What do those words mean?

Vox breathlessly tells us that an American dictionary has added two new Socially Approved words.

Big news for LGBTQ folks: On Wednesday, Merriam-Webster announced that it added the words “cisgender” and “genderqueer” to its unabridged dictionary.

What do those words mean? Here are Merriam-Webster’s definitions:

  • Cisgender: of, relating to, or being a person whose gender identity corresponds with the sex the person had or was identified as having at birth.
  • Genderqueer: of, relating to, or being a person whose gender identity cannot be categorized as solely male or female.

But what does “gender identity” mean?

I don’t call myself nonbinary or genderfluid or genderqueer, nor do I claim to be a trans man. On the other hand I do point out that I perhaps am in some sense¬†nonbinary or genderfluid or genderqueer, but also that so are most people, or even all people, since nobody can fit all the stereotypes for any one gender 100 percent of the time.

But I don’t call myself a trans man. Is that all it take to be “cis”? If that’s all it takes, then I’m cis…but the trouble with that is that the way “cis” is used in discourse, that’s absolutely not all it takes. “Cis” is used in discourse to mean “conforming to one’s assigned gender” at best, and “totally fine with all the stereotypes about one’s assigned gender” at worst. Neither of those remotely applies to me…and again, that’s true of most people.

So what does “gender identity” mean? Does it mean just not calling yourself trans? Or is it much thicker than that, meaning a whole bunch of related things, not all of which are compatible with each other?

Usually, it means the second – and that’s the problem. I have no issue with agreeing that I don’t call myself trans anything, but I have a lot of issues with claims that I have a “gender identity” and that it can be meaningfully summed up with the word “woman.”

Vox goes on to draw a fatuous conclusion from the new definitions:

The additions reflect how society is expanding its discussions over gender identity, gender expression, and transgender issues: As conversations about gender broaden, the vocabulary used in these conversations is set to change, too.

I don’t think the¬†conversations about gender do broaden, most of them; I think they narrow. I think way too many people are making a cult of “gender identity” and that that reverses the healthy trend set off by the return of feminism in the 1970s to make “gender identity” less important instead of more so.

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