Like me, you’ve probably never heard of this term and therefore don’t know the privilege tied to being cisgender. Good thing you’re reading this though; education on the existence of all parts of the queer spectrum is not only something good, but also something that can make you, dear reader, into a more cognizant and aware individual.
Cisgender (pronounced sis-gender) is a term first created by gender studies academics Kristen Schilt and Laurel Westbrook to refer to “individuals who have a match between the gender they were assigned at birth, their bodies, and their personal identity.” It was created to complement/oppose the term transgender, which is the opposite of cisgender.
While many have questioned the necessity for this term, its existence is important in order to bring awareness of the “normative” gender experience and its subsequent privilege. “Normative” describes what society dictates gender is, perpetuating an intolerance for those who cannot identify with this schema. In this way, cisgender is not only academic gender-studies jargon, but also a critique of the heteronormative patriarchy that exists in our society.
Cisgender was a term first used by those who exclusively studied gender and all of its implications. Recently the term has begun to be adopted by millennials, with more beginning to identify as cisgender, cisgender male, or cisgender female. Cisgender has also begun to appear on forms and gender identity inquiries such as Facebook, signifying an important step towards a more sophisticated and nuanced understanding of sex, gender expression, and gender identity.