Cis is not a slur

In the spirit of spite, I’ve got a whole lot of shit to say that has nothing to do with kink. So let’s talk about one of my many, many pet peeves. The idea that the term “cis” as in cisgender (which describes people whose gender identity matches the gender they were assumed to be at birth) is a slur is completely fucking ridiculous. I will mostly be talking about trans women and cis women here because I’m a cis woman and I never agreed to be used to make trans women feel shitty about themselves.

The term cis was created, as far as I know, to work around the binary created by calling people with trans histories (that is, people whose gender identity does not match the gender they were assumed to be at birth and who may or may not have taken steps to make their bodies better match their identities) trans women and trans men, but calling cis women and cis men just women and just men. The reason calling trans people trans women and cis women just women is a dick move is because it implies that trans women aren’t really women.

So calling people trans women and cis women puts us on a more even playing field. Using those terms doesn’t imply that I’m normal and trans women are weirdos, it makes it clearer that we’re just women with different histories.

Speaking of histories, the idea that all trans women’s childhoods are somehow vastly different from all cis women’s childhoods is complete and utter bullshit. I will bet you any amount of money that my childhood was more similar to a North American cis boy’s than to a girl, trans or not, who was born in India or China or Thailand or Russia or Korea or Brazil or Nigeria or Egypt. Not to mention the fact that although my parents fucked plenty of things up, they never ever told me or my sister that we couldn’t do something because we were girls. We moved firewood, we mowed the lawn, we helped bleed the brakes when the car needed fresh brake fluid, we played in our sandbox, we built huts in the woods, and we helped build a fucking house. Not to mention neither one of us regularly wore skirts when we were kids or worried much about our hair or obsessed over fashion or whatever. If there really is some sort of shared girlhood that makes all cis women similar, I’ve already failed. Not to mention that both my sister and I have ended up in extremely male dominated fields. I’m a programmer and she’s a construction worker. If you have to be girly as a child to be a woman, neither my sister nor I are actual women.

…It’s obvious that’s ridiculous, right?

Another reason it’s fine and dandy to use the word “cis” to describe me and other cis people is that nobody gets hurt because someone found out they were cis. Slurs like tr***y and n***er are slurs because they are used to remind people that they are considered less than, that people can hurt them without facing any consequences, that they will be denied jobs and housing and medical care and nobody will do a goddamn thing about it. Cis, on the other hand, is nothing more than a reminder that shit is easy for me. I won’t be denied a job because someone found out I was cis. I won’t have a date mysteriously stop returning messages if they find out I’m cis. I won’t have anyone ask massively inappropriate questions about my genitals if they find out I’m cis. I won’t be beaten or raped or murdered if someone finds out I’m cis.  In short, nothing bad happens to me if somebody finds out I’m cis or calls me cis.

So go the fuck ahead and use cis, it’s not hurting anyone and might conceivably help trans people by helping break down the supposed binary between trans people and non-trans people.

7 thoughts on “Cis is not a slur

  1. You wrote: “The reason calling trans people trans women and cis women just women is a dick move is because it implies that trans women aren’t really women.”

    Mod note: the following hateful transphobic bullshit has been left in solely to keep the replying commenter from looking like they hallucinated a comment that isn’t there. Select the blank spot to see the bullshit if you’re so inclined. There may be trans people reading this blog and I am not cool with exposing them to some hateful asshole without warning.
    They’re not. They never can be. Two of the most defining experiences of womanhood – menstruation and childbirth – are things they can never experience, for a start.

    Trans women, no matter what they may want or feel inside, simply haven’t dealt with the shitstorm of bleeding at school, having cramps so bad you thought you were going to die, going through the trauma of an abortion, losing a child in a miscarriage, dealing with it being assumed that you *can’t* do [insert activity or occupation] based on your gender, being denied equal pay, being disinherited because of your gender, losing your last name “automatically” when you marry, being scared your whole life to walk home alone, being barred from the sports fields at school with all the other girls because the fields were “for the boys sports”, never seeing a person of your own gender as role models in virtually all important careers as you were growing up, being told that you were innately sinful in church because of your gender…the list goes on.

    Being a woman is more than just what you might want or feel. It’s more than putting on certain clothes or wearing makeup or taking hormones or getting breast implants. It’s a lifetime of experience from the moment you’re born and slung in a pink dress and given dollies to play with instead of trucks. Being a woman isn’t just something you can take hormones for and suddenly *be*. Being a woman is something that is fucking EARNED. With blood and sweat and fucking pain and years of denial and mental abuse and hardship.

