The term cisgender, often used in conversations surrounding transgender identities to describe those whose gender identity aligns with their biological sex, is controversial as liberals believe the term to be inclusive and accepting of differences, while conservatives might not only consider it unnecessary but even potentially harmful by implying that the term gender should be redefined to be based on something other than biology.
The term cisgender emerged after discussions around transgender identities emerged, with transgender being used as early as the 1970s but cisgender only be traced back to the 1990s. With the Latin prefix “cis,” meaning on the same side, cisgender widely means that one’s sex at birth aligns with one’s gender identity.
Those on the right often disagree with the usage of the word “cisgender.” Some question the validity of transgender or nonbinary identities, believing gender is closely linked to biological reality rather than a social construct. Using the term “cisgender,” then, would validate what they see as an invalid worldview — that one can be “born in the wrong body.” People who reject the term cisgender typically see transgender identity as something that does not exist or isn’t “real,” but as an ideology or a mental health issue. They see the term “cisgender” as redundant and argue that there are only men and women. People who reject the term cisgender often do not see gender identity and sex as separate things.
In this view, introducing the ideas of cisgender and transgender to children can lead to confusion around their own gender identities that would not have otherwise appeared, leading to an increase in gender dysphoria and transgender medical treatments and surgeries that may have irreversible consequences.
Some radical feminists, often labeled trans-exclusionary by other feminists, believe the discourse surrounding gender identity erases the lived experiences of women, making it impossible to have conversations surrounding gender-based discrimination if sex is not real. Similarly, some gays and lesbians have posited that trangender identities erase the idea of same sex attraction because they don't aknowledge biological sex as synonomous with gender.
Those who are generally more on the left on issues surrounding gender tend to prefer using the word “cisgender” to describe people whose gender identity matches their biology. In this view, the term cisgender can help to erase the idea that people who identify with their birth gender are “normal” compared to trans people, as this could lead to the assumption that others are abnormal or “other.” In addition, this term reinforces their idea that gender identity and sex are separate things.
Supporters of the term cisgender, or those who identify as cisgender in general, argue the term can allow for more transparency and understanding, making social environments more inclusive for gender-nonconforming individuals without assuming someone’s gender identity. While they may not use the word cisgender in everyday conversations, supporters of using language around a cisgender identity often display or announce their pronouns when introducing themselves or in workplace environments, even if others believe their pronouns can be easily deduced from their appearance. For example, a feminine woman may still introduce herself by using she/her pronouns in order to normalize that some people may use pronouns that are incongruence with their outward appearance.