The Usage Of Cisgender On Twitter.


Language undergoes continuous evolution, particularly in the internet era, where communication has seamlessly integrated into our everyday existence. Our dictionaries embrace many new terms yearly, encompassing everything from contemporary trends to diverse discourses. The vocabulary surrounding gender and its various expressions also reach present-day society, although numerous individuals remain apprehensive about embracing them. Elon Musk, the executive chair of Twitter, recently addressed a Twitter user’s comment regarding the terms ‘cis’ and ‘cisgender’ and announced that these terms would be considered slurs on the platform, resulting in their flagging under the content policy. This move has raised concerns, especially since Elon Musk, who previously advocated for free speech, has taken several actions that appear to weaken the protection offered to members of the LGBTQIA+ community. The most recent example is the removal of protection for trans users, as Twitter eliminated language from its policy aimed at preventing misgendering and deadnaming of transgender individuals.

This change occurred in April.

Despite Elon Musk’s declaration of ‘cis’ as a slur, the term was officially added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2015, with a definition that describes “Designating a person whose sense of personal name and gender corresponds to their sex at birth; of or relating to such human. “This concept stems from the understanding that gender is a social construct.
To illustrate this, consider the association of pink with girls and blue with boys in baby clothes. This colour-gender correlation was established and operated within societal norms, having no basis in nature. While individual experiences may differ, many individuals may not feel comfortable with the gender assigned to them at birth and may choose to live with a different gender identity. The term’ trans,’ widely accepted, describes many but not all individuals. In contrast, the term ‘cis’ is a descriptive word for individuals who identify with the gender assigned to them at birth.
It came about after a cisgender man claimed he was being harassed with the term for rejecting its usage altogether.
No one should be harassed for whatever reason, but slamming the words ‘cis’ and ‘cisgender’ because some people allegedly used them in a derogatory manner is quite the leap.
Almost any word can be used negatively. The word ‘gay’ is often used as slang disrespectfully, but the word itself isn’t bad. The issue here is intention.

Therefore, ‘cisgender’ isn’t more harmful than ‘straight’. It’s simply an identifier.

The term cisgender was thought to be coined by researcher Dana Defosse in 1994 and was added to the Oxford Dictionary and Merriam-Webster Dictionary in 2015, where it is described as: ‘Designating a person whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds to their sex at birth; of or relating to such persons. Contrasted with transgender.’

So it refers to people who are happy and content with the gender and sex they were assigned at birth – as opposed to trans or transgender, which means there is a mismatch. So in simple terms, it means people who are not trans.

The word’s origins derive from Latin – as the prefix cis- means ‘on this side of’ and trans- means ‘on the other side of’ or ‘beyond’. We see these prefixes used in other contexts – like transatlantic and cisatlantic.

This means that most of the population would fall under being Cisgender, which often surprises people. That’s because most people are so accustomed to being seen as the unspoken norm – or just ‘normal’ – that a word to describe their experiences sounds foreign. After all, they’ve never been confronted with it.
But if we use the word trans or transgender to describe people’s experiences, the opposite must also exist.

Just like we have words like straight to describe people who are heterosexual or the word non-disabled to tell people who aren’t disabled, Cisgender is, therefore, the same – a word used to convey an experience universally considered the majority.
I have had conversations with people who say they don’t like using it, but once we’ve discussed the purpose of the word, most people have acknowledged that it has its uses. Still, they won’t necessarily be using it in everyday situations, which is acceptable.
It’s not about people introducing themselves with it wherever they go, but rather just understanding its purpose and why it’s helpful in specific contexts.

People usually oppose the word’s usage for two main reasons.

They need to be more informed about the term and understand its point, or they claim that identity or ideology is being forced upon them.

The latter are usually people who don’t fundamentally recognise trans people as who they are and are generally quite prejudiced or biased towards trans people.
They, therefore, aren’t opposing the word because there’s something wrong with the word itself but rather out of the principle that anything related to trans issues must be wrong.

The reason some people reject or oppose the word Cisgender so vehemently is because they believe our gender identity is determined by what types of bodies we are born with – if we are born ‘male’, we grow up to become boys and men. If born ‘female’, we become girls and women.

This is often referred to as gender essentialism, which reinforces patriarchal ideas about sex and gender and how men and women are expected to be, behave, dress and the roles they take on in society – that essentially places men in a position of power over women. This belief is the cornerstone of misogyny and sexism and reinforces heteronormativity and cisnormativity in society.

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Olivia Wilson
By Olivia Wilson


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