Will "Cisgender" Survive?

Comments

1
Thank you Dan, for clarifying the nuances on the semantics of such obscure and abstract things.
2
Maybe if transgendered activists can resist using it as a slur or Asa method to dismiss or silence allies who aren't lock step (nevertheless enemies), then maybe it will.

But, I've seen it used as a slur too many times to make me take the term, and anybody who uses it, seriously.
3
I'm not quite sure the analogy with 'monosexual' is totally apt.

I really don't think the term 'cisgender' is meant to delineate some tier on on some power hierarchy, but rather a non-vague way to talk about 'normal' people, in exactly the way that the term 'straight' is.

This doesn't really hold for 'bisexuality'/'monosexuality'. For better or worse, being gay is not deemed 'normal' and as such it awkwardly lumps gays and straights like you note. 'monosexual' is just not a useful term to divide 'normal' and 'abnormal' in society I suppose.

Before coming out to myself as trans, I thought of 'cisgender' as a little silly, but now see it as helpful way to avoid using less helpful, vague words like 'normal' because of course being cis or straight or whatever does not mean that you are normal in any general sense.
4
I work with the LGBTQ group on my campus where many of the students identify as a- or queer- gendered, and it's an important designation for them because of pronoun use! I am a female presenting cis gendered woman, and those designations add up to my preference for she/her (but is not the only way to do pronoun arithmetic). Cis is a great term.
5
I dunno, I'm a cis-skeptic. The terms "transgender" designates a distinct, tiny, and really rather visible minority. There's nothing wrong with labeling the massive majority of people "cisgender", but I just can't see it really catching on with non-PC, non-Queer Studies majors, i.e., most people. It won't for two reasons: 1) there's no reason to identify yourself as not belonging to a truly tiny minority - i.e., there's no need to identify myself as a non-Manx speaker, and 2) in face-to-face encounters, it's usually quite obvious if you're transgender or not, so the usefulness of the label is restricted to mediated communication - e.g. email.
6
I despise the term, personally. First, I don't see the purpose in it. If the sole purpose is to make trans folks feel better when talking with or about those who are not trans, then that raises a problem right there. I personally do not want to be referred to by that term and I resent those individuals who think I should just "accept it and deal." It's very interesting when we have those who are a part of a community who wish to define things for themselves and seek to be able to determine their own path aren't the ones willing to give that to others.

As for the straight folks who have "embraced" the term, I think this is something that they think they "should" embrace, not true acceptance. If you ask the average non-liberal studies, non-politically correct straight person, they will have no idea what the term means or is supposed to represent, and then it creates a series of situations which detracts from the original point.

Ultimately, in the real world (i.e., not academia) this is a term that really serves no purpose.
7
@5 yeah, but in the same way for most every conversation in the world it is unnecessary to declare yourself straight. That doesn't obviate the need for a term like 'straight' for certain conversations.

Also, I really don't follow your reasoning about how the obviousness of ones transness or not has anything to do with whether the word cisgender is helpful. I mean people being white/black/hispanic whatever is FAR more apparent than one's trans-status, but that obviously has nothing to do whether we need/could use words for those things.

finally, I think this is really just an exposure thing, I don't consider myself a PC, genderstudies, word police sort of character, but the issue has (rather unfortunately) become relevant to me and the oddness of the terms has dissolve. I imagine it's how some views on gay marriage can magically change once their child comes out or something
8
It is such a an ugly word and the pronunciation is unpleasant. Personally it ranks with moist to me, not because of any meaning but just the fact that a less unpleasant term could surely be found. Also it took me forever to figure out how to pronounce so it fails in a spelling context too.
9
"I work with the LGBTQ group on my campus where many of the students identify as a- or queer- gendered"

Kids today will say/do anything to be different. We used to wear leather jackets and smoke cigarettes in my day.
10
@8, Maybe I'm reading too much into what you wrote, but given what you said, why single out this word? why not take on all the words whose spellings you don't like or that make you feel the way 'moist' does?

'like seriously, why can't we come up with a different word than 'moisture'? It sounds gross and really, shouldn't it be spelled 'moisCHur'?
11
"vague words like 'normal' because of course being cis or straight or whatever does not mean that you are normal in any general sense."

"Normal" is a perfectly acceptable and useful scientific term. But then again, fervent believers in rabid identity politics like science about as much as any loony, flat-earth believing bible thumper.
12
I identify as a cat. Now everyone must call me pussy or I will throw a hissy fit.
13
It's interesting that "homosexual" and "heterosexual" were largely coined as a pair. The minority and the majority were both represented in language as far back as the 1800s.

I think "cisgender" is useful, but I don't think it will ever find as common usage as "heterosexual" or "straight". Generally, I think the size of the minority comes into play. LGBT identity may be as low as 3% to 4% in this country, but only about 10% of that population identifies as transgender, 0.3% of the national population.

So, "cisgender" is useful when in the company of gender-enlightened individuals, but still generally draws blank stares otherwise.
14
I get the idea that there's a need for a term to identify the privileged group so that we don't have another case of just naming and isolating difference . . . the problem with "cisgender" to me is that it just has no resonance; where does it come from? is it an acronym? an anagram? is there some root word it's supposed to connect to?

