Medically Reviewed by Zilpah Sheikh, MD on March 11, 2024
6 min read

If you are cisgender (pronounced "sis-gender"), or cis, it means the gender you identify with matches the sex assigned to you at birth. Transgender is when your gender identity differs from the sex on your birth certificate. In Latin, "cis" means "on this side," while "trans" means "on the other side."

A transgender woman is born with male genitals but identifies as female. A transgender man is born with female genitals but identifies as male.

People who are straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, or asexual and still identify themselves as the sex assigned to them at birth are cisgender.

What is a cis woman?

A cisgender woman is someone assigned female at birth (AFAB) and who identifies herself as a girl or woman.

What is a cis man?

A cisgender man is someone assigned male at birth (AMAB) and who considers himself a boy or man.

Many people think the words "sex" and "gender" mean the same thing, but they are two very different ways to describe people.

What is "sex"?

Sex is related to your biology. It's usually put into two categories: male or female. It may also be called biological sex or natal sex. It is related to things such as your:

  • Chromosomes -- XY for men and XX for women
  • Hormones -- testosterone is the main sex hormone for a man, and estrogen for a woman
  • Sexual anatomy -- a penis for a man and a vagina for a woman

What is "gender"?

Gender is the way the world sees you and others. It is made up of sets of norms, roles, and expectations that are thought to be typical for girls, women, boys, and men. Gender roles are what society places on someone based on their biological sex. Because they are based on society, they may be different in different locations and cultures.

Stereotypical gender roles for a boy or man, for instance, may be to wear a suit and tie, play sports, be aggressive, or study science and technology. On the other hand, society may expect girls and women to wear dresses, birth children, be openly emotional, and make their physical appearance a priority.

Not everyone's sex at birth lines up with their gender identity. That identity is how you see yourself and what you call yourself -- he, she, they, or neither. Nonbinary is an overall term that means your gender identity isn’t a man or a woman. It could be both, in between the two, or outside of male or female completely.

Some examples of nonbinary gender identities include:

  • Genderqueer -- Your gender identity, and often your sexual orientation, is fluid. 
  • Gender fluid -- Your gender identity is fluid or not fixed on either male or female. 
  • Agender -- You don't identify as male, female, or a combination of the two.
  • Bigender -- You identify as a combination of male and female, or sometimes one and sometimes the other.

Many people who are cisgender conform to, or follow, the societal norms associated with the gender they are assigned at birth. But they can also be gender nonconforming. That means they don't follow social expectations of how a person of a particular biological sex should dress or act.

You may think that there are only two biological sexes -- man and woman. But, much like gender, sex can fall on a spectrum as well. If you are intersex, you may look like you are one sex but have been born with the other sex's (or both sex's) genitalia, reproductive organs, or chromosomes. Intersexual people may have some of these traits:

  • Genitals that can’t be easily categorized as male or female
  • Gender differences between the genitals and the reproductive organs
  • Missing or underdeveloped reproductive organs
  • Too many or too few sex hormones or an unusual response to these hormones

The term sexual orientation is different from gender identity. It has to do with the gender for which you feel sexual desire or attraction. For example, a straight, or heterosexual, person feels attraction toward people of the opposite sex. Straight men find women attractive, while straight women are attracted to men.

Gay or lesbian means your attraction is to someone of the same sex. Gay men are attracted to other men. Lesbian women are attracted to other women. Bisexual people find both sexes attractive. Asexual people might not feel any sexual attraction or may have little interest in having sex.

Being gay, lesbian, or bisexual isn’t the same thing as being transgender or gender nonconforming. For instance, a transgender person can be straight or gay.

Societies often have fixed ideas about gender and what it means to be male or female. Cisgender bias means that society expects people who look like women to "act like a woman," and vice versa for men. If you are cisgender, you may not even be aware of how people who are nonconforming are treated differently than you are. This is known as cisgender privilege.

People who don't meet gender expectations may face stigma, harassment, or even physical abuse because of their gender identity. People can also face discrimination at work or when trying to find housing because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.

Transgender people -- especially transgender women of color -- are at a higher risk of violence and sexual assault than cisgender people. More than 1 out of every 4 trans people have experienced a hate-based assault.

Gender identity can also lead to health inequalities. Transgender people are more likely than cisgender people to have long-term stress, mental health issues, and medical conditions. This could be due to a doctor's stigma or the fact that some doctors and nurses don't have the training to care for them. And they may face harassment and not receive high-quality health care. Health inequalities may also be because transgender people often lack health insurance. Without insurance, it's hard to see doctors and use other health care services.

People who are gender nonconforming are typically treated much differently in their daily lives than ones who are cisgender. They often face what are known as microaggressions, which refer to small, often subtle, comments or actions that insult or put down a marginalized group. Common cisgender privilege includes:

  • Not being asked what your "real" name is when you meet a new person
  • Not worrying about someone using the right pronouns when they talk to you
  • Not having people ask you what surgeries you've had or other personal questions about your body
  • Being able to use a locker room at a gym without fear of being stared at
  • Being able to use a bathroom without fear of harassment or violence
  • Not having to explain to people why your childhood photographs don't reflect your current gender

If you are cisgender, you may not be aware of the inequalities and stigma that people who don't conform to their genders have to face each day. You can be supportive of people who are nonbinary and transgender. You may even help change the culture by being more understanding of people's gender differences. You can do this by:

  • Not assuming that everyone you meet is cisgender
  • Not using pronouns with someone new until you know how they identify
  • Respecting the terminology a person uses to identify themselves
  • Respecting someone's gender if it is different than what it used to be

Cisgender is a term used to describe people who identify with the same gender as their biological sex, or the sex they were born with. Gender and sex are often thought to be the same but mean very different things. Sex is based on your hormones, reproductive organs, and chromosomes. Gender is based on norms, expectations, and roles that society places on you based on your biological sex.

What is cis slang for? Cisgender

What does the prefix cis mean? "Cis" is Latin for "on this side." The prefix "trans," on the other hand, means "on the other side."

What are the four gender pronouns? "He," "him," and "she," "her" are singular pronouns. Personal gender pronouns include "they," "them," and "their" and can be used as gender-neutral and nonbinary options.