Don’t Call Me ‘Cis’

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.

Author: Caitlin

Geeky, kinky and poly. Discovering my Domme side. Sometimes NSFW and 18+.

10 thoughts on “Don’t Call Me ‘Cis’”

    1. There is a place for terminology. I like scientific accuracy, I start to dislike it when it feels like religion.
      But I’m probably just being grumpy.

      Caitlin x

  1. Consider me offended. And not an extremist, either (at least, not so far as I’m concerned – if you want to think of me as one, go right ahead). But as someone who has a partner who is trans* and who has, over the years, become increasingly aware of the imbalances in our society … anything that reduces assumptions is a good thing. I choose to label myself as cis-female and pansexual so that people won’t assume I’m female and hetero. I use other labels for the same reason. I’ve reclaimed ‘fat’ so it can’t be used with disdain.

    ‘Cis’ is just a word, taken from the Latin. It means ‘on the same side of’ while ‘trans’ means ‘on the other side of’. I’m sure you know that already – but really, there’s nothing sinister (unlike our left-handedness!) about it.


    1. As I said this is just my personal opinion and it’s really about how people label me.
      I respect your choice to label yourself as you see fit, in contrast my choice of label is to be largely unlabelled. I guess I think personal identity should be an individual choice.

      ‘Extremist’ was a reluctant choice of word because I couldn’t find a better one. I certainly don’t consider you an extremist, and I hope you’re not seriously offended by my sometimes slightly gauche ranting.

      Caitlin x

    2. your “reclaiming” of “fat” so that it “can’t be used with disdain” is a delusion… you stupid fatty. see that? I just used it with disdain. redefining words is a convenient way for people to avoid dealing with whatever issues they have. the vast majority of people are heterosexual and cisgendered. calling that “normal” is not derogatory to people who fall outside that definition.

      1. I’d agree that “reclaiming” a word doesn’t stop it being used as an insult, but then in general it is the intention of the person that is hurtful not the word.
        It may stop hurt where the word was meant purely descriptively without malice. I’d also assume that if someone describes themselves as ‘x’ that they are happy to be referred to that way by others.

        Certainly biological norms do exist. I don’t think describing people outside the norm (and most people are outside some norm or other) should be considered derogatory but that is both in the intent of the speaker and the expectations of the listener.
        Sometimes too, using a label encourages ‘them’ and ‘us’ attitudes more than simply letting (in context) irrelevant differences pass.

      2. As someone who likes to reclaim words for myself, I’m perfectly fine with that. I feel the same when called things along the lines of dyke. Yep. I like women. I’m fine with that. It’s a fact. Someone else might see it as a problem but I certainly don’t.
        Fat is a silly word for it anyway. Fat is just the word for your body’s preserves. You can’t be fat. Just large, medium, or small. Underweight, average or overweight.
        You can tell me I have brown hair with disdain. That’s your problem, not mine.
        And yes. It is derogatory to call cishet people normal. The same way it would be offensive in a predominantly white area to call white people normal because you don’t want to give labels to white people. But you still want to call black people black because they’re the ones that are different. To call black people black, and then to tell them they can’t call you white because you don’t like the way it sounds.

      3. I think it’s interesting that people say they “reclaim” words, which presumably means you wouldn’t be offended if someone called you a dyke (if I understood correctly) but what I was saying is the opposite; that someone else might be hugely offended to be called a dyke because of the way they perceive that word based on their life experiences.
        I guess I was interested in that fact, that everybody’s perception of acceptability is different.
        If I tell you that you have brown hair with disdain you might not be hurt by the specific insult, but you clearly wouldn’t see me as a friend.
        A lot of this is about untangling the difference between intent on the part of the speaker and effect on the part of the listener. There’s no generic answer for this. Communication ultimately is between individuals.

  2. “So we have a word which basically means ‘not-transsexual’”

    Um, no.

    We (actually, the Romans) have a prefix that means “near to” or “on the same side as,” just as “trans” means “far from” or “on the other side.” Cisgender is simply a scientific term to describe someone whose internal experience of their own gender is “near to” their physical gender on the outside, just as “transgender” is someone whose subjective experience is far from their physicality. And if your education is so poor that you don’t know that, well, why on earth would you go and blast that horn as loud as possible in an internet rant for literally all the world to see?

    I’m wondering if you are equally sensitive to other Latin-derived prefixes? Do you also resent being referred to as “heterosexual” because of the existence of the term “homosexual?” Because that’s what the high dudgeon you fly into here pretty much correlates to.

    Yes, it’s your rant on your blog and therefore yours to do with as you please. You need not care for or even read the opinions of lowly commentators whose reactions appear beneath your sesquipedalian screed. You can just revel in it instead. But for the rest of us, this is another reminder that the occasional use of big words does not necessarily mean the person wielding them knows how to think very well, and that not all opinions are of equal value even if they all have equal access to the web.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment. I think if you read carefully you’ll see I was commenting on my feelings about labels and not their derivation.
      The derivation of a word may be perfectly neutral however that does not mean that its use is. I am perfectly aware of the derivation of the term however I deliberately chose not to go into a debate on the subject, rather I was commenting on the sometimes derogatory and vague use of the prefix (without an attached suffix) by some individuals.
      You ask how I feel about “heterosexual”, well yes, I do object to being labelled – where that label is irrelevant. If I am conversing with someone about my personal relationships those terms might well be relevant and appropriate and I have no objection to them in that context.
      On the other hand, in real life, I don’t think of people as “heterosexual” or “transgender” say, I think of them as people. When talking about people I don’t go out of my way to label them, which some on the internet particularly seem keen to do at every opportunity, thus creating an “us and them” atmosphere in their online communications which I think is sad.
      I wonder if this is analogous to feminism’s tendency originally to be very “man-hating” and promoting of a division, which is now thankfully less prevalent, being generally more positively focused these days I feel?

      And, for your information, “hetero-” and “homo-” are Greek derived prefixes, while “-sexual” is indeed derived from Latin. I will choose not to rant here about such linguistic compounds. 🙂

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