15
@11 ah! a fellow lover of science! surely you too are well aware that we scientists use descriptive terms at various levels of abstraction. The appropriateness of one term at a certain level of abstract is utterly independent of the appropriateness of another term at another level abstraction. But silly me, you surely don't need to be told this!
16
The only thing I like about cis and trans as prefixes is the scientific allusion.
17
@13 Now I don't know the facts (or whether they are even knowable), but I wonder what the self-reportage of homosexuality has been throughout history. I imagine, though, that it was lower than it is today. Heck, I bet even today the numbers you cite underrepresent the rate of gay people. Given that being trans is even more stigmatized than being gay, that .3% figure could be substantially under-representative. Who knows that the actual rate is.
18
Dan, great post!
19
@14 From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cisgender:

>> Cisgender has its origin in the Latin-derived prefix cis-, meaning "on this side of," which is an antonym for the Latin-derived prefix 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) and in the ancient Roman term Cisalpine Gaul (i.e., "Gaul on this side of the Alps"). In the case of gender, cis- is used to refer to the alignment of gender identity with assigned sex. >>
20
Most of the time the word cisgender is either spat like a slur, when used by sanctimonious queer activist types, or as an apology, when used by timid allies who just heard their first lecture about intersectionality and have bought into the notion that all the facets of one's identity must be worn on the sleeve like a NASCAR driver wears his sponsors' logos.
21
@7 "for most every conversation in the world it is unnecessary to declare yourself straight. That doesn't obviate the need for a term like 'straight' for certain conversations."

Yes, exactly. Most of the time people don't need to label themselves cisgender, but in an online discussion of transgender issues, it's a useful term.
22
Use of the word seems pretty isolated to people in the LGBT and super-liberal realm, I don't see it spreading beyond that. I can't imagine Grandma or Aunt Peggy or Uncle Cletus to ever understand the word much less use it.
23
@7, I take your point about 'certain conversations'. That's really the crux of the matter, isn't it - there have to be discussions about transgendered people for the term 'cisgender(ed)' to be useful at all! And now we're finally starting to talk about them. And that's a good thing.

I maintain, however, that the term will never become anywhere near as ubiquitous as "straight." I'll re-explain my second point through an example: picture a straight guy in some social situation, where he's being hit on, or otherwise thinks he's being mistaken as gay. Straight guy says, "dude, I'm straight." Now, try to find an analogous transgender/cisgender situation. ...?

This doesn't mean "cisgender" shouldn't ever be used! It just contributes to the fact that it will be used far less often. That, and the tiny population. No transgender bars, no transgender softball teams, etc.

24
Agree with those who see cisgender as a useful word in somewhat limited discussions on gender -- i.e., those who identify with their biological original gender and those who don't. However, that is a pretty specialized distinction for generalized conversations in the non-gender studies crowd. And has been used as sort of an academic, in-the know slur rather than a factual sort of label by those who believe that cisgender people have no real moral standing because of their privileges and that gays, lesbians, and heterosexuals all sort of gang up on all other gender designations and transgendered folk. It does amuse me, however, to think of the homophobes of the world having their minds blown by being lumped with most gays and lesbians as well as heterosexuals as people who do identify with their birth gender! Michelle Bachmann and Ellen Degeneras, sisters under the cis!
25
@23 I guess I by-and-large agree with you on that, given the apparent rate (again it's only apparent and could change, I'm nearly 30 and newly out and I imagine there are others like me) of people being trans, that the issue is going to come up less often. And though I'm certain there are of course real rates of word use/acceptance/understanding whatever, I guess I don't really see the import of this sort of 'ubiquity comparison'. I mean, I imagine 'gay' is used more often than 'lesbian', but so what?

also, just for fun cause it's in my area and you mentioned softball teams: http://teamtrailblazers.tripod.com/
26
@ 5 : "in face-to-face encounters, it's usually quite obvious if you're transgender or not" - yeah, no. I know a fair number of transgendered folks, and think I have a clue about recognizing such, and I have met more than one whom I would never have thought were trans if they had not told me so. I expect this will also be more the case as more people are able to transition earlier, spending less of their lives with hormones and social roes that do not match their gender.

As to "cisgender", I think it will stick around. However infrequently it may actually come up, it has a well defined meaning, describes something specific for which there is no other word, and similar to what (interestingly, the same person) said @ 23 -these are good conversations to have, and we need words to have them with.
27
@26,

Deep stealth trans people aren't going to be called "trans" unless, like you say, they tell people.
28
I'm a regular reader of SLOG, but since I'm not attending any gender studies classes or regularly having deep discussions of gender identity issues with my gay friends and family, I didn't even know what the word meant till just now. I've seen it in the Savage Love column, but just shrugged and kept reading. I think most of the world outside of gender studies classes is going to do the same shrug and move on. I appreciate the desire to have a term other than "normal" since that carries some judgement, but cisgender is too technical in it's prefix for most people to understand immediately. Is there any other common term that uses "cis" as a prefix? If the term were "straight gendered" or something like that (but inclusive of non transgendered homosexuals), it might catch on with the general public and wind up being a lot more useful in establishing the distinction. Unless of course the real intent is to have a secret code word that doubles as a slur, then just carry on.
29
Perhaps we should look at how the term straight came about. My guess is that it was given to straights by themselves. I suspect that if you want the vast majority to adopt something new, it would have to come from within that majority.

Yes, for absolute clarity, cis can be useful, but I don't think we will ever have a significant number of cis people calling themselves that. They don't have to. The have the privilege of being normal (in the majority).

I am a gay male. I think that saying that tells everyone what they need to know about my gender and sexuality. If I were trans, I would say that I'm a gay trans-man. Without any modifiers, we should assume cis and straight. I think the vast majority always will.

I would only expect someone to identify himself as a straight male if he were writing a letter to Dan Savage, and his letter did not otherwise make it obvious.

