In previous conversations here, some people have used the word ‘cis’ and others have yelled at them for it, but I have not said a thing. I have not banned the use of the word ‘cis’ but I have to note than anyone saying this word here will probably anger the other commenters. For me, the word ‘cis’ is not so much an insult as it is an inaccurate use of language. I don’t feel offended by it, it just reveals to me the political ideas of the speaker as being opposite to my own.
I googled “what does cis mean” and the first hit was a website called “what does cis mean.” This website defines it thusly:
“A “cis” person is a person who was assigned a gender and sex at birth that they feel comfortable with. Typically, cis men are men who were assigned male at birth and feel that the words “man” and “male” accurately describe who they are. Likewise, cis women are women who were assigned female at birth and feel that the words “woman” and “female” accurately describe who they are. Generally, cis people feel comfortable with the aspects of their bodies that others inscribe with a sex and gender, and do not seek to modify their bodies in ways that would change how they or others place them in a sex category.”
Some women will object to the word ‘cis’ on the basis that they do not feel comfortable with the gender they were assigned at birth, but neither are they trans, and they object to being told that they agree with a gender they don’t actually agree with. I understand this objection. Feminists understand ‘gender’ to be a set of social expectations placed on males and females that relate to women’s role as wife, mother, baby incubator and sex object, and men’s role as breadwinner, ruler of the family, and dominator of women and children in both public and private. When we are told that we are ‘cis,’ what we understand from that is that we feel comfortable in the social role assigned to women. Of course, we don’t, and therefore consider the word cis to be untrue and offensive. It sounds as though the word cis is telling us we are comfortable with our own oppression.
Trans people who use the word cis sometimes only intend to say “not trans,” and they don’t intend to say that the individual agrees with stereotypical gender roles. They may be confused as to why people object to being called by a word that, to them, just means they agree they are the sex they are and have no interest in making body modifications.
I consider the intention of the person using the word cis when deciding whether to be offended by it. One of the issues in deciding whether cis is offensive is in the definition of gender.
Some trans people use the word gender interchangeably with sex. To them, gender is whether you are male or female. They believe that the genitals an infant is born with doesn’t have to determine the person’s sex, and that sex is determined by how a person feels. (This is medically and scientifically inaccurate, but queer theory doesn’t actually care about reality.) To someone who believes this theory, then a “cis” person would just be a woman who agrees that she is a woman, or a man who agrees that he is a man. By this line of reasoning, I would be “cis” because I am female-bodied and I agree that I’m a woman.
Even though it’s relatively harmless to identify that I’m female and consider myself to be a woman, I still wouldn’t call myself “cis” because I disagree with the entire theory that brings us to calling people cis. I don’t agree that people are “assigned” a sex. The only people “assigned” a sex are those rare people with intersex conditions who are born with ambiguous genitals. That’s actually where the idea of “assigning” a sex comes from. The vast majority of people have typical sex characteristics and so observing the genitals a baby is born with is an accurate indicator of their sex. I also don’t think it makes sense for females to not consider themselves women or for males to not consider themselves men. A woman is an adult human female, and the condition of being an adult human female is a part of material reality—you can have any opinion on it you want, but the facts of your body remain. If you are in fact a woman and you call yourself something else, then you’re lying. Same for men who call themselves something else. The reason why people call themselves the opposite sex is because they feel uncomfortable with their bodies and believe their feelings of discomfort can be explained by the idea that they were supposed to be the opposite sex. I think this is rooted in sexism: the belief that women are essentially a certain way and men are essentially a certain way, and therefore if you don’t feel the way you expect people of your sex to feel, you must be the other sex. Because I object to sexism, I object to this theory.
The only reason for the word ‘cis’ to exist is to create a situation where having a transsexual identity is equally valid to not having a transsexual identity. I do not believe that anyone is essentially transsexual. There are lots of people who are unhappy with their bodies and desire to change them, but I don’t agree that hatred of the body should be considered an identity. People who cannot live their lives due to overwhelming discomfort with their bodies have a mental illness requiring treatment, but we do not define 99% of the population in terms of the ideas of a few people with a mental illness. That would be like all of us describing ourselves as fat because of the existence of anorexics.
When someone uses the word ‘cis’ around me, I don’t feel personally offended, I just feel annoyed that they have bought into a set of theories that are not reality-based and that are rooted in sexism. People’s theories and political arguments should be rooted in reality if they want to be taken seriously, and anyone promoting sexism is working against my rights as a woman. I’m not going to issue a blanket ban on the word ‘cis,’ because there are a few trans people commenting here who only intend to say ‘not trans,’ and I don’t think that’s cause for being banned. But I will not buy into the theory behind this word, and I will continue to explain why on a regular basis.