My lack of policy on the word ‘cis’

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.

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29 thoughts on “My lack of policy on the word ‘cis’

  1. “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.”

    Thank you thank you! The “assigned at birth” usage always sounds to me like an assertion that the obstetrician, the nurse and the janitor stood around in the delivery room and voted or something on the matter. Maybe the ob flipped a coin! So maybe they goofed!?! They “assigned” me a female gender and they got it wrong because the coin came up tails!

    This whole idea is, as you point out, beyond absurd. Babies who are born with ambiguous genitals are vanishingly rare. It is ridiculous to talk as though this rarest of conditions actually obtains across the whole population, as though seeing a penis on a newborn infant might or might mean that it is a boy, depending on what kind of mood the doctor is in that day.

    Come on. Can we at least PRETEND to talk as though we had common sense?

    (I’m not “offended” by “cis.” I’m harder to offend than that. I take the usage to mean either that the speaker has bought into this whole mythology without having given it a lot of thought (usual case) or that maybe he or she is a few peas short of a casserole, which again is nothing to get “offended” about.)

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Pretty much where I am, too, in that I’m not personally offended by it. But I won’t let it pass, because it’s a load of made up shit, as is all genderism, and yeah, validating the idea that trans is real. We’re not a type of woman, we’re the only type.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I’d see it a bit differently.

    Woman is the word for an adult human female. It needs no modifier. Same with men.

    Using ‘cis’ and ‘trans’ says that there are two groups of women, and acts to insert males in there as part of the group ‘women’ when the definition does not allow for that. The thought terminating cliché “transwomen are women” works the same way. I think all attempts to redefine ‘woman’ should be rejected in it’s entirety, we should all understand by now that if you control the discourse in this way women lose the right to define themselves as a class.

    I’ve noticed when women object to ‘cis’ they are told that definition as in the article, where it claims it is merely about being comfortable with your sex and gender. This is not true, and it goes past being merely inaccurate. The truth lies in this bit “Generally, cis people feel comfortable with the aspects of their bodies **that others inscribe with a sex and gender**. Women have never felt comfortable with the inferior, subordinate role that others have inscribed on their bodies, that is why feminism exists in the first place. Women’s oppression is rooted in being born female and making it about use of the word ‘assigned’ means that is acting as a red herring, to distract from that there is a gender hierarchy in place that is inescapable for female persons and that ‘cis’ in this instance acts to create a hierarchy within the definition of ‘women’ which then includes men and which places women as being oppressive of those men. The label ‘cis’ is used for everyone else, male and female, gay or lesbian effectively reducing them to a homogenised group that is in opposition to ‘trans’. This isn’t real, and ignores males as the dominant group in society and erases female oppression.

    Liked by 7 people

    • The thing is, trans activists keep adjusting what they claim “cis” means in reaction to criticism of the term. Awhile back they were saying it meant comfortable with the gender you’re assigned at birth.

      When gender critical women critiqued that idea – i.e. gender is a hierarchy and we do not agree with our subordinate gender status assigned based on our sex, THEN they started claiming what purple sage cites: that it means comfortable with your body and not desiring modifications.

      The real objective of “cis” is as sarineal says: to insist (and have us repeat for brainwashing purposes) that there are two kinds of women. Which is why I reject the term entirely.

      Liked by 4 people

      • It’s a male supremacy term when you think about it. There are the TwueWomen™, aka men, who get to dictate what woman means, who are its embodiment, so superior and yet so oppressed. Then there is the seething mass of sexthings, the ones born with those repulsive and yet strangely desirable not-penises, the ones whose role is to be silent unless praising and supporting the TwueWomen™ and to service them sexually on demand, and yet who somehow, for all their inferiority and weakness, manage to be dreadful oppressors who slaughter TwueWomen™ in their thousands merely by thinking the word “No.”

        Liked by 6 people

      • There are women. Two X chromosomes, lady parts, all that. There there is everyone else, aka, men. XY, penis etc. Yes yes there are a very very few people whose development was buffled up at some stage for reasons unknown and who have unusual chromosomes and/or unusual physiology. These last people of course need and deserve sympathy and acceptance and, where possible, medical help, just as in all other cases of abnormal physical development.

        But leaving this tiny minority to the side for a minute, in reality there is only one kind of female, and one kind of male. As lillith so clearly points out here, the “cis” usage is to be avoided not just because it’s silly (carrying in itself as it does the lunatic notion that obstetricians randomly “assign” gender at birth) but because it also carries the idea that there are “cis” women, and then there are the other kind of women. Trans. Whatever.

        As she also points out, this last concept contains within it the concept of male superiority. These other women, these “trans” women, as it turns out, are immediately ready to take over, to dictate to women the permissible scope for our action and for our privacy. We are supposed to welcome them into our private spaces, on their mere say-so. We are supposed to shut up in our gatherings so as to let them talk. If we are lesbians we are supposed to have sex with them on demand.

        Wow, all that sounds just like what men say because, wait for it, they ARE men!