I short, other than when discussing trans issues, I think many people will see cis as a way for trans people not to have to identify as trans. However, regardless of how real a trans person feels about his gender identity, his genes remain what they were at birth, and he can never make a 100% transition. Therefore, it is appropriate for trans folk to be up front about who they are, and to accept that when someone says he a real man, not a trans man, he is not being offensive.

[As I don't use the singular they, feel free to substitute for female above.]

Because of the Internet, I expect the word cisgender to remain—unless a better word comes around to replace it.

30
Why wouldn't nontrans work. Agree with #6 & 8. Very few people are going to indentify as cisgendered. Dan with all due respect to your letter writers I think they sometimes try to hard to label themselves perfectly. Which anyone who has ever read and understood anything about your advice is that we are all on a spectrum and to truly identify yourself would be Monty Python skit. With all respect to the noncisgendered, don't give me a lable I transapprove of, and I will try to accept labels you cisapprove of.
31
@29 "when someone says he a real man, not a trans man, he is not being offensive."

He may not offend you by saying that, but he would certainly offend me.

My friends who have children are all real parents, even though some of them took unconventional paths to getting there (adoption, surrogacy, IVF...)

My friends who have converted to Judaism are real Jews, even if they weren't born into the religion.

And my friends who have transitioned to being women are real women, even if they were born with a physical defect which needed treatment. There's no purpose served by telling them they're not really women. If you personally don't want to date someone born with that particular birth defect, that's your choice. It doesn't mean that a man dating a transwoman thereby loses his straight card.
32
I agree with @6. There just aren't enough trans people to make me feel the need to identify as "not trans".

By way of analogy, I also don't identify as "bipedal," despite the existence of a small minority of people having one leg.
33
I'm with Dan, I think "cisgender" is a useful term--in context--i.e. when the topic is pertaining to transgender issues. It doesn't ring offensively the way "natural born male" or "biological female" do, for example. It doesn't judge or prescribe normalcy, it's just sort of neutral.

That said, it isn't a term us cis-gendered people need to have hung around our necks, and be demanded to use at all times. The term "monosexual" was never anything but a smug, snide, condescending form of abuse that no monosexual person ever used to describe themselves. Yeah, no shit that it never caught on. Hopefully a relatively neutral and useful thing like the cis- prefix won't suffer the same fate.
34
I like cis/trans distinctions for 1,2-dichloro-cyclohexane molecules. And I use it when talking to chemists and environmental scientists. Similarly, I might use cis regarding gender when talking to LBGTQAXYZ activists and others conversant in that lingo.

But the term, cis-gendered, hasn't spread to the general population, nor has the use of the "cis" prefix. I could say Michael Jackson was trans-White while Marvin Gaye is cis-Black or that Elizabeth Warren is a trans-Democrat, but even the chemists wouldn't grasp it, only those of us who follow sexual politics would make the connection.
35
@32: Some slaves in Dom/sub relationships walk dog-like on all fours, and would resent your bipedal-normalism. Stop being so discriminatory.
36
"Why wouldn't nontrans work."

I identify as a cat. Everyone who doesn't shall be called 'non-pussy' from now on.
37
Groups of specialists (doctors, lawyers, trans activists) like to have their own technical terms even when plain language would do as well. A New England Journal of Medicine article discussed the risk, after having breast cancer, of developing a cancer in the "contralateral breast". Since it was about human females and not a veterinary journal, why couldn't they just use "other"?
38
@32,33 and a bazillion others. So are you all making the astute judgment that one should use words in a manner appropriate to the context and not otherwise. This seems like it should be overwhelmingly obvious to everyone, but this is all the calls for the use of 'cisgender' amount to. No rational person is asking you to identify with a certain modifier for any of the infinite things you are not at all times, sheesh. It's just a term to describe yourself *when it's relevant*.

There are a TON of modifiers that apply to you even if you don't know it/need the word/like the word/whatever. If I were to tell you that you were a speaker of an 'analytic' language (which English is classified as), there should be no harrumphing about being labeled or having some new albatross around your neck or whatever.

This of course sounds ridiculous and is far from what sane trans people are suggesting:
'I never asked to be called a speaker of an analytic language and I shouldn't be forced to identify as one!'
39
"when someone says he a real man, not a trans man"

That's pretty offensive to me. I identify as a cat and expect respect when spotted squatting over the kitty litter, not derision.
40
I do find "cisgendered" useful on a regular basis. I'm a deep-voiced, heavily muscled woman, and I'm sometimes asked whether I'm trans. I've been asked this by transpeople. I guess I don't read enough gender discourse to feel "cis" as a slur, and it's convenient to have a word I can use in the sentence "Thanks for asking, I'm ____".
In that sentence it's hard to get the inflection on "not trans" perfectly right, so it doesn't sound like I'm offended by the question. Having a positive descriptor to say that I am the gender I present as, was born this way, am not doing anything about it at this time, comes as a relief to me, and until someone brings me another one I'd like to go on using this one.
41
0.3% of the US population of roughly 300 million is 900,000 transpeople.

I think that % is probably high.
42
"But will 'cisgender' stand the test of time?"

I sure as fuck hope not.
43
My point, @38, is that's it's pretty much never relevant. Just as I've never needed to call attention to my having two legs, I've never needed to point out that I was not trans.

