Though most people are familiar with the term ‘straight’, not everyone understands the term ‘cisgender’, and to many, these two terms are synonymous. In reality, these are two different terms and we need to learn more about this. Our lack of knowledge can end up hurting people’s feelings. We surely do not want to disrespect what someone believes in.
Now, let’s look at what exactly does it mean to be cisgender. When we are born, our gender is immediately determined by our genitals. As a baby, we do not have any consciousness of who we are. We learn the concept of gender and its implications as we grow up. Not everyone identifies their identity with their birth gender. If someone does identify themselves with their birth identity then we can call them cisgender. For example, if you were born with a penis and you also identify yourself as a man then in that case you are a cisgender man.
Let’s now explore what it means to be straight. The term ‘straight’ is often used to mean ‘heterosexual’ or some even call it ‘heteroromantic’. Being a heterosexual means that one is sexually attracted to the opposite sex only. It can further be claimed that they are romantically attracted to the opposite sex. Therefore, straight is not an identity rather it is oriented with one’s sexual preference.
Figuring out who we really are is a continuous process and sometimes coming to terms with it can be challenging. Some people assume that cisgender and straight means the same thing but it is not. Cis men and women can be straight or may have other preferences. We should not stereotype anyone and make living life uncomfortable for anyone.
Cis vs Straight: Are They The Same or Different?
In simple words, no. Cis and straight are not the same. The word cisgender is used to define one’s gender identity. Whereas, the word straight, on the other hand, is used to define sexual orientation or preference. Being cisgender does not equate to being straight but sometimes they can overlap. It is quite possible for someone to be both cis and straight.
Many think that one can either be cisgender or transgender. Meaning that all cisgenders are by default straight. To be brutally honest, it is not that simple. It is very much possible for a cis to be gay or homosexual. But when someone says that they are straight it means they are only attracted to the opposite sex. It is important to remember that being a cis means one identifying themselves with their assigned gender identity at their birth. Therefore, it means one is in alignment with their biological identity.
On the contrary, being straight or heterosexual means that people are attracted to the opposite sex. Many people are both cis and heterosexual and this is the main reason for the arisen confusion. It is also very difficult for this group of people to understand that despite being cis it is possible to have a different sexual preference. Moreover, people often hesitate to talk about these things. As a result, many are unaware of the possibilities and end up stereotyping people whom they do not know.
When Should I Declare that I am a Cis Woman or Man?
There is no fixed right time to declare one’s biological identity. No one should put pressure on an individual to identify or declare their gender. It should always remain a personal choice whether they want to reveal their identity or not. As we all know trust is fundamental for any relationship. Therefore, being honest from the very beginning is necessary. If someone wants to be in a relationship with us and we do not want to have a relationship with them because of our gender association, then it is better to explain the reason to them.
Other than intimate relationships there is not much reason or necessity of explaining or revealing our sexual identity to anyone. For some people, coming out equals liberation. If that is the case, then, by all means, declare how you feel about yourself. Some people, on the other hand, prefer to keep their personal life private and that is completely okay too. No one should be obliged or feel outside pressure that demands them to identify themselves to anyone.
One should only declare who they are and how they feel about themselves when they really want to. It is very unfortunate but still to this date the queer community faces unfair treatment. They are often bullied for their bold choices and even have a hard time getting a decent job. We need to be more compassionate towards them. There can be many reasons why a person might not want to reveal their identity.
How to Use This Term in Day to Day Conversations?
Let’s first try to understand where the term cisgender came from. The word cisgender was introduced so that our language and way of referring to people could be fairer and more inclusive. This word also inspires people to be more aware and respectful towards everyone’s experience of their gender identity. In order to properly understand the origin of the word cisgender, we first need to talk about the term transgender. The prefix “trans-” comes from Latin which means “across from” or “on the other side of”. In contrast with that the prefix “cis-” means “on this side of”. The word cis is mainly used by those who are sensitive to issues of gender and identity and who want to draw a distinction between gender and identity.
Cisgender specifically relates to gender rather than sexuality. A person can be cis and can have a vast array of sexual preferences. For example, two men may both be cisgender but one can be straight and the other one can turn out to be gay. Therefore, it is not a wise decision to call out someone as cis based on their outer appearance. We must remember that it falls under a personal identity category. It is not quite possible to know just from looking at someone whether they are cis or not.
The term cis is very powerful and it has some important usage. One is that it helps us to distinguish between sexual identity and gender identity. However, its most significant function is perhaps that naming something allows us to think about it more clearly. It also allows us to be more open and accepting of differences. The idea that people can be cisgender shows that no matter who you are, the relationship between your body and your sense of self is idiosyncratic.
For many, it might be uncomfortable to use the word is in an everyday conversation. In order to overcome that prevailing discomfort regarding identity and sexuality, using this term in regular conversation is crucial. This term further helps to draw attention to gender in a way that helps to highlight that some people are at a disadvantage because of their gender identity.
The word is, therefore is helping to create awareness. It is giving voice to the people who cisgender and also showing how these people have a harder time in our society than those who conform to their sexuality with their outer physical appearance. For instance, trans men and women report higher levels of physical and verbal abuse than cisgender people.
As our understanding of gender continues to change, the words we have to describe our experiences of it will also evolve. Hopefully, by using these words in everyday conversation we will help in rectifying inequalities between gender identities.
The term “cisgender” refers to people whose gender identity and expression match the biological sex they were assigned when they were born. Whereas, being straight refers to being sexually attracted to the opposite sex. The word cisgender helps to determine the difference between gender and sexuality. Society often thinks that sexuality is determined by one’s gender but there are many people around the world who are proving otherwise.
Cis and straight are not the same but yes they might overlap. It is quite possible for a cis man or woman to be straight. One’s gender or biological identity can defer from their sexual preference. It is better not to make assumptions about people and their choices. We all should be open to our differences and celebrate life as it is.