QUEERSTIONS: What Does Cisgender Mean?

Local experts answer the LGBT community-centric questions you’ve always wondered about, but never got around to asking. Today, filmmaker, trans advocate, and 2013 Trans 100 List honoree Che Gossett explains what it means to be cisgender.

Short Answer: Cisgender essentially means that someone’s gender is aligned with their assigned sex. For example, if you identify with the gender you were assigned at birth, you are cisgender.

Background: In Latin, “cis” means “on the side of.” While the term is practical, I think it’s also important to press at the limits of language in order to expand them. It’s important to note that the sex binary, “male and female” is medically assigned and there’s a violence of invisibility and also a history of medical violence against intersex people. So, assigned sex is not just “male” or “female.” Also, terms like “cisgender” can’t really account for how the gender binary was forcibly imposed on black and native people through slavery and settler colonialism. In American society, black people have always been figured as gender transgressive. This is why we need to constantly re-think language even as we use it. I generally use the term non-trans.

Have a question you’d like us to research? We’ll find an answer for anything. Email Josh Middleton at jmiddleton@phillymag.com