As to your analytic language point: you are absolutely correct that I would not harrumph about being told I was a speaker of an analytic language-- the first time you mentioned it. If you kept going on and on about it, and repeatedly referred to me as an "annie", I'd get annoyed. I define what my "me" is, and speaking an analytical language just doesn't fit into my self-conception. Ditto not being trans.
44
#19 - thanks for the etymology. It kind of confirms my thinking . . . "cis-" is not a root that you can easily wrap your brain around.
John Dewey talked about words as "symbols-of" and "symbols-for"; as "symbols-of" we can can recognize the representative function of language. As "symbols-for," words can make possible new ways of thinking about things, they can make action possible. That "cis-" prefix just doesn't feel like it enables new ways of thinking . . . compare to "queer" --the appropriation of that term and its use made possible all sorts of new connections and new ways of thinking. "Cisgender" just makes me want to find a dictionary.
45
@22, if Uncle Cletus is the arbiter for retaining words in our language, saints preserve us.
46
#19 - glad someone else thought to put the root meanings out there; most Americans are woefully ignorant of such things.

I've always thought 'cisgender' was a politically motivated neologism coined by some trans person who *wasn't* woefully ignorant of such things. The only other regular use of these prefixes as a pair as relating to mountains: cisalpine and transalpine. This sets up the psychology of the terms, as one who is 'cisgender' is stuck on this side of gender, while the 'transgender' has passed over to the far side of gender, elevating the term to an honorific and honoring the passage as though the transperson had walked across the Alps or the Rockies. It's certainly designated to alleviate the suffering of transpeople, but I had to roll my eyes the first time I heard someone like me referred to as cisgender.
47
@43 I totally agree! I think these annoying people (I luckily have never encountered one, but I don't doubt for a second that they exist) who go around throwing about this term are a deeply troubling expression of things deeply wrong with the contemporary left. I personally get really upset with them because I think they are playing a real role in making my life as a trans person harder than it needs to be. But even (maybe especially) if I weren't trans these people who enrage me.
48
@46
The only other regular use of these prefixes as a pair as relating to mountains: cisalpine and transalpine. This sets up the psychology of the terms, as one who is 'cisgender' is stuck on this side of gender, while the 'transgender' has passed over to the far side of gender, elevating the term to an honorific and honoring the passage as though the transperson had walked across the Alps or the Rockies.
What in the hell are you talking about? Elevating the term to an honorific? Honoring a passage? Did you miss this part?
This usage can be seen in the cis-trans distinction in chemistry, [and] the cis-trans or complementation test in genetics...
It is a simple prefix pair, nothing more. It is very useful in certain contexts and carries none of the value judgements that "normal guy" or "real woman" do. Your projections onto the terms are bizarre.

@43:
Just as I've never needed to call attention to my having two legs, I've never needed to point out that I was not trans.
It isn't just about you. Conversations about the differences between cis and trans people happen, and in these conversations, these terms get applied to classes of people, and you happen to belong to one of those classes. It doesn't matter if it's "pretty much never relevant" to you. Count your blessings that that's the case! There are people for whom it is very relevant, and situations in which these terms are appropriate.

It blows my mind that people are upset about this. Do the people who bristle at "cisgender" also loudly declare that they refuse to identify as "heterosexual"? It's a term used to describe the majority when contrasting it against the minority. That is all.
49
So long as people are able to hurl it as one would a slur in order to gain some semblance of control in their own lives, that word will live on.
50
@48: You should go back and re-read all the posts from people who have heard it used solely in the context of being a slur against people who are not trans. That's where being upset about it comes from. In the classroom, it's great for discussion. Out on the street, it muddies discourse more often than not.
51
What a bunch of cissies.
52
Can a minority baptize a majority and then the majority adopts the qualifier? Is there precedent for that? Cisgender always sounded passive-aggressive to me.
53
> @43: "Is there precedent for that?"

Baptized: "Breeder", "The Man", and (in the popular imagination) "Pale face".

No, the majority doesn't adopt it. But in those cases, the majority is aware of it (as a slur).
54
Like Moggadeet @40, I'm sometimes taken to be MTF. I'm also sometimes taken to be cismale. Give or take a tendency to dysphoria, I'm actually cisfemale, E-cups and all. Most terms are useful when there's a relevant contrast-class, and "cis-" has a reasonable etymology etc. to back it up.

I also don't really get the dislike of being called "cis". Plenty of proudly "un-PC" will mention someone's gender, ethnicity, age, whatever, in places where those are completely irrelevant, and still object to being called "cis" even when trans/cis *are* relevant distinctions.

Yes, a certain kind of self-appointed social justice warrior type can get annoying, but that's not a reason to throw a potentially useful word out,. "Cis" is hardly "honky" or "cracker".

Also, person who keeps claiming to be a cat for point-scoring: try looking up some of the actual science on transgender issues, the species-analogy really doesn't hold up too well.
55
All my fellow cissies who are whining and complaining that "cis" is a slur - a slur against a majority that, if @41 is correct, makes up 99.7% of the population:

Get over yourselves.

The way you are overinterpreting a word that simply means "same side" instead of "other side" is extremely silly. Noone cares if you think it's an ugly word or that you have a lot of feelings about being on the near or far side of the proverbial Alps.

Again: we are 99.7% of the population, and trans people make up one of the most misunderstood, least protected minorities in our country. I promise that noone can slur or oppress you in a meaningful way by calling you "cis". Please cut it out with your aggrieved majority schtick, you're making us all look ridiculous.
56
@50: There are also several posts (e.g. @6, @33, @43) from people who resent suddenly "having to identify" with this new term, as though anyone anywhere is asking that of them. Those posts aren't expressing offense at having a slur thrown at them, they are inexplicably expressing indignation that there is a word for them that they didn't know about.

