Now I realise that this post is going to offend some people but quite honestly, it’s a rant and it’s my blog and my point of view so here goes.
Now recently my twitter timeline has filled up with people talking about (and mostly re-tweeting other people) over the use of the word ‘cis’. I realised at some point that I was finding this whole thing slightly annoying and that’s when I realised my first point.
I don’t like the way the word sounds.
It really is that simple. It’s a horrid word, full of sibilance and malice. The first time I encountered it I had no idea what it meant I merely got the impression that one party was calling the other a nasty name and that impression has stuck. It doesn’t help that it sounds like “sissy” which is also a nasty thing to call someone (in fact I think the context of that first encounter encouraged the mental association between those two words). So let’s be clear, you may mean ‘cis’ in a wonderfully neutral, friendly way but that doesn’t mean it’s the way someone will hear it and you can’t easily change that.
Using the full cisgender or cissexual* does sound slightly better not least because it explains the meaning a little. I’m also the kind of person who made the effort to look the word up and find out it’s derivation which at least proves that it wasn’t originally meant to sound insulting.
So we have a word which basically means ‘not-transsexual’, that’s fine, I’m still not going to use it.
At this point the extremists will start spouting about ‘privilege’ and ‘invisibility’ and stuff like that. But here’s how I see it.
There are perfectly good words to describe ones sexuality (heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual) however most of the time most people don’t need to use them. I’m heterosexual. I generally don’t need to tell anyone that because a) it probably isn’t relevant, b) if I go on talking about my male partners long enough you’ll probably work it out and c) if you make an assumption it’s likely to be the correct one. Is that privilege? To me it’s mathematics.
To take a non sexual example. I’m left-handed. I am likely to tell more people that because it is part of how I perceive my identity (not all left-handers would feel like this) and it’s likely to be useful (for instance at a Chinese restaurant to prevent chopstick clashing). I don’t expect right-handers to do the same, because there is a default. Most people are right handed. It is linguistically convenient that a word exists for right-handedness but saying not-left-handed on the occasions the subject comes up would actually suffice.
I’m also glad that the world acknowledges my handedness and provides conveniences to make my life easier (like the ability to swap the use of mouse buttons over) however I’m also happy that the default is that it is set for right-handers (because there are more of them).
Now I’m also aware that unless you’re a fat black disabled transsexual lesbian these days you’re not allowed an opinion on anything but really people get a grip. The world has a default, get used to it. Sure, you have a right not to be discriminated against because you’re in a minority and nobody should be horrid to you because of who you are but stop with the name calling.
Let people describe themselves how they want. Even if that means not describing themselves. Sometimes that’s better.
*Yes, logically those two words are slightly different but the distinction isn’t important here.