I Am A Cis-Woman

I was born with all the biological markers of the female sex. I was not born with all of the classic traits of the female gender.

I was born different. Different enough that I’ve spent a lot of my life pinpointing that difference. That means I’ve given a lot of thought to my gender identity and sexual orientation. I am female and I am attracted to men. The fact that I have female reproductive organs almost seems incidental to this.

My personality makes more sense in a male gender. Goodness knows my fashion sense would make more sense in a male gender. There have been times in my life when I have unintentionally “passed” as male. It’s an uncomfortable feeling, this idea that the world would like me better if I wasn’t authentic to my own soul.

I know there are cis-women who dislike, even hate, the term cis-woman. I can’t even begin to understand them or why they feel that way. For me it’s a positive affirmation of who I really am.

When I was married some of my family was shocked. I discovered that they thought I was lesbian. They would have been less shocked had I come out, dated a woman or began transitioning to a male gender identity. That hurt, not because I associate being gay or trans negatively, but because they didn’t know me. At all.

I rarely form female friendships, but when I do they tend to be important friendships. I have to worry that people will interpret these friendships as romantic. Especially since I am so publicly pro-GLBTQI issues. I have to worry that men will assume I am a lesbian, especially men I am attracted to. I’m not very girly by nature, although I work at it. I have to make sure I look female, because I have been mistaken for a man before.

I am a heterosexual cis-woman. I may not always sound like one or act like one or look like one, but that is who I am. I don’t get hair products or flirting or emotional arguments. I have never sat and contemplated the sacredness of my yoni. But I am a heterosexual cis-woman. To tell the truth, I sometimes feel like less of a woman than my much more feminine trans-woman sisters. I admit to sometimes being envious of them. They seem to understand femininity better than I do. They sometimes seem to be better women than I am.

Even though I often feel I fall short of the expectations of womankind at large, I am a woman. A heterosexual cis-woman. I want babies and a husband and a manicure and kitchen all of my own and all those other embarassingly female things that other women want. I am fully aware I am not more female than trans-women. Often I am less feminine than they are, in every sense. Sometimes that hurts, to know I am lacking in my womanhood in many ways. But it doesn’t change the fact that I am a cis-gender woman. Saying I am merely a woman makes it sound like an accident of biology, and my biology isn’t something I’m always fond of. My soul is female. It would be female even if I had a penis and a big bushy beard.

So I am happy and proud to identify as a cis-gender woman. It is accurate. It properly describes me inside and out, start to finish. It’s not merely who I am, but who I aspire to be. I am aware of the privilege it grants me, especially because I have had occasions where the heterosexual cis-woman privilege was not granted to me. I’d like to be better at it, without giving up who I am. I’d like to be a better woman without being a lesser me.

I am a cis-woman as much as I am a straight woman, a white woman, a fat woman or a woman who sometimes dyes her hair a deep pink color. And I am not merely ok with that, I am comforted by the term.

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About Star Foster

Polytheistic Wiccan initiated into the Ravenwood tradition, she has many opinions. Some of them are actually useful.

  • Melissa

    This whole gender thing is getting way confusing… How about we just be who we are – no cubby hole needed…

  • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

     That would be nice except there are always people trying to cubby-hole us, and often incorrectly.

  • Nicole Youngman

    I had to grin at your mentions of not being fond of your biology and not contemplating the sacredness of your yoni–it reminded me of something Thorn wrote a while back about finding periods just plain annoying because they got in the way of other stuff she wanted to be doing. I’m pretty much like that too, which in my case seems a bit weird as I’m very much a feminist women’s-bodies-are-sacred kind of person. But, ya know, sometimes that shit is really messy and painful and “celebrating the blood mysteries” has just never been something I’ve been drawn too. If my periods hadn’t been so awful, maybe I would have, but I’ve had way too many ovarian cysts from hell and horrendous bouts of endometriosis and a c-section and other unpleasant things  to get all sentimental about my girl parts. I have an amazing son and I can’t imagine life without him, but when I finally had my damn uterus taken out a year and a half ago all I could think was “good freaking riddance.” No more pain, no more bleeding, yippee!!! 

    [And if I have one more feminist Pagan tell me that I should have been able to cure my endometriosis with herbal remedies or that my c-section was just a result of the evil patriarchal western medical system wanting to cut women's bodies open for convenience, I will slap them into the middle of next week. Fair warning. :) ]

  • Phoebe

    I’m also a hetero cis woman who is non girly, works with and runs what is now described as “masculine” energy.  I tend to not get emotional over too much, I’m competitive, physically and visually oriented, chose a traditional male occupation, etc.  The list goes on.  
    I’m curious about what our concepts of gender are going to look like in the future.  I feel I am just “me.”  I wish I would not be always confronted with people looking at me like I’m weird because I like to operate mostly on the other side of their gender binary.  In my opinion, men are not a certain way, and women are not a certain way.  I’m tired, and I wonder if maybe we’re all getting  a little tired, of mars vs. venus, and we’re ready to move on to better and more varied ideas of gender, or discard it all together.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/rua.lupa Rua Lupa

    I am a cis-female and like the term too. It makes sense to me and find no offense with it. Its like saying I’m a red head, because I am. I have also been confused, on occasion, with being a male. Usually from a distance until people see me up close because of my clothing preferences – being practical as I am very outdoorsy and don’t like burning (Irish complexion) or eaten alive (lots of biting insects in them woods), or being cut up by the sharp environs (like sticks, rocks, and grasses). So I wear what works, which apparently means dressing like a man *throws hands in air*. 

    I don’t shave either but I let that prevent me from enjoying swimming at public beaches (otherwise I wouldn’t be able to go swimming at all) and do have fun grossing out the prim & proper folks.  From experience, you get a lot more reactions from people in public swimming pools than from lake or river swimmers, which makes a lot of sense – who wants to swim with icky fish pooping and sexing in the water you swim in! lol. I have yet to have a gawker at a beach, that I’m aware of. Its my way of saying “I might be female, but it doesn’t change that I’m human.” And I have a number of female friends who say they don’t feel courageous enough to do that. Which really bothers me and makes me feel more compelled to rub in my hairyness in public.

    No one should feel pressured to conform to what is “socially acceptable” lest they be shamed and humiliated throughout the community.  Its getting to be easier to have public display of affection with the same gender, than to have a straight woman be hairy, when neither of these things should be an issue.

    What I don’t like is that anything is considered masculine or feminine – What does that even mean? I grew up being told that I’m not feminine enough and was later told by my family that they thought I was going to be a spinster (and hinting at that they thought I was too tomboyish if not gay) when I had gotten engaged. I don’t think there’s such a thing as feminine and masculine – can such a thing be scientifically verified? No. It is completely fabricated. Meaning that it could mean what ever you want it to mean. Unlike our trans, gay and queer friends where they are who they are and it is definitely not made up and scientifically verified that each mind can be wired differently which is normal. There can be innumerable ways of being masculine and feminine, it is really up to you what that is. What really matters is being true to yourself as a wonderful human being because that is what we all are.

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    I don’t get it.

    This whole ‘cis-’ thing, that is.

    I mean, to me, being male or female is a basic fact of biology. You either have male/female/’other’ DNA.

    The psychological element (‘feeling your gender’) is very nebulous and largely based on social conditioning.

    What does it mean to be a ‘woman’? Do you really need to want a manicure/kitchen/baby to be ‘womanly’?

    Bollocks do you. Those traits are not ‘owned’ by women. They are, more or less, forced on women by a narrow minded society.

    A question:

    Do souls have ‘gender’?

  • TessasBoots

    I’m a biological male, but have “come out” (not the world as yet) as a female–it’s what i feel inside. The outward expressing of gender is based on social conditioning, yes. However, the fact i “dress like a woman” (when i can do so in safe and accepting situations/environments) is less a response to what i think a woman “should” be/look like and more a function of what is deep down inside me and how i feel. I simply want to look like what has been socially “standardized” as “female”. For me, it IS me. And while i don’t have all the female physical attributes, my very small size serves me quite well. I wish i could wear whatever i wished and not be dictated to by a very narrow-minded society.


    Pagans ought to be able to handle not cubby-holing people or trying to place their identity on them.  Even a hundred years ago the Western Tradition had writers acknowledging variety.


    IMHO yeah, souls could have “gender” to place a term for some portion of their element, but that beings aren’t necessarily singly-souled – everybody got different theories on how many if they think there are pluralities on how many are typical.  believing in one soul is like being monotheistic, believing in no soul is like atheism. YMMV

  • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

     Mine does.

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

     And species?

  • dkh3184

    I understand what you are saying, I really do. But, this label thing is getting out of hand. It seems that the same subsets of society that are frequently eschewing labels are coming up with new ways to define themselves, which require labels. I suppose that I am a cis-male. Yet, I feel no urge to label myself as such. The only justification I can think of for the cis- label is to move people away from saying “normal”. Normal is certainly very subjective and implies that people that don’t fit that particular mold are somehow “abnormal”. Still, seems an odd thing to have to label.

    Also, in GLBTQI, what is the “I”? It seems like every time I see this acronym lately there are more qualifiers. 

  • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster


  • Aine

     I think the justification of moving people away from thinking and saying cis=normal is enough justification. Way more than enough justification.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1256146140 Donna Rowe

    I prefer woman to cis-woman.  Trans or cis, a woman is a woman.  I guess it comes down to how we perceive gender, whether it’s simply a matter of biology or whether self-perception has a place.  I’m no expert, but I imagine a trans woman’s brain is wired along the same lines as a cis-woman’s.  So how is she different from a cis-woman?  Because of a Y chromosome?  Her identity is the same, and it’s easier to alter an incorrect body than it is to change one’s hard wiring.

    As for gender roles, if a woman is doing it, it’s a feminine activity.  If a man is doing it, it’s a masculine activity.  Don’t you just love all these people who tell you how to dress, how to behave and what to value just because of your body parts?   Although I’m more on the femme side when it comes to gender expression,  I refuse to wear makeup and will wear pants because I despise pantyhose.  I’m still as much a woman as the Barbies who won’t be seen without perfect coiffures and makeup, hobbling around in their impossibly high heels.