Updated: Mar 26
Cisgender (often abbreviated to cis) = Cisgender is the opposite of trans and is a term for people whose gender identity matches their sex assigned at birth.
In Latin cis means 'on this side of' and trans means 'across from' or 'on the other side of'.
When I first started running LGBTQ awareness workshops for counsellors a few years ago it was very common for almost the whole room full of counsellors to look back at me blankly when I asked if anyone knew what cis meant.
I clearly remember one of the groups I taught where, after I'd defined cisgender, someone put their hand up and said something like 'I find it strange that I don’t know this word when that describes me, I know the word trans but not a description for my own gender'.
This got us talking and many people in the group started agreeing. And then the penny dropped as the group realised this training was not about other people it was about them. To this day I remember that fab group of counsellors as it helped highlight to me the true importance of framing learning about gender and sexual diversity as exploring ourselves first!
So I ask you, reading this. If you have talked about gender in the counselling room with trans clients, have you ever talked about your own gender in your personal counselling, and if not, why not?
Fast forward just a few years and I’m happy to say that nowadays most counsellors I meet tend to have heard the word cisgender, and mostly sort of know what it means. This is a relief but I wonder how many counsellors are using the term cisgender in their work in the counselling room?
Do you find the word 'cis' helpful?
Do you feel confident using the word 'cis'?
Personally I find cisgender very useful when talking about gender with clients. It can be a helpful word to use to distinguish between trans and non-trans people.
For example, when talking to a trans woman about pressures to present femininely, I might say something like: