The Sexuality Blog: Are you C.I.S?

A gay man is silhoutted on a gay rainbow flag during a demonstration for gay rights in Hanoi, Vietnam, November 24, 2015. While transgender, gay and lesbian people are persecuted and even jailed in many Asian countries, Vietnam has quietly become a trailblazer, with laws to decriminalize gay marriage and co-habitation and recognize sex changes on identity documents. Picture taken November 24, 2015. REUTERS/Kham - RTS8O3C

In the last two months handling the sexuality blog we’ve come to realise that a big part of the problem with prejudice towards LGBTQ persons is ignorance. And this ignorance, while unpleasant cannot be entirely be the fault of the ignorant. Sexuality and how we understand has simply moved much faster than most people can follow and comprehend. It has grown so complex that even the simplest phrases that confound people. A good example of this is the phrase ‘Comfortable in skin’ or C.I.S for short.

‘Comfortable In Skin’ is a term borrowed from sociology, used to specifically when discussing gender to describe a person who has no problem with the gender they were assigned at birth.

Sounds simple enough, right?

Let’s expand on this a tiny bit. There are four broad groups of people that the term C.I.S can be used to describe, heterosexual people, homosexual people and queer people. A C.I.S heterosexual person is content with being a straight person attracted to people of the other gender. A bisexual person is comfortable with being a gay person attracted to other gay/bisexual/straight people. A queer person is comfortable with not conforming to either gender and feels no ‘allegiance’ to being masculine or feminine.

However, Comfortable in skin, or C.I.S cannot be used to explicitly describe sexualities. What this means is that it is primarily a term that deals without a person sees themselves, their gender identity rather than their sexual preferences. So while a person’s sexual attractions can be used as an index for determining how comfortable they are about their gender, attraction is not and indication of gender identity.

Let’s break it down. A person who is not comfortable in their skin is called ‘Transgender’. This is what the ‘T’ in LGBTQ stands for. Trans people do not feel comfortable in their skin and are often moved to change their anatomy and physical appearance to match the gender they feel they are supposed to be. Not all non c.i.s. people identify as transgender though and not all transgender people permanently alter their anatomy to match the gender they identify as. People who do are referred to as transsexual. Other non-conforming people identify as two-spirit, androgynous or even queer.

Understanding whether a person is comfortable in skin or not, goes a long way in understanding their motivations and personal preferences. For example why a person would be reluctant to engage in sex with people of the same sex even when they identify as gay, or why some people choose to cross-dress and still remain married to partners of the opposite sex.

So, are you C.I.S?

 

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