Being accused of being cisgender would be analogous to being accused of being straight. You either are or you aren’t and there should be no offense unless someone intentionally meant to get it wrong.
This is an interesting piece about gays men's perspectives on masculinity, but I don’t see what that has to do with the obsession over the term cisgender.
As anyone who bothered to check would know, the term gender is from Latin. The prefixes of trans and cis are also from Latin. The prefix trans means to cross over or change sides. The term cis means to stay in place or not cross over.
These prefixes are pervasively used in science because Latin is the lingua franca of science. The prefix trans is more commonplace in the English vernacular, but cis is of equal validity linguistically. Cis is just the opposite of trans. If you aren’t trans, you must be cis. It is as simple as that.
All these people upset about being called cisgender make me laugh. I recall a playground prank from childhood. The older ones would call the little ones “homo sapiens” in a tone that would make them run crying to their mothers saying, “ Johnny called me a homo sapien”.
Cisgender is a completely neutral word. If someone is weaponizing it, it is because you let them. If someone calls me cisgender, I would just respond that since I am not transgender what else would I be, duh!?
Are gay men cisgender? Silly question! Obviously, as a group, they are not all cis or trans. It is like asking, “are gay men tall”?
As you rightly noted, we can safely say that biological sex is more than genes and genitals. Sexual attraction is generally not considered by scientists in classifying organisms by sex and even if it was, it would be done the same for straight as for gay.
You make some good points about the scientific ambiguity of sex determination, which is actually more of a classification art, not a matter of scientific truth. But, once you make that sex determination you can then classify the subjects into the cis ones and the trans ones.
This whole cisgender outrage thing is getting so ridiculous, I decided to catalog all the arguments. See below.
As an aside, you stated “we do know that 1%–4% of the human population could be described as “intersex.” I have never seen a study with numbers this high. Most state around 1 case in 1500 to 2000 of the population. For an essay I am working on, I’d be interested to know your source.
Reason people say cisgender is a bad word:
- Some people can’t stand the thought of there even being gender. Gender is a social construct and we should abolish it.
- Some people don’t want to recognize that there are transgender people. They are just attention-seeking liars with a fetish. Gender identity doesn’t exist. There is only your sex. Yes, some people actually say that and claim they are not transphobic, which I guess is logical because for them trans doesn’t exist.
- Some people are not happy unless they are being offended. Cis is the latest fade.
- Some people are offended by the term cisgender, but it’s fine if you say they are “not transgender”.
- Some people think cisgender is a slur because someone else told them it is, but don’t actually know what it means.
- Some people think cis really is a slur and they know what it means. It is a social construct. It does not have to be logical. It’s like saying “people of color” is fine to say, but “colored people” isn’t; unless you go back a few years or travel to S. Africa to change the context. So, for now, no cis allowed. Of course, any word can be a slur. Paki is a slur. Aussie is not. Look up calling someone a “cunt” in the UK vs in the US. TERF was descriptive but became a slur for some. Something is a slur based on the listener's perceived intent of the speaker.
- Some people don’t like “labels” but don’t mind being called a man or a woman or a human or straight or gay.
- Some people don’t like the sound of “cis” but have no problem with sister or cistern. Someone said it sounds too much like sissy.
- Some trans allies think it is divisive because it is about trans-issues, but recognize there are actually issues for transgender people and they are often the ones who bring them up.
- Some gay people think it excludes them, but they need to check the definition of cisgender. Gays are cisgender unless they are also transgender, e.g. male-to-female transgender that is lesbian. (I may lose some people here, but a transgender person is not gay because they are transgender. I know it is confusing Grandma).
- Some people think it is wrong to label someone as cisgender, because they may not be. But, this is the same as labeling someone gay or trans or not gay or not trans or a baseball fan or not a baseball fan. Making assumptions about an individual you don’t know is generally a bad idea. It applies to all labels. Unless an individual calls themself cisgender, don’t assume they are. Likewise, don’t call someone transgender either. Or a Red Sox fan just because they are from Boston.
- Some people think it is divisive and there are just men and women, but then the argument is about who can be called a man or a woman. In this case, cis is just referring to anyone where there is no debate about what they should call themselves.
If you’ve got an argument that doesn’t fit into my list, please let me know so I can add it.