    If someone decides they want to change their gender and become a woman instead of a man, that’s fine with me. But to suggest that genetic women and trans women are the same is blatantly false. They’re not, and never can be, any more than strapping on a cock to fuck my boyfriend makes me a man.

    I’ve written this comment as anon because I have a number of trans friends who I care deeply about. And it seems that today on this issue you have to think all one way or you’re not politically acceptable. I guess I’m not. I love my trans friends and accept their choice and support them 100% while not believing that trans people are the same as their genetic gender of choice. I see trans people as separate genders – and no, I don’t view that as a “dick move”. Not everyone views things your way.

    • I’ve written this comment as anon because I have a number of trans friends who I care deeply about.

      Let’s deal with this first. You’re a coward and a liar. The real reason you’re spewing this hateful filth anonymously is because you know you’re being an asshole and you’re afraid your friends would never speak to you again if they knew how awful you are. It’s cowardice, not care for your supposed “friends” (psst, you’re not really friends with someone if you think their gender identity doesn’t count) that keeps you from putting your name on this bullshit.

      You’re pretty awful, but your cowardice disgusts me the most. Nothing else anonymous from your IP will be published. Not that you have anything worth the harddrive space to say, but fair warning.

      But to suggest that genetic women and trans women are the same is blatantly false.

      Nobody is suggesting that all women are exactly the same. We are not a monolith. Trans women have different experiences from me, poor women have different experiences from me, women with PhDs have different experiences from me, rich women have different experiences from me, disabled women have different experiences from me, Black women have different experiences from me, Chinese women have different experiences from me, Pakistani women have different experiences from me, Zambian women have different experiences from me, non-neurotypical women have different experiences from me, women with mental illnesses have different experiences from me – are you seeing a theme here? What exactly makes me, a white, straight, able bodied, neurotypical, non-mentally ill, Canadian cis woman who went to college more like a disabled, autistic Chinese lesbian who lives is crushing poverty than like a white, straight, able bodied, non-mentally ill, Canadian trans woman who went to college?

      I never said that trans women are absolutely identical to cis women, I said that they are women too and their gender identities are just as real as mine is.

      Gender identity is only a small part of who I am and I refuse to act like it’s the most important thing about me. There is a lot more here than the sheer dumb luck of having a gender identity and a body that conveniently match up.

      The idea that womanhood must be earned is absolutely ridiculous. I was born this way. I no more earned it than I did my eye color or my skin tone. And if womanhood were earned, trans women would be the only real women.

      Once more for the cheap seats: IF WOMANHOOD WERE EARNED TRANS WOMEN WOULD BE THE ONLY REAL WOMEN.

      All I do to be seen as a woman is not make an effort to hide my secondary sexual characteristics. Trans women, on the other hand, whether they go through painful and expensive surgery or not, risk their lives to be seen as women. They want it more than I do and frankly they deserve it more than I do.

      simply haven’t dealt with the shitstorm of bleeding at school, having cramps so bad you thought you were going to die, going through the trauma of an abortion, losing a child in a miscarriage

      So, by your utter failure of logic, women who didn’t worry about bleeding at school because they didn’t get to go to school aren’t women, women who for whatever reason have never gotten a period aren’t women, women who’ve never had bad menstrual cramps aren’t women, women who’ve never been pregnant aren’t women, women who’ve never lost a pregnancy aren’t women, women who are infertile aren’t women, and women like me who use birth control to keep from getting periods and who refuse to get or stay pregnant are not women. There is more to me than a uterus!

      dealing with it being assumed that you *can’t* do [insert activity or occupation] based on your gender, being denied equal pay, being disinherited because of your gender, losing your last name “automatically” when you marry, being scared your whole life to walk home alone, being barred from the sports fields at school with all the other girls because the fields were “for the boys sports”, never seeing a person of your own gender as role models in virtually all important careers as you were growing up, being told that you were innately sinful in church because of your gender…the list goes on.

      I don’t even… Seriously, how does someone that ignorant manage to use a computer? Did your mommy and daddy have to help you find the big blue e?

      Trans women absolutely deal with all of those things. Trans women in particular tend to be badly under employed and often live in poverty. They most certainly do get disinherited because of their gender, they most certainly do deal with the assumption that they can’t do things because they’re women or because they’re trans, they most certainly do fear walking home alone (trans women, particular trans women of colour, experience more violence than just about anyone else), trans women most certainly rarely see members of their own gender as role models in virtually all important careers, and they are absolute told that they are innately sinful in church. The list may go on, but so far you’re failed to mention a single thing that isn’t as bad or worse for trans women than it is for cis women.

