Revisiting Cis: A Hidden History

Dec 4, 2023, 12:00 pm1:20 pm
Palmer House | Dining Room
Open to the public



Event Description

The Urban Dictionary and the OED agree: ‘cis’ refers to someone whose gender identity matches their sex assigned at birth. Note the historically and geographically specific jargon of “gender identity” and “sex assigned at birth.” Purportedly, a cis person has never second-guessed, resisted, challenged, or changed the norms associated with their birth sex. Their identity is identical with it. How did we get to such a remarkably narrow term? In this talk, I excavate the still quite hidden history of the term ‘cisgender.’ Unsurprisingly, some of its earliest moments are far more interesting—conceptually and pragmatically—than its mainstream use might suggest.

Perry Zurn is Provost Associate Professor of philosophy at American University, DC. He is also a 2023-2024 fellow at Cornell University’s Society for the Humanities and a visiting scholar at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Research in Feminist, Queer, and Transgender Studies. He works primarily in political philosophy, critical theory, and transgender studies. He is the author or editor of seven books. His monographs include Curiosity and Power (2021), Curious Minds (2022), and How We Make Each Other: Trans Poetics at the Edge of the University (forthcoming).

  • Gender + Sexuality Resource Center
  • Department of Religion