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We typically associate males with things like having a penis, XY chromosomes, and testosterone as their primary sex hormone. We tend to think of females as having a vagina, XX chromosomes, and estrogen as their primary sex hormone. But what about someone who falls outside of these ? People who are intersex are sometimes referred to as people with differences of sexual development.


Joanna McIntyre does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

However, the term has critics as well as fans.

: Explainer: the difference between being transgender and doing drag. It started to gain broader popularity from around when transgender theorist Julia Serano discussed it in her book Whipping Girl. Over the next decade, activists, scholars and online forums helped to, literally, spread the word.

It is largely used by those who are sensitive to issues of gender and identity. Nevertheless, its general acceptance and endurance as a term and concept was acknowledged when it was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in Cisgender relates specifically to gender rather than sexuality.

A person can be cisgender often abbreviated to just cis and have any sort of sexuality. For example, two men may both be cisgender but one straight and one gay. Because it is a personal identity category, it is difficult to know just from looking at someone whether they are cisgender.

This term is seen has having some important uses. One is that it helps us distinguish between sexual identity and gender identity. However, its most ificant function is perhaps that naming something allows us to think about it more clearly.

The idea that people are cisgender therefore shows that, no matter who you are, the relationship between your body and your sense of self is particular. Drawing attention to gender in this way can also highlight that some people are disadvantaged because of their gender identity. That is, this term can create awareness that people who are not cisgender often have a harder time in our society than those who are.

For example, trans men and women report higher levels of physical and verbal abuse than cisgender people. Despite the inclusive potential of the word, it also has many detractors who warn about possible negative impacts.

Some believe it sets up a harmful distinction between transgender people and everybody else. In this sense, the term can be counter-intuitive and work against transgender becoming more accepted and normalised. For example, lesbian, gay and bisexual people in particular may be deemed cisgender but experience conflict between their gender identity and how society expects them to express their gender.

Others have identified the term does not properly for intersex people. : Surgery to make intersex children 'normal' should be banned.

From these perspectives, cisgender is limiting and divisive because it indicates there are only two possible gender identities linked to only two sexes. As our understanding of gender continues to change, the words we have to describe our experiences of it will also evolve. Ideally these words will help us rectify inequalities between gender identities.

Edition: Available editions United Kingdom.

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Cisgender is a word used to describe gender identity.


Cisgender is a gender identity that a person feels matches the sex that a doctor ased them at birth.