Elon Musk’s ‘cowardly’ cisgender Twitter ban slammed by researcher who coined the term

Twitter boss Elon Musk wears a white shirt and black coat as he stares at someone off camera

The researcher who introduced the term “cisgender” has responded to Elon Musk’s “cowardly and futile attempt to censor an idea” after the Twitter owner claimed the word was a slur, and anyone using it on the social media site could face suspension.

On Wednesday (21 June), in response to a tweet by James Esses – an anti-trans commentator who said he had been called a “cissy” by trans activists on the platform – Musk replied to say “the words ‘cis’ or cisgender’ are considered slurs on this platform”. 

He added that “repeated, targeted harassment against an account” will result in the harasser, at minimum, having their account temporarily suspended.

Cisgender refers to people whose gender identity aligns with the one assigned at birth. The researcher who coined the term, Dana Defosse, first used the word in a 1994 post on an early internet forum, which Oxford English Dictionary cited when it added the term to the dictionary in 2015.

Defosse told HuffPost that Musk’s announcement came as no surprise considering his “ghastly history of attacking trans people” and the direction the social media platform is going in.

“The fact is, whether or not somebody identifies as cisgender doesn’t negate the fact that cisgender identity is a valid construct. It exists, and it has meaning in how we operate in the world,” she said.

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“Banning use of a word that’s part of our daily vocabulary around the world, that appears in the Oxford English Dictionary, it’s a cowardly and futile attempt to censor an idea which is, in my opinion, way bigger and more enduring than anything Musk could hope to offer.” 

Defosse said the idea of somebody saying they’re not “cisgender” is different from the idea that the meaning of the word isn’t applicable to conversation. 

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“If you ban the word ‘cisgender’ on Twitter, how’s somebody going to have an informed, rational discussion of gender identity in the world?”

Since Musk’s takeover of Twitter in October 2022, hate speech on the site rocketed to new highs.

In April 2023, Twitter dropped its protections for trans people from misgendering and deadnaming. A month later, Musk announced longