- Cisgender refers to individuals who identify with the sex that they were when they were born.
- For example, if you’re born with male genitals and wear clothes designed for men, then you may be cisgender.
- But not all cisgender people are straight—since cisgender refers to gender, not sexuality.
Gender is not black and white. There’s more to it than just male and female. More accurately put: Gender is a spectrum.
On opposite ends of this spectrum are cisgender males and cisgender females: People who identify with the sex they were assigned at birth.
However, just because you’re cisgender doesn’t automatically you are straight. Cisgender people can identify with any sexuality including bisexual, pansexual, lesbian, or gay.
Here’s what it means to be cisgender, as well as some myths surrounding cisgender people.
What does it mean to be cisgender?
In order to understand what it means to be cisgender, it’s important to understand the difference between sex and gender:
- Sex refers to the genitalia and biological markers that you were born with — males have sex organs like the penis and the scrotum, whereas females have a vagina and a womb.
- Gender is not related to biology, but is rather a set of social characteristics related to how you “perform” your sex. For example, how you present yourself appearance-wise to others.
“In the most simple terms, if you were born in the ‘male’ body, have identified as a man your whole life, are assumed to be a male by most people, and generally do things that lots of other men do, then you are a cisgender man,” says Kyle Zrenchik, PhD, LMFT, licensed sex therapist and co-owner of All In Therapy Clinic.
Zrenchik says some characteristics of being cisgender are:
- Going by a name that matches your sex and gender
- Wearing clothing that traditionally matches your sex and gender
- Feeling like your body matches your gender
On the other hand, if you do not identify with the sex you were assigned at birth, you may be transgender, non-binary, or genderqueer.
Myths about being cisgender
Because gender is not as straightforward as male and female, it can be difficult to understand, which inevitably results in misinformation and myths. Here are five common myths about being cisgender:
Myth #1: Cisgender people are always straight: Many people assume that cisgender people are heterosexual, or straight, meaning they are only attracted to the opposite gender. However, this is certainly not the case, says Zrenchik. Cisgender people can identify with any sexual orientation that they choose, whether that’s gay, bisexual, or pansexual, for example.
Myth #2: Cisgender people are oblivious to gender struggles: Some people think that since cisgender people relate to their sex they were assigned at birth, that they might not be aware of how gender influences the world or how the topic of gender can be complicated for some. “While cisgender people do not know what it means to be transgender on the same level as a trans person, cisgender people may also be aware of how their gender presentation impacts their day-to-day decisions, access to opportunities and resources, grants them certain privileges, or burdens them with particular obligations,” says Zrenchik.
Myth #3: Cisgender people are transphobic: Transphobic means being prejudice against or disliking transgender people. Zrenchik says that while most transphobic people are cisgender, not all cisgender people are transphobic. To assume that most cisgender people are transphobic would be wrong. Whether someone is transphobic or not comes down to their own personal beliefs, and not necessarily their gender.
Myth #4: Cisgender people prefer being their own gender: Not all cisgender people love being their own sex. “They may choose to live as cisgender despite them feeling unsatisfied that they have to do so,” says Zrenchik.
Put simply, being cisgender means that you identify with the sex you were assigned at birth and feel like you belong in the body you were given. However, being cisgender doesn’t mean that you must be heterosexual or that you never question your gender or sexuality.
If you are struggling with your gender or sexual identity, consider seeking advice by contacting one of the following support hotlines:
You can also reach out to a sex-positive mental health professional who specializes in gender, sexuality, and LGBTQ+ issues to discuss your concerns in a safe space.