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In transgender ideology, the term cisgender (often shortened cis as in cis man or cis woman, sometimes used as a prefix) stands for a person whose supposed gender identity aligns with their sex, as opposed to transgender people who claim to have a gender identity that contradicts their sex.[1] Since feminists oppose the gender essentialist notion of an inborn gender identity, and define gender in relation to patriarchal power structures instead of personally felt identity, they consequently disagree with the concept of cisgender as defined in transgender ideology.[2]

A simplistic interpretation of cis, often used to defend the term from its opponents, is "anyone who isn't trans." This defense fails to take into account precise definition of trans under transgender ideology, which rests not on the material state of being transsexual, but solely on the questionable concept of gender identity, which is a core tenet the ideology.

Etymology and history

The words "cis" and "trans" originate from Latin, where they could be translated as "this side of" and "the other side of." Their usage as antonyms can be seen in a number of fields, such as in the cis-trans isomerism in organic chemistry, the so-called cis-trans test in genetics, or geographic terms such as Transjordan and Cisjordan (the eastern/western side of River Jordan). The word "cis" is presumably less well known than "trans" since many if not most terms using the word "trans" do not have a logical counterpart using "cis", for instance: translate, transform, transatlantic, transpacific, etc.

In a 1998 essay, sexologist Volkmar Sigusch cites his own 1991 article "Die Transsexuellen und unser nosomorpher Blick" ("Transsexuals and our nosomorphic view") as the origin of the term "cissexual,"[3] which might be a precursor to "cisgender."

The terms cisgender and cissexual were used in a 2006 article in the Journal of Lesbian Studies entitled Debating Trans Inclusion in the Feminist Movement: A Trans-Positive Analysis[4] and in Julia Serano's 2007 book Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity.[5] These works are attributed with the popularization of the term among English-speaking activists and academics.[6]

A Google Trends analysis shows that interest in the term cisgender was virtually nonexistent in the years prior to 2010. After a gradual increase towards 2014, a sudden spike in interest can be seen in February 2014, and further occasional spikes along with a general increase in the years after.[7]


  1. Schilt, Kristen; Westbrook, Laurel (August 2009). "Doing Gender, Doing Heteronormativity: 'Gender Normals,' Transgender People, and the Social Maintenance of Heterosexuality". Gender & Society. 23 (4): 440–464 [461]. doi:10.1177/0891243209340034
  3. Sigusch, Volkmar (February 1998). "The Neosexual Revolution". Archives of Sexual Behavior. 27 (4): 331–359. doi:10.1023/A:1018715525493. PMID 9681118.
  4. Green, Eli R. (2006). "Debating Trans Inclusion in the Feminist Movement: A Trans-Positive Analysis". Journal of Lesbian Studies. 10 (1/2): 231–248 [247]. doi:10.1300/j155v10n01_12. PMID 16873223.
  5. Serano, Julia (2007). Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity. Seal Press. p. 12. ISBN 978-1-58005-154-5.
  6. Pfeffer, Carla (2009). "Trans (Formative) Relationships: What We Learn About Identities, Bodies, Work and Families from Women Partners of Trans Men". Ph.D Dissertation, Department of Sociology, University of Michigan.
    Williams, Rhaisa (November 2010). "Contradictory Realities, Infinite Possibilities: Language Mobilization and Self-Articulation Amongst Black Trans Women". Penn McNair Research Journal. 2 (1).
    Drescher, Jack (September 2009). "Queer Diagnoses: Parallels and Contrasts in the History of Homosexuality, Gender Variance, and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual". Archives of Sexual Behavior. 39 (2): 427–460. doi:10.1007/s10508-009-9531-5. PMID 19838785.