A Twitter debate and trend erupted on Tuesday after commentator James Esses objected to being called the term “cisgender” by transgender activists. In a response to Esses, Twitter owner Elon Musk stated that “cis” or “cisgender” would be considered “slurs on this platform.” The controversy has placed renewed scrutiny on the origins of terms like “cisgender” and other terms invented by those advocating gender ideology.
According to Merriam-Webster, “cisgender” means “a person whose gender identity corresponds with the sex the person had or was identified as having at birth.”
“Cisgender” was first coined by German sociologist and sexologist Volkmar Sigusch in the 1991 publication “Transsexuals and our nosomorphic view.” “If there are transsexuals, logically there must be cissexuals,” he wrote. “One is not to be thought without the other at all. I have allowed myself to introduce the terms cissexualism, cissexuals, cisgender etc.”
As observers have written, the same mind that came up with the term is known for being an apologist for pedophilia. “There is nothing wrong with pedophilia in the sense of the word, that is, against liking, even loving, children,” Sigusch wrote in 2010. “The sensuality that spontaneously unfolds between a child and an adult is something wonderful. Nothing can remind us more intensely of the paradises of childhood. Nothing is purer and more harmless than this eroticism of the body and the heart. Childish eroticism is not only full of delights, it is also necessary.” He went on to accuse those who maintain pedophilia should be criminalized as spreading “hatred and bitterness.”
Critics of the term “cisgender” say that it is often used derogatorily by transgender activists. “I formally and publicly declare that I reject the label of ‘cis,’” tweeted Esses on Monday. “I don’t believe in gender ideology. I don’t self-identify as ‘cis.’”
Comedian Norm Macdonald once described the term “cis male” to a confused male guest on his show. “What it means is you were born a man and you identify yourself as a man. … It’s a way of marginalizing a normal person.”
Notably, critics of the term come from all over the ideological spectrum. John Boyne is an Irish author and commentator who identifies as gay and maintains that trans-identifying individuals should be called by the pronouns of their choice. But in 2019, he wrote:
“[W]hile I wholeheartedly support the rights of trans men and women and consider them courageous pioneers, it will probably make some unhappy to know that I reject the word ‘cis’, the term given by transgender people to their nontransgender brethren. I don’t consider myself a cis man; I consider myself a man. For while I will happily employ any term that a person feels best defines them, whether that be transgender, non-binary or gender fluid to name but a few, I reject the notion that someone can force an unwanted term onto another.”
“Cisgender” is far from the only term that has emerged in recent years as an attempt to redefine common language surrounding biological sex and sexuality. On Wednesday, Fox News reported on a Men’s Health article quoting sex educator Lilith Fox, who declared that a “gynosexual” is someone who is “sexually attracted to the gender identity of the femme-presenting person they are attracted to.”
“‘Cis’ is ideological language, signifying belief in the unfalsifiable concept of gender identity,” tweeted J.K. Rowling on Wednesday. “You have a perfect right to believe in unprovable essences that may or may not match the sexed body, but the rest of us have a right to disagree, and to refuse to adopt your jargon.”
Dan Hart is senior editor at The Washington Stand.
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