Tobi Hill-Meyer

Sidetrack: Use of the Term 'Cis'

Filed By Tobi Hill-Meyer | November 14, 2011 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: cisgender people, cisgender privilege, Dan Savage, is it a slur, John Aravosis

Over at my post "Dan Savage Glittered Again, Student Arrested," a side discussion has come up deserving it's own thread.

detour-sidetrack.jpgTravelingman 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."

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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microwavejenny | November 14, 2011 6:36 PM

sorry no. There is absolutely no reason to respect people with privilege who get upset when called out about that privilege. The big difference between cis being used as a slur and trans being used as a slur is there is an entirely different relationship towards power and oppression. I am so tired of people who are unwilling to acknowledge whatever privilege they have, and who instead act like children throwing a temper tantrum when someone dares to raise the suggestion that they benefit from other people's oppression.

It really isn't hard. Look--I'm cis; I have privilege.

Thank you very much. You are a wonderful person, and i thank you for being so considerate.

uh...I am so gonna get in trouble for saying this....
'Cis-gender' as a slur?
I can think of dozens of other terms to use that would describe that person to a (pardon the pun) a 'T', however calling someone 'fucktard' or 'asshat' might be looked down upon as well.
As someone who's Transgender and Intersex (92XX/XY), I just call all of them 'humans' and I DO use the word 'human' as a derogatory term.
Yes Tobi, you are taking the high ground here and I love you for it.

when will people realize that WORDS are not the problem, it's the way they are thrown and received. I happen to be a big tranny, and I don't give two f****s if someone calls me that, or anything connected to a trans person... Don't let words bother you. It's not worth the effort. Not only is it not worth the effort, but there is no way to please everyone with the same word.

Wilberforce1 | November 14, 2011 6:59 PM

How about 'gay' and 'lesbian'? We've used those terms for ourselves since forever. Now they're off limits because the trans community says so? And you create a term for us, 'cis', without asking our permission? Talk about arrogance and the double standard. You want respect from us but don't seem too interested in showing respect to us.
Another matter. I always liked tr---y. I thought it was catchy and fun. But you banned it, which is your right, so of course I don't use it. But I wonder if you all are not just looking for things to be offended by.

Wow, this is such a typical response, from someone offended by a more marginalized group attempting to de-marginalize themselves. I mean, textbook.

1. No one ever said that "gay" and "lesbian" were off the table.

2. Cis-gendered people are (unsurprisingly) not a monolithic collective, whose collective permission can be asked before applying a neutral, scientific term to what they are. Also, how do you know who "created" the term "cis" and how do you propose to speak for the ENTIRE cis-gendered population by claiming that no one asked your permission?

3. Cis-gender is not a term that has ever been used as derogatory in and of itself. Like the original poster said, using a word in anger doesn't make that word a slur. I don't get pissed off when people call me "white," because I am, even though someone could say "f--king white people!" if they were mad. Doesn't make the term any more or less neutral than it already is.

4. Just because you thought "tranny" was catchy and fun doesn't mean that it hasn't been used as a derogatory slur, pretty much since its inception, to refer to a marginalized group of people. It's not a word that applies to a group you belong to, and it's never been a word that's been flung at you as a slur. It's not a neutral word, because its inception was never neutral. I used the word "tranny" for myself before realizing that it was hurtful to many trans women, who are the group customarily degraded by that word. I stopped using it, because it doesn't matter what I think of the word in relation to myself -- I'm not the one being hurt by it, so my opinion on whether it's "fun" or not doesn't matter. It's been used to harm; I won't use it. Stating your opinion on the word is acting defensive of a term about whose usage you have really nothing to say.

5. I would remind you about privilege and how it impacts interactions between two groups who have highly unequal power, but it seems that this, though it is a neutral observation, would only offend you as much as a Latin-based term for your gender, which incidentally, was not "created" by me.

To repeat Tobi:

"If you only insist on being referred to in terms that denote superiority, no one will take your request seriously."

Wilberforce1 | November 14, 2011 8:20 PM

Exactly which terms for myself denote superiority?

Your right, you didn't actually offer any alternative. You just whined about people who needed a term making one. Sorry, we don't need your permission when you have failed to do it for yourself. The article bluntly talks about the alternatives available, which mostly amount to using 'normal' and 'trans', thus making 'trans' equate to 'abnormal', a dehumanizing term.

We used existing language structures to make a term that suited a need. Cis people had centuries to make one, and didn't. Even once people started discussing the need, cis people still didn't, except the ones who helped come up with the term. Sorry you were not personally emailed for your opinion, and I offer you the chance now - what term would you have people use, and why is it better? Why is cis a slur, other than you feel cheated out of being able to just say 'I'm normal', which is pretty much a cornerstone of cis privilege. You rail against it and provide no reasoning why or any alternative, putting yourself as the wronged party. Quantify it or go away.

Those who are oppressed are under no obligation to be tolerant of their oppression.

I think you need to read the article again. You don't like "cis", then come up with another term that means you're not trans that doesn't denigrate us. We did out best and think we did pretty well.

And what the hell are you on about with trans people not allowing you to use "gay" and "lesbian"? Totally lost me on that one.

Wilberforce1 | November 14, 2011 8:12 PM

I'm a gay man. That's what we call ourselves. But according to you, I'm supposed to go by the term you created, a cis gendered privileged white male, or whatever the pc slang du jour is. If you don't see the arrogance in that, there's nothing more to say.

According to whom? If you're not actively differentiating in gender status, you can call yourself whatever you want. No one is saying you can't call yourself a gay man. "Cisgender" is a term meant to differentiate between people of different gender statuses, for purposes of clarification. I really don't see what's so upsetting about that. If you're in a group of men and none of them is trans, you're probably not going to need to bring it up. You *might* bring up the fact that you are gay, in that context, if it relates to you referring to yourself comparative to another man who's not gay.

Um, being cisgendered doesn't negate being gay. I'm a transgendered gay male.

Trans/Cis and gay/lesbian/bi/straight (or hetero) are describing COMPLETELY different things.

You are given a great deal of appellations by a small minority of people in which you had offered no consent and were given no consult. Human, 'homo sapiens', your demonym, the name on your birth certificate. Why is "cis" the only one that seems to have you so irked?

Wilberforce1 | November 14, 2011 8:18 PM

I don't see why the term 'gay man' denigrates you. Can you explain that?

"Gay man" addresses the sexual orientation question and the gender identity question. Neither of those address the issue of whether or not you're trans, in the same way that they don't address your race.

And really, the term "gay man" doesn't *need* to address your race. Race isn't always relevant. But when it is, I bet you include it as being part of an identity that you're proud of.

Likewise, being trans or cis isn't always relevant, and when it's not relevant, it doesn't need to be mentioned. When it *is* relevant, there needs to be a word that can describe without judging folks who don't have a trans identity, because language matters.

"Cis" is a term borrowed from chemistry, created by taking a somewhat playful spin on the pre-existing label of "trans". It's not a hate word at all. The words "cis" and "trans" in this context are exactly analogous to the words "straight" and gay... and nobody's suggesting that "straight" is a hate word.

If you want to know more about the chemistry background, doesn't suck.

Thanks for bringing up chemistry, I was just thinking that!

There's also cisalpine, a term used to refer to being on the same side of the Alps as whatever reference point. It's a little specialized, but not offensive, I think...

Cis wasn't borrowed from chemistry. Cis and trans are just latin prefixes which are kind of opposites of each other. A lot of people seem to be most familiar with the dichotomy of these two terms from something they've learned in chemistry, but that has nothing to do with why the term cis is used to describe cis people.

I vaguely recall at least a substantial amount of the use of the term in this context - and pardon me for not having sources, as it's been years and I never thought it would matter at the time - specifically being related to chemistry.

But you are right. Most scientific terms, really, are just Latin (or Greek, etc.) words.

Rachel Bellum | November 14, 2011 10:07 PM

I believe it is because you rarely see cis and trans use together outside of chemistry, although trans show sup in many contexts.

Personally I like the comparison to describing molecular shape (lined up on the same side or not) because it seems to remove any pejorative or judgmental feel from the words. And I also like that comparison better than the more traditional description as trans being crossing genders as that seems to be a value judgement to me.

I'm sorry you got this impression, but if you think that "cis" is a synonym for gay or lesbian, then I think you don't understand what the term is supposed to mean.

Why doesn't gay or lesbian work as a term to describe people who are not trans? Well, as I'm sure you know, plenty of people who are not trans are straight (or bi). Secondly, plenty of people who are trans are gay or lesbian. They are simply two different categories.

What you are asking would be akin to someone saying "Don't call me white, I'm a gay man." It just doesn't track.

" I always liked tr---y. I thought it was catchy and fun. But you banned it, which is your right, so of course I don't use it."

First, it doesn't matter what you think of the word tranny. Unless you are trans identified you really don't get a vote on it being not offensive, sorry.

Second, "But I wonder if you all are not just looking for things to be offended by."

REALLY??? I suggest you read the entire thing, but start with that section.

Do you not see the irony in your post. You casitigate him for using tranny and saying you don't have a vote unless you are transgendered yet you belittle him in other posts for not accepting the term "cis" to refer to him. Really???? I guess he doesn't have a vote on how you address him.

Rachel Bellum | November 14, 2011 9:17 PM

Hi Wilberforce,

I'm not aware of anyone suggesting that gay or lesbian (or bi) are off the table. Gay, lesbian and bi (and some others) describe who you are romantically and/or sexually attracted to. Cis and trans describe gender orientation.

A man who is attracted to other men (exclusively) is gay. Someone born male, who identifies as a man, and is attracted (exclusively) to other men is a cis gay man. This of course also implies that someone could be a trans gay man for instance.

The prefixes cis and trans come from scientific language. I often relate them to the way they are used in organic chemistry. That is all of one's gender (mental, physical, emotional, etc.) are lined up the same way -cis-, or they are not -trans.

Scientific terms are rarely, perhaps never, formed by an at large vote. They are supposed to be deeply rooted in previous scientific language as much as possible. In all likelihood, cis and trans are here to stay for describing gender orientation.

However, scientific language is (should be) intended to be value-less. So in this case neither cis nor trans should be seen as a "superior" label [In fact, that is part of what Tobi was alluding to when she mentioned she felt "non-trans" created a sense of being more normal than "trans."].

I have heard many gay and lesbian people over the years say they find the term homosexual offensive (I believe primarily because of the clinical feel). Some people that would probably be referred to as bisexual in many scientific papers are themselves opting for labels like pan and omni -sexual. Although the way I described l"trans" above in chemistry terms would seem to include people who are intergender many don't want to be included in the trans label (for varying reasons). ANd as you are perhaps aware some people prefer transgender while others prefer transsexual (among other possiblities).

Personally, I like the word/label queer. However I am aware that many people find it objectionable as a word with a nasty history. To me it's actually comforting (not in all contexts of course). I try to remember not to use it with people who might object. However, I feel no need to be careful about using the word homosexual or lesbian because that is "technical" language. Granted that "cis" may be new and unfamiliar, but it is solely designed to describe a technical/scientific category of [forgive me Tobi] :)] being non-trans.

I still don't get why you think it's ok to redefine the term 'gay man.' We invented that for ourselves years ago. Now it isn't enough, and you insist on adding a qualifier. Well qualify yourselves all you want. Trans gay man is fine for you. But don't put your label on me without my permission. If we did that to you, you'd be steaming with rage.
And please don't label me with the privileged card. You know nothing about me, or the cruelties I have survived.
Again, it's pure arrogance to put labels on others without their permission. You don't allow others to do it to you, but think it's fine to do it to me. Please.

Rachel Bellum | November 14, 2011 10:47 PM

Thanks for replying Wilberforce.

I think I see what you're saying now. But let me preface by saying that I generally try to stay as far away from the privilege argument as I can.

As others have said, the cis is not intended to qualify or change in any your identity as a gay man. Part of the reason it is likely unfamiliar to you and others is that most men (straight or gay or bi) are cis and it generally only gets mentioned in the context of trans discussions.

The cis/trans is meant to be a way of saying some people are trans and some people are not without placing any value judgments on anyone. I don't (and I assume no one does) expect you to run around calling yourself a cis man constantly (I also don't expect people to constantly label themselves as trans or with their sexual orientation). But in certain conversations (for instance gathering scientific data or just a serious conversation about trans/cis issues) it can be helpful to be able to say that person is trans and that person is cis. It might be that neither chooses to identify with that label on a daily basis.

If you and I were personally engaged in a conversation about our respective gender identities, and I called you cis, and you objected, I would be happy to apologize and try to find a term that worked. To be honest there are contexts in which I would be complimented if you called me trans and contexts where I might not like it.

In terms of technical/scientific language, it seems quite likely that cis will become standard for referencing certain people even though some of them will object to it. There are still significant numbers of people who fall into the category of homosexual who object to that label being imposed upon them as well.

Or put another way, a particular person might be a proud gay man who absolutely refuses to be referred to as homosexual, but if he participates in certain activities (for instance some scientific research), that is how he will be labeled.

As an individual, if you object to being referred to as cis, I promise to try to remember when I am speaking with you in the future [If I slip, remind me there are a lot of personal preferences to remember on this site :)]. But as far as talking about cis versus trans people in general, it makes a very useful term.

You are proud of being gay, and do not like any connotation of straightness, even if it is associated with gender and not orientation. I just hope you can appreciate trans people being proud of who they are and wishing to show their independence from those that are not transgendered, whether gay or straight, ie. cis-gendered straight or cis-gendered gay.

You are proud of being gay, and do not like any connotation of straightness, even if it is associated with gender and not orientation. I just hope you can appreciate trans people being proud of who they are and wishing to show their independence from those that are not transgendered, whether gay or straight, ie. cis-gendered straight or cis-gendered gay.

We're not redefining "gay man". We're making the point that trans gay men are just as much "gay men" as you are, so if assignment at birth comes up, the difference is trans and cis. It doesn't redefine anything.

As far as the privilege card being used, if you've faced cruelties that didn't have to do with being gender variant, you are still quite capable of showing cis privilege (and you are FYI). As a side note, all this talk about us labeling cis people and them not labeling us is bullshit. Cis people are the ones most likely to bring up and make a point of us being trans...not us and not other trans people, so enough of the "boo hoo, don't label us because we don't label you" crap.

Check your privilege! You don't have to go around constantly being reminded that you're cisgender as a cisgender person. That is the signifier of privilege.

It's been said, but trans gay men are just as much gay men as you are. You are cis and privileged in your not being trans and having to deal with transphobia from cis people. Be an ally and listen to us.

Thanks for posting this sidetrack.

I agree with all of the points you have so eloquently laid out, and would like to add: I think that the main problem I have with a cisgendered person being offended at being called "cisgendered" or "cis" is that it appears to stem from a lack of understanding about the term, and a refusal to "unpack" the layers of privilege that come with claiming to be offended by that word.

As you've said, it is a neutral, scientific term, if you will. What is the alternative? Non-trans would probably come the closest, but I agree: it's still used to "other" trans people. Maybe for some, that's okay, but for me, if I were in a conversation with a cis person, I think I would feel uncomfortable with using it--it seems to imply that a variance in gender status is a zero-sum affair, whereas using "cis" implies that everyone's gender can have a status, that it's not simply an issue of being X or Not-X. So who wins out in that situation? Do I cave in about my gender AGAIN and refer to that person as non-trans because they feel upset by "cisgender?" And why? Are they afraid that a casual observer might not know what "cisgender" means (likely), and therefore assume they were trans unless there were a specific label of "NOT trans" applied to them?

Because if that is the case...cry me a freakin' river.

There are a lot of people who ID as queer (and are totally cis, but...) who say they don't like being called cis because it puts them into some kind of 'fictional binary' and turns them into people with privilege. I suppose it's just too upsetting for their delicate tummies.

I also think it's funny how people like Traveling Man Rick talk about gay white males and trans people a thought they're totally mutually exclusive. Last time I looked there are plenty of gay, white trans men... but I suppose they don't count because they're... not... *ahem* cis.

Some nonbinary people are not comfortable with either term because the root "trans" implies crossing from one side to another and the root "cis" implies staying on the same side.

This does not accurately describe someone who is happier in the middle, or off somewhere else.

Most nonbinary people do identify as trans, but it is sometimes literally for lack of a better word.

That's where our language usage has failed us.

Transsexual is where someone's identity is opposite the sex assigned at birth. It's typically social *and* somatic, enough to require medical treatment to align brain and body.

Transgender is anyone whose appearance, sex- or gender identity, social role, behaviors or any other attribute doesn't match societal expectation for a binary man or woman, the standard being whatever was assigned at birth. it's always been assumed to be fairly binary, but it's turning out that each flipped attribute can exist on it's own semi-independent spectrum.

"Trans" can be short for either, as can "T". We need to be more precise when we discuss things.

"cis" and "trans" refers to transsexuals. Or at least did for a decade or so. Using the pair in anything that doesn't assume something that averages as a binary does confuse things.

Argh. "it's always been assumed to be fairly binary, but it's turning out that each flipped attribute can exist on it's own semi-independent spectrum."

was supposed to be attached to the 'transsexual' paragraph, not transgender.

It's also important to note that as they are describing two different conditions, they are not at all mutually exclusive.

I was shocked that you even took this seriously, but after going to that Ameriblog post, it seems I have another thing to sigh and shake my head about.

I agree with Déaclán. All this cries of offense over the term "cis-gender" seem to stem entirely from a lack of understanding of the origin of the term "cis" or what it literally means. As one fine young gentleman posted: "I'm offended, and I don't even know what the f**k it means besides being some term invented by the transgender community."


The only way I can analogize the absurdity of all of this is straight people being offended by the term "heterosexual" because they have no idea what "hetero-" means and they think it's a slur invented by the homosexual community and being forced upon them. In fact, it is a perfect analogy because the situations are exactly the same, except "hetero-" and "homo-" happen to be Latin terms that people are magically more familiar with than "cis-" and "trans-".

That they are trying to construct a "I'm offended by this slur" argument is so absurd for so many reasons (not knowing what a word means but thinking it's a slur and being offended by it is so baffling that the issue of unpacked and unassessed privilege isn't even the first issue here) and so ignorant (in the most literal sense of the word) that I want to weep for the future.

Just a quick thing.

While you're correct that 'cis' and 'trans' are Latin prefixes, 'hetero' and 'homo' are not, they're Ancient Greek words meaning 'other party' and 'the same' respectively. The Latin word 'homo' means 'man' or 'human' (i.e. homo sapiens = wise man). However the word 'sexual' is Latin, so they are hybrid words.

I know this seems pedantic and doesn't really add anything to the discussion, but I think it's important that in any debate the facts be accurate. :)

Travelingman | November 14, 2011 7:43 PM

I personally prefer to be called non-trans. How does this denote superiority anymore than when someone refers to straight people as straight? When you call a straight person straight does that make them more superior than calling someone gay? I think it is ridiculous to make such a statement. I am no less just because I am non-straight.

I will again repeat that I don't like the way I have often seen Cis used both on Bilerico and on PHB. You can call it privilege if that makes you sleep better at night but that does not change how I feel about the word. It is patently obvious that T's could care less how LGB's feel about the term. Just remember that when you don't like how your being referenced.

Call me non-trans, gay, queer, faggot or pick any word you choose, I still find every one of those terms less offensive than I do being called cisgenger. Wasting energy glitterbombing our allies is time wasted from fighting our real enemies. You might as well run out and vote for Herman Cain or Michele Bachman over Obama. It is like cutting off your nose to spite your face. That was my overall point.

I have often met and liked many trans people I have met in real life. What I don't like is this attitude that I have to get over how I feel about something just because it makes T's feel better to somehow try to "other" me. I am already othered by being gay. We are all othered just by being L, G, B and T.

The overt hostility by T's against gay white men in particular and how T's use the word cisgendered or cis as a slur or sneeringly is offensive to me. To shrug it off and say it is no more offensive than xy or z is not true. Just because you think it is not offensive doesn't mean it is not offensive. When T's stop lobbing it at gay men as a slur or sneeringly I might stop being offended by it.

I think the analogy is 'non-gay', rather than 'str8'. Really, I am not trying to fight, just curious, but how would you feel if str8 ppl got mad if you called them str8, and insisted you call them non-gay?

Oh, and I often use 'str8' in a mean way. And really, pretty much any other term you can imagine, depending on the context.

Travelingman | November 14, 2011 8:06 PM

If a straight person said they were offended by that term then I would by all means call them non-gay if that was what they were comfortable with.

Oh, ok. So would I, but prolly ironically. ;)

But...what if the only term they were comfortable with was, "normal"?

Do you see how that would then make gay, "non-normal"? By doing so it immediately connotates superiority based on being mainstream and typical and therefore in the majority. When used against a minority with less privilege, it becomes oppressive. And that is often why it is the only term with which they are comfortable.

Paige Listerud | November 19, 2011 11:54 AM

Actually, when the terms "gay" and "straight" first came into usage in the late 60s and early 70s, there were some heterosexuals who objected to being referred to as straight.

They were generally heterosexuals who were part of burgeoning hippy sub-culture, who until then had used the term to describe people who were not a part of their culture but "the establishment." Straight for them had more to do with sticking to restrictive traditional values, not just with sexuality and gender, but also commercialist capitalism and pro-Vietnam War sentiment. Hippies really objected having the term "straight" shift to being solely about sexual orientation and they objected to being referred to as "straight" just because some of them were heterosexual.

I am interested to know how often transgender people (or T's, as you call them) "lob [the word cisgenderd] at gay men as a slur or sneeringly."

Details? Is this in a pan-queer forum? Online? In real life? Does it happen as often as I get called "tranny" or "lesbian" at gay bars, for instance? What kind of situation do you find yourself in that trans people are taking up so much space and enjoying so much privilege that they target you, as a gay man whose gender assigned at birth is in accordance with the gender you feel yourself to be, by yelling out "cisgender" at you in order to offend and demean you?

I really want to know where and how this happens, because the concept of using "cisgender" as a slur rather than a way to differentiate gender status is new to me.

There's nothing wrong with referring to yourself as non-trans. But if it were done in a conversation with a trans person, like if you and I were having some kind of discussion about gender politics or something, why is it okay for you to define yourself as a "not-YOU" to me? If all things were totally equal, like if there wasn't a pretty intense social stigma (which, hopefully, is getting better) around being transgendered, even as in comparison to being gay, then it wouldn't matter. But since there still is, having someone consistently (for me, anyway--it's an issue of consistent usage rather than once or twice) define themselves against what I am, can get pretty depressing. For groups who suffer more than I do, I'm sure it's worse. I'm a gay white man--I have a lot of privilege and I try to be aware of who needs me to *be* most aware of that. If I defined myself not as white, theoretically, but as "non-black," consistently, in conversation with people of all colors, I think that people would be a little weirded out and possibly offended. Maybe not everyone, but if it were hurtful to some, then it's not going to harm me to call myself white, because I'm higher up the stack of privilege and I can give a little.

"Call me non-trans, gay, queer, faggot or pick any word you choose, I still find every one of those terms less offensive than I do being called cisgenger."

Lol seriously? You find faggot less offensive than cis? Even though it has been historically used as a pejorative while cis (no matter what you think) hasn't?

Cis is not offensive. I'm cis, and people should feel free to call me out as being cis. Only by identifying what it means to be "not trans" can we talk about the differences between the two experiences. Everybody should take some time to read through the Cisgender Privilege checklist to really appreciate the significance of the rhetoric.

And Zack, sometimes we're not 'calling you out on it' we're just describing you as such because you are and we don't consider it worse or better than being trans, just different. :)

Well, there definitely are times when trans people OUGHT to be calling out cis people for only being able to see the world through a cis lens. But whether you're calling out or just distinguishing, there's nothing wrong with the word. :)

This thread is almost as hilarious as the douchebag one, lol.

Whenever there is a privilege disparity pointed out, the people on the privileged side of the disparity will come out of the woodwork to defend how "natural" the privilege disparity is.

Well, yes. And how often do they change their minds as a result of such a discussion? And how often do they just become even angrier and more entrenched?

In all honesty? It is rarely actually about the people involved, so much as the people reading who either don't understand the situation, or haven't formed an opinion, or who have formed one but are willing to entertain that they are incorrect. While the people posting themselves are likely never going to admit they might be wrong, the people reading and not posting can usually see who is being reasonable, and who is stubbornly stamping their feet and throwing a tantrum.

Mmmm, could be...

Though those ppl might think the crazies stomping their feet are different from the ones you do. ;)

I loved the douchebag thread.

While I don't like to use cisgender or cissexual terms in the second person to label individual people, I feel that it's essential that we have language to describe vast disparities of social privilege within the GLBTQ communities and outside of them. I've observed that G/L community pundits who urge censorship of cisgender language never hesitate to use the word, "straight," to describe social disparity based on sexual orientation. This double standard, this hypocrisy, exemplify the very inequalities, based on congruence with birth-sex assignment and sex characteristics, that necessitate cisgender and cissexual terminology. For an excellent overview of these issues, read Whipping Girl, by Julia Seran

Two points-

1) I believe the original poster was commenting primarily as how he was offended that he was being labeled "cisgender" but never consulted in the process. It seems rather hypocritical that a narrow band of activists seem to be hell-bent on demanding the right to be labeled as they demand and then being dismissive of someone who is being labeled against their will.

2) As someone who is lucky enough to have gone to a fairly nice liberal arts institution- the privilege game really brings out the worst in me. As I have seen in this post, throwing the word of "privilege" out is generally an attempt to silence anyone who doesn't agree with you and make their comments somehow less than valid. I find it dishonest and from an intellectual level, redundant.

My experience in college was to have college professors, professors owning two or three homes, and white liberal elitists- people from what can only be called upper-class backgrounds use privilege as a way of silencing discussion.

I've done the privilege walk and inevitably people come out in different places. A disabled person may have more privilege than someone else, but also may have less because of their class background.

There are real conversations we can have about privilege- conversations about inequity in pay structure, family structure, access to government assistance- a hell of lot of things- I'm always amazed that the conversations we have instead are around academic usages like linguistics. But that is an easier battle than looking at systemic issues of oppression and how to combat them.

My ultimate observation around the whole "privilege" conversation after 15 years in the movement is that it is ultimately futile. It creates a situation where one group gets defensive and the other group feels superior. That in the end doesn't change the situation.

People want practical solutions to ending injustice. I would suggest we spend more time on looking at income inequality ways to combat that (unions!) and other issues that can affect people in their daily lives.

While we can definitely have many different conversations at one time, I am reminded of how just last week another trans woman of color was murdered, her body mutilated in the streets of Detroit. I am also reminded of how in the same week a gay man was beaten to a pulp in Austin and a gay man was set on fire by his "so-called friends" in Pennsylvania I believe.

Our experiences are in-extricabliably linked, but yet different at the same time. I wish all the heated discussion we were having about the use of the word cisgender was maybe focused just a little on the prevalence of job discrimination in this country because someone is gay or trans.

The link between anti-gay and anti-trans violence and job discrimination is so obvious. Our family would not be on the streets, engaging in sex survival work if they didn't face such terrible discrimination just trying to get a job in the "real" economy.

Travelingman | November 14, 2011 8:18 PM

Said with way more eloquence than I ever could. Thank you so much for this post.

And I wrote this as I was watching "Gossip Girl", yea I'm complex. Or sad. Or both!

Privilege is an entirely different conversation. I'll get to it in a second, but first I need to emphasize that this is so much more basic than that. It's just an issue of having a term that is value neutral to describe identities. A newspaper can write about someone being white, someone being Chicana, being straight, being bi, without having to have conversations about privilege. If it's relevant to a story to identify someone as trans or not, what word should be used to identify the people who are not trans?

As for the privilege conversations, I feel for you. I've been in those spaces where people don't really understand it and are relying on some framework of argument to identify privilege outside of context. I find the problem stems from a binary understanding of being either privileged or oppressed and only looking at one identity issue at a time. When we instead look at the landscape of oppression issues out there, you will never find someone so privileged that they never face any oppression and you will never find anyone so oppressed that they never have access to some form of privilege.

When you instead look at privilege as something that you have access to in some circumstances (rather than who you are) it changes the dynamics a lot. Privilege does not define your experience. Unexamined privilege can carry with it ignorance, but privilege itself is not the problem. Especially when we acknowledge that everyone in a conversation is carrying some form of privilege or another and that we all need to be careful not to carelessly hurt each other with it.

Endless arguments between self-righteous undirected anger and defensive inability to acknowledge mistakes is my version of hell. The privilege discussions I'm used to don't include that.

It is a conversation I would be happy to engage in Tobi. Privilege exists - I have no doubt about it.

Ultimately, sadly (probably) I do believe most people want to engage in something that makes the world a better place. That is why I don't do the privilege game (as it is in academia) anymore.

We all have privilege- we all grab power when we dissect the system and figure out ways to put that knowledge to power.

Now off to enjoy some Bon Iver. I need an angry white man to console me tonight. :)

"I believe the original poster was commenting primarily as how he was offended that he was being labeled "cisgender" but never consulted in the process."

And I contend that unless the OP has an issue with being labeled gay or straight (e.g.), your argument here is a poor one. We are ALL labeled in some way shape or form. I'm a white, trans, gay man. I'm tall, overweight. ALL of those are labels that (excluding trans) were foisted upon me in one way or another.

And what I was saying was a point of consistency. You can not argue in one point that you are upset at being labeled "other" by someone else and then not understand the same frustration from someone else feeling they are labeled "other" by another group.

Rachel Bellum | November 14, 2011 10:01 PM

I believe that what Patrick was suggesting was that not all labels function the same way.

On some level "labels" are required for communication.

@Piggy: And what you've said here is the social equivalent of a flat tax (and how just it supposedly is). The ability to "label" groups has very much been a function of unequal power and privilege. Pretending that non-trans/cis people's gender and sex is somehow on an equal playing field with that of trans people is absurd. Literally all oppressed groups I've ever known about have attempted to retake control of the negative labeling by which they've been oppressed.

Yes, there is intersectional oppression and I'm not saying a white trans woman is therefore necessarily more oppressed then a black, cis male... it's more complicated than that. But let's not pretend non-trans gets to equal 'normal' and therefore, you get labeling rights.

capitalistpiggy, I agree with much of what you are saying, specifically that which has to do with being oppressed as a larger group (the references to the gay man burned and the trans woman being killed, chopped up and torched, in the last week).

I do have a problem however, with the assertion that economic equality is the answer to it all. You see, much of the linguistic discussion taking place is an indicator, a proxy, for the larger discussion of political, social and economic oppression by a very few individuals who happen to be white, male and gay. There is a history of that sub group (not GWM's, but a specific group of people who happen to have been able to gain power because of those attributes). Because they have oppressed trans people, the distinction has already been drawn, but by them. We've merely come up with a term to define it so it can be discussed. It's the first step toward equality.

The lingual discussion of 'cis' is a result of that oppression based on what might be called gender variance class. You see, those few individuals that I mentioned are at the top of a handful of hierarchies. White. Male. Non-gender-variant in appearance or public behavior. And they've used each of those advantages (within it's sphere) to gain both political and economic advantage. That happens in our society, every day. It happens in most any primate society. What doesn't have to happen is for it to occur based in part on the oppression of those who don't share those attributes.

Cis is an absolutely wonderful and appropriate prefix and as a cissexual, I support it. It's also incredibly descriptive, my birth sex and my gender identify are in alignment, therefore I am cis. But, I might know a little more on its origins due to my chemistry background (yay for trans and cis bonds).

Also, us cissexuals kind of made the term inevitable with we coined "transsexual." What else would be appropriate?

"2 - 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."

I have to disagree. Any term consistently used from a place of anger is the birth cry of a new slur. Even in your examples, I have in fact heard each of them used and entirely meant as a slur. If a person is to be labeled, the very label itself can become a slur at any time. A slur is something that is meant to be derogatory by way of that use in anger. Intent makes the slur, not just anger. Size of the group being disparaged is irrelevant.

Most people recognize their feelings clearly when it comes to having a negative label applied to them. Being offended during discourse is a sign of that recognition that something is not right about a term or label. Telling people that they are silly, ignorant, privileged or so forth for their personal feelings is a double-standard, as indicated by offense taken the other direction.

There are times when a term is not a slur and others when the same term is a slur. Here is an example. The term MSM (men who have sex with men) started as a strictly academic term to include gay men, bi men and heterosexual men (self identified). Politicians snatched the term and attached it to various uses, especially concerning health initiatives. 10 years later, the original authors of the term had to write another essay decrying the political usage of MSM. Politics disenfranchised the political power of gay and bi men by only using MSM, in reference to sexual conduct.

I had a supervisor reference me, to my face, as MSM. I was offended. It actually wasn't used in anger. It was used out of ignorance of the meaning. It is not a self identity. I calmly explained why it was inappropriate. He listened and accepted it. I had another manager twist a poster title for the American Public Health Association from a Marketing Campaign designed for Gay and Bi men into a MSM Marketing Campaign, which it was most certainly not. Applying labels to others is the root I am getting at here.

Applying any label to another party without consent, even for the purposes of discourse, and then telling them they have no right to be offended is counter to the essence of your primary objective. We choose our own labels. Disagreements and in-fighting come with such tactics when we do not accept and allow for self determination of 'self'. I welcome your terms for you. I do not welcome them for me without asking.

If cis people want to create a label of their own (that does not imply that they are default or natural while trans people are aberrant), then they need to actually do it. There hasn't been any effort to do so that I am aware of. In the absence of that, it is fair for the marginalized group to come up with language that puts both groups on the same level. It is not fair to insist that a marginalized group uses language which others them.

Labels, of any kind, automatically 'others' individuals. This is the exact point I made. So, to use labels, in any context, must by definition create separation. I can guess that certain labels will be assumed about me. I can assure you that the assumption would be incorrect. Especially on gender. Even given the information I already disclosed.

By the definition of cis as given, I am not. Nor am I trans. My gender expression has no bearing on my perception of others, only myself. I actually don't fit into any actual labeling so far as I can find. Then again, as should be apparent, I am against labels in general. So, please, leave me out of the labeling, thank you.

You have a name, therefore you have a label. It is impossible to communicate unless things are labeled.

When I talk about a label being "othering" I'm referring to a situation where the language implies a hierarchical relationship. In that sense it is not inherently othering to describe people and the situations that people experience. We live in a world where we cannot read each others minds. We have no choice but to use words in order to communicate.

People who experience oppression should have the right to fight that oppression. In order to do that, they have to have the language necessary to talk about it. They don't have the luxury of avoiding labels without ignoring their oppression, and ignoring oppression will never make it go away.

Some people have a gender and/or sex that is regularly not accepted by society, because of the way their body looks or a way their body has looked or because of something someone wrote on their birth certificate or whatever. This oppression is real and it is a gigantic problem. These people have the right to try and make this situation better, and to do that they need to talk about it, and to talk about it they need names for things. The adjective that is used to describe people who experience this oppression is "trans". There also needs to be a word to describe the people who don't experience this oppression, and it needs to be a word that doesn't imply a hierarchy, otherwise it will just perpetuate the oppression. The adjective that arose is cis, since it's the logical counterpart to trans.

To say that labels aren't necessary is to deny that oppression exists.

But if somehow you both experience the oppression of regularly having your gender/sex not be accepted and the experience of regularly having your gender/sex accepted, then this discussion doesn't directly apply to you.

It is an odd definition to go with.
What percentage of the time or percentage of people accepting your gender separates trans people from cis people?

"So, to use labels, in any context, must by definition create separation"

Have you ever referred to yourself as (whichever of the options in each group is applicable): male/female, tall/short, thin/heavy/stocky, blonde/brunette/redheaded, caucasian (or white)/black (or african american)/hispanic, &c &c &c

If so, congrats--you've 'separated' yourself.

Not to sidetrack a sidetrack, but on another issue- I've never really gotten why tranny is offensive.

I completely understand the offensive-ness of she-male. But tranny to me comes from a very American tradition of shortening words that we deem too long. Transgender is a mouthful- tranny is quick and gets the point across.

Tranny has always seemed to me to come from that place of Americans wanting to be as lazy as possible in everything we do.

I thought "tranny" was related to transsexual and not transgender. It may have since been meant to cover transgender, but only as transgender came along to cover more people than transsexual.

I thought "tranny" was related to transsexual and not transgender. It may have since been meant to cover transgender, but only as transgender came along to cover more people than transsexual.

Believe it or not, "trans" has one less syllable and fewer letters than "tranny."

I feel a big problem in all of this is that there are so many terms out there, and they are used different ways by different ppl, and mean different things to different ppl. And many are used as terms of endearment by some, and as a definite slur by others (much like fag or queer or such). I think this is where a lot of frustration arises, such as that expressed by TimW.

wrt tranny, though:

Tranny seems to have been used historically to refer to transvestite, which has negative connotations to many ppl, and is routinely used as a slur against trans women. Transgender and transsexual tend to be seen as something very different by a lot of trans ppl. However, GLAAD puts TV under the same umbrella (transgender) as transsexuals, transgender, and even cross dressers.

gimp > lame > crippled > handicapped > disabled > physically challenged.

cretin > idiot > imbecile > moron > mentally retarded > intellectually deficient > intellectually challenged.

nigger > colored > black > African (or Afro) American > Person of color > nigga

At one time, all of these words were (or are) accepted, non-pejorative ways of referring to minorities of people with particular characteristics. As a word imbues itself into the popular vernacular, it inevitably becomes distorted and redefined - often by those who seek to marginalize or dehumanize others. When that happens, a new word is adopted or created that does not carry the stigma of the old world, until that word is again redefined to carry a stigma.

It doesn't matter what words are deemed "politically correct" when referring to a disrespected group. Eventually, those "acceptable" words will become pejoratives, and we will start all over again.

I skimmed.

To the individual suggesting "non-trans", all you do when you say that is confuse the issue.

THere is more involved than merely cis and trans in the conversation. THere is also Inter, and then there are others that are blending aspects of any two of them.

So saying one is non-trans could mean any of four distinct descriptive labels, and singles trans out as not being one of them.

It is a lot like saying one is from the south when asked what state one comes from.

The same applies with non-gay. I am non-gay, for example. That alone means I could be any of several different options, depending on the context. For example, I could be a lesbian, and not be considered gay. I could be straight. The fact that I am bisexual is lost in the mix.

In making a point one about the term Cis, I took the tack of arguing against the use of the term straight, using the exact same arguments. And, as some here are aware, I am a very strenuous and dedicated debater.

The reason I did so, which got lost in all the sidetracking, non-sequitur "derails" that happened, ws to point out that cis is the equivalent of straight 8n trans culture. Nothing more, nothing less, and people complaining against it are, generally speaking, literally demonstrating aversion to trans related concepts.

Which, as people are aware, has a name.

To call someone you don't absolutely know the GI/GE of cis, however, as an individual, is, well, pretty foolish. It places you in the position of making guesses about someone you don't know. The same thing happens to me on occasion when people insist I'm not a trans person, but some cis woman faking it.

Knowing that doesn't stop anyone, mind you -- after all, bisexual individuals are routine labeled as self hating gay men if they happen to be republicans.

As noted as well, ultimately, the terms will change -- but they will do so down the road, and we are dealing in this time and in this day, and right now, cis is the term that enables someone to various forms of difference from those people who are trans in discussions that predominantly focus or deal in trans centric or unmarked spaces.

One doesn't have to like it. I can't stand the word xylophone.

But that *is* the term.

Now since I can't seem to avoid it, I will get a simple dig in at those who continue to harp against the term.

Strikes me as mighty of cis of you...

You make a good point about the binary not representing everyone. And I wonder how many of the folks complaining about the term cis being used to describe them have a gender identity that is perhaps more complex than we know.

On the other hand --- sometimes people can overplay the complexity of their identities as a way of refusing to own their own privilege. For example, someone who asserts "I'm not white, don't call me white, I'm Irish-German".

On yet another hand --- the term cis is not used consistently. Sometimes cis refers to cisgender and sometimes it refers to cissexual, depending on the person who is using it, rather arbitrarily, and the person using the term doesn't always say which context they are using. As someone who would be classified as cissexual and transgender, it can be rather confusing.

microwavejenny | November 15, 2011 12:05 PM

cheers. this pleased me.

Very true, the binary assumed in the cis-trans dichotomy does not apply to everyone. But nor does it need to.

The use of 'trans' and 'non-trans' is specific and relative to the attribute. And, it is accurate. Discussions where those terms are going to be used are exceedingly likely to be about, well, trans and non-trans people and how they compare.


In order to do this, you have to also be open to all the other possibilities to be able to shift the perspective relative to any other descriptor. Like, 'bi' and 'non-bi'. 'gay' and 'non-gay'. And so on. In each case the identity or uniqueness is being conserved and respected, for better - or for worse (ie when used as a slur).

So, "non-trans" actually does work, and it fits the structure of the relevant conversations more than the binary of 'cis' and 'trans' only.


When the conversation is relative to people whose assigned gender and gender identity are in congruence, and/or those who are congruent and binary, you then must have a term centric to their attribute.


Unless people would prefer we use 'Syn-gender'and 'Syn-sexed'. The Christianists ought to love that one...

Based on your comment, I am kinda wondering if 'non-cis' woould be a better way of referring to the whole spectrum of ppl who don't identify with the sex they were assigned at birth? Would be fine with me, at least.

If it's in relation to them being "not-cis", sure. But the moment the discussion turns to any attribute difference between a subgroup and cis people or between different subgroups, the object of relativity changes, or splits and that must be respected. But it does work, and it's infinitely scalable.

if being called cis is highly offensive in your life let me go take a couple shits to give you so then you can have two shits to fuss over.

It has been my occasional experience that some cis people who vociferously object to being called cis have a bit of subtext going on. Often, it's the idea of given a value neutral descriptor that is paired with trans - that is, I've found that many cis people dislike being placed on equal footing with trans people.

They often want terminology that labels them as the superior default. Nothing else is acceptable.

That brings up a very good point. Over on the linked post & comment thread, there are a plethora of comments that state that trans people use it as a derogatory term.

But I have yet to read an example of such.

I wonder how many of those, "derogatory" uses of the term are a matter of interpretation, based on assumed superiority. In other words, making the comparison itself is what is offensive.

Funny thing is that from this side of the fence, I rarely if ever hear 'cis' used in a derogatory manner. The oppression that is the subject of the conversation, the assumed superiority of the subject of the term, those are spoken of in a negative way. But not the attribute itself. It's a subtle difference but it is real. And missed. When we label someone as 'cis' they immediately equate that attribute with themselves as a person and then assume that the attribute itself is somehow vilified in our speaking and writing.

Part of the problem is that they rarely if ever have had to examine that attribute of their person. It's just always been there, intrinsic and assumed. Labeling it though, that makes it separate, definable, and maybe...less sure. You never know what you'll find when you start unpacking stuff like that...

I am sure I am going to get gutted for this posting but I need to put it out there. Up until a year ago I had no clue the issues surrounding the transgender community. I lived in my own coocoon. That all changed when both the marriage equality bill and the gender identity bill failed here in MD. Equality Maryland started to delete posts critical of them both on marriage equality and gender identity. I bacame friends online with many transgendered people who started to educate me about the challenges they have faced. I was and am still determined to see the gender identity bill passed this year.
Having said that I feel lost and at times insulted by many of the things I read both here and on other blogs. I constantly hear how gay men are privileged and thrown around as an insult. I understand that many in the gay community have thrown the transgendered community under the bus but the attacks are not against those who have done the wrong but all cisgendered gay men. We have the whole battle about TS and TG with the battle lines drawn there and dare any cisgendered gay man take either side or they are villified by those on the other side. It's frustrating to try to be an ally when many within the transgender blogosphere want to rip down those who are legitimately trying to be an ally. I am not perfect and I am going to slip up but I will continue to fight for what I think is right. I challenge those within the transgender community who tend to lob bombs at all cisgendered gay men to take a step back and take a hard look. The more people we have on board fighting the easier the fight to make things right. Let's not discourage those in the gay community who may not be educated and are afraid to get into the fight because they are afraid of getting hit by friendly fire.

Tim, the individuals can still be allies and friends. I used to be more active here on bilerico, before I started the unfortunate habit of rudely calling the host on his views of trans humor. That was my fault and my decision. I still stop by and hope that I can still contribute to the conversation & maybe the humility is good for me. Enough about that. The reason I bring it up is because not being a regular grants a certain perspective.

What I see on this and the linked columns is online infighting between groups that have huge amounts of overlap and some areas (and individuals) with very little overlap. The discourse is necessary, especially when we are lumped together by an even larger, more powerful and oppressive majority in the greater culture.

But don't think for a minute that most of us hate each other, even if we hate the politics. I spend a smaller amount of time online than I once did. And because I live in several of the aforementioned overlaps, I am a member of multiple parts of the non-sex-and-gender-conforming subgroup. This means that I will fight to expose the fallacy of 'cis' being a pejorative and then later in the day take a friend to lunch because his bf left him when (*because*) he lost his job. And tonight, I need to email someone to congratulate him on his surgery.

There's massive amounts of baggage on all sides of this nomenclature issue, there always will be. But please notice that rarely has it devolved into an all out flame war. And the discussion has and is still evolving as issues are discussed and considered by all sides.

I am a 52 year old legally married lesbian. My wife is involved with the Rainbow club at her school and we have had many wonderful events with the youth of tomorrow. What I don't get is how so many 20 somethings tell us they don't care for labels yet there are so many more now than ever. We have friends who ID themselves with a list of lables and some who don't use labels at all. I am for the no label policy. Our housemate is transgender, f to m, and he avoides labels too. His wife uses every label in the book when introducing herself and her husband. She once used a list when introducing me to someone which I later told her not to do it again. I am openly lesbian but it is only a small part of who I am and do not see the need to make that the first thing when introducing myself. How about we all drop the labels and just be humans?

"52 year old legally married lesbian" "wife" "transgender, f to m," "His wife" "herself and her husband" "openly lesbian" "humans"

How can you be against labels when you use so many of them?

Let's all pretend there is no separation between the races or between disabled and able-bodied people. And there's no anti-semitism or Islamophobia. And let's get away from the 1%/99% language because we're all people living our lives. Tra-la-la-la-la. *effeminately skips into a field of wildflowers*.

Here is the exact number of fucks I give about cis people feeling oppressed because they didn't get any say in whether or not they have to be called something...


In fact, all of you cis people who complain about being called cis? I'm going to make sure I call you cis every chance I get, just to piss you off.

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It's healthy to have this discussion, which I've seen erupt more than on a few blogs. Interestingly, all of them are of one queer variant or another -- from RadFam fortresses to mainstream LGBT news. I've never read a Tea Party blog commenting on the situation. In short, it does seem to be a needless civil war within.

The basic principle here is that words can challenge identities and entrenched perceptions. I think that was the whole point of developing more critical forms of gender discourse. I credit Julia Serrano for most effectively employing the adjective 'cis' to describe variations of embodied experience in actualizing gender identities. She does not use the term as a slur. To my mind, it is not a slur.

But any rhetoric is context drive. 'Cis' can be noun and used in a disparaging way -- just as can "straight" or "Christian" or "Ginger". I have no doubt 'cis' has been used as an offensive assault, and it must be unsettling to have one's self-understanding shaken up through a rearrangement of terms.

To be honest with you, perhaps too honest -- some of the resentment reminds me a great deal of when I was living in Japan. Many Westerners whom I met complained endlessly and bitterly about terms like 'gaikokujin' or 'gaijin' -- the latter probably having more bite, although not necessarily so, and the former meaning 'foreigner'. When you get your first taste of being collectively labeled, it's not a nice experience. I only wish these same folks had been sensitive to the issues whilst they were living in their suburban enclaves back home.

I am yet to be convinced that 'cis' itself is innately offensive. And, until someone champions a preferable term, then I will continue to use it as an effective way to think about the gender continuum. I honestly think we have more important battles to spend our time on.

Interesting if misguided take on the topic. Pretty well summed up by this statement found therein:

"It’s probably easier to see if you consider previous generations, who had no money and no technology to make life easier for the handicapped. Nobody was oppressing the handicapped."

Here is the full comment on this post: let others judge it based on the full comment:

Oh god I love these! And there’s something about this:

“Cis” people have no sense that they belong in the other gender box.

I like the way you put that. It’s not the cis people who feel like they have a problem, it’s not the cis people who think that a body is unable to express whatever it wants — cis people know that their body can express itself just fine — but somehow the transgendered have convinced people that feeling normal and healthy is wrong in addition to it being a privilege.

It’s been discussed ad nauseam I know, but still. Having a healthy body, as opposed to one that’s mentally or physically handicapped, isn’t “wrong” nor is it a “privilege” in the same way that the default human has “privilege”. I know people like to think those are all the same category of privilege, but no. The default human oppressed other people in order to keep special rights for himself, but no one is oppressing anyone else in order to keep all the healthy bodies for themselves. Yes, it’s a handicap to be physically or mentally disabled, but at the same time it’s not a “privilege” to be able-bodied. It’s probably easier to see if you consider previous generations, who had no money and no technology to make life easier for the handicapped. Nobody was oppressing the handicapped. The only “privilege” would be when the money and technology do exist AND no effort is made to make life easier for the handicapped. The absence of oppression is not privilege — it’s neutral. Privilege requires the deliberate rescinding of rights or abilities. And they say we can’t freaking do nuance. Hello.

I would love any of these graphics on a tshirt… How about one in the format of a definition where it says: cis gender: when feeling normal is wrong.

Thank you for providing the full context; I was thinking people would actually follow your link, but probably not.

My objection was to the assertion that, until modern money and technology was available to "make life easier" for the handicapped, they were not oppressed. Would you care to explain that argument, please, because I'm just not getting it?

If you don't follow that argument, I am not sure I can make it more clear.

To the other commenter, I also don't see a denial of privilege - I see a discussion of what privilege IS. Females don't have privilege over transwomen.

