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cis

[ sis ]
/ sɪs /
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adjective

cisgender or cissexual: He may not be macho, but he's definitely a cis male.

noun

a person who is cisgender or cissexual.

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Origin of cis

By shortening

usage note for cis

See trans, gender1.

Definition for cis (2 of 3)

cis-

a prefix occurring in loanwords from Latin meaning “on the near side of; on this side of” (cisalpine); on this model, used in the formation of compound words (cisatlantic).
Chemistry. a specialization of this denoting a geometric isomer having a pair of identical atoms or groups attached on the same side of two atoms linked by a double bond.Compare trans- (def. 2).
a prefix meaning “on the same side of,” referring to the alignment of one’s gender identity with one’s sex assigned at birth (cisgender; cissexual).

Origin of cis-

From Latin cis (adverb and preposition) “on this side, on this side of, within”

Definition for cis (3 of 3)

C.I.S.

abbreviation

Commonwealth of Independent States.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

ABOUT THIS WORD

What does cis mean?

Cis is short for cissexual or, more commonly, cisgender, which refers to someone’s gender identity that corresponds to their sex as assigned at birth. Cisgender is the opposite of transgender.

Where did the term cis come from?

Cissexual was coined in the mid 1990s by a German sexologist. He used the Latin preposition cis, meaning “on this side of,” as a contrast to transsexual, trans being the Latin for “on the other side of” or “across.”

The phrase, eventually morphing into cisgender, picked up steam in gender and sexuality studies throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s. However, it didn’t enter the mainstream until the 2010s. This was due to a variety of factors, such as the rise of social-justice-oriented social-media platforms like Tumblr and important LGBTQ rights debates (e.g., bathroom access and military service), both contributing toward greater visibility for trans individuals. This in turn, made those who were cisgender realize their own positionality.

Cisgender was added to major dictionaries in the 2010s and is commonly shortened to cis in everyday contexts. In 2014, Facebook offered custom gender options for users, including cisgender or cis. Cisgender helps provide greater visibility for and inclusivity of transgender and nonbinary people because it doesn’t assume gender refers only to traditional male-female gender assignments. People often now ask others to use their identified pronoun options such as he/him/his, she/her/hers, and they/them/theirs.

Some other terms that have become associated with cis in include cissexism and cisgender privilege. Cissexism is the belief that being transgender is inferior to being cisgender. Cisgender privilege is the unearned advantages that cisgender individuals have due to being cis.

There is some controversy over whether or not cis is offensive. Some believe that it continues to promote the gender binary and the male/female divide. There has been controversy over the decision to cast cis actors in transgender roles. Outrage erupted in summer 2018 when actor Scarlett Johansson was originally cast to play a trans man, Dante “Tex” Gill, in the upcoming movie Rub & Tug. Ultimately, she turned down the role, but this isn’t the first time a cisgender actor played a trans character. In 2014, Jared Leto won an Oscar for playing a trans woman in the 2013 Dallas Buyers Club.

How to use the term cis

Cis is commonly used in the discussion of cisgender privilege. People will often compare the experiences of transgender people to the experiences of cisgender people. It can often be to make a point about the systemic inequalities of gender-normative and heteronormative society.

Cis folks can recognize their privilege by calling out the fact that they are indeed cis.

In line with cisgender privilege, some users may reference cis as a way to talk about gender oppression. They may make statements about the biases of the cis population as a whole when talking about discrimination or the difficulty of being trans or nonbinary.

More examples of cis:

“What transgender women in tech can teach cisgender women (and vice versa)”
—Lauren Schiller, Salon (headline), July 2018

Note

This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.

Example sentences from the Web for cis

British Dictionary definitions for cis (1 of 2)

CIS

abbreviation for

Commonwealth of Independent States

British Dictionary definitions for cis (2 of 2)

cis-

prefix

on this or the near side ofcisalpine
(often in italics) indicating that two groups of atoms in an unsaturated compound lie on the same side of a double bondcis- butadiene Compare trans- (def. 5)

Word Origin for cis-

from Latin
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Medical definitions for cis (1 of 2)

cis
[ sĭs ]

adj.

Having two mutations on two genes on the same chromosome of a homologous pair.

Medical definitions for cis (2 of 2)

cis-

pref.

Having a pair of identical atoms or groups on the same side of a plane that passes through two carbon atoms linked by a double bond:cis-butene.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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