        Liked by 4 people

    • I agree. And “cis” has the effect of centering the concept of transsexualism or transgenderism in talking about what it is to be a woman (or man, I guess, but who cares about that). To me it’s a case of the tail wagging the dog. I don’t need to be labeled in contradistinction to this misguided fringe group that seems dedicated to drawing all attention and energy to itself.

      Liked by 6 people

    • Yes, all of this.

      For me, there’s also (in addition to points from purplesage’s post and sarineal’s comment) the aspect of refusing to be defined by the dogma I don’t hold.

      Like, for example there are belief systems that define all women, who refuse (or just don’t comply enough) to comply with their dogma, as “sinners” and “harlots” and “baby killers” and so on.
      And to them (holders of those beliefs and, almost always male, dogma makers) those monikers are perfectly acceptable and in harmony with their beliefs.
      But that doesn’t means we should accept it a okay thing to call us. Or even go on (unironically) calling ourselves that.

      Same with “cis”. I don’t buy in the whole ideology and see it as harmful, regressive, misogynistic way to reinforce gender norms and make women shut up.
      So, yeah. Why should we accept it? Plus, as lilith1022 pointed out, the term “cis” (like pretty much any other gender brigade term) have no fixed definition! The meaning of it keeps changing and warping. But we are still expected to embrace it as okay definition of ourself!

      It’s the same old “men deciding what women are and how are they allowed to see themselves” garbage.

      Liked by 5 people

      • I don’t use it either. The definition always changes and it’s a just a brainwashing method to get you to accept that there are two types of women. And now that you’ve been labeled as “cis-gendered” or a “cis-woman” you’re inferior to those “trans women”, and how can you possibly question them? Bev Jo does quite an awesome post about that:
        https://bevjoradicallesbian.wordpress.com/2011/03/15/bev-jo-radical-lesbian-writing/

        I view it as another insult, like terf, bitch, cunt, etc. I do not agree with the way society oppresses women or the standards men made up for how we should live and behave. I’m not going to play their mind games or use their insults to label myself or my fellow women.

        I never use assigned female/male at birth unless talking about an actual intersex person or certain intersex conditions. As others have pointed out, that term referred to the often unnecessary medical procedures doctors would and still do perform on infants, often even without the parents knowing, if the baby has ambiguous genitalia.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes, I’d forgotten that. Of course ‘trans’ isn’t a real thing and is based solely on subjective claims of a mental state a person might have. It is an umbrella term that has no real solid definition. Woman has a solid definition based on observable and unchanging characteristics and it is too easy to forget that when ‘trans’ is presented to us all as being exactly the same in substance and offered as a true opposite when it is not.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes! That’s the crux of it – the whole thing is delusional. It’s a tiny number of people with paraphilias and/or mental illnesses (predominantly the cluster B males) pushing the idea that they’re something they are not and cannot be, and demanding veritable worship from everyone else, especially women. They’ve taken a bunch of sicknesses and perversions (yes, I’m looking at you, AGPs and paedos) and turned them into a cult.

      Liked by 4 people

  5. I have posted on my blog,an announcement from
    IpSO, the U.K. press watchdog. Watch as Cis creeps increasingly into usage, following a meeting between IPSO and Transactivists on reporting Trans issues. What other group gains this privilege. Can we have a set of Women’s guidelines, demanding an end to sexist and sexualised stories featuring women. Can The Daily Main online drop the ‘pornified pictures’ of females on the sidebar?

    Liked by 3 people

  6. After the election here, I posted a thing on my tumblr including the words “If you are a straight, white, cis male…” because I wanted to point out those people in the US who now hold the most safety and privilege. Despite all of us here knowing how problematic the word cis is and how everyone is “not cis” in that we all deviate from gender norms in one way or another, we also can probably all agree what enters our minds when we read the words “straight, white, cis male.” It is The Oppressor Class.

    But I wish there was another word for gender-role conformance. Because gender-role conformance doesn’t just encompass everyone who does feel comfortable and unthreatened in the bathroom of their biological sex; it should also extend towards those who actively or passively *encourage* gender-role conformance by their conforming. I think trans and gender non-conforming people have a common enemy there, and we need a word for it that doesn’t obscure that we’re talking about *gender roles*.

    Because yes, I could have said, “If you are a straight, white, gender-conforming male…” If I did, I think people would have have questioned, “What do you mean by gender-conforming?” – though that wasn’t a point of discussion I wanted to raise in that particular post. In retrospect, it is a point of discussion we need to raise, and maybe replacing “cis” with “gender-conforming” or something similar is the answer. Though “gender conforming” is a mouthful (just like gender non-conforming!) Where is a linguist when you need one?

    One of the most offensive things my friend said to me when we had our blow-up over the trans issue basically entailed comparing transness to homosexuality in that it must be something innate, and one day will be removed from the DSM the way homosexuality was. That’s the kind of thing the cis/trans wording keeps pushing, especially on gender conforming people who “don’t understand”the issues facing those of us who don’t conform to gender roles and feel oppressed by the gender-conforming class. I tried to tell my “straight, white, cis female” friends what dysphoria felt like – what it felt like to be derided, insulted, ignored, etc. for being a visible butch woman, and the mental anguish and self-loathing it built up in me over the years – and they just could not make that leap in thinking. “Well I’m cis,” they said, “so I feel bad for you, but I don’t understand.”

