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https://www.duolingo.com/Usagiboy7

What did the creation of the word "cisgender" do?

Usagiboy7
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Words give us a way to locate, describe, discuss, and participate together in a phenomenon. (I think that is the way to say it.)

Various words have come into existence rather recently. One such word being "email". (Just to give an example).

Also recently, (1995) a transgender man named Carl Buijis coined the term “cisgender”. Cisgender means “A person who identifies as the gender they were assigned at birth.” (Just learned that the word has been around as long ago as at least 1904, Buijis may have just recently re-popularized it?) Before then, the only way to talk about transgender was in relation to gender, making transgender into an "other", decentered from the "norm".

Just curious what people think the creation of this word has done (if anything) for society as a whole, transgender people, and cisgender people?

2 years ago

36 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/Ezkertia
Ezkertia
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I don't think the word "cisgender" has done much of anything for society as a whole. I'm left-handed, and I identify with other lefties, because we recognize that our situation is not the one most people experience. I don't think right-handed people feel the same kind of connection with other right-handers, because there's nothing particularly remarkable about being right-handed (no offense to all the righties out there; you're all fine people, and statistically, you're likely to earn more money and have a longer lifespan than me).

In a similar way, I suspect that for transgender people, being transgender is a big part of their identity, but I seriously doubt that most cisgender people view being cisgender as a core part of their conscious identity. I also don't generally self-identify as adult, employed, licensed to drive, neurotypical, straight, hearing, sighted, trichromatic, bipedal, or muggle, and if I knew special words for being non-Scientologist, non-depressed, non-asthmatic, etc., those terms also wouldn't change the way I define myself.

I have nothing against transgender people. I assume transmen want to be seen as men and transwomen want to be seen as women, and I'm happy to oblige. I'm also willing to accept that being transgender falls within the normal spectrum of human experience, and I'm willing to support rights for transgender people. I also recognize that, in terms of talking about transgender issues, having a term like "cisgender" makes sense and is helpful, just as having words like "adverb" and "cognate" are helpful for talking about language issues. But do I think the word has caused or will cause some sort of Whorfian revolution in the minds of English speakers? No, I don't. Life proceeds apace with or without the word.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Usagiboy7
Usagiboy7
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Whorfian, first time I've read/heard that term. Maybe I'll use it in a paper about this topic someday. :)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/fr224
fr224
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Before then, the only way to talk about transgender was in relation to gender, making transgender into an "other", decentered from the "norm".

I have absolutely no problem with transgender people, but "cisgender" is most definitively the norm. "Cisgendered" people are by far the majority and always will be. This does not mean there is anything wrong with transgendered people, just that they are not the most populous group.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Usagiboy7
Usagiboy7
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"Decentering" here is talking about power relations, not numbers. I agree that cisgender people have both greater numbers and greater social power. But the creation of language does something to power relationships. I won't say more because I really want people to discuss the question posed. and I want to read what they have to say about it. Thanks for commenting ^_^ edited for clarity

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/sierscarf

I like what you are saying about the creation of language effecting power dynamics. One of the things I have noticed when discussing this word is that cisgender people sometimes take offense to having the label applied to them. The existence of the word forces those who are not transgender to recognize their own gender identity instead of taking it for granted, which can be an uncomfortable process.

I think it makes all genders More visible, especially those previously ignored due to normalcy. (Is the word 'hegemonic' applicable here? Not sure)

Anyway thank you for posting this discussion! Looking forward to reading more on it :)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/chirelchirel
chirelchirel
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So many comments, I'll have to come back later to read them all, so I apologize if I'm repeating things already said in the thread.

I think I first heard the wird last year or the year before that. First it felt annoying and strange, but then I became used to it and understood why it's needed. I like how it balances things, and makes visible something people take for granted. I think this is a good thing on a societal level.

