Definition of Cis: What Does Cisgender Mean?
As a person living in the year 2020, it is important to understand the current terminology surrounding gender and sexuality, even more so if you don’t think you need to. The majority of the population’s gender identity falls into the category of cisgender. What does cisgender mean? People who are cisgender define their gender as in line with the sex they were assigned at birth and correlating to their physical bodies. What does cis mean? The prefix “cis” means on the same side. This suggests that your gender and sex are on the same side of the gender spectrum, or you gravitation to things masculine or feminine is on the same side as society’s understanding of you as masculine or feminine based on sex. Cisgender is a term that was coined after the terminology for those whose gender does not correlate with their sex in the way society would assume. In order to understand cisgender meaning and usages, we have to also understand terms like transgender, intersex, agender, and gender non-conforming.
What is Cis Gender in Relation to Transgender?
A person who is transgender is a person for whom the gender they were assigned at birth does not match the gender they relate to on the spectrum of gender identity. The prefix trans meaning crossing would mean transgender people’s gender crosses to the other side of the gender spectrum than the side of their physical sex. People who are gender non-binary or gender non-conforming do not feel that they relate completely to one particular side of the gender binary that has been constructed in our society. So what does cis mean?
People who are cisgender do not question the body or physical sex they were born with in relation to their gender identity. If you are born into a female body and you feel that you are a woman, or if you are born into a male body and you consider yourself a man, you are cisgender. If you were born into a female body and your gender identity is masculine or male, or if you were born male and your gender is feminine/ you are a woman, then you are transgender. If you were born intersex, society will often still make an assumption of your gender based on your physical appearance, which shows how gender is a societal construct.
What is the Deal With Pronouns?
If you are cisgender, people assuming your pronouns will usually get it right. So why are more and more cisgender people putting their pronouns on things like resumes, work documents, and social media bios? If we normalize letting people know what our pronouns are, even if we are cisgender, or transgender and passing, it sends a message to society that we should pay attention to pronouns in general. It also gives gender non-conforming and trans people a way to state their pronouns and not have it be strange or single them out. Gender non-conforming individuals will often use the pronouns “they” as opposed to him or her.
While most transwomen use she/her and most transmen use he/him pronouns, some use they/them pronouns too. It is also sometimes difficult for someone who is transitioning to let people know their pronouns are changing, especially those who have known them to use a different pronoun before they were out as trans. Pronouns are significant because they show care and respect. If you use the wrong pronouns for someone, you should correct yourself instead of making excuses or saying it’s not grammatically correct. When you don’t know someone’s gender, it is common English to say “someone left their sweater here” or “if someone comes let them know I’ll be back soon.”
No one would argue these sentences were grammatically incorrect, would they? Even if the grammar did not make sense, grammar is a set of rules made by the people to allow a common understanding of language, and grammar is allowed to be changed. Ignoring the mistake of using the wrong pronouns for someone models this behavior to other people, so even if it seems embarrassing it is truly an act of care to catch yourself if you wrongly said something like “He just arrived” and say “I misspoke, she just arrived” or “I misspoke, they just arrived.”
More on the Cisgender Def: What Is Cisgender in Relation to Your Sexuality?
Does your sexuality define cisgender identity? No! The cisgender definition has nothing to do with your sexuality! You can be cisgender and gay, cisgender and straight, cisgender and bisexual, cisgender and asexual, you name it! Cisgender relates to your personal gender identity while sexuality identifiers like gay or straight define who you are attracted to sexually or romantically.
These are two different aspects of identity and they do not go hand in hand, however, they are often lumped together in society’s views on what your sexuality says about you and what your gender says about you. Society deems that the majority of people are cisgender and heterosexual, which is sometimes shortened to “cishet”. While cishet identity is potentially the most common, this identity is not better or more natural than any other combination of gender identity and sexuality. In fact, it may seem like most people are cisgender and heterosexual, but there are flaws in this thinking.
Most cisgender people are not 100% masculine men or 100% feminine women. Gender is not a yes or no answer, but an intricate and ever-changing expression that changes with the times. Some cultures think having long hair is feminine while others think it is masculine. Men can wear the color pink and women can wear suits and neither of these things means that they aren’t cisgender!
If you are straight, this doesn’t mean that you are only attracted to cisgender people of the opposite gender, you can also be attracted to transgender people of the opposite gender. If you are bisexual, this doesn’t refer to either cisgender women or cisgender men. Bisexuality can include transgender people and gender-nonconforming people. Pansexuality means you’re attracted to all genders. Gender may be important to sexuality but sexuality does not define your gender.
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