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Cisgender and cissexual (often abbreviated to simply cis) describe related types of gender identity where an individual's experience of their own gender matches the sex they were assigned at birth.[1] Sociologists Kristen Schilt and Laurel Westbrook define cisgender as a label for "individuals who have a match between the gender they were assigned at birth, their bodies, and their personal identity" as a complement to transgender.[2]

There are a number of derivatives of the terms in use, including cis male for "male with a male gender identity", cis female for "female with a female gender identity", analogically cis man and cis woman, as well as cissexism and cissexual assumption. In addition, certain scholars have begun to use the term cisnormativity, akin to the queer studies' heteronormativity.[3][4] A related adjective is gender-normative; Eli R. Green has written that "'cisgendered' is used [instead of the more popular 'gender normative'] to refer to people who do not identify with a gender diverse experience, without enforcing existence of a 'normative' gender expression".[5]

Cisgender vs. cissexual[edit]

Julia Serano has defined cissexual as "people who are not transsexual and who have only ever experienced their mental and physical sexes as being aligned", while cisgender is a slightly narrower term for those who do not identify as transgender (a larger cultural category than the more clinical transsexual).[6] For Jessica Cadwallader, cissexual is "a way of drawing attention to the unmarked norm, against which trans* is identified, in which a person feels that their gender identity matches their body/sex".[7]


Cisgender has its origin in the Latin-derived prefix cis-, meaning "on this side of," which is an antonym for the Latin-derived prefix trans-, meaning "across from" or "on the other side of". This usage can be seen in the cis-trans distinction in chemistry, the cis-trans or complementation test in genetics, and in the ancient Roman term Cisalpine Gaul (i.e., "Gaul on this side of the Alps"). In the case of gender, cis- is used to refer to the alignment of gender identity with assigned sex.

Internet use[edit]

The word cisgender has been used on the Internet since at least 1994, when it appeared in the alt.transgendered Usenet newsgroup in a post by Dana Leland Defosse.[8] Defosse does not define the term and seems to assume that readers are already familiar with it. It may also have been independently coined a year later: Donna Lynn Matthews, the charter maintainer of the usenet group, attributed the word to Carl Buijs, a transsexual man from the Netherlands, claiming that Buijs coined the word in 1995.[9] In April 1996, Buijs said in a Usenet posting, "As for the origin, I just made it up. I just kept running into the problem of what to call non-trans people in various discussions, and one day it just hit me: non-trans equals cis. Therefore, cisgendered."[10][11]

In February 2014, Facebook began offering "custom" gender options, allowing users to identify with one or more gender-related terms from a curated list, including cis, cisgender, and others. [12][13]

Academic and literary use[edit]

German sexologist Volkmar Sigusch may have been the first to use the term cissexual (zissexuell in German) in a peer-reviewed publication: in his 1998 essay "The Neosexual Revolution", he cites his two-part 1991 article "Die Transsexuellen und unser nosomorpher Blick" ("Transsexuals and our nosomorphic view") as the origin of the term.[14] He also used the term in the title of a 1995 article, "Transsexueller Wunsch und zissexuelle Abwehr" (or: "Transsexual desire and cissexual defense").[15]

The terms cisgender and cissexual have more recently been used in publications, such as a 2006 article in the Journal of Lesbian Studies[16] and Julia Serano's 2007 book Whipping Girl,[6] after which the term gained some popularity among English-speaking activists and scholars.[17][18][19] Proponents of using the terms rather than terms like "non-transsexual" or "non-trans" have argued that it calls attention to and unsettles the assumption that people, by default, have an internal sense of being male or female that matches the sex they were assigned at birth: for example, Jillana Enteen wrote that "cissexual" is "meant to show that there are embedded assumptions encoded in expecting this seamless conformity".[20] On the other hand, other authors have argued that other terms are more likely to be familiar to readers: for example, Krista Scott-Dixon[who is she? clarification needed] noted "I prefer the term non-trans to other options such as cissexual/ I think it both centers trans as the norm, and presently offers more clarity to the average person than the cis prefix".[21]

