I stumbled into an interesting conversation today about labels. A non-trans woman was stating her stance as an ally of Trans* people and said she was a “born this way” female to identify that she was not Trans*. Someone was inevitably offended by this, stating that she needed to use the term “Cis” and not say “born this way” because Trans* people are born this way too. This poor woman was damn near attacked over not using “Cis” to identify herself even after she explained why she didn’t, and never would. I later asked her privately to explain further her position on the term “Cisgender” and I got the following:
“My views are based on my interactions with ppl here in Iowa. A small group of younger trans & androgynous ppl at a support group meeting. Prior to them making me aware of the term a few years ago, I didn’t know it existed. Neither did my best friend [who is MTF]. This group of ppl basically demanded I refer to myself as cis always. And that as such I am lesser than they are. They personally disrespected me, made jokes about the term, and affected my alliance with them. I don’t really like labels in the first place.”
This isn’t the first time I have heard a non-trans person say that Trans* people have used the term in a derogatory manner and I find this extremely upsetting.
I personally don’t like the term Cisgender. I do use it on occasion because most of the time people know exactly what I mean when I do. Lately I have been opting for “non-trans” though and I’d like to explain why.
Cisgender means, quite literally, “on this side of gender.”
Transgender means “across gender.”
What exactly does Cisgender say then? That there is a proper side of gender to be on? It makes me think of the phrase “on this side of the law”, which is to say on the right side, We are all on one side or another of gender, and whatever side that may be, it is “this side” to each person. I am on this side of gender, you are on that side. But you know what, I don’t like that either! The idea of “sides” is ridiculous and puts a divide where we don’t need or want one. Transgender (remember: across gender) would almost seem to encompass everyone. Gender is not a coin with two sides, it is a spectrum and we all fall somewhere across that spectrum. I’m not saying we should start calling everyone transgender, that just silly! But I really do believe we need to stop using Cisgender. I find it offensive, so-called Cis people find it offensive, and now Trans* people seem to be using it as a slur! Just because certain factions of society hold negative opinions of us and throw around slurs, doesn’t mean we get to be excused from doing the same. If the Trans* community wants acceptance and respect, we need to give it right back. Especially to our allies!