i’ve been noticing that lots of writers avoid the word “cisgender,” opting instead for “non-trans*” or “not-trans*” or “genetic *” or “bio*.”
matt kailey does it (i love matt kailey!), the government does it when it decides to differentiate between trans* people and cis people, most of the pieces in the (totally awesome) gender outlaws: the next generation do it, and people trying to be inclusive do it (etc.).
i have trouble with this. i don’t fucking get it. “cisgender” is a specific, value-neutral term for a group of people who are typically centered as the default. i think we need to decentralize cis-ness by naming it in an accurate and value-neutral way– such as with the word “cisgender.”
so why are some people so squeamish about the word? i mean, grues are squeamish about being called “cis” cuz they’re fucking grues and they don’t want the icky trans* folks to talk about them in value-neutral ways– but what about everybody else? in particular, why are some trans* people reluctant to use the word “cisgender?”
i mean, imagine if matt kailey (i’m picking on him cuz i read his blog voraciously and i’m ultra used to his usage of “non-trans”), a relatively high-profile trans* writer, activist, and educator actually used the word “cisgender.” i imagine that a shit-ton of cis folks would be introduced to the concept of cis-ness in a rather clear, reaspectful way. matt seems clever, articulate, and respectful; i think he could do a lot to decentralize cis-ness through naming it.
same thing with gender outlaws: the next generation. awesome book– i reallyreally love it, but very few of the pieces in it actually call cis people “cis” rather than “non-trans*,” “bio *,” or even “genetic *.” i think the alternatives to “cis” further centralize cis-ness– so why spread them around?
the main reason i’ve run into is in regards to comprehension. apparently, people don’t want to introduce other people to new words because they want people to know what they’re talking about. that seems reasonable, but why not write “cisgender (non-transgender)?” that’s what some people do and it seems to work awesomely.
i realize that we don’t always have time to educate cis people; if we’re coming out to someone on the fly, we may not want to include new words. i also realize that we get exhausted with educating people and that the burden of education lies with the oppressors rather than with the oppressed. taking care of ourselves is more important than going out of our way to educate our oppressors, even though those 2 things often intersect.
that said, when so many trans* folks seem downright squeamish about the word “cisgender–” doesn’t that tell cis people it’s a dirty word (if they ever hear of it)? and if we’re writing and we have time/space to breathe and to think about our words, why not just call a cis person a cis person? (i realize that it may be unsafe to use the word “cisgender” in some situations.)
also, if you try to include trans* people in your surveys, your official government form-thingies, your medical intake forms etc. and some trans* person tells you about “cis” and how it’s less problematic than “bio *” or just “woman/man–” please don’t just tell me you don’t want to confuse people. cuz “cisgender (non-transgender)” is pretty clear to me.
i’m honestly struggling with this; feel free to offer up some wisdom-nuggets of awesome. seriously, let’s confabulate!