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So why are y'all tripping, cisgender people? Cisgender isn't an insult.

—Monica Roberts[1]

"I am a lesbian trans woman. I am a pansexual cis woman. We are a queer couple able to reproduce.

Cisgender[2] (or cis) is an adjective, and umbrella term, that denotes that an individual identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth.[3] It can be seen as the "opposite" of transgender, depending on how one conceptualises gender.

"Cis", which is Latin for "on this side",[4] is used as a specifier for binary gender identities.[5] So a cis person can be either a cis man, or a cis woman. Its usage with respect to the gender binary, and in terms of etymology, follows that of "trans".

Coercive gender assignment at birth, which is what motivates the use of "cisgender", is held by some to be a relatively recent colonial patriarchal invention.[6]


"The above comes in the context of a sexology book from the beginning of the last century when it was popular to scrutinize (and sometimes overly-so) a great deal of human behavior through a psycho-sexual leans. Thus, whether one was dressing in a manner consistent with their sex assigned at birth or in a manner inconsistent with their sex assigned at birth, the vestments were viewed as sexual symbols."[7]

The first documented usage of the term (as "cisgendered") was in 1994 by biologist Dana Leland Defosse, Ph.D.[8] She used it on alt.transgendered newsgroup to discuss research into gender identity, and trans issues on University of Minnesota's campus:

I am trying to assess campus climates for the transgender community, both at my own institution and at other campuses. Any information regarding this subject would be tremendously helpful to this effort. Personal testimony, activism, organizations, experience of providers and human service workers, etc. Issues of interest are transphobia, hostility, general knowledge and understanding, attitudes of the queer community and cisgendered people, etc. I am interested in building coalitions and will share any info with others.[9][10][10]

Defosse says she needed a linguistic complement to the prefix "trans-". Thus, being expert in biochemistry (which uses cis/trans), she decided to introduce the term "cis" to describe non-trans people.[10]

Shortly after, Carl Buijs used it in 1996 on another newsgroup,, claiming and receiving[1][11][12][13][14] credit for it:

As for the origin, I just made it up. I just kept running into the problem of what to call non-trans people in various discussions, and one day it just hit me: non-trans equals cis. Therefore, cisgendered.[citation needed][10]

In 2009, Monica Roberts, on her blog TransGriot, offered her definition of the term:

I repeat, cisgender means your body and the gender identity housed between your ears is comfortably aligned, nothing more, nothing less.

It means that from the time you were born until this point today in your lives, you were not only comfortable in your gender identity-body matchup, you are comfortable with the societal gender role you perform based on that body to the point that you hardly ever think about it.[1][10]

In the same year, sociologists Kristen Schilt and Laurel Westbrook defined cisgender as "individuals who have a match between the gender they were assigned at birth, their bodies, and their personal identity".[15]

See also

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Cisgender Isn't An Insult, by Monica Roberts
  2. Cissexual is a deprecated synonym.
  3. Crethar, H. C. & Vargas, L. A. (2007). Multicultural intricacies in professional counseling. In J. Gregoire & C. Jungers (Eds.), The counselor’s companion: What every beginning counselor needs to know. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. ISBN 0-8058-5684-6. p. 61.
  4. cis- on the Online Etymology Dictionary
  5. English words prefixed with cis on Wiktionary
  6. Lugones, Maria (2007). Heterosexualism and the Colonial / Modern Gender System Hypatia, Volume 22, Number 1, Winter 2007, pp. 186-209 | 10.1353/hyp.2006.0067
  7. So, I hear trans people recently invented this whole cis/trans thing…, by Cristan Williams
  8. Dana Leland Defosse, on PhDTree
  9. Dana Leland Defosse (1994-05-26). "Transgender Research". Posted on alt.transgendered newsgroup.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 cisgender at Word Spy Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "little cis" defined multiple times with different content
  11. Whipping Girl FAQ on cissexual, cisgender, and cis privilege
  12. Cissexual/Cisgender: decentralizing the dominant group, by Emi Koyama
  13. Definitions: Cisgender, by Donna Lynn Matthews
  14. What does “cis” mean?
  15. Schilt, Kristen; Westbrook, Laurel (2009). Doing Gender, Doing Heteronormativity: 'Gender Normals,' Transgender People, and the Social Maintenance of Heterosexuality. Gender & Society, volume = 23, issue = 4, pages = 440–464 [461]. DOI 10.1177/0891243209340034. August 2009