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Pride: What is cisgender, where is the word from, and is it offensive?

Portrait of Young couple. They are looking away laughing and leaning on light blue wall

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Gender issues have come to the fore in a number of ways in recent times, and it’s important to understand what different terms mean in an effort to use them correctly.

Unless you label yourself transgender or non-binary, it’s likely that you’d be considered cisgender – but just what does the word mean?

The word transgender comes from the Latin prefix trans, which loosely translates to ‘on the other side of’. Someone who is transgender feels like the sex they were assigned at birth does not match up with how they identify.

Cis is also a Latin prefix, meaning ‘on this side of’, and cisgender refers to the exact opposite. If your gender identity matches with your assigned sex, then you’re cisgender.

Cisgender has been seen in textbooks as far back as the early 1990s, but the prefix is used in front of other words in the medical field to describe a variety of different things.

Some people prefer to use the term non-transgender or gender-normative. However, since both of these assume that being trans is not normal (rather than trans and cis being simply two different but neutral experiences), they can be problematic.

Confident teenager gives important message about being happy with your own gender identity

Gender issues have come to the fore in recent years (Picture: Getty Images)

There are people who believe the word cisgender is offensive, with some believing that it promotes binaries of what it means to be male or female.

However, if you feel you do not identify with your assigned gender but don’t feel as if you fit into the transgender label either, you can refer to yourself as gender non conforming or non-binary.

It’s been criticised by LGBT+ and intersex scholars, who believe that it does not take into account myriad other factors when it comes to peoples’ sexuality and gender.

But, at its crux, the issue comes down to how you feel comfortable with expressing yourself and identifying yourself.

It’s very similar to sexuality in that the labels are there for you to understand yourself and let others know who you are – no one is forcing you into a box, but if you’re homosexual, bisexual, queer, heterosexual, or anything else on the spectrum, then you can identify that way.

If you do fit the mould of a cisgender person but you don’t wish to be labelled like that, have a think about why that is.

The term represents your lived experience, and is only used as a marker, exactly as heterosexual would be for a straight person.


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