This is also a good read:

Ah, yes, of course, I remember now, even without reading Hungerford's post again: trans women are men, and retain male privilege, so still have privilege over FAABs.

You threw me off a bit there talking about 'cis' vs 'trans' privilege in general, and that bit about able-bodied vs physically-challenged ppl really led me off track. I thought, how in the world can she deny the concept or privilege, which is relative access to living a comparable life? When you put it in the specific context of trans women vs FAABs, and your opinion of trans women, then it makes sense.

And of course, ppl tend to assume that physically-challenged ppl have a harder time of things and less access to a good standard of living through no fault of their own, while of course trans ppl *choose* to be disadvantaged relative to the ppl of their assigned sex at birth, right?

The place is gets interesting to me, though, is when you push such concepts a bit. What if a person is physically or mentally challenged through some fault of their own? I know, if you don't feel that typically-abled ppl are privileged relative to physically-challenged ppl in general, it makes no difference. But what if you do see a difference in privilege? Does it apply to someone who got drunk and wandered in front of a car?

Or, one other situation. Do you feel that str8 women have privilege over lesbians? If not, then nvm. But if so, then it must not be real privilege, right? B/c lesbians could just choose to live as str8s.

Anyhow, thanks for the comments, I think I understand you a bit better, whoever you are. I have learned so much from all the anti-trans rad fems that Cathy Brennan made me aware of; I had never heard of her, or of RadFemHub or GenderTrender, or Undercover Punk, or any of that until the UN letter thing came up. Has been really educational, and helped me think of the world in broader terms (seriously).

Oh, and sorry for all the mainsplaiing, I guess it's jsut in my genes and upbringing to be that way. I am sure no real woman would ever write anything like I just did.

Actually, that *is* a great link to read! Esp if you look at the whole site. It gives a pretty good explanation of the worldview that informed the UN letter.

Oh, you mean the UN letter where we support a definition of gender identity that protects ACTUAL TRANS PEOPLE? Right, yes, that's awful, to balance the legitimate needs of ACTUAL TRANS PEOPLE to be free from discrimination with the needs of ACTUAL FEMALES to have sex-segregated space. Females are supposed to just agree to everything, with what us being privileged and all.

That's certainly not how I read it. It seemed to me that you kinda implied that, but never said it, and then undercut even that level of support. Even when Mercedes pushed the point on her website, you still seemed unable to be clear, instead opting for some weasel-speak, IIRC.

But hey, what do I know? If I was so deluded as to see myself as a woman, even though I am a man, I guess my cognitive skills aren't so good, huh? One good thing that has come of the rad fem deconstruction of trans women is that I no longer identify as a lesbian, though sorry, do still minstrel women. I do have to agree with Janice Raymond though, if you can't bear to live as a man, you should kill yourself, 'cause you'll never be accepted as a woman.

You do realize the Internet is not a "public record," right? I am seriously flattered and a little creeped out by how much you seem to think about me, given that I've no idea who you are.

Ah, to my simple mind it is.

And don't be too flattered, I dont care about you personally (or the other trans-hating rad fems), it is your ideas and actions that interest me.

And defs dont be creeped out, okes, for the same reason. I have not looked at all into your personal life, or looked you up on the web, nothing. I have even defended your right to say what you have said, even though I dont like it (how about that? some condescension from the patriarchy!). I dont follow you about the internet, and for sure not in real life. As I said before, the only thing I know about you is what I have read here, on Mercedes's blog, RadFemHub, UndercoverPunk, and GenderTrender. I would be more than happy to debate you, but not if it makes you feel personally threatened. I am not that kind of person, even though I am a MAAB, and trans.

In fact, if you feel threatened by me, I will from this point on never even mention your name, or reply to a comment you make here, or even give you my name, address and phone number. I do NOT wish you ill as a person, I wouldn't even be mean to you in person if I met you (though prolly somewhat cold).

The last thing in the world I want is to be a source of anxiety in some woman's life, whether I agree with them or not. I grew up in a household full of fear, and I dont want to do that to anyone else. All you have to do is tell me that is what you want.

Could you define "actual trans people" as you are using it, please? Or a link? Something? That is ultimately my frustration with the word. The definition has become so fluid and context driven that I don't know if you mean to say, transgender, transsexual or some concept of trans that excludes anyone at odds with their assigned at birth sex.

After reading more of your writing I realize I forgot to add, "not male bodied" (ie born however but does not have a penis now), as another option for "real trans person", my apologies.

Just curious, did you read the letter? I read it several times, went back and forth between it and various spin published on it (Hunderford actually started a website called 'SexMatters' defending it, though really it just said the same thing....was kinda like some corporate PR site), and really, it seemed they were just close enough to insinuating support for transsexual women, then backing off and undercutting that. My impression was that they wanted to pretend to actually be trans supportive to provide some credibility for the anti-trans points they were making.

Hunderford has a site called UndercoverPunk, which is a strongly anti-man, anti-heterosexual, anti-trans woman site (to help get you started, 'PIV' means 'penis-in-vagina', that confused me for a long in, penetrative sex between a man and a woman is always rape).

At the time of the letter, UndercoverPunk was anonymous, but apparently someone outed Hungersford (when I was first reading UndercoverPunk, I didn't realize that the author was Hungersford). Plus, she comments at a vehemently anti-trans woman site called GenderTrender (I found these sites from RadFemHub, where the UN letter was originally posted). If you read her posts at these places, it seems it would be hard to accept that the UN letter came from a trans-neutral, much less trans-supportive perspective.

So, the comments I have made to Cathy Brennan aren't just reactionism or hearsay, they are based on my interpretations of a lot of context (not including the things ppl who say they have interacted with Brennan say about her--that *is* just hearsay, to me). Which, of course, may be wrong. We can really never know anyone else's motivations; we usually dont even know our own.

On the other hand, I am trying to engage Brennan on things in the public record, and she is accusing me threatening behavior rather than engaging me on the points (which is very male and threatening of me, to try to have an objective discussion, I know, women would never do that! they are all soft and sensitive and socialized to please, according to the rad fems on the sites I mention--the women there attribute far less agency and essentialize women as victims far more than the worst MRA ever did, I think).

It's pretty funny to see a feminist denying the existence of privilege. Esp one who uses the concept all the time against MAABs.

Wow, are you stalking me? I am flattered. I think you might have me confused with someone else though, I know we dykes all look the same to you.

If you aren't the Cathy Brennan who writes on RadFem hub, who wrote the letter to the UN, and who participates in GenderTrender, then yes, I suppose I have you confused with someone else. But it seems that even if you aren't that Cathy Brennan, you have the same worldview as her, so I guess same difference. And no, I don't have to stalk you, you just show up place I go. Little grandiosity there, perhaps? I know! You are a 'speshul snowflake' or whatever the middle-school spelling that the rad fems have for trans women (I'm sorry, 'twanz', or 'crossdressers', or 'female minstels' if you prefer).

And no, all 'dykes' (I hate that term) don't look alike to me, but the rad fem ones sure all seem to think exactly alike. GenderTrender, RadFemHub are both big hive mind, it seems. If anyone strays a bit outside the dogma, they are quickly called out as not a true radical feminist (that kinda happened to that person who shares your name a time or two).

And more to the point, I have no idea what any of you look like, so it'd be kinda hard for me to say you all look the same.

That's a yes, you are stalking me. Thanks.

How am I stalking you? I am reading things you write on the internet, not going through your trash or finding every single place you post, or even trying to get to your FB page. Everywhere I read you is some place I have found based on your famous UN letter.

Do you feel that ppl who don't like your viewpoints shouldn't read them? I dunno, I feel if you make public statements, esp international ones, you should own them. Perhpas you should have the FAAB only policy at RadFemHub and such extended to even reading the site, then ppl who disagree with you don't have access to what you say.

Or is it just 'cis-privilege' that doesn't exist, perhaps?


is what this discussion is about. The comfort of "normal." Even the overly clunky "non-trans" doesn't infringe upon the assumption of one side of the sex and gender equation being "normal." Cis / cissexual / cisgender does.

For the benefit of a few people who commented about being rebranded cis instead of gay or lesbian, "cis" is about sex and/or gender, not orientation, so it's identifying an entirely different aspect, and does not override other identifications. However, if gay and lesbian readers are prepared to abandon using the word "heterosexual" and use "normal" in it's place instead, then maybe we'll be prepared to start listening to lectures about how insulting it is for LGB allies to be pulled out of the comfort zone of "normal."

Until then, the least people can do is grant us a judgment neutral word instead of the assumption-laden "normal."

I'm a gay man who doesn't give a shit about being referred to as "cis" by somebody else. I'm certainly never going to identify myself that way. It's gay people who refer to non-gay people as "straight" as a point of distinction. Straight people are seldom offended, but neither do they self-identify among themselves as straight.

We can't be the only group that has run into this problem.

Pardon my ignorance. Is there a better term for people who are "not deaf" or who are "not blind"? Have the deaf and blind communities gotten pushback for using these terms to describe people without their consent? What lessons have been learned?

The trans community is not the only one to be labelled as opposed to "normal".

I'd highly recommend the book, "Nothing About Us Without Us". Many of the lessons might be applicable.

not true. When i want to say i can hear, i say i can hear. I can see. You don't define yourself by distancing yourself from something. You define yourself by stating what you are.

I think people here are kinda missing the point by making Cis in any way referencing other lgbt identities. Most of the people i call Cis are also straight. This isn't that kind of battle. We aren't referencing orientation in any way shape or form here, and this thread isn't about the LGB.

But trans is a term used to differentiate trans people from non trans people. I'm a woman, who was born XY with an enlarged clit. I don't want to use the term trans, but if i don't people think i'm being deceptive because i'm not allowed to just be a "woman". It is in many ways, a term that society forces us to use. Some of us like it. Some of us don't, but cis people have an expectation that we label ourselves that way so that they can differentiate us from women/men who aren't "Us". It's a straight tool. Men who are looking for a woman want a woman who isn't "trans". Most cis Transphobes would secretly in their heads replace trans with "a man" in their heads for the sake of the above statement. You cannot do that with the phraise "cis". If a straight man is looking for a woman who is "cis"... nothing. The only alternative given in this argument for cis, is "not trans". which if you substitute "cis" with that in the preceding statement, you get the example listed before it. It's not as offensive on any level.

