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“Cisgender” is now a slur according to Elon Musk

By Jake Beardslee · October 31, 2023

In brief…

  • Elon Musk called the term "cisgender" a slur against heterosexuals in a tweet
  • He previously said "cis" and "cisgender" are considered slurs on Twitter
  • "Cisgender" refers to those whose gender identity matches their sex assigned at birth
  • The term was coined in 1994 and is widely used, but Musk objects to it
  • Some argue it's merely descriptive, but Musk wants Twitter to discourage its use
Elon Musk objected on Twitter to the use of the term "cisgender," calling it a slur against heterosexual people despite its common academic usage.  Courtesy Photo / Wikimedia

Elon Musk is speaking out against the use of the term “cisgender,” calling it a slur against heterosexual people. In a tweet on October 30, the new owner of Twitter wrote: “The word ‘cis’ is a heterosexual slur. Shame on anyone who uses it.”

This follows previous comments Musk made in June, when he said “‘cis’ or ‘cisgender’ are considered slurs on this platform.”

The prefix “cis” means “on this side of” and is the opposite of “trans,” meaning “on or to the other side of.” “Cisgender” refers to someone whose gender identity aligns with their sex assigned at birth. It’s commonly used in contrast with transgender.

The terms have broad usage beyond just gender. In chemistry, “cis” molecules have atoms on the same side and “trans” have atoms on opposite sides. In geography, flights that cross the Atlantic are “transatlantic” while those that remain on one side are “cisatlantic.”

“Cisgender” was coined in 1994 by retired researcher and physician educator Dana Defosse to describe non-transgender people. Despite being widely accepted in academia and added to dictionaries, Musk believes the term demeans heterosexuals.

His statements have caused debate over whether “cisgender” should be considered offensive. Supporters of the term argue that it’s merely descriptive and not meant as a slur. But Musk believes strongly that Twitter should discourage its usage.