A few weeks ago I watched a lecture where the speaker used the term “cis-male”. I had never heard that before, so I googled it to check what it meant. Much to my surprise, it means a person who was born as a male and identifies as a male. Oh. So, uh, a male?
It was a pretty powerful statement to me on the current standards of society that we need a new special term for something that just is what it is. As if we now need to specifically clarify that what you see really is what you get, rather than being able to rely on the assumption that the default in a given situation will be that what lies before us is indeed what lies beneath. My pen is indeed a pen and not a reindeer; therefore it is a cis-pen. That body of water in my backyard is not a vacuum cleaner, so I guess we can now call it our cis-pool…
This whole idea bothers me because words matter. When I order a winter coat online I don’t want to have to read a 47 page disclaimer to understand whether it is actually a tablecloth. I expect it to have two sleeves, a zipper, and be warm enough to get me through a chilly season. If we as a society can’t agree on certain basic definitions as a starting point for discussions, then things devolve into chaos.
And obviously that leads us into touchier, less politically correct, areas.
I want marriage to mean what it has traditionally meant, not because I want to stand in the way of people who love each other being together or having certain rights, but because the word “marriage” refers to a very specific thing and that’s what it means. A man is a man, not because I am full of a hate, or a bigot or homophobe or anyone a phobe, or whatever the term du jour is- and I and I most certainly don’t ever ever advocate or condone any violence or mistreatment of anyone , but because, again, a man is a very particular sequence of DNA and you either are that or you aren’t.
There are already plenty of laws on the books for how humans should treat humans. If you want more, advocate for more. But those laws need to deal with actions and behaviours. Because when it comes to playing fast and loose with language, to the point where I have to ask for a mission statement about every word you say, and issue a decoder ring with every sentence I utter, it is the tower of babel all over again.
And that didn’t end so well the first time.