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'Cisgender' Added to Oxford English Dictionary

'Cisgender' Added to Oxford English Dictionary


The term, which signifies the opposite of 'transgender,' is a crucial addition to the English language, say trans advocates.

Cisgender -- a term opposite to "transgender" that refers to a person "whose sense of personal identity matches their gender at birth" -- was added to the Oxford English Dictionary this week, reports U.K. LGBT news sitePink News.

The word, first used in 1999, was allowed for consideration into the U.K.'s historic record of the English language after it was used in Parliament during a discussion of trans issues. Words also must be in use for several consecutive years before being considered for inclusion in the OED.

"Cisgender" was added among 499 other new words, including some more recently popularized, like "meh," "Twitterati," and "twerk," notes Pink News. Other news sites have re-established a practice of highlighting the most unique new OED inductees, with Time pointing out, "fo' shizzle," "Masshole," and "hot mess."

Last month, OED staff also "flagged" gender-neutral honorific "Mx" (pronounced "mux" or "mix") for possible inclusion in the dictionary, and are still deliberating. The term, used among some gender-nonconforming people and their allies, has gained the most traction in the U.K.

Despite being listed by media alongside pop culture references, "cisgender" is an important word politically, say trans activists. As LGBT activist group Basic Rights Oregon explains on their website:

"Referring to cisgender people as 'non trans' implies that cisgender people are the default and that being trans is abnormal. ... [W]hen we say 'cisgender' and 'transgender' neither is implied as more normal than the other.

"Using the word 'cisgender' is also an educational tool. To simply define people as 'non-trans' implies that only transgender people have a gender identity. But that's not true. Like sexual orientation, race, class, and many other identities, all of us have a gender identity."

Cisgender -- sometimes abbreviated to "cis" -- is a neutral descriptor akin to gay people labelling non-gay people as "straight," say trans advocates, and can be applied whether a cisgender person personally uses the word to describe themself or not.

Some cisgender people have argued against this assertion saying, as gay writer J. Nelson Aviance did last year, that it "imposes" an identity on others, implies that all cisgender people are "normatively gendered," and is used with hostility. But while the term remains fraught for some, many trans advocates maintain that it is simply a practical classification aimed at making language more inclusive.

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Mitch Kellaway