@29:
However, regardless of how real a trans person feels about his gender identity, his genes remain what they were at birth, and he can never make a 100% transition. Therefore, it is appropriate for trans folk to be up front about who they are, and to accept that when someone says he a real man, not a trans man, he is not being offensive.
I just went back and re-read this comment fully, and yeah, that is some seriously offensive shit right there. Gosh, you mean transition doesn't change one's genes? I'm sure all trans people are completely unaware of that fact! Also, clearly one's genes are the most important part of gender identity, and mark the difference between what is real and what is an inferior imitation! But no, you're not being offensive when you say that, no, of course not.
57
@55 I don't think you get to tell people how they choose to identify. Some people don't want to be labeled that way and you should respect that. It's pretty simple.
58
EricaP seems to be the biggest voice of reason in this thread. I'm rather surprised to see so much anti-trans commenting on Slog. I see "cis" used, and it is rarely used as a slur. If you've mainly seen it as a slur, then you likely hang out around annoying people or you likely annoy people or you tend to read things as slurs. I know plenty of people who identify as cis, because they are.

As someone who is non-binary (agender/nongender/genderless to be precise), I have no problem with cis/trans, nor do I feel it necessarily reinforces the gender binary. I also think the term "cis" is here to stay, because younger folks tend to embrace it more than older folks do. Much like with gay rights, younger folks tend to be much better about trans rights and gender identity in general.

Most of the time, the fact that someone is cis is irrelevant. Just as most of the time the fact that someone is trans is irrelevant. But during the times when it is relevant, it's useful to have a word for it. And this is the word we have.
59
I’m cis and I sometimes use the word when discussing my bisexuality. As in, people's gender/sex definitely matter to me but not as part of whether they are sexually attractive or not. And I fully identify as female and am comfortable in my very feminine body, but I can’t imagine not fully identifying as male and being comfortable with a masculine body if that’s how I’d happened to be born and raised. I understand that not everyone feels that way, but I’m reasonably sure I wouldn’t be trans if I had been born with different genitalia. I’d be a comfortably cis man. (I think.)

The experience of really caring about which type of body I have is not mine, just as the experience of really caring about which type of body my sexual partner has is not mine either. So I’m positively bi but [I think] only cis by default.

Anyway, yeah, it comes up in conversations about sexuality. I happen to have those from time to time even though I’m fifty, and while I did take a Sex Roles in Society in 1981 we didn’t address cis/trans at all. And even though I don’t have much in the way of trans friends or family.

It’s a useful word. I’ve taken chemistry. I understood cis immediately and thought it was clever. I don’t hang with people who use it as a slur and it never occurred to me that it might be.
60
@55: As I have said before, using it to describe people in an academic setting is no big deal. Using it to say that all cis people need to sit down and shut up, as many of us have heard it out in the wild, doesn't endear people to your cause and needs to end if you want to move forward.
61
I agree that Cisgender has a place in academic discussion, but it's use in regular language isn't something I think will ever catch on despite a few people who try to use it the way we use straight and gay.

I think mainly because not many people actually identify in their own heads as cisgender. I would bet that even the majority of people who use the term to refer to themselves outside of academic discussion don't actually identify with the term in their own heads. They probably identify as just male or female. Is that a privileged thing? Sure, but it is what it is.

The difference from gay / straight and transgender / cisgender is that straight people these days generally do identify as straight. Even anti-gay, rabid homophobes generally identify somewhere in their heads as straight even if they have no need to actively do so in the majority of their conversations. But the vast, vast majority of cisgender people don't even know the term, much less identify with it in any meaningful way.

As a side note I find it interesting that we are supposed to be sensitive to every fluctuation in preferred terminology of minorities, but the non-minority has to just deal with what ever label gets thrown on them regardless if they don't like it.

Having heard people get slammed for using "Transgendered" instead of "Transgender" I find it interesting that a "non-transgender" person who doesn't like the term "cisgender" gets basically told to shut up and deal with it. We can even see shades of that in some of the comments above.

62
I hadn't even heard the term until I started reading your column Dan. And only noticed it used in gay mags I've picked up in BrisVagas ( Brisbane) a couple of times, since.
63
EricaP ; think those examples are a little different. Being a parent is an activity. Becoming a Jew is taking on a Religion. Chromosomes can't be changed.
64
This argument seems to come up often; esp here, when trans issues are raised. And of course the reaction is always it's offensive.
Which ends any discussion. Because any discussion is prescribed. Boring.
65
LavaGirl, how often is knowing people's chromosomes involved in interacting with them, though?

How often do people know their own chromosomal make-up, or base their identities on such knowledge?

Sure, more often than not genotype and phenotype may match, but there's a lot more mismatch than people tend to expect.

What is there to discuss here that's important to you?
66
But if you guys would just start using 'cisgender' then you'd be able to start complaining that there's no 'Cis Day Of Remembrance'.
67
@65; you really want to know? I'll just get into trouble, like I have other times I've opened my mouth on this subject.
Here goes. I don't use the term cis gender. Not because I care about the term, but because I won't collude with the surgical and hormonal changes people put their bodies thru..
I don't know the experience of feeling like I'm in the wrong gender.. But to cut into the body , take hormones, is to me - such an extreme way of dealing with this disconnect. The body is such a finely tuned creation.
Hence, my refusal to call myself a cis- woman, is because of my concern; and my protest. I won't collude with people mutilating their bodies.
68
@67 speaking of words, you either don't really know what 'collude' means or you have some severe delusions about your relevance to trans people. Luckily, whether you 'collude' or not is totally beside the point.
69
This website is the only place I've ever seen that word. And the average American doesn't know the difference between transgender, transsexual, transvestite, and (sometimes) hermaphrodite. So cisgender will never catch on amongst the general populace. (Personally I think a word that was more obvious as to what it meant would be better.)
70
Lava Girl @65: Yes, I did want to know. And I still don't really understand. For one thing, you were talking about chromosomal sex earlier, and that's not related to any of the things you mention here.