    So “cis” isn’t helping anyone, really, as it fails to communicate how gender is hurtful to people who have never found it consciously hurtful themselves. It isn’t the right word or the right framing of the oppression and experience. We so desperately need more words. If they can pull “cis” out of the nether and into common usage, we’ve got to do the same with the actual truth of the matter. Somehow.

    Liked by 3 people

    • This is why I don’t just want a blanket ban on the word ‘cis.’ I understand what you meant here and it’s not something to get worked up about. If it were me, I’d say either “gender conforming” or “masculine,” but this isn’t a hill I want to die on.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I agree with not banning words. I don’t think that’s helpful and I don’t like when other groups try to ban words or enforce “newspeak” – such as “front holes” and “vagina havers” and other bullshit like that.

        On the other hand, I don’t want to see the term “cis” normalized. So while I wouldn’t tell someone else not to use it, I make sure to register my dissent whenever possible and reasonable.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I object too, where possible. I think this thing needs to be corrected, in season and out of season. But I’m not crazy about “banning” words. I’m just trying to get people to be more thoughtful. Objecting to the usage opens a door, actually, to explaining some really important stuff.

          Liked by 2 people

    • There are different perspectives on this, but ‘cis’ in ‘straight white male’ is superfluous. The term already tells us what we need to know. It doesn’t work when applied to women or those in the lesbian and gay community, who are not in the position to oppress anyone, least of all men as a class.

      I struggle with the idea that no one else strains against the roles imposed on them by society based on their sex nor the disdain for those that seem to conform. This only works if you choose it, and people don’t, and if you don’t reject it in various ways, but people don’t. Everyone is non-gender conforming to various degrees and for women this is even worse as they are forced to submit to an inferior position in society and forced into femininity. Gender hurts, and it hurts women most of all. I’d never blame any woman for what they need to do to survive the numerous pressures on them, and for all that women have struggled against the roles imposed on them that would have them relegated in society.

      The most gender-conforming of the lot isn’t the average man or woman but trans. The trans movement is the one that clings to sex stereotypes and asserts a woman is merely the figment of the imagination in a male head, the one that is saying to children as we speak if they play with the wrong toys or behave in the wrong way they were born in the ‘wrong body”. They aren’t allowed to just be themselves. It certainly doesn’t help anyone as you say, we don’t need that word and the assumptions built into it. We don’t need to construct a homogenised group of allegedly ‘oppressive’ gender compliant people and group of stunning and brave non-gender compliant people being oppressed by them. No woman has that power. We need to deconstruct that rather, and just let people be people without imposing labels on them and assigning them oppositional roles that do not reflect reality.

      Liked by 6 people

      • The most gender-conforming of the lot isn’t the average man or woman but trans. The trans movement is the one that clings to sex stereotypes and asserts a woman is merely the figment of the imagination in a male head, the one that is saying to children as we speak if they play with the wrong toys or behave in the wrong way they were born in the ‘wrong body”.

        This, so much. Just because they do it in a Through The Looking Glass way doesn’t mean they’re not trying to rigidly enforce stereotypical sex roles.

        Liked by 3 people

      • 10000x this!

        I struggle with the idea that no one else strains against the roles imposed on them by society based on their sex nor the disdain for those that seem to conform… Everyone is non-gender conforming to various degrees…

        I don’t so much as struggle with the idea as resent it deeply! Most people conform only as much as they feel they must to get by. And that is why “cis” is not only a meaningless word – it’s also insulting.

        The most gender-conforming of the lot isn’t the average man or woman but trans.

        Abso-freakin’-lutely!

        Liked by 2 people

        • The trans thing is all ABOUT gender stereotypes! If a male is unhappy with some or all of the stereotypical male role, the sensible thing to do is to object to the role or parts of it, not to suddenly decide, in defiance of physiology and common sense, that he is therefore “really” a woman! (And suddenly has no objections whatever to stereotyped sex roles! In fact, he embraces them, becomes the most over-dressed, over-made-up, over “feminine” person around! Just look at that absurd picture Jenner had posted at Vanity Fair! A 67 year old bathing “beauty”!)

          Even less sensible is to go the next step and insist on taking over women’s spaces and women’s discussions! Notice, for example, that a private rest room or a private place to change clothes is never good enough for them. They feel entitled to invade women’s spaces, even driving the women out, so that they can assert their (male) prerogatives. That everyone should sign up for their particular delusion.

          Sorry. Sometimes I have trouble commenting moderately on this nonsense. If someone with a penis shows up in my gym locker room (which could very well happen) I’m going to feel seriously threatened and invaded, and I’m distressed by the idea that there is nothing I can do about it.

          Liked by 1 person

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