Cis, nonbinary, genderqueer: What is behind gender terms

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Text by Carina Parke
Partly translated by Una Hepburn
Photo by Kira auf der Heide

When it comes to gender, many people are literally lost for words as more new terms are being introduced over time. For all those who are still a bit uncertain about the wording, here is an overview.

You can say about social media what you want but it did bring light on important movements – and it made certain gender terms popular. Terms, that are very important because they describe realities that are lived by a lot of people. But let’s be honest: Since the formulations are more and more used all over the world, it leaves some people speechless. Simply because they are unsure and uncertain about the correct meaning. Or maybe they get confronted with those words just yet. If you’re one of them, no worries – we got you. Here we want to give you a small overview of common gender terms. 

Why it’s so important to be aware of them? Well, you can just benefit from extending horizontally. But more importantly, togetherness can only result from a dialogue. So let’s listen, learn, explore, respect and talk to each other. And while doing that, please make sure to call a person the way they want to be called. 

Cisgender

Cisgender or simply cis is used for people whose gender identity matches their birth sex. It’s the opposite of being transgender. 

Intersexuality

According to Intersexuelle Menschen e.V., these are people whose sexual appearance from birth is not only male or only female but appears to be a mixture. Therefore intersexuality is a collective term for all those who are not clearly identified as either men or women due to their gender characteristics, chromosomes or hormones. For many intersexual people, self-discovery and identity is a lengthy process.

Nonbinary and genderqueer

The question of gender is very complex and not only related to physical characteristics, which leads us to nonbinary and genderqueer people. Many people are not quite sure about the difference between those two terms. And it is important to say that there are no universal definitions to go by, so everyone can interpret it individually. 

According to “Nonbinary Wiki” nonbinary reflects a range of identities and experiences that fall out of the traditional binary model – so one doesn’t mandatory identify with the categories female and male. Genderqueer on the other hand means non-normative and it does have a political connotation. “To me, genderqueer represents a queering of gender, so to speak. It’s a deliberate playing with gender in a very political sense, and being provocative around gender norms to highlight the gender stereotypes of our culture”, Laura A. Jacobs, a psychotherapist who specializes in trans and gender non-binary issues, explained to “Vice”. 

Transgender

Transgender is an umbrella term that covers different gender identities and expressions that don’t correspond with the gender one was assigned at birth. Many undergo surgery and take hormones to align their bodies with their gender identity. 

Bigender, genderfluid and agender

Some people simultaneously describe themselves as male and female, which is called bigender. If someone is genderfluid, their gender identity can change in certain situations or periods. Agender describes people who identify with no gender at all.