'On this Side': The Production, Progression, and Potential of Cisgender
Swarthmore College. Dept. of Linguistics
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The word cisgender is in the process of emerging to fill in what was (and remains for some) a lexical gap for the meaning 'not transgender or gender non-conforming'. I investigate the etymology, history, and current state of the word cisgender in a bid to predict its viability in non-specialized parlance, as well as how the variation that currently exists around this word will eventually settle. I undertake a historical and current exploration through Internet-based research, including document-based research, time-delimited Google searches, and a questionnaire, paying particular attention to the roles that academic, Internet, and activist communities have played in the spread of cisgender. Whatever its origins, the word is currently used primarily by people who identify as transgender, gender non-conforming, or queer- a population that includes some cisgender people but certainly not the majority- thus, I consider the effect that coinage of a word by a socially marginalized group to label a socially dominant group might have upon the acceptance of that word. Finally, I take into account the possible futures of cisgender by briefly considering the work of sociolinguists, queer linguists, and others who work with the role of identity in linguistic change. Eventually, I conclude that the scope of this paper is too narrow to properly make predictions about the future of cisgender, but that it is still useful as an exploration of the utility of looking at issues of language and identity from a marginalized perspective.*