People are not comfortable being called "Cis", because it denotes privilege. Like the words, "white", "straight", or "male." This becomes harder for people who are in a different place on the pyramid of privilege, because it means they are privileged in some ways, but not in others. They want to be able to look only at their own pain and problems, and erase others.

It is offensive when someone says "not trans" to define themselves. They are using their label for me, in their label for them. That means that they define me in order to define themselves. It is no longer about their right to self definition then, because all of a sudden their definition requires subjecting me to a label in order to make sense. On the surface, it looks like you are defining yourself by saying "not trans", but If you take the label you're shoving out of "not trans" then you are just "not"...

If you define people as "not straight" or "Not White" Then you are othering people from the norm. If you are defining yourself as "Not gay" not"not Black" then the connotation is "I'm not THAT". it dehumanizes those groups. This is because emphasis is on the noun in a sentence. It will never be on the modifier "not". Whenever you say you are "not something" you emphasize the "something" with a negative modifier. WHen you define yourself, you should define what you ARE, not what you're NOT.

The phrase "not trans" is offensive to me, And it's normative.

When you say "I am X" that's an identity. When you say "I'm not Y" that's distance. You are not asserting what you are. You are distancing yourself from something else. That distance is easily perceived. When when someone asks me what i am, and i say "I'm not a hipster" normal people would be like, "Okay...what are you then", but hipsters would be like, "What's wrong with being a hipster?" It's offensive to the party you are distancing yourself from. If i say "I'm a musician" that's an identity. If i say "I'm not a Jock" then some people will wonder what my problem with Jocks is. I don't expect people to accept the term cis. But I expect people to define what they ARE, not how I am different from them.

I'm a gay white (Ivy-educated) cis-male who profits from socially-imputed privilege without even meaning to.

No one means to have privilege. It's not something someone means to do. You should be proud of your identity. There's nothing wrong with being a gay white cis-male, and being Ivy educated is impressive, and earned. Thank you very much for your post.

I'm a (mostly)Straight White Trans Woman. I have both straight privilege, and white privilege. I'm starting to think i also have passing privilege. That doesn't erase all of the pain i've gone through in my life for being trans. But it does protect me from the pain and suffering i'd get for being a lesbian, or Latino. I might have to deal with being a gender minority, but i'm not a racial, or sexual minority. That means that i need to be respectful of those who are.

To me at least, 'meaning to' isnt the point at all. Almost *all* of us have some kind of privilege relative to other ppl (and in most cases, being gay is defs *not* a privilege, anyhow). Like Eevee-chan said, most of how you describe yourself, you didn't even choose, and I too admire you for making it at Harvard!

To me, privilege becomes an issue when you choose to use it to gain hegemony over others with fewer advantages, or to lecture them over not being as successful as if everyone had equal opportunities in life. You don't sound at all like you feel the world should kneel before you and give you gifts *just b/c* you are white or male or Ivy-League educated.

I do understand the complaints of a lot of the gay men here. It often sounds like they are all being accused of something just b/c they *are* white gay men, and really, sometimes they *are* being accused on that basis along.

I personally have made many angry comments on this site about 'gay men coming to tell us where why we are wrong'. However, I didn't mean that *all* gay men were the issue, but rather that the ones who seem to really be the most arrogant towards 'whiny, over-sensitive, unappreciative trans women' are gay men, and they show up pretty fast if some gay icon is being maligned. I do understand that is likely a distinction without a difference to said gay men, though. :)

I'm a gay white (Ivy-educated) cis-male who profits from socially-imputed privilege without even meaning to.

Oh. and before i forget, Thank you so very much for posting this thread, tobi.

And thank you even more for the autograph at the summit :p

Are you f**king kidding me? One hundred and twenty-four comments on the political correctness of the term "cis"?! Get a grip, people!

A more accurate statement would be that this is on the politeness of the word cis.

But yeah, that's what this is about.

With multiple derails -- from Brennan's oppression olympics to earlier efforts to say that being unmarked is what they prefer because that's better.

And I'm willing to bet that very few of the people posting remember the fights and the depths of the anger associated with "gay" in the mid 1970's.

But hey, its a trans post. They always get the most comments.

One day, the people who have problems with trans people will see a trans post and *not* say anything.

And then there won't be these god awful long threads on trans issues.

Which, of course, will be blamed on trans people because you know, they are just so unstable and all...

"Cis" must be a regional term because I have never heard it before not in Atlanta and not in Baton Rouge. So it must be from somewhere that is not the South. I used to be called a "fag hag or fag tag" before that word became a slur. I have found in Baton Rouge that lesbians don't like the term "dyke", although in Atlanta part of Pride was the annual "Dyke March", sometimes performed topless according to the values of the latest police chief. The leaders of the main parade was a motorcycle club called "Dykes on Bikes". Here the word "tranny" is not a slur.

I think the gay community needs to work on being comfortable in its own skin. If you are happy with the way you are and it is right for you, there is no need to attack or disdain anyone else. "Breeder" is real ugly, by the way, especially since in Louisiana culture I know quite a few gay people, male,female, and trans, who are "breeders"----parents, grandparents and even a great grandparent. "Breeder" focuses only on what a person does with their genitalia and reduces a person to something like an animal. As for not remembering the fights people had and the depths of anger mentioned by Antonia D'orsay, I do. I went to my first Pride the year Anita Bryant spoke at the Southern Baptist Convention in Atlanta. I remember well the surrounding of First Baptist Church in Atlanta in 1986 when Rev. Charles Stanley told The Advocate that AIDS was God's punishment for homosexuality (while he was messing around on his wife). I participated in that demonstration. And in less enlightened places the fight goes on. Baton Rouge has no parade and holds Pride indoors, at a hotel. But it was up to 3500 from 250 five years ago. And lots of the attendees looked like high school kids.

ONe thing the gay community needs to remember is to recognize and respect its friends. Dr. Martin Luther King could not have accomplished what he did without help from his white friends and Gay rights will not advance without its heterosexual friends.

ONe last thing. Please don't put God's name next to "Damn". The gay community has not been condemned by God but by those who do not know God for real and personally. God's last name is not "Damn". Many supporters of the gay community as well as many gay people are Christians. Thank you.

ONe more thing, please don't go with the "cis privilege". I have long been sick of that with extreme liberals regarding African-Americans. That time has past. Just be who you are. Someone is always going to find a reason not to like you unless you are their identical twin. It's their loss, not yours.

I would like to point out something that hasn't been touched on.
One reason why Cis is distasteful is the way it sounds.

Cis sounds like Cyst (or Cissy, as Dan pointed out), while Tranny sounds like Granny.
Both initially convey a certain feeling attached to the sound based upon your prior experience of it.
Generally, one is bad, the other good (unless you had an evil grand mama)

For this phonetic reason, it will never catch on in the common vernacular.

Wilberforce1 | November 16, 2011 3:37 PM

I really don't know why this is so difficult to understand. The term is gay man. It's always been gay man. If you need to qualify someone, qualify yourself. Trans gay man sounds good to me. But don't qualify me without my permission. You insist on controlling every term for yourself, then have the gall to make up a term for me without my permission. Your arrogance is off the scale.

@ Gay P. I have never been able to figure out CIS because if it is taken to be non-trans I could never figure out what fit into the definition of trans. I gets beyond silly because for every definition you can find a contradictory definition. Therefore I prefer to use adjectives applied at the individual level to specific people. For example Dan Savage is a gay Maab married to another Maab. Even that's a stretch because I was not in the room when he was born and so I am going on what he says about himself. But whether he is Cis or Trans I can not begin to fathom because there are those who hold the view that gay is part of trans. Others define it differently.

Maybe the solution is to ditch using the term Transgender/Transexual/Trans in the same manner that Homosexuals ditched the term in favor of using Gay instead.

What new word could the Trans community use instead?
(though, I know that seems like a tall order, but I think we need an "out of the box" moment for the Trans equality movement)

That way, you would eliminate the need to talk about people in purely clinical terms and thus make it harder to dehumanize them.

Actually I see no reason to organize people into boxes.

I don't either, but unfortunately, it's going to be a cold day in Hell before Humanity loses it's need to discriminate. (and I mean that in the broadest sense of the word)

GP, thanks for promoting the total erasure of Transsexuals. A more apt analogy instead of "gay" might be "queer", encompassing everyone that is gender atypical. In that comparison, gays get erased as do their specific issues and identities.

I'm all for supporting each other and for fighting a common enemy, and there is so much common ground and history between TS and TG, not to mention that many "non-TG" TS's...were once TG in action and appearance, if not identity. And even the most binary TS's have to live as and are treated as TG until they are 16-18 years old, sometimes decades longer.

But they are not the same. There is a large overlap, but they are not the same. A TS can be TG or non-TG. A TG can be TS or non-TS. (in this context, TS=needs to medically transition & usually has an identity opposite that assigned at birth. TG=anyone not comfortable with their role, identity, or other social expectations regarding sex and gender). TS people have medical and legal needs that a less binary person does not have. Likewise, TG people have legal needs that TS people often do not share. Both must be respected and accepted if further progress is to be made.

Sara, you really shouldn't contemplate yourself so much.
I was not promoting the total erasure of Transsexuals. I am aware of the differences and struggles each group has. I was merely saying that you would get more political traction by having a united front ("a large overlap" should be good enough), because the piecemeal approach via different fiefdoms has obviously worked out so well. Most people only get as far as "Trans..." before coming to a conclusion and then are easily confused about the "gender" vs "sexual" part. Simplify the message(word)for them.

While there have been a few successes legally, the Trans equality movement is suffering on the social side of the equation. You would get more social traction by being "Out, Trans & Human, Damn It!" similar to the "Gay is Good" beginnings of the Gay Equality Movement.

The Majority needs to come to Know you as Human Beings.

Having Laws are not enough, you have to convince People it is right to follow them.