Serano also uses the related term cissexism, "which is the belief that transsexuals' identified genders are inferior to, or less authentic than, those of cissexuals".[22] While having been used by trans activists for some time,[23][24] the term "cisgender privilege" has recently appeared in academic literature and is defined there as the "set of unearned advantages that individuals who identify as the gender they were assigned at birth accrue solely due to having a cisgender identity".[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Crethar, H. C. & Vargas, L. A. (2007). Multicultural intricacies in professional counseling. In J. Gregoire & C. Jungers (Eds.), The counselor’s companion: What every beginning counselor needs to know. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. ISBN 0-8058-5684-6. p. 61.
  2. ^ Schilt, Kristen; Westbrook, Laurel (August 2009). "Doing Gender, Doing Heteronormativity: 'Gender Normals,' Transgender People, and the Social Maintenance of Heterosexuality". Gender & Society 23 (4): 440–464 [461]. doi:10.1177/0891243209340034. 
  3. ^ Logie, Carmen; James, Lana; Tharao, Wangari; Loutfy, Mona (2012). "‘‘We don’t exist’’: a qualitative study of marginalization experienced by HIV-positive lesbian, bisexual, queer and transgender women in Toronto, Canada". Journal of the International AIDS Society 15 (2). Retrieved 17 January 2013. 
  4. ^ Ou Jin Lee, Edward; Brotman, Shari (2011). "Identity, Refugeeness, Belonging: Experiences of Sexual Minority Refugees in Canada". Canadian Review of Sociology 48 (3): 241–274. doi:10.1111/j.1755-618X.2011.01265.x. 
  5. ^ Green, Eli R. (2006). "Debating Trans Inclusion in the Feminist Movement: A Trans-Positive Analysis". Journal of Lesbian Studies 10 (1/2): 231–248 [247]. 
  6. ^ a b Serano, Julia (2007). Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity. Seal Press. p. 12. ISBN 978-1-58005-154-5. 
  7. ^ Sullivan, Nikki; Murray, Samantha (2009). Somatechnics: queering the technologisation of bodies. Surrey, England: Ashgate Publishing. p. 17. ISBN 0-7546-7530-0. 
  8. ^ Dana Leland Defosse (1994-05-26). "Transgender Research". Posted on alt.transgendered newsgroup. Retrieved 2007-12-22. 
  9. ^ Donna Lynn Matthews (May 1999). "Definitions". Donna's Hideout. Retrieved 2007-12-22. 
  10. ^ Carl Buijs (1996-04-16). "A new perspective on an old topic". Posted on newsgroup. Retrieved 2007-12-22. 
  11. ^ Joan Tine (1996-04-12). "A new perspective on an old topic". Posted on newsgroup. Retrieved 2012-01-08. 
  12. ^ Brandon Griggs (February 13, 2014). "Facebook goes beyond 'male' and 'female' with new gender options". Retrieved 2014-02-13. 
  13. ^ The Associated Press. "Facebook's New Gender Identity Options". 
  14. ^ Sigusch, Volkmar (February 1998). "The Neosexual Revolution". Archives of Sexual Behavior 27 (4): 331–359. doi:10.1023/A:1018715525493. PMID 9681118. 
  15. ^ Sigusch, Volkmar (1995). "Transsexueller Wunsch und zissexuelle Abwehr". Psyche 49 (9–10): 811–837. PMID 7480808. 
  16. ^ Green, Eli R. (2006). "Debating Trans Inclusion in the Feminist Movement: A Trans-Positive Analysis," Journal of Lesbian Studies. Volume: 10 Issue: 1/2. pp. 231−248. ISSN 1089-4160
  17. ^ Pfeffer, Carla (2009). "Trans (Formative) Relationships: What We Learn About Identities, Bodies, Work and Families from Women Partners of Trans Men". Ph.D dissertation, Department of Sociology, University of Michigan. 
  18. ^ Williams, Rhaisa (November 2010). "Contradictory Realities, Infinite Possibilities: Language Mobilization and Self-Articulation Amongst Black Trans Women". Penn McNair Research Journal 2 (1). 
  19. ^ Drescher, Jack (September 2009). "Queer Diagnoses: Parallels and Contrasts in the History of Homosexuality, Gender Variance, and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual". Archives of Sexual Behavior 39 (2): 427–460. doi:10.1007/s10508-009-9531-5. PMID 19838785. 
  20. ^ Enteen, Jillana (2009). Virtual English: Queer Internets and Digital Creolization (Volume 6 of Routledge studies in new media and cyberculture). New York City, New York: Taylor & Francis. p. 177. ISBN 978-0-415-97724-1. 
  21. ^ Scott-Dixon, Krista (2009). "Public health, private parts: A feminist public-health approach to trans issues". Hypatia 24 (3): 33–55. doi:10.1111/j.1527-2001.2009.01044.x. 
  22. ^ Serano (2007) also defines cisgender as synonymous with "non-transgender" and cissexual with "non-transsexual" (p. 33).
  23. ^ Koyama, E. (2002). Cisexual! cisgender: Decentralizing the dominant group. Retrieved June 10, 2009 from!2002!20020607-wmstl.html
  24. ^ T -Vox. (2009). Cis gender privilege. Retrieved June 5, 2009 from
  25. ^ Walls, N. E., & Costello, K. (2010). "Head ladies center for teacup chain": Exploring cisgender privilege in a (predominantly) gay male context. In S. Anderson and V. Middleton Explorations in diversity: Examining privilege and oppression in a multicultural society, 2nd ed. (pp. 81−93). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole. Quote appears on p.83.

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