Language: cis, trans, pronouns
Arguments around which pronouns to use and over the exceptionally silly word ‘cis’ have the rare quality of being both insufferably boring and monumentally significant – symbolically at least – in that they serve to illustrate the extent to which trans ideology is succeeding at a superficial level. I understand they’ve passed some crazy new law in Canada about all this but I haven’t investigated it properly.
We may find absurd news stories about a “woman” raping men in which the alleged rapist is called “she” – even in a country where the legal definition of rape refers to penetration by a penis. This does not, of course, mean that most people seriously believe that the alleged rapist is a woman.
This page is for stuff about those words.
The prefix ‘cis’ – short for ‘cisgender’ – supposedly means someone who is entirely comfortable with the fact that they are a man or a woman. I was at a meeting in Cambridge recently that Linda Bellos spoke at. I tweeted something she said (see right) and it obviously resonated with a few people. Others are surprised. “It’s not as if it’s a slur,” they said. “It just means ‘not trans!”
The words for those who aren’t trans are “men” and “women”, “boys” and “girls”, “children”, etc. While I can understand how trans-identifying people might wish to use these terms with a qualifier, it doesn’t mean that we should be expected to use them ourselves. And I won’t do so because to classify men or women as ‘cisgender’ as an alternative to ‘transgender’ supports an ideology of gender that I don’t buy into and it is as unethical to try to get me to go along with it as it is to force people to take part in the practices of a religion they don’t adhere to.
Other people have expressed objections that I am sympathetic to.
Please help me out. I need a concise word for the members of the class of people who are oppressed all over the world on the basis of biological sex. If gender activists insist that “female, women, and girls” refer only to people who have an internal sense of femaleness, can you at least give me a word I can use for the group of people I fight for: the ones being oppressed on the basis of their female sex, not their gender identity?
Do you know about these people? They are aborted for having vulvas, smothered in infancy because they don’t have penises, sold as rape and breeding slaves, given forced cesareans, get pregnant from being raped then are told by male politicians they should view rape pregnancies as gifts from god. They go to jail for suspicious miscarriage. They lack constitutional personhood in the USA because the ERA was never ratified. People hold public debates about whether or not they “should be allowed” to birth at home or end pregnancies. For millenia they have been treated as church and state controlled breeding stock. Those are the people I fight for, the people vulnerable to sex-based oppression. Can I have a concise name for this group of people so I can better fight for them?
Source no longer available
NOTES ON “CIS-” James M’Kay 19.04.19
Twitter thread by @adogcalledbambi 10.12.18
Neither cis nor TERF Robert Jensen 16.05.18
“Cis” Gender Critical Kid blog 19.08.17
I Am NOT Cisgendered J Nelson Aviance 02.02.16
Am I cisgender? Rebecca Reilly-Cooper 04.08.14
What Does Being “Cis” Mean For A Woman? Caroline Criado-Perez 01.08.14
A feminist critique of “cisgender” Elizabeth Hungerford 08.06.12
The Fallacy of Cis-Privilege FactCheckMe blog 16.11.09
What to call people who ‘transition’? For a long time, I respected the oft-expressed wish that they should be called ‘trans women’ and ‘trans men’, being careful to put a space between the two words. I copied from a site called cristanwilliams.com (which now appears to be permanently down) the reasoning for the space”
I noticed you often use ‘transwoman’ as one word as opposed to trans woman. Hate to be nit-picky but it’s cissexist “Trans” should be used as an adjective to describe “woman.” When the two are linked together, it becomes a noun all its own, distinctly separating it from other groups of women, acting as a qualifier instead of a mere description. Conjoining the words together denotes that the two ideas can’t be separated, that being trans is somehow fundamentally different from any other characteristic a woman can have, like (using your examples) being gay or black.
At no time did I think of ‘trans’ as a “mere description” like black or gay! In fact, I didn’t give it a lot of thought and I certainly didn’t realise that there are some people who seriously think that trans women are actually women! To me, prefacing ‘woman’ with trans was a statement that these are adult human males who wish they were women and whether the words were conjoined or not made no difference.
After reaching Peak Trans, I joined gender critical groups on facebook, where terms like ‘trans-identified male’ (TIM) and ‘male to trans’ (MtT) are used instead and this is when I realised how bitter the struggle over language is and that there is no way to please everyone. As I’ve said elsewhere on this site, if all male-born trans people had been content to call themselves transwomen and respect the fact that they are not the same as those of us born female, I would probably never have reached peak trans.
If I ever do have occasion to use it (and, unlike some feminists, I’m prepared to do so in some circumstances) I am persuaded by the argument posted below to use ‘transwoman’ and ‘transman’. I am happy to refer to those trans people who share this view as “transwomen” and use their preferred pronoun as a courtesy. I will never afford that same courtesy to those who try to silence or promote and celebrate violence against gender-critical feminists.
02.10.19 I’ve struck through the words I wrote above two years ago to reflect the fact that I am no longer prepared to use either ‘trans woman’ or ‘transwoman’ and will avoid doing so as far as possible.
It’s Only a Word, So What? The Lonely Transsexual 16.07.19
As trans ideology dictates that to “misgender” someone is violent, it follows that many trans people appear to be obsessed with pronouns (as are those who say they are “non-binary” and who’ve even invented some new ones specially for themselves – this article includes a list). However, one thing I have learned since becoming interested in transgender issues is that there isn’t a consensus view of pronouns amongst trans people as, indeed, there isn’t a consensus view of nouns or of gender amongst trans people.
My current position is, as shown in the tweet above, that I am prepared to use “courtesy pronouns” for those who merit courtesy but I won’t have my language policed.
Updated: 23.03.18 to add that as time goes on and I see more and more pressure to submit to this ideologically-motivated demand, the less courteous I feel. And here’s a story from The Times – the gist of it is that “transgender etiquette” now being promoted in some universities encourages people to add their choice of pronouns to other personal details after that email signatures”. People already do this on Twitter. Out of deference to the custom, I just say that I’m pro nouns.
Video: I was misgendered Blaire White 02.10.19
Pronouns are Rohypnol Barra Kerr 26.05.19
Why Using They/Them to Avoid Misgendering People Could Do More Harm Than Good Lena Wilson 03.05.18
Thanks to her reputation, I’ve never bothered to read Camille Paglia but I enjoyed this video of her saying those who tell us how we should use pronouns can “go take a hike”.
My sentiments exactly.
Let’s end on some well-deserved ridicule.
Last updated: 02.10.19