The rapid pace of the country’s openness to discuss issues of gender identity (and no, this isn’t going to be an article about Caitlyn Jenner) has actually led to a rise in the use of words to describe situations that you may not have thought of before.
Recently I came across the term “cisgender male” in a document where someone was asked the “gender” question. Now, if you had heard of the term before, kudos.
But I suspect, based on my discussion with a few colleagues and friends, that there are still many of you that are unfamiliar with the term. My guess is that you’re going to hear more about it and that it will trickle into HR departments — if it hasn’t already.
“Cisgender” is a term that has recently been approved by the Oxford English Dictionary. The term means “designating a person whose sense of personal identity matches their gender at birth.” Thus, as Time said, “a baby designated male in the delivery room who grows up to identify as a man is cisgender.”
Why is the term useful to some? Because it provides an opposite and complimentary word to “transgender”.
According to news articles, the term has actually been in use for some time in academic circles. And if you’ve been on Facebook, the term was added last year when the social network re-did its gender terminology.
Now, not everyone is a fan of the word. In a Slate post on the word, it notes that “there has been some pushback against the label and its connotations of privilege from certain feminists and members of the LGBTQ community. Even some linguists doubt the term’s longevity and usefulness.”
But it goes to say that “including the word forces us to reconsider ideas of default gender identities—the idea that everyone is considered properly aligned with their assigned gender until they say otherwise.”
The corporate world is slowly adapting to this change as well. Take a look at this Powerpoint from CIGNA from 2014 about “Gender Transition in the Workplace”, which highlights the use of the term.
And, with regard to transgender issues, we’re even seeing OSHA chiming in on bathroom use for transgender employees.
Google Trends also shows an uptick on the use of the word as well.
Back in 2011, Connecticut added “gender identity or expression” as a protected category under the state’s anti-discrimination laws. It’s fair to say then that change is happening as we speak. It’s not just the legal issues but the language itself. Human resource departments would be wise to stay up with the latest.