From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Cisgenders
Mains level : Abortion rights debate
In a significant judgment, the Supreme Court said it was unconstitutional to distinguish between married and unmarried women while allowing abortion when the foetus is between 20-24 weeks.
What is the news?
- Going a step further, the court said the term ‘woman’ in the judgment included persons other than cisgender women.
What is cisgender?
- The term cisgender is used to define people whose gender identity and expression match the identity assigned to them at birth.
- When a child is born, it is assigned a gender identity based on its physical characteristics.
- Many believe that gender is a social construct, and growing up, the child may or may not confirm to the birth identity.
- For transgender people, their sense of gender identity does not match the one assigned to them at birth.
- Thus, a cisgender woman is a person who was assigned female at birth and continues to identify as a woman.
- On the other hand, a child assigned female at birth can feel it identifies more authentically as a man as it grows up.
Use of gender-inclusive vocabularies in official documents
- Before India’s Supreme Court used ‘cisgender’ in the context of reproductive rights, last year in June, the US government had replaced the word ‘mothers’ with ‘birthing people’.
- Those who advocate the use of ‘birthing people’ say it is not just women who give birth.
- Transmen — a person assigned the female gender at birth but who identifies as a man – and genderqueer people – who identify as neither man nor woman – also give birth.
Why the word cisgender is important?
- If there are ‘transgender’ people, there should be a word for those who are not.
- Giving a label to only one section of the population, especially when that is in the minority, implies that the others are default, ‘normal’, and only that section needs to be labelled.
- Having distinct words for transgender and cisgender people denotes that both are equally valid, neutral experiences, with neither being an aberration.
- Also, cis and trans are not the only gender identifiers in use.
- There are many other terms, such as gender-queer, gender fluid and gender variant.
- Some also choose not to use the traditionally gender-tied pronouns of he/she/her/his, and go for they/them.
Criticism of the term
- Some people, including those working on trans rights, feel terms like ‘cisgender’ belong in the realm of gender theory alone.
- They feel that their usage can be counterproductive – people are less likely to grasp a message if they have to look up the individual words that make up the message.
- Others feel that ‘cisgender’ as a counter to ‘transgender’ is restrictive – reinforcing a binary of genders that many choose to reject.