The prefix cis- derives from the Latin term meaning “on this side of” or “on the same side as.” Linguistically, it has long derived its meaning in relation to trans-, meaning “across,” “through,” “on the other side of,” or “beyond.” Within white, European, and American contexts, people began attaching cis- to the words gender and sex in the late twentieth century to name people who are not transgender. Specifically, cis has functioned as a way to describe the condition in which one’s gender identity and sense of self are congruent with the sex/gender assigned to one at birth. By implication, people use cis to mean someone whose gender identity is also congruent with dominant norms and expectations associated with one’s anatomically defined sex/gender. The term cisgender made its way into print on both sides of the Atlantic by the 1990s, rapidly gained popularity by 2010 with the increasing publication of transgender perspectives and scholarship, and the term ultimately reached near-mainstream status with its incorporation into the Oxford English Dictionary in 2016 and Merriam-Webster in 2017. Vernacularly, “cis” is used as shorthand for people who are assumed by others to be cisgender or who self-identify as such; “cis” usually carries with...

This essay may be found on page 47 of the printed volume.

Works Cited
Permanent Link to this Essay