On the use of the word “cis”

So a few friends of mine linked to this article on Facebook: 6 Reasons Why Being Called a Cis Person Is Not Oppressive

It’s a pretty good article. It’s concise and good-humoured. It puts forward the case For pretty damned well.

And it’s ultimately counterproductive, because its introduction basically says “you’re wrong, so there” before actually trying to explain why, and because none of its explanations actually rebut the arguments against.

Now, in all honesty, I have not yet made up my mind about this particularly philological battle. But this article helped to clarify some things for me. In particular, I realised that it’s less the word itself than the way that it’s being presented.

I can see why some people do consider it oppressive, for a few reasons:

  1. It’s one thing for you to ask me to call you a particular thing, but for you to ask (let alone tell) me to call me a particular thing is a different kettle of fish. It comes across as “I’ve made up new names for both of us and you’re not allowed to disagree with them.” If your name was David, and you met another David who then went on to introduce himself as David 1 and you as David 2, without ever consulting you about it, you would object, would you not? Consent matters (particularly when the politics of the people opposing you are so motivated by personal grievances). Point 4 in the linked article brings up this point, and then answers a completely different question.
    (Yes, this argument is somewhat reductive, but do you honestly think that the people objecting to the term are really thinking of the nuances?)
  2. Cui bono? Seriously. It’s easy to see what’s in it for trans people, but what’s in it for cis people? Most people want more than just the rosy glow of being polite as a payback, especially when (as described in the preceding point) this courtesy is not being demanded in an especially courteous fashion.
  3. For want of better phrasing, the term has been poorly marketed – by which I mean it’s too often been used in the same stupid-human-in-group manner that a minority of every single human group in history seems to think is necessary. If you’re attempting to popularise the use of a new term, sneering at people for not already knowing it is counterproductive – especially when, as the article below implies, it’s intended to be inclusive. But there are some people who do this, and all their use of the term does is to make it objectionable when it doesn’t need to be.
    (Again, a lack of nuanced thought is the problem here – but how many people are going to think it through to realise that they should be annoyed by the behaviour rather than the word, especially when they’re already annoyed?)

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