The terms "cissexual" and "cisgender" ("cis" being a convenient combined shorthand for both of them) are critical importance to social justice dialogues because they change a "normal / abnormal" comparison to an "A / B " comparison. They are directly analogous to "white" or "heterosexual" in providing a neutral, factual term for the majority group. Without terms of this kind, we have no choice to use "X / not X" comparisons which center the majority group as default / normal and cast the minority group as a deviation from this norm. There is a huge difference between choosing to embrace rejection of social norms and being non-consensually defined as abnormal; the former is done by people who self-identify with terms such as "queer", whereas the latter inevitably happens when terms such as "white", "heterosexual", "cissexual", and "cisgender" are forbidden.

Those who criticize "cis" on the basis that it is not an identity term which they have chosen for themselves are overlooking the fact that that "white" and "heterosexual" are not identity terms either. Cis people are a privileged group just like whites and heterosexuals are, and privileged groups usually do not have identity terms for themselves because they instead think of themselves as "normal". This does not change when an individual is privileged in some ways and oppressed in other ways; while different forms of privilege do intersect with each other, being oppressed in one way does not erase being privileged in other ways. The idea that an individual who is a member of a major oppressed group can by definition never hold privilege over anyone else was the great ideological failure of the second-wave feminist movement, and it bothers me intensely to see huge swaths of the LGBT movement following the same busted path.

I was thinking that straight isn't technically the opposite of gay and gay isn't the opposite of straight. This is an area where anyone can make up shit and claim whatever the heck they want.

I also am not fond of the "cis" term. I'd much rather a more specific term - like biological male (or bio-male for short), or even XY-male since it is closer to being a clinical and descriptive term than "cis". I resent being placed in groups that I haven't willingly joined. It's the same reason why I don't self-identify as bisexual despite not falling into the very ends of the Kinsey scale. I get to make that choice; not someone else. It took me long enough to embrace the "gay man" label. If you need a more precise one, I have given you my choices. Respect them the same way I respect whatever the terms you would wish me to refer to you as.

I love your screen name beergoggles. How did you arrive at it? I have a friend who is a sommelier and gay. He uses the screen name corksucker.

Thanks Deena - It's from being a heavy glass beer stein aficionado. The kind one could hold against ones eyes and mimic binoculars.

Urban dictionary meaning:

I just use it to mean rose colored glasses for those of us that drink a lot.

First, the term "biological male / female" is absolutely unacceptable. It implies that trans men and trans women are non-biological and unnatural, which is not only inherently stigmatizing but factually incorrect from a biology standpoint.

Second, saying "I identify as gay, don't call me cis" is equivalent to saying, "I identify as gay, don't call me white". Being gay/straight/bi/pan/etc is an entirely different aspect of self than being cis/trans; pointing out that you are a cis person or a white person in no way infringes upon your identity as a gay person, whereas prohibiting those terms masks the privilege you gain as a cis person or as a white person.

"the term "biological male / female" is absolutely unacceptable."

It's interesting that ur trying to tell me what is acceptable for me to call myself after going to great lengths to pre-define me. And why do u keep seeing how I define myself as having to always be diametrically opposite to urself? As I said, this is a field that seems to be wide open for self-definition and yet you insist on defining urself and me on a binary spectrum even in linguistic terms.

I mean just imagine if gay people went around objecting to straights calling themselves that because it implied gay people were 'bent'. Hilarity.

"saying "I identify as gay, don't call me cis" is equivalent to saying, "I identify as gay, don't call me white"."

No, it's saying I identify as something, don't try to predefine me into something else without my consent. It's a matter of politeness and respect. I'm still unsure what color to definite myself as after all these years and it makes me very uncomfortable when people mistake me for one color or another and I haven't entirely decided on what to tell them to refer to me as in order to correct them. Heck, when people ask me what my ethnicity is, the only word that describes it is 'mutt'. Maybe I will embrace that eventually.

So look, I don't care what label you give yourself. I don't see us as opposites so you can call yourself any flattering term u would like and I wouldn't assume I'm the unflattering butt end of it until you actually label me with it. If you do want to create a binary between yourself and others, using trans vs. non-trans works since it's done in relation to a label you identify vs. everyone else and the only people you are boxing with that label are people who identify as trans.

I also noticed u didn't object to "XY Male". So if u want, we can go with that. I'm a bit amused that we'll be using terminology that I first heard in reference to lab mice. It also seems we will be able to accommodate all those displaying aneuploidy as well.

What's wrong with just using "tran" and "non-tran". Cis-whatever is just an annoying attempt to change the paradigm by people who've had too many "whatever"-theory classes.

Perfect! I date men, don't you dare ever call me hetero, het, straight... none of that. call people like me non-gay. Because only gay people need a label. Fair?

That might lead some to the conclusion that ur lesbian, bisexual or queer in some other way and not necessarily heterosexual. No skin off my back to refer to someone the way they want to be referred to as long as genuflection is not required.

As a sexually-normative woman, I appreciate if you not apply labels to my normative sexuality.

I would never refer to someone as hetero--it takes too long. Why use three syllables when one would do?

and cis is three tiny letters.. shorter even than trans. (I also included het in my list of thing not to call people with opposite sex attractions).

If you're honestly asking, please scroll up a little bit and read my post from 17 Nov. It's a pretty straightforward explanation.

Ok, so part of the definition of transgender includes a discomfort or a disconnect between how you present in the world and your biological sex. Here is Wikiepedia (which I recognize is not the best definition):

Transgender (pronounced /trænz?d??nd?r/) is a general term applied to a variety of individuals, behaviors, and groups involving tendencies to vary from culturally conventional gender roles.

Transgender is the state of one's "gender identity" (self-identification as woman, man, neither or both) not matching one's "assigned sex" (identification by others as male, female or intersex based on physical/genetic sex).

So, cisgender - to me - implies a complete line up of a-okay-ness between one's biological sex and their "gender role" or "expression."

I don't know a single FEMALE who has that a-okay-ness. We all have cognitive dissonance around this. The word "cis" takes that away from us and makes us into people we are not.

We are ALL burdened by gender. Some of us just choose to address it differently. The graphic in this is golden:

Cis is offensive if you have been asked not to use that word and then continue to use it on someone against their will. That's the very definition of rude. Nontrans works.

Note that in the definitions of trans you gave, gender identity is the defining factor, but in your version of cis, you swapped in "gender role" and "expression". Plenty of cis women reject socially imposed gender roles but that does not mean they have a male gender identity or would claim it. Attempting to equivocate gender dysphoria with resentment of sexism is appropriation.

The cutesy graphic also ignores intersectionality and the fact that not all privilege is distributed equally at all times; by its logic, there would be no trans women and only trans men because the "male" box is the more socially attractive option and the "female" crate means you are 100% oppressed at all times (even if you're white, straight, cis, TAB, rich, etc.).

Identity is like religious belief - both are subjective and internal. They might be special to you as yours, but don't necessarily communicate much. And you have no idea how anyone "identifies" unless they tell you.

Intersectionality is a cornerstone of identity politics, which I reject.

Identity may be subjective but that doesn't mean it's not real, and it doesn't mean you can swap in other words to replace it for your strawman argument". People communicate their identity in a lot of ways (like, say, transitioning), not just verbally.

And you reject intersectionality? So what does that mean, do you think white women are not privileged over WOC, or that straight women are not privileged over gay women? Or does it only count when trans people are involved?

No, it means that I think intersectionality is a trick to keep females divided. Racism exists and it is in all of our interest to fight against it. See

Enjoy your "identity."

Yes yes, we all already know that people don't like being called out when they abuse their privilege and have convoluted rationalizations and very-important-sounding names for it. Nice how you couldn't resist a little stab at trans women in there, too.

Enjoy your capital letters. If you keep using them, maybe people will think you're saying something profound!

Was I called out? Sorry, I missed that.

Have I abused my privilege by engaging in an online discussion? Is that because I don't agree with you? I hate to tell you this, but that's life. People disagree all the time. If I have "intelligence privilege" because of that, I would suggest maybe you turn off your computer and go outside.

No, but your whole little screed there is just one long excuse for why people should ignore abuse for the sake of solidarity, and that's not going to get much traction from anyone who's not just like you.

And don't worry, I definitely haven't seen any "intelligence privilege" to call you out on.

See--this is what I mean. "Cis" may be useful if you're taking/running or interested in social justice/queer/whatever theory class or seminars but to the 99% of us we just don't have the interest or time.
Ivory towers may be able to pull the big picture together of why we do what we do but to bring that down to the rest of us in a way that would spark an interest may just not be possible.
And really, you need to come up with another descriptor than "priviledged". It's been thrown around for so long that people just tune it out.

I am really going to have to point out the serious HYPOCRISY w/in the TG/TS/queer "community" regarding cis "labeling"... when it appears there is a constant battle/rift regarding their own ID's, labels, medical procedures/conditions, status, legal rights, etc. etc. etc.

A majority of the TG "community" is ADAMANT of self ID's.
A extremely vocal TS "community" is ADAMANT of not being under ANY TG/queer and/or LGB "umbrella".

But then there is a *shocked* befuddlement of all these communities... "WHY DON'T YOU WANT TO BE LABELED... cis? It's TRANSPHOBIC to not accept my label for you to make things EVEN!"

I am going to personally state for myself... As a non-TG/TS and even queer member of society::::

*AS a woman, society labels me ENOUGH.
*AS a mother, society labels me ENOUGH.
*AS a latina woman, society labels me ENOUGH.
*AS a lesbian woman, society labels me ENOUGH.
*AS a previously active duty/now vet woman, society labels me ENOUGH.

HELL... as a red head... society labels me ENOUGH.

I do not need/want another label for being born who I AM.

NO ONE can make life "fair" for is MY responsibility to make myself VISIBLE and protect myself.

Societies GUILT/SHAME is always looking for the easy penny to give the organ grinders performing monkey.

I am wary of penny's.

"Cissexual" (and by extension "cisgender") were coined by a cissexual sexologist. Here's a link. Here's another link.

It is the perfectly logical term to use for people who are not transsexual due to the etymology of the prefixes "trans" and "cis." What should we be called? "Normal" "Not-trans." One of those is insult and the other is another way of saying "cis," only more insulting. You are a cissexual, just as you are a woman or a lesbian. For that matter you are as much cissexual as you are a eukaryote, an animal, a chordate, a mammal, a primate, a hominid, and Homo sapiens. Deal with it.