinite Possibilities: Language Mobilization and Self-Articulation Amongst Black Trans Women". Penn McNair Research Journal. 2 (1).
- Drescher, Jack (September 2009). "Queer Diagnoses: Parallels and Contrasts in the History of Homosexuality, Gender Variance, and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual". Archives of Sexual Behavior. 39 (2): 427–460. doi:10.1007/s10508-009-9531-5. PMID 19838785.
- Enteen, Jillana (2009). Virtual English: Queer Internets and Digital Creolization (Volume 6 of Routledge studies in new media and cyberculture). New York City, New York: Taylor & Francis. p. 177. ISBN 978-0-415-97724-1.
- Serano (2007) also defines cisgender as synonymous with "non-transgender" and cissexual with "non-transsexual" (p. 33).
- Walls, N. E., & Costello, K. (2010). "Head ladies center for teacup chain": Exploring cisgender privilege in a (predominantly) gay male context. In S. Anderson and V. Middleton Explorations in diversity: Examining privilege and oppression in a multicultural society, 2nd ed. (pp. 81−93). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole. Quote appears on p.83.
- Hernandez, Vittorio (February 14, 2014). "What's Your Choice – Male, Female, Transgender, Intersex?: Other Gender Options Now Available for Facebook Users". International Business Times. Retrieved December 18, 2015.
- Daubney, Martin (December 16, 2014). "Was 2014 the year political correctness went stark raving mad?: This year has seen political correctness turn sinister, thanks to the outraged, sanctimonious reactions of social media's PC police, argues Martin Daubney". The Daily Telegraph.
- Thompson, Damian (February 7, 2015). "The march of the new political correctness". The Spectator. London. Archived from the original on 2015-10-04. Retrieved 2017-11-08.
- Macdonald, Neil (March 17, 2015). "'Mansplaining' the return of political correctness:The scourge of the '90s, PC seems to be gaining a new foothold on college campuses". CBC.ca. Retrieved December 18, 2015.
- Wordsworth, Dot (November 7, 2015). "How we ended up 'cisgender':The history of a tendentious word". The Spectator. Archived from the original on November 12, 2015.
- Aultman, B (2014). Cisgender. Duke of University Press. p. 61. doi:10.1215/23289252-2399614.
- Tate, Charlotte Chucky; Bettergarcia, Jay N.; Brent, Lindsay M. (2015). "Re-assessing the Role of Gender-Related Cognitions for Self-Esteem: The Importance of Gender Typicality for Cisgender Adults". Psychology & Psychiatry Journal. Springer US. 72 (5–6): 221–236. doi:10.1007/s11199-015-0458-0.
- "New Mental Health Study Findings Have Been Reported by Investigators at Brown University (Gender Minority Stress, Mental Health, and Relationship Quality: A Dyadic Investigation of Transgender Women and Their Cisgender Male Partners)". Mental Health Weekly Digest. Academic OneFile. 9: 224. 2015.
- Brandon Griggs (February 13, 2014). "Facebook goes beyond 'male' and 'female' with new gender options". Retrieved February 13, 2014.
- The Associated Press. "Facebook's New Gender Identity Options".
- Martin, Katherine. "New words notes June 2015". Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. Archived from the original on August 14, 2015. Retrieved August 2, 2015.
- Scott-Dixon, Krista (2009). "Public health, private parts: A feminist public-health approach to trans issues". Hypatia. 24 (3): 33–55. doi:10.1111/j.1527-2001.2009.01044.x.
- Marinucci, Mimi (2010). Feminism is Queer: The Intimate Connection between Queer and Feminist Theory. Zed Books. pp. 125–126.
- "I don't feel I "match" my gender, so what does it mean to be called cis?". www.newstatesman.com. Retrieved 2016-09-09.
- Domurat Dreger, Alice (2001). Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex. USA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-00189-3.
- Eliminating forced, coercive and otherwise involuntary sterilization, An interagency statement, World Health Organization, May 2014.
- Inter/Act Youth • Inter/Act has been working with MTV’s Faking It on... Archived September 16, 2014, at the Wayback Machine. Inter/Act Youth. Retrieved October 17, 2014.
- Caught in the Gender Binary Blind Spot: Intersex Erasure in Cisgender Rhetoric, Hida Viloria, August 18, 2014. Retrieved October 17, 2014.
- Intersex for allies, Organisation Intersex International Australia, October 8, 2014. Retrieved October 17, 2014.
- Sandeen, Autumn (September 18, 2014). "Ipso gender: A third term for intersex people". LGBT Weekly. Retrieved April 28, 2016.
- Gorton R., Buth J., and Spade D. Medical Therapy and Health Maintenance for Transgender Men: A Guide for Health Care Providers. Lyon-Martin Women's Health Services. San Francisco, CA. 2005. ISBN 0-9773250-0-8
- Fausto-Sterling, Anne (2000). Sexing the body: gender politics and the construction of sexuality. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-07714-5.
- 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, February 27, 2013