The cis/trans distinction is a separate issue from whether surgery and hormones are the right "treatment". I had a similar response to the one you have to "cis" when I first heard "neurotypical", but now I actually find that a useful term, too.

More generally, are you against surgery and hormone treatments across the board, or just for this kind of condition?

"The body is such a finely tuned creation." That doesn't seem to be the case always, or why would we have medicine? Some people's bodies are quite hellishly badly tuned. And as a species, we're really not that well designed all round - we're not even well adapted to going biped.

Not all trans* people seek surgery or hormone treatments, but some find it the only available solution: what alternatives would you suggest for them?
71
@69 Do you realize how mind-bogglingly silly your argument is? It takes the form: thing X is not common now, therefore it will NEVER be common.

If that were to be true, then we would be living in a very static place where nothing becomes more common which is, like, transparently false.
72
@71 You're right, I phrased that really badly. I meant I don't see it ever catching on amongst the general populace.
73
@64:
And of course the reaction is always it's offensive. Which ends any discussion. Because any discussion is prescribed. Boring.
Yeah, and while we're at it, let's have a "discussion" about whether or not gay people are all child molesters, and a "discussion" about whether or not black people are subhuman, and a "discussion" about whether or not Jewish people are enemies of the state. I mean, come on, you guys, they're just discussions! What's the matter, don't you like discussions? Oh, you just want to prescribe everything. Boring.

@63:
Chromosomes can't be changed.
Oh my god, who fucking cares? When you tell me you're a woman, I don't ask you for a blood test. I take you at your word, because you get to determine your identity. Your refusal to extend the same courtesy to trans people is why your words are offensive.
74
Well then, what can we do to get it out of usage because it just grates on my nerves like nothing else.
Actually, I sorta figured it would die out when all the early 20-somethings that like to use it finally graduate, get bored and move on to something else. It's hard to keep up that level of energy from queer studies courses with all the outside world's demands and distractions.
As you get older, there just comes a time when you can't keep up with or be bothered by extraneous shit.
75
@63, generally, when I interact with someone who looks and acts mostly the way I expect women to look and act (all women are individuals, so there is a range of ways of looking & acting like a woman) -- I don't ask her about her chromosomes or her birth certificate. I just treat her as a woman.
76
@68; I know exactly what collude means. I'm also aware of my irrelevance to the trans community..
Everyone seems to fall over backwards to be seen agreeing with how people who experience their gender wrong, deal with this experience. Like some sort of collective delusion. As if the Human Body can work to it's optimum whatever onslaught it is subjected too.
I'm not one of those people.
77
Of course.EricaP. Just pointing out to you how the examples you used were inconsistent with the point you were making.
You were chastising a guy from an earlier comment. Amazing how much chastising goes on around this subject.
I treat a person as they present themselves as well.
78
@73; I have no problem with trans people. How is it offensive to speak the truth? The offensiveness to me is how people pretend that it's fine to go cutting up the body , fill it with hormones.
And it's the truth. You can't change chromosomes. Doesn't mean I don't accept people as they present themselves. What sort of jump in logic is that? I speak a truth and it's seen as offensive.
79
@74 Oh dang, I didn't realize that I was supposed to grow out of it, I guess that being trans doesn't come up all the time, but some times it does and I thought that it was useful to have a word for people who are not, y'know, when the outside world demands that you explain yourself. Which is something that I'm sure happens to "normal" (is that ok to call you?) people probably even more often than trans people.
I'm old (forties counts as not an early 20 something right?) but even in my advanced age it takes suprisingly few calories to either say or understand a three letter word like cis. Usually a back pill and a Werther's or two get me back on my feet. But I get it sister! In this day and age who has time to care about other people who aren't me! Amiright?
I'm sorry it grates on your nerves so much! That must be hard because obviously you care so much about trans people. If only that word wasn't so hard for you to hear, your ears must be splitting from all the times you hear someone say 'cisgender' in a day.
Luckily all you need to do to get it out of the language is come up with a better word to describe "people who are not trans" that is as catchy and non-weivghted, but not as exasperating (uggggh! so much work!) as 'cis'.
Certainly someone as serious about time management as yourself can squeeze such an activity in, but please don't over exert yourself- us grown-ups only have so many words a day. I would highly recommend having at least three Werther's, a sugar-free butterscotch, and a cup of hot water with lemon nearby before beginning this heroic endeavor. And do it as close to the early-bird as possible, us mature folks have to keep up our precious energy reserves.
Good luck and godspeed! May you save us all from the horrible drudgery of using a word that's only two decades old.
80
@68 oh, silly me, I guess I just understood 'collude' in the sort of 'secretive, illicit collaboration' sense. I know we cisgender-as-a-word-adopters are not doing so great on the secretive bit or the illicit bit, but whatever. You can keep on refraining from your own version of "collusion"
81
@78 also, way to pat yourself on the back with your truth-speaking! brava! I can totally understand how brave it must be to hold forth against the tides of people who don't boldly and repeatedly make what is known as "The Worst Argument in the World"

"X is in a category whose archetypal member gives us a certain emotional reaction. Therefore, we should apply that emotional reaction to X, even though it is not a central category member."

http://lesswrong.com/lw/e95/the_noncentr…

82
@78: So, what is your position on cosmetic and reconstructive surgery, hormone replacement therapy, and the full range of surgical and pharmaceutical interventions that make up the majority of modern medicine?
83
@78, I've "filled" my body with hormones every day for the past 25 years (except for a few years in the middle when I was bearing children) -- it's called hormonal birth control, and I like the power it gives me to control my bleeding and not get pregnant.

