Over at my post "Dan Savage Glittered Again, Student Arrested," a side discussion has come up deserving it's own thread.
Travelingman Rick commented that he was opposed to the use of the word "cis" to describe non-trans people and said that it was slur.
The people doing this to Dan don't have a problem throwing around the word Cis, a word that was created by and pushed onto non trans people by the trans community. A term that I and many others find offensive yet trans people continue to push this word and attempt to foist it upon us. Maybe you should think about that before you blame others for simply using words that have been around for ages that were not directed at any one person in particular but were simply being repeated by Dan that were part of a question he was asked. I am going to start glitter bombing the next Trans person I hear use the term Cis to describe me.
Patrick Farley responded saying:
"Cis" is a Latin prefix that means "on the same side as". In other words, you aren't "trans". It's not a slur. Tranny, and shemale, are slurs.
Why on EARTH would you find "cis" offensive?
I also asked if there were any other value-neutral terms that he would prefer.
John Aravosis at Americablog has made a post focusing on this issue. I'll post my response below. I'd love to hear serious responses to my concerns, and it would be great if this conversation stops taking over the other thread.
My response on the other thread
We absolutely need a value neutral way to refer to people who are not trans. If you only insist on being referred to in terms that denote superiority, no one will take your request seriously. Right now cis is the only term that denotes neither superiority or inferiority. It was derived the same way as -- and is as value neutral as -- the term heterosexual (which, by the way was forced upon people who had previously been referred to as "normal" by gay activists).
I would add that there is also a pretty serious difference between people who are not trans using the term "she-male" and other people using the term "cis."
- Available Alternatives. There is no reason not to use the value neutral term, "trans," instead of "she-male." However, there is no value neutral term other than "cis" that can be used.
- Anger vs Slur. Just because a term is used with anger does not make it a slur. I've seen plenty of people dealing with racism respond "God damn white folks!" Or "I can't stand those fucking straight men!" That does not mean that "white" "straight" and "men" are now slurs. Because someone dealing with transphobia said "You're just acting like a typical cis person!" doesn't mean that cis is a slur.
- Power Difference. Slurs against oppressed groups hold more power than slurs against majority groups. If a bigot yells the N-word, "Faggot," etc, on the street, it has a much stronger impact than someone yelling "breeder" or "cracker." That's not to say that slurs against majority groups are not rude or hurtful, but that it is inappropriate to place them on the same level as slurs against oppressed groups.
If a group of people who have been called cis got together and came up with another value neutral term for themselves that they wanted to popularize, I would go right ahead and use it. However, it would only be a matter of time before someone, somewhere used the term with anger and we'd be in just about the same situation.
And in the meantime, the people opposed to using "cis" can only suggest alternatives like "don't call me a man or a woman" - as if trans people aren't men or women. Or "call me a biological person" - as if trans people are not biological. Or "Just call me non-trans" effectively meaning that we don't call them anything at all - as if they are simply normal and being trans is an aberration.
I can't help but have visions of a person who says "don't call me upper-class, call me a man of capability," "don't call me straight, just call me not perverted," "don't call me able-bodied, just call me normal or non-sick," or "don't call me white, call me someone with good breeding."
I would much rather refer to someone in a respectful way they'd prefer to be referred to, but if they insist the only way for me to respect them is to imply denigrating things about myself, that's where I draw the line.