Unfortunately, I don’t think we can ignore that some people use cis- as a slur. And some people fall for it.
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!?
These two prefixes, cis- and trans-, are logically binary, thus mutually exclusive. It is a clinical method of categorization. This method does not attempt to define sex or define gender. It can be used no matter how you define anything.
Suppose you wanted to categorize change in color from black to white. Some things start out white and stay white, some things start out black and stay black. Some things are grey. You create a spectrum from extreme white to extreme black. In the grey area in the middle, you draw an infinitesimally small line down the center. Then you run your experiment. Afterward, you count the things that changed color enough to cross the line. These are the trans ones. All the rest are cis ones. It is just a way of describing the world around us.
This whole cisgender outrage thing is getting so ridiculous, I decided to catalog all the arguments. See below.
Reasons 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.