"Cisgender" Was Just Added To The Oxford English Dictionary and Here Are Three Reasons This Is Important
500 words were granted ultimate legitimacy this week. Among others, "cisgender" was added to the Oxford English Dictionary, and it's defined by the book as “designating a person whose sense of personal identity matches their gender at birth." This is a pretty big step forward and fits in appropriately with the conversation happening in light of the recent SCOTUS decision that legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states, because many people are becoming more and more interested in bringing trans and gender issues to the foreground and focusing on the conversation about LGBTQ issues that aren't marriage or marriage equality.
"Cisgender," which is often abbreviated as cis, was coined in the 1990s but was popularly used only in feminist and queer theory, where it has historically been defined as "designating a person whose gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth," and is discussed with the fact that gender is a social construct in mind. More recently, the word has become better known as popular media outlets like the Huffington Post and CNN publish articles using the term.
So why is it so important that the term make its way into mainstream media? Here are three reasons you should know, love, and use the word cisgender.
1. The Recognition of The Word Means It's No Longer the Default
If we only use terms to denote non-binary gender identities, including (but not limited to) trans, gender fluid, or genderqueer, and don't give a term to people who identify within the binary, we are making the assumption that the former should be considered unusual or deviant and that the latter is the default.
2. The Word Helps Us Expand The Conversation About Gender and Sexuality
Recognizing the word cisgender helps us to understand gender and sexuality to be outside of the binary system we've created like "male" and "female" or "gay" and "straight."
3. Knowing The Word Gives Cisgender People Perspective to Understand Their Privilege
CIS PRIVILEGE IS REAL! We hear about things like male privilege, straight privilege, and white privilege and it's important to bring gender identity, performance, and presentation into that conversation.
These are just a few of the reasons it's important that the word cisgender is becoming officially recognized. I won't be patronizing by asking you to use it in the sentence three different ways, but it's definitely worth incorporating it into your vocabulary and using it properly when the conversation calls for it.