What I don't like is when people are assinged this new label just because they are not transgender. Or rather, that it forces everyone to focus on gender. I rarely focus on my gender. I know I am a woman and that's the gender I was assinged… but I don't feel like I identify as a woman. I identify as a human. It's kind of similar to the fact that I know what color my eyes are, since I've read it in my ID card as a child, I don't remember the color, I remember the word in the card. If you ask me, I have to think about it. It's just a thing, not my identity. To me gender is a thing, but not the thing. I do understand why it is the thing (or a very important thing) to many people. I rather like this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmKix-75dsg

Time to sleep, there's way too many things on this post :D

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/LovroV
LovroV
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Lol I never knew I was a cisgender but I seriously doubt that even 0.1% of the world knows for that word

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Usagiboy7
Usagiboy7
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It has yet to reach critical mass. But, it's been rapidly picking up speed in the last couple of years. Now it's only a matter of time until it reaches that point and becomes fully integrated into the popular lexicon. :)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ictram
Ictram
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According to the oxford dictionary it's an official word. However I agree with LovroV that I've never heard it said once. The only place I've seen it used is some communities on Tumblr, and that's it.

To be frank, and I don't mean this in a too negative way, but is it a really necessary word? I'm born as a man and I simply feel like a man, why would I use "cisgender" to describe myself when "man" converts the exact same meaning?

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Middangeard
Middangeard
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Looking from the transgender perspective, "man" wouldn't necessarily be the same thing as "cisgender." Look at it more of just another level of what a person is. For example, Homo sapien --> Male --> Cisgender. It's just a further breakdown of what a person is.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ictram
Ictram
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Responding here because there is no space anymore on the other comment.

You definitely make a good point, and I do understand why a term like that could be useful. Maybe in 10 years it's completely integrated in our common speech, who knows. And if I ever need to use it at least I know the correct word for it now :)

Then again, in Dutch this word doesn't even exist so I guess English is at least a step ahead in that regard.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Usagiboy7
Usagiboy7
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Oh wow! That's a great observation about Dutch not having an equivalent! I wonder which languages might have one.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ictram
Ictram
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Hi, thanks for your reply, also thanks for your explanation on the oxford dictionary in the other forum post :)

And when you put it like that I can understand why transgenders would use the term. But for "cisgenders" to use term I'm not sure the term is quite necessary as man or woman pretty much carry the intended purpose. I guess it's a difference of perspective?

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Middangeard
Middangeard
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It's definitely a term I'd rarely use in every day language. I don't think I've ever used it myself. When your identity doesn't match the majority, though, we often use language that's not necessarily language that the majority uses. It's not just an LGBT issue as this happens often on the cultural level as well. And that language often spreads into the mainstream as acceptance and influence grows. It's all part of the evolving nature of language.

I'd say, though, if you don't feel a need to use a term to describe yourself, that's okay. Just use whatever terms you think are necessary to describe yourself. For you, cisgender may very well just be one of those terms that you'll only use if you feel a need to go into that level of detail, just like any other term that you want to use to describe yourself.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Usagiboy7
Usagiboy7
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@TimothyCrabtree (I ran out of space to respond to your comment). Very good points!

I've been surprised at the cold reception here, and I often forget that the world I live in is atypical. Transgender and cisgender people are well integrated with one another in my city and there is quite a bit of cultural exchange (not that there aren't also people who this doesn't apply to living here.) But the level of cultural exchange is such that when my roommate and I did a roommate interview, two of the interviewees introduced themselves as cisgender and one of them engaged in a pronoun exchange ritual. So, I go about my day in, perhaps a very different world than people in other cities.

Discussion of the linguistic merits of the word cisgender would not be surprising here. We're not, perhaps, as disoriented by the term because it is not new to us. We can approach it expansively, which is what I tried to engage here.

edited

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Lrtward
Lrtward
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I'd never heard the term "cisgender" - well, I probably have, but I don't recall having heard it. It does make sense, though, to have a word for it. I mean, it doesn't make sense to have to say "non-transgender", that's too cumbersome.

Regarding what the creation of the word does for society as a whole, I think it has the potential to lessen the stigma of having labels attached to gender. With only "transgender" the label can be ostracizing; it's like a person singled out as being different and then you slap a bright orange label on them to make doubly sure they stand out as being different. But with "cisgender" now everyone has a label. So being labeled in and of itself isn't such a big deal.

