Cis Terminology

Last Updated: August 10, 2020

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Definition - What does Cis Terminology mean?

Cis terminology refers to language using the prefix “cis.” The cis prefix refers to people identifying with their sex assigned at birth and their experiences in the world.

Cisgender, cissexual, cisnormative, cissexism, cis privilege, and cis assumption are all examples of cis terminology. This terminology is commonly used within activism circles.

Kinkly explains Cis Terminology

The term cis terminology refers to language referring to the unmarked dominant majority experience of gender identity. Approximately 99% of the population is cisgender, so it makes sense that their viewpoint is so pervasive in society. However, this dominance creates problems for the 1% of people who identify as transgender or other non-cis variations. Terms including cis privilege and cis assumption highlight the way people who are not cis become marginalized in a cisnormative society.

As with much of language, cis terminology has its critics. Some argue that cis terminology sounds too academic and should be replaced with more widely understood “plain English” words. However, it’s important to remember cis terminology is typically used in activism circles. It’s also important to remember that cis terminology is relatively new. Over time with more repeated usage, the term cis privilege may become as common as white privilege, for example.

Cis terminology is less about how someone identifies, and more about how others identify them. It matters little that someone does not connect with the label cisgender. Ff they identify with their sex assigned at birth, others see them as cisgender regardless.

Some people also argue that cis terminology creates a cisgender/transgender binary. The language can seem exclusionary for trans people who identify as no different to cisgender men or cisgender women. They believe that this language reinforces the differences between cisgender people and trans people. In doing so, they say, it could marginalize transgender people further. However, others argue that the differences between cis and trans people are important, and failing to acknowledge them can lead to trans erasure. They also stress that cis terminology considers the way other people perceive individuals, not the way they self-identify.

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