What does cisgender mean?
In order to explain what cisgender means, it’s important to make a distinction between sex and gender. Gender and sex are not the same thing. Gender is more social while sex is biological. Gender is a spectrum and there are a variety of different terms to describe it. Gender identity refers to a personal sense of self, how we as individuals conceptualise our gender. Using the correct language is important so that we all understand our own gender and how to affirm others’ identities.
‘Cis’ means ‘on this side of’ and is often used in geography and chemistry. More recently, it is being used to describe gender identity. Cisgender describes a person whose gender identity corresponds with the sex they were assigned at birth. In other words, their biological sex aligns with their social and personal sense of self. For example, a cisgender woman has biological characteristics associated with being female and this matches her feeling of being a woman.
Another useful distinction here would be to introduce the idea of gender expression. This concept describes how a person chooses to express their identity. People can do this through their clothing, behaviour and pronouns. For cisgender people, it is often the case that their gender expression will correspond with what society expects of their gender. Or, it may not. Somebody may present or appear as one gender when they actually identify with a different one. For example, a transgender man might present as feminine, a non-binary person might present as masculine even when they are not. For these reasons, it’s essential not to make assumptions about a person’s gender based on how they look.
What is another word for cisgender?
Some people may think that another name for cisgender is straight. But these things are not the same. Cisgender is a term to describe a gender identity. Straight is a term that describes sexual orientation. However, they can cross over. For example, someone can be both straight and cisgender.
How many types of gender are there?
Research is varied when it comes to how many genders there are. But one thing is for certain, we can no longer consider gender a binary (i.e., only two; man and woman). Some research quotes around 60 genders and other researchers state there are more than 80 different gender identities.
Here are some examples of different gender identities:
Someone who identifies as non-binary experiences gender in many ways, including a combination of woman and man, neither man or woman or another gender altogether. Some non-binary people may also be transgender, but not always. If this is the case, it generally depends on how much the person identifies with the sex and gender assigned to them at birth.
Pangender is a non-binary identity. A person who identifies as pangender experiences many or all gender identities on the gender spectrum over time or, at the same time. Someone who is pangender may choose to express their gender differently throughout their lifetime. Sometimes it may even change day to day or week on week.
Bigender describes someone who identifies with two distinct genders. It is not necessarily man and woman. Bigender is simply a way to indicate the number of gender identities someone has. It does not specify which genders someone may identify with or the level of identification they have with a certain gender (such as 40% man, 60% demigender).
Cisgender describes a person whose gender identity corresponds with the sex they were assigned at birth. In other words, their biological sex aligns with their social and personal sense of self. For example, a cisgender woman has biological characteristics associated with being female and this matches her feeling of being a woman. It’s essential not to make assumptions about a person’s gender based off how they look.
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