I fear I'm not making much sense; I'm not feeling very eloquent today :-/

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Usagiboy7
Usagiboy7
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I follow you 100% Thanks for joining the conversation!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Dcarl1
Dcarl1
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This word is super common in publications where I live. The first time I saw it (maybe two years ago?) I was a bit confused, and thought it was odd to frame things in terms of essentially a double negative, but then I decided it's a word that has its place, I'm glad language is flexible enough to expand to include this concept.

As with many "new words," once I became aware of it I started seeing it all over the place. Perhaps most often in regards to theatre, which is a world I am heavily engaged with, but really, everywhere.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Tokarominki

good point. I agree. The world has heavily immersed into a different place unlike the world a few hundred years ago as well

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Dcarl1
Dcarl1
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I don't know about that. Both South Asia and East Asia have commonly accepted versions of a non-normative gender identification that is not simply "gay" in the way we mean it in the west, and it's been part of those societies forever. My brother's traditional Malaysian Islamic wedding was facilitated, and coordinated, and photographed by a gender fluid person, who was completely accepted for who they were. In terms of this language, my brother and his wife (and I) were cisgender, and they were not.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ForgedbyHistoria

"The world has heavily immersed into a different place unlike the world a few hundred years ago as well"

I think much of it is still the same at its core. Elitism, poverty, war, language evolution and language extinction, the challenging of ideas and philosophies, people with different gender identities and placing titles on them are nothing new. I think we just do the same things we've done in the past. We just like to cover up our short comings with technological advancements and call these "progress".

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/no.name.42
no.name.42
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It was just a matter of time before cisgender, or a word like it was created. Once there's a word, someone will make an antonym.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/DragonPolyglot
DragonPolyglot
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I think that "cisgender" really helps define people better, because it's a general term that is opposite of "transgender". It also makes those who are transgender actually included in the ever-growing identities for gender, which I feel is more normal than people seem to think it is. I mean, what's so different about a boy born a girl than a girl born a girl, and vice versa, anyways? I have heard of the term before, but no one really explained it to me before, so I just knew it was a gender term. But now that I know what the definition, I think it helps explain identity much better while avoiding a definition of norms (I feel there is no such thing as norm). Saying "I am a cisgender female" is much easier than saying "I am a female by birth and I am a female by identification" in my opinion. So, in all, I think it helps both those who are transgender and those who are not and it's a step in being more inclusive, which I feel strongly about because I feel every human is... well, human, no matter how they identify.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Cal-H
Cal-H
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Is it sad that I first heard the word on an episode of South park?

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/cswrawr
cswrawr
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It's quite fascinating seeing how quickly language can change and there's some really good points here about whether new labels are advantageous or disadvantageous to a minority group. I was already familiar with the term cisgender though I can't say I've ever used it. I think I lean toward the utopian ideal of eradicating all labels (though I know it's not realistic).

Not to get off topic, but this brings to mind another word that seems to have had a recently evolving definition: Trigger. More and more often I've seen it used to describe something a person doesn't like rather than a serious psychological trauma.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/CodyORB
CodyORB
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I think the word "Cisgender" is so uncommon because only "transgenders" themselves use (or will use) it. Less then 1% of the U.S population is "transgender". I think most non-transgenders just call themselves and others plain "gender".

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Dcarl1
Dcarl1
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Where I live it's used most often by people of normative gender identification (i.e. cis gender) in discussing gender relations and sometimes as a way of marking self-identification. Less often by the trans community. I've seen it most often in the theatre and art world to identify how actors/playwrights/artists address their own identity and that of the actors and the community receiving their work. That community is both pretty fluid and pretty cutting edge.

The word itself has been around since the turn of the century. Maybe it will gravitate into daily use, maybe it won't. Words are funny that way. "Mashup" for example - now very current - was invented in the mid-nineteenth century, dropped of the face of the earth for a while only to come back now stronger than ever in our digital age. Maybe "cisgender" will have a renaissance too. Who knows? If it is fringe enough, then it probably won't. If it becomes embraced by a larger group then it will. At least for a while until language moves on.

I love the way words ebb and flow...

