The word ‘cis’ has recently entered the vernacular in the US and I too only recently became aware of its usage. I had assumed that it was a neologism but it appears that it is derived from an old word with Latin roots. According to Wikipedia, “Cisgender (often shortened to cis; sometimes cissexual) is a term used to describe a person whose gender identity corresponds to their sex assigned at birth. The word cisgender is the antonym of transgender. The prefix cis- is Latin and means ‘on this side of’ “.
Pronouns have recently become part of the many culture wars that rage in the US, especially being by right-wingers, often invoking them in pathetic attempts as humor. Ted Cruz said in a speech that his pronouns are ‘kiss my ass’ while Elon Musk recently tweeted that his pronouns are ‘prosecute/Fauci’. Neither of these works as jokes because they make no sense but what they are really meant to be are dog whistles to signal to their supporters that the speaker is firmly on the side of anti-LGBTQ bigotry.
On my Zoom profile, after my name I have inserted ‘he/him/his’ to indicate my own pronouns. I hesitated for some time before doing this. It is not because I object to people specifying what pronouns they wish to be referred by but because cis people are the dominant group and trans people are the marginalized and discriminated against, and specifying that I am cis might be misinterpreted as that I was somehow proud of being so or objected to being considered trans, which is not the case. But I went ahead and did so anyway, hoping that my action would not be misinterpreted.
Musk weighed in the issue seemingly without, as usual, much thought, saying that he opposed specifying one’s pronouns when it seems obvious what one’s gender expression is, saying “Yeah, I’m not a fan of pronouns when someone is giving every possible visual cue for he or she, but then still insists on telling you exactly what you expect. I do support pronouns that aren’t completely obvious based on visual cues.”
In response Fred Scharmen put into words what I had been struggling to articulate as to why it was a good thing even if some might consider it superfluous, saying “We cis people are explicit about pronouns on top of visual cues in order to help normalize their expression for those who might not be cis. Simple as”.
Then things took a weird turn because Musk seemed to think that the word ‘cis’ is a slur of some sort that had been used by Scharmen to insult him because he responded to Scharmen, “I’m not cis, you are.” That childish, schoolyard-level retort resulted in much merriment, starting Scharmen asking “What are your pronouns, Elon?”
Whether Musk took this random opportunity to make a bold and oddly timed declaration of his gender identity or not is his own business, but the resulting replies are a mixed bag of congratulations and confused follow-up questions.
“So your new pronouns are she/her? We support you, more than you support the child who won’t even talk to you,” said Adam Heath Avitable, host of the podcast “Dating Kinda Sucks.”
“You GO, girl! live your truth queen,” tweeted Bill Corbett, writer and star of “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”
“So you’re trans. Weird way to come out, but good on you,” new product strategy & development professional Tom Coates added.
— Sir Doge of the Coin ⚔️ (@dogeofficialceo) December 28, 2022
Musk has gone silent on this issue.