      Being a woman is simply not to awesome that I feel the need to keep anyone out of the club. The fact that you do tells me nothing about what it means to be a woman and everything about you. You are clinging to this idea that being cis makes you better than trans women because it’s the only worthwhile thing about you. For the love of god fix your self esteem and stop taking your issues out on trans women.

  2. No, being a woman isn’t “earned.” Nor is it something someone just “decides.” Agreed someone not genetically born female can’t have an abortion or miscarriage. Everything else you pointed out as “only real women” experience is what trans women go through consistently, often with far more tangible negative consequences than “real women.” That you don’t see everything the way stabbity does, well that’s OK. That you are outright proclaiming that trans is some sort of hobby, and these women are unworthy of equal status with ciswomen…yeah, kind of a “dick move.”

  3. I agree. I haven’t had much experience with Trans women, but they sure seem to have it tough in lots of ways. And I certainly see parallels with my own struggles, plus some unique to being trans. I especially feel sympathetic to lesbian trans women who are pre-op, as it can be even more difficult to find a date.

  4. I had actually never heard the term cis gendered before your post. I have to admit what I first thought of was when I heard, years ago, that some gay people referred to heterosexual people as breeders. Breeders always had a tinge of insult to me but I never really let it bother me much. Mainly because the gay people I knew were friends. I didn’t treat them as gay people I treated them as friends. They didn’t treat me as a breeder for the same reason.

    I tried to find an origin for the word from some kind of “official” source. There is a Time magazine article, it’s listed in Urban dictionary and there’s a wikipedia page.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk%3ACisgender

    The Wikipedia page is a nightmare. It’s not really an official article but some kind of discussion on what the official article for the word should be. Half of it is arguing that it’s only used by transgendered people as an insult. The other half insists it’s not an insult. It left me feeling unsure and weary of someone who might use the word. I guess, for me, it would depend on who used it and the context. And by who I don’t mean transgendered or, well, cis gendered people. I mean friend or stranger. if it was a friend who I had a good opinion of I wouldn’t be very concerned. If it was a stranger I didn’t know I’d probably try to feel them out for their intent. I try not to make snap judgements about people.

    There was a brief mention of its origin on the Wikipedia page: It should probably be noted that around a century ago German sexologists were using the trans/cis labels for describing the way people dressed. Dr. Ernst Buchard in his 1914 ‘Lexikon des gesamten Sexuallebens’ defined Cisvestitismus and Transvestitsmus.

    That seems far off from the way it’s being used now, if I understand the word correctly.

    While I do know transgendered people I’m not really part of the transgendered community. I refer to transgendered women as she or her if that’s what they ask for. It doesn’t really matter to me what some people may say they “really” are. To the best of my knowledge I don’t know any transgendered men. Which is why I talk mainly about transgendered women in this reply.

    If mentally and emotionally someone feels female, dresses female and does whatever they feel necessary to make their bodies reflect the way they feel that’s their business not mine. It doesn’t bother or threaten me because I am secure in who I am. Their sexuality or identity doesn’t effect mine.

    I have to admit I’m left feeling a little ambivalent about the word. I would ask the transgendred people I know about the word but that would probably only point out that they are perceived as different from everyone else. Which I doubt is what they want. As a result it’s probably not a word I would use.

    Thank you for bringing it to my attention though. At least now if I hear it being used I’ll know what the person is talking about 🙂

  5. I can’t claim this is the “official” origin story of the cis/trans terminology, but this is what I am reminded of, given a background in organic chemistry: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cis%E2%80%93trans_isomerism

    In the case of chemistry, “cis” (per the above Wikipedia link) from Latin “on this side” meaning that if the two attached chemical groups are on the same side of the double-bond or triple-bond in question, then the configuration is “cis.” Conversely, “trans,” from Latin “on the other side” or “across” means that the two attached chemical groups are on opposite sides of the double- or triple-bond.

    Metaphorically applied to gender identity, the “gender divide” is the double-bond. If your “gender-assumed-at-birth” and “gender-you-identify-with” are on the same side, you’re “cis” and if they’re on opposite sides, you’re “trans.”

    Applying the same metaphor to clothing (i.e. “vestments”) gives cis- and trans-vestitism. Linguistically, anyway.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *