Cis Woman: A Definition

An Asian woman looks outside a window at the city below her, signifying the distinction between the private and public spheres of social life.
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"Cis woman" is shorthand for "cisgender woman." It defines a non-transgender woman. Her assigned sex is female, and she still identifies with the gender culturally associated with her sex: woman.

What Is Assigned Sex? 

An individual’s assigned sex is what appears on her birth certificate. A doctor or midwife delivers children and states their sex at the time of birth. The individual is branded male or female based on this assessment on their birth certificate. Assigned sex is also referred to as biological sex, natal sex, or designated sex at birth. 

Trans women vs. Cis women 

Trans women is a shorthand term for transgender women. It defines women who were assigned a male sex at birth but exist as women. If you identify as a woman and you're not a transgender woman, you're likely a cis woman.

Gender Roles 

Cisgender and transgender identities are grounded in gender roles, but gender roles are socially constructed and gender is not a very clearly defined concept. Gender is a spectrum. Cis and trans are relative terms representing an individual's experiences of what gender is.

Ashley Fortenberry, a trans woman, explains, "Gender cannot be defined by anyone other than the individual."

Assigning Sex At Birth

Sex is determined by chromosomes, which are invisible to the human eye. This makes it impossible to definitely assign sex at birth. Doctors assign sex based on a newborn's genitalia. A baby might have an undiagnosed intersex condition, which providers often miss. More commonly, a baby does not grow up to identify with the gender typically linked to the sex assigned to them at birth, a condition known as gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is often experienced by transgender people, however, experiencing gender dysphoria is not required in order to be transgender.

The American Civil Liberties Union indicates that 18 states and the District of Columbia have passed anti-discrimination laws protecting transgender individuals. At the local level, approximately 200 cities and counties have done the same. 

The federal government has been slower to get on board with this type of legislation, although a federal district court in the District of Columbia has ruled that discrimination against employees who transition to a different gender is covered by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The U.S. Attorney General supported this decision in 2014.

Public Restrooms

Several states have passed or are in the process of passing legislation to either allow or disallow transgender individuals from using restrooms designated for the gender they identify with, as opposed to their assigned gender. Most notably, the U.S. Justice Department filed a civil rights lawsuit against the state of North Carolina in 2016 to block House Bill 2, which requires that transgender individuals use restrooms for their assigned genders.

The Bottom Line 

Cis women don't share these problems, because they identify with their assigned gender. Their designated gender at birth is who they are and who they consider themselves to be. Thus, Title VII, which protects against sexual discrimination, protects them outright. 

Pronunciation: "Siss-woman"

Also Known As: cisgender woman, cis girl

Offensive: "natural-born woman", "real woman"

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Your Citation
Head, Tom. "Cis Woman: A Definition." ThoughtCo, Nov. 16, 2020, Head, Tom. (2020, November 16). Cis Woman: A Definition. Retrieved from Head, Tom. "Cis Woman: A Definition." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 29, 2023).