What does Cisgender mean?
Cisgender: (as defined by the LGBTQIA Resource Center) a gender identity, or performance in a gender role, that society deems to match the person’s assigned sex at birth. The prefix cis- means “on this side of” or “not across.” A term used to highlight the privilege of people who are not transgender.
pronounced sis-gender — refers to a gender identity that a person, or society, deems to match the sex that a doctor assigned them at birth. For example, if a doctor determines a person’s sex at birth to be male and this person identifies as a man, they would be what is known as cisgender. People who do not identify with the gender that a doctor assigned them at birth may refer to themselves as trans, which includes gender identities such as transgender, non-binary, and genderqueer.
How does it compare with heterosexuality
According to Medical News Today, Cisgender is a term that describes a person’s gender identity, not their sexual or romantic attractions. People who are cisgender may or may not be straight.
People who are straight are either heterosexual or heteroromantic. This means that they have a sexual or romantic attraction to a person who is of a different gender than their own. For example, a straight, cisgender female may only experience sexual or romantic attraction toward a male.
However, people who are cisgender do not have to be straight. They can experience sexual and romantic attractions to all, some, or no genders. For example, a person can be cisgender as well as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or asexual.
How does it differ from a person’s sex?
Cisgender is a gender identity that aligns with the sex a doctor assigned a person at birth. A doctor assigns a person’s sex at birth based on the appearance of their external genitalia.
People inherit 23 pairs of chromosomes from their parents. The 23rd pair of chromosomes a person inherits are the sex chromosomes. Typically, people either inherit XX chromosomes or XY chromosomes. If a person inherits XX chromosomes, a doctor may assign female at birth. If a person inherits XY chromosomes, a doctor may assign male at birth. However, it is important to note that sex is not binary. People may have the sex chromosomes that people typically associate with being male or female but have reproductive organs and genitals that are not typically male or female. This is known as being intersex.
If a doctor notices that an infant’s genitalia are ambiguous, they may look at other factors, such as internal reproductive organs and hormones. According to the National Health Service (NHS), after birth, a doctor may perform tests to help establish the infant’s sex, including:
- a physical examination of the infant
- an ultrasound scan to examine the internal organs
- blood tests to check genes and hormone levels
- It is possible for a person who is intersex to be cisgender.
According to the Intersex Campaign for Equality, there are three main ways a person who is intersex may identify:
- Some may be cisgender, or identify with the gender that is associated with the sex a doctor assigned at birth. They may use the terms “male,” “female,” “woman,” “man,” “intersex man,” or “intersex woman.”
- Some identify as the gender associated with the “opposite” sex that a doctor assigned at birth.
- Some identify as neither a woman nor a man, while some identify as both.
How does it relate to gender?
Gender interacts with, but is not the same as, sex. The World Health Organization (WHO) note that gender is a social construct that dictates which norms, behaviors, and roles that males and females “should” adhere to in society.
Some examples of gender roles include:
- females dressing in traditionally feminine clothing, such as skirts and dresses
- females being polite, accommodating, and nurturing
- males being strong, aggressive, and bold
Gender roles can change as time goes on, and they can vary from society to society. People who are cisgender often conform to gender norms and expectations. However, a person can be cisgender and still dress in a gender non-conforming way.
How does it relate to gender identity?
Cisgender is a gender identity. Cisgender people have a gender identity that aligns with the sex that a doctor assigned them at birth. For example, a male who is cisgender will identify as a man, and a female who is cisgender will identify as a woman.
A person may use gender identity to describe how they feel about their gender. This gender may or may not be different from the sex a doctor assigned them at birth.
According to one 2020 article on Gender Dysphoria, children typically begin identifying gender around the age of 3–5 years old. Some people may know from a young age that their gender identity does not match the sex a doctor assigned them at birth, whereas others may discover this later on in life. Also, people may change their gender identity at any point during their life.
Gender identity is unique to each individual, and no one else can tell them what their gender identity is or should be. Some people may not feel comfortable or able to put a label on their identity.
How does it relate to gender expression?
Gender expression refers to a person’s external appearance. The Trevor Project note that this includes a person’s physical appearance, behavior, hairstyle, and clothing. It can also include their names and pronouns. A person’s gender expression does not have to conform to gender norms.
People of any gender identity can express their gender in many different ways. Some may prefer to express a more feminine gender, while others may want to express a more masculine gender. Others may want to have a gender expression that is androgynous.
People who are cisgender identify with the sex that a doctor assigned them at birth. This does not mean that people who are cisgender have to experience attraction toward people of a different gender to themselves, as many members of LGBTQIA+ communities are cisgender.
Although people who are cisgender may conform to societal expectations of gender norms and expressions, they can be gender non-conforming while still identifying with the sex a doctor assigned them at birth.