Cis Terminology

Updated: APRIL 14, 2022
Reviewed by Kinkly Staff
on April 14, 2022

Cis terminology refers to language using the prefix “cis." The cis prefix refers to people who identify with their sex assigned at birth and whose experiences in the world align with that sex as well. In Latin, the prefix "cis" means "on this side."

Cis-man, cis-woman, cisgender, cissexual, cisnormative, cissexism, cis privilege and cis assumption are all examples of cis terminology. This terminology was conceived in activism circles, but has been gaining wider reach in recent years.

The Oxford English Dictionary officially added the term cisgender and its variants to its dictionary in 2015.

More About Cis Terminology

The term cis terminology refers to language referring to the unmarked dominant majority experience of gender identity. Approximately 98-99% of the population identifies as cisgender, so it makes sense that their viewpoint is so pervasive in society. However, this dominance can create problems for 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, or argue against the imposition of terminology or an identity on the dominant majority. Others believe that terms like "non-trans" are more clear.

However, proponents of the terminology argue that cis terminology is a way of drawing attention to what is largely considered "the norm," thereby casting out those who do not fit under that umbrella as aberrant or abnormal. Naming everyone, in other words, is believed to help normalize trans identities.

On the other hand, 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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