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/EoghanBostock

WARNING: Everything I'm about to say will be VERY controversial! Read at you own discretion.

I really think the word "cisgender" should not have been created. The word "transgender", or whatever other gender terms people use (Sorry! I'm not good with this sort of stuff!), is a word that is still needed.

People who identify as the gender they were at birth are normal, while transgender people are not normal. This is not because transgender people are weird making a decision (this was the best word I could come up with. I'm not saying it was a choice!) to change their gender (the one they were at birth), which it's not (this entire "politically correct" thing is just going down the drain...), but because they weren't assigned the correct physical gender at birth, and that happens in 99% of humans (not an exact number).

I just want to add to this, by saying that I'm part of the LGBT community myself (I've never actually said that in my life, so I'm a bit uncomfortable), and also that I have nothing against transgender people (other than with one person who did something completely unrelated).

None of this was meant to hurt anyone, but if it did I'm sorry. I probably didn't mean whatever it was in that context!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ezkertia
Ezkertia
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Happy coming out, if that's what just happened. May the world accept you for who you are.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/EoghanBostock

Oh I came out to a select group of like 20-30 people a couple years back, but I still have a long way to go!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Jack.Elliot
Jack.Elliot
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the most of all

is in the smile

beyond gender

and its labels

personality

good heart

and soul

which it should transcend nastiness

for people are people about

in living their lives similar

others are us and we are other

embrace the day and be nice

and perhaps it will come back

..............................................

The Oxford English Dictionary has added “cisgender” to its compendium of recognised words. Cisgender is officially a thing.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Tokarominki

It reminds me of people who aren't "Cisgender" and want to change. IT doesn't bother me but it makes me wonder why they want to be a different person then they already are. It also reminds me of many people who change their faces because they don't want to be who they actually are and it makes me kinda sad. I guess the world doesn't mind that it is affecting how the world was supposed to be but I guess that's just me. I also think of how many doctors are fine with surgery like this mush to my surprise. according to my research about transgenders, lesbians, and gay people that I did awhile ago, 1.7 percent are lesbian or gay, 1.8 percent are bisexual, and 0.3 percent are transgender. Not a lot though but that's in the whole world. that's actually quite a few. I also noticed that you said that a transgender man identified some people as cisgender and I agree with his term. I also wanted to point out that not all transgender people want to transition, only a select few. Also I want to define the meaning of trans gender. Transgender means that you wonder what it is like to be of a different sex or gender. Sorry for the long response and thank you that really made me stop and think.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/no.name.42
no.name.42
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There might be definition somewhere that transgender refers to someone who wonders what it's like to be of a different sex, but that's not how the word is used, nor is it how transgender is defined Wiktionary: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/transgender

or dictionary.com: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/transgender

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Carolyn250

I don't know how long ago you did your research, but multiple sources I have read have indicated that 10-11 percent of the population are lesbian or gay. That is a quite substantial number.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Dcarl1
Dcarl1
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Yeah, but cisgender encompasses a negative (gender normative) of a broader meaning than just "gay"

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ilmarien
Ilmarien
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I dislike the term immensely, and find that for me personally, it undermines any discussion, as I find the term so ridiculous and constructed that I cannot take it seriously whenever it shows up.

I'm very much into gender theory, but I'm most sympathetic to queer theory, which is so very much more about breaking down preconceptions and challenging the modern perception of gender and gender relations. So for me, the term "cisgender" is just another symptom of modern society's need to see everything labeled and quantified. I think it's counterproductive at best, and if it were ever to catch on, actively harmful to people who don't fit neatly in any of the boxes that have been carefully set out.

I've heard bisexuals complain about being erased by the heterosexual-homosexual dichotomy (I actually happened across a bisexual demonstation while I was in Spain!), and I think the same could happen here, as gender identity is a spectrum as well, and I'm sure there are plenty of people who don't consider themselves transgendered who would not fully be comfortable identifying as cisgender either.

So much of what we associate with gender is societally constructed, so much is harmful to anyone who doesn't fit in perfectly, I do not know why we need another word to exclude or confuse anyone who doesn't adhere to what society dictates is normal for their gender.

2 years ago