We're not telling you what to think. We're telling you what politeness entails in our culture.

I chastised the poster @29 for saying that it wasn't offensive to differentiate between "real" men and trans men. To me, it is offensive, and pointlessly offensive.

Unless I'm a doctor treating the person, or their spouse trying to have children with them, there's no practical difference between a transman and a cisman. They're both real men.
84
@Lava Girl, here's what I don't quite get: you say you're concerned for people who want to use surgery and hormone treatments for physical transition, but you don't seem to have much interest in the available literature on trans* conditions, which is easily googleable.

I mean, when I first had concerns about gender issues, including my own, that was the first thing I looked into, and a lot of what I found was nothing like what I'd thought. Including the physical processes involved in transitioning.

As far as chromosomes go, these women are neither XX nor trans: File:Orchids01.JPG">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Androgen_in…
85
@55 And people like you are what continue to set trans people back-i.e by being obnoxious self-styled "Allies" that think helping the disaffected of society means shouting nonsensical jargon at the top of your lungs and alienating the population at large. As a Transwoman, let me just take this opportunity to say go fuck yourself with a rusty pitchfork.
86
@83 What about the personal history of growing up male vs growing up female and transitioning? Surely there is some part of a man's childhood that is specific to men and cannot be replicated, right? In other words, if I were to transition to a woman tomorrow at age 33 you'd have to think there was aspects of womanhood I wouldn't understand.
87
*sighs* The ignorance of biology and history. Lavagirl for thousands upon thousands of years of human history, chromosomes have not been the determinor of sex or gender. Why should they be in the modern era simply because we can now test for them? Attempts to test people using chromosome testing to determine sex has led to terrible problems with people born and raised and identifying with one sex suddenly being told that their chromosomes don't match it - and no benefit has been gained by telling them they somehow aren't really the sex they thought they were and everyone else thought they were. Nor is it necessarily the case that everyone has only one set of chromosomes consistent throughout their body. Nor do most people know their own chromosomes in order to use it as a determining factor.

I actually do know my own chromosomes for a section of my body, because I had some genetic testing done. But most people don't and people don't need to. But if you haven't had your genetics actually tested, then you have zero right to make a claim about what chromosomes you have, since you do not know.

@86 I don't think it's the same if you're not cis. I never felt comfortable in the gender I was assigned to at birth, so I do not know what it is like to grow up in it. I know what it's like to often be treated as if I were part of it, so I know the forms of obnoxious sex-role stuff that clashed. But I was often told I wasn't like others of my sex, and I didn't feel like I was one of them. So, while someone who is not-cis may not know what it is like to grow up being treated as their correct gender, they also may not have the experience of growing up in the gender they were assigned to. They have the experience of growing up as their own gender and, depending on the people around them, of not having that recognized. Except that many people are getting better at identifying gender issues in childhood, so some non-cis people are now growing up recognized and treated as their actual gender, which makes this less of an issue.
88
This thread...

EricaP, you are awesome.

@ 29 - Since you're gay, 40 years ago you also weren't a "real man." Those people didn't think they were being offensive, either.

LavaGirl - You need to do some reading. Start here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_chromos…

But there's a lot more to gender than X and Y chromosomes, in all of their assorted combinations. There are also physical differences that distinguish the brains of trans folks from those of cis folks with the same genetalia.

Here’s some of the current research:

“These data suggest a pattern (in male to female transsexuals) of activation away from the biological sex, occupying an intermediate position with predominantly female-like features”

http://cercor.oxfordjournals.org/content…

The white matter in the brains of female-to-male transsexuals who have not yet begun hormone therapy mirrors the white matter in male brains rather than female brains. "It's the first time it has been shown that the brains of female-to-male transsexual people are masculinised," Guillamon says.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20…

And then there’s this:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles…

From the abstract:
”Results revealed that regional gray matter variation in MTF transsexuals is more similar to the pattern found in men than in women. However, MTF transsexuals show a significantly larger volume of regional gray matter in the right putamen compared to men. These findings provide new evidence that transsexualism is associated with distinct cerebral pattern, which supports the assumption that brain anatomy plays a role in gender identity.”

From the results:
“For each of 22 significantly different regions (twelve within the right hemisphere and ten within the left hemisphere), cluster-specific box plots were generated to illustrate the magnitude and direction of gray matter volume differences between groups (see supplement 1 and 2). Altogether, females had the largest gray matter volumes in all but two significant clusters, which were located in the left and right putamen. Here, MTF transsexuals had the largest gray matter volumes (see Fig. 1). For the remaining clusters, MTF transsexuals had the smallest gray matter volumes, but their data spectrum largely overlapped with that of males.”

In other words, you are using "science" as an excuse for your prejudice but you haven't bothered to actually read any of the research being done in this field. And since you very clearly have access to the internet, there's no good excuse for that. I hope you choose to educate yourself and to reevaluate your misconceptions.

@ the actual topic - I find the term "cis" extremely useful. It provides clarity when discussing trans* issues, and unless it is replaced I will continue to use it when that topic comes up. If you find that offensive, I find you absurd.
89
@86, there are more differences across cultures than between the genders. If a woman were raised in the Chinese countryside she might need to learn a lot about our world, and maybe I would find the differences too great to allow us to be friends. But I'd still treat her as a woman.
90
So much transphobic garbage in this thread. You hateful bastards should be ashamed of yourselves.
91
@88; I have heard of these brain scans. My qu is , when were they done? Surely not on children. People's experiences , thoughts etc effect the brain.
I have no problem with trans people. I support people's rights to identify as they choose. Why would I not? To me, I would never classify people as being " real " or not.
I've been pretty clear re my concerns.
92
LavaGirl, no, you haven't been. You said you object to tampering with the body with hormones, but haven't stated whether you object to all hormonal treatments, including those given to menopausal women or those used to ease other medical problems or those used for birth control. You have stated that transgender people can't change their genome, without addressing the fact that genome has not historically been the deciding factor on sex. You've given us jumbled up unclear biology 101 with no understanding of the more complex nature of actual reality. It's like your opinion is of actual gases and you're basing all of your views on PV=nRT without any of the additions to the equation to handle non-ideal gases. Have you studied any relevant science? Also, your garbage about the body being delicate and your concern for people tampering with it is ludicrous when studies show that trans people who want hormones or surgery have better outcomes with them than without them. So don't concern troll when the actual evidence shows it is better for people. It's like the idiots who object to abortion because they are concerned for the physical or mental health of the person getting one, when all of the studies show that both physical and mental health outcomes are better with abortions than with pregnancies (although no studies I am aware of have been run on people who want to carry to term being forced to have abortions - that would likely lead to bad outcomes and would obviously be massively unethical, so I would not support that nor consider studies run on people who choose to have abortions to be representative for outcomes of people who were forced to have them).

In other words, just be honest - you don't like people who are different from you in particular ways. You are allowed to be bigoted. Just be honest about it.
93
@92; excuse me? Prejudiced against people who are different to
Me. Er No. And it's not concern trolling. You think putting me down
Changes anything.
This post isn't about hormones for other situations. And no, I don't agree with these forms either. Esp for menopausal women, esp for birth control.
People are free to put whatever drugs into their bodies that they like. People are free to cut into their perfectly working bodies as well. Studies proving people do better with surgery? Their minds or their bodies?
The mind , is where the disconnect is. As I see it. So, work on the mind..
What a puerile statement. Really. That I am prejudiced against people who are different to me. Obviously, trans people have a very difficult path. I'm not in any way discounting that. And I am fine to identify people as they present themselves.
No amount of bullying, put down comments etc is going to change the truth as I see it.
94
@65, if you're still around. Yep. As I predicted. Just get into trouble when I attempt to air my perceptions. The discussion never goes past the put downs.
95
LavaGirl, what about information? Is there any kind of factual information that would cause you to change your mind about what the truth is?
96
@93: At one point in time, the truth, as we saw it, was that the world was flat. Some people, who refuse to listen to scientists, still believe that. It doesn't make them any sort of guardians of the truth. It makes them incredibly arrogant. And a little crazy.

I'm glad you treat trans folks well to their faces. But choosing to believe that the issue is the mind rather than the brain and that psychiatric treatment is as/more effective than current treatment is choosing to believe disproven science.

It groups you with those who choose truthy over truth.
97
@94: The discussion has got well beyond put downs. People have pointed out to you some potential contradictions in your position and some have quoted research and provided relevant links.

This is a subject area where your perceptions do not accurately reflect the reality. People have provided you information that you can use to learn more about the subject, which may alter your perceptions. From reading other comments of yours, you seem like an open-minded and compassionate person. I'd encourage you to use those qualities as you learn more about this very sensitive topic.

Yes, some people have expressed their opinions forcefully which probably does seem rude and maybe bullying. But this is an issue where the people most deeply affected - trans people - confront ignorance and prejudice on a daily basis. That can wear on one's patience.

If someone calls you a bigot, and you don't like being called a bigot, you have two options: you can decide they are just mean and wrong, and ignore it; or you can examine your own positions and see if, maybe, they have a point. Again, you seem like an open-minded and compassionate person in your other posts. I'd encourage you to take the second option.
98
LavaGirl @93 -- you're against other people using hormonal birth control? Care to explain more about that?

99
@ LavaGirl - The answer to that question (and probably a lot of your other questions) can be found in the studies I linked. There have also been some popular science style write ups on this (including the second link I provided) that are a lot more accessible than the stuff published in peer reviewed journals. But I know that getting through all of that information can be a slog so I'm happy to walk you through it.

The studies were all done on trans* people who had not yet begun taking hormone therapy. In other words, with absolutely no medical intervention whatsoever, the brains of trans* ladies are already physically similar to the brains of cis ladies and the brains of trans* gentlemen are already physically similar to the brains of cis gentlemen. And that's at the structural level. Which is huge. The brains of men (trans* and cis) actually process and store information differently than the brains of women (trans* and cis). That is a gross oversimplification, of course, but it should at least give you an idea of the scope of the issue for these people.

And that brings us to your point about growing up as a boy vs growing up as a girl. While a trans* girl is growing up as a boy, her brain is processing all of those events as a girl. Just like it wouldn't have turned you into a boy to be raised as a boy, it doesn't turn trans* girls into boys if their parents refuse to get them treatment. Instead, they experience a whole host of adverse psychological effects. Because while what gender means is cultural, gender is neurological.

100
@86 That didn't address my point at all. You said there were no practical differences between a man and a trans man. I pointed out a very practical difference.