In Parenting Help, Wellbeing

What does CIS Gender Mean?

As human right activists continue to push for the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals, different terms have surfaced that many people might not be completely familiar with. CIS gender, also sometimes spelled as cisgender or cis-gendered is one such term that might be new to individuals, but it is important to understand in order, as this also points to the scientific backing that people do not simply choose their sexual orientation, but are instead born with their orientation. Once cisgendered is understood, it is possible to draw a direct link with how people identify themselves and why they might feel they identify better with the opposite sex.

In general, the term cisgender is when someone identifies with the gender they were born. Essentially, if someone is born a boy, they identify themselves as a man, while someone born a girl identifies themselves as a woman. This is a newer term that has come out in recent years as more science comes out to back the connection with someone’s mental state and their own personal orientation. While genetics determines the gender of a child, it also is in play with the mental programming of a baby as well, and the two do not always match up with one another. Due to this, calling people who are cisgender ‘non-transgender’ it not accurate. This is because it suggests being trans gender is abnormal or that people who relate to their own gender are default. This is simply not the case, as it is not up to the person to decide what gender they associated with at birth. It is the same as calling someone a ‘non-red head’ for not having red hair, simply because a small percentage of individuals have red hair.

By using the terms transgender and cisgender, it implies that neither is the default setting of a person’s mental state. Using these terms also has more than one reason though. If only transgender is used as a term, it signifies that only people who are transgender have a gender identity. Of course, that is not accurate, as everyone has a gender identity. Sexual orientation is the same as race, class and other forms of identity. A person who is not of Caucasian ancestry is not referred to as “non Caucasian.” This would imply that only people who are Caucasian have a racial identity, so every single race has its own specific name. This is exactly the same case with transgender and cisgender and why it is important to understand that everyone has their own gender identity, so using the proper terminology for each gender identity is important.

Understanding the origins of cisgendered terminology is important. This is a new term, but it did not come out of nowhere. It is a derived from the Latin prefix “cis”, which translates to “on this side.” By combining “cis” with “gender,” it means “this side of gender.” On the other hand, trans comes from the Latin prefix that means “on the other side of.” Due to this, the literal translation of transgender means ” on the other side of gender.” Basically one is the opposite of the other, but it is not one is the transverse of the other. While one means people who identify with one side of the gender spectrum while the other means it identifies with the other side, one is not the negative of the other. Both are on equal playing fields in meaning, the same as male and female, old and young or black and white.

The term itself though did not come about until recently. German sexologist Volkmar Sigusch became the first individual to use it in a peer reviewed publication. In his 1998 essay titled “The Neosexual Revolution,” he pointed out the terminology and how individuals do not select their particular sexual identity, but are in essence assigned their sexual identity while in the womb, essentially receiving a stamp from the genetic makeup of their parents. With this stamp, the individual is not going to change their mental programming, so they are going to react to life and situations based on their programming.

Individuals, mostly therapists and psychiatrists, continued to use the cisgender term for the next several years, but it really did not catch on, at least until the mid 2000’s. In 2006, “Journal of Lesbian Studies” and the book “Whipping Girl” both used the term. As both of these texts were heavily read and extremely popular in their own particular fields, the term started to increase in usage. Julia Serano, who wrote the text “Whipp Girl” pointed out that “the belief that transsexuals’ identified genders are inferior to or less authentic than those of cissexuals.” By 2010, the term cisgender started to appear throughout academic texts, pointing out how individuals belonging to their own sexual gender would receive advantages over transgenders, simply by how they interact with one another and the basic mental programming that took place before birth.

The term cisgender is not something that is backed and supported by all individuals though. Some believe the term is less clear and that average people are more likely to understand non-trans, which in turn might help normalize the identity of transgenders. Mimi Marinucci, a prominent scholar on the subject of women’s and gender studies believe separating people into a cisgender and transgender identification is rather dangerous, and that it might cause some of the same basic problems that masculine and feminine identification has caused, as it cuts out any sort of middle ground. In humanity, there is almost never two sides. With so many people and ways of life, not to mention how genetics are in play, forcing everyone into only two different categories is going to push some people into the category who do not belong. In terms of cisgender and transgender, Marinucci sights lesbian, gay and bisexuals who are not going to fit specifically into one of these two categories, but are instead more of a mixture of the two. As she points out, while someone might identify themselves as the gender they were born as, they are not going to necessarily find themselves attracted to the particular gender typically associated with either cisgender or transgeder, which in turn is going to cause its own problems.

Currently, while the term cisgender is starting to receive more and more coverage, the exact usage of the word is up for debate. It does equalize the playing field and not denote one particular sexual orientation over the other, but it also forces some people into an identifying group they do not completely identify with. Due to this, it is necessary to continue to understand how sexual orientation and the way people live their lives in reference to their sexual preferences is not generally by choice, but instead it is due to mental programming and how they are born and raised. All of this is necessary to look into and to comprehend in order to completely have a clear understanding of all sides of the sexual identification spectrum and why it is important to accept all people for how they are, as people are not able to choose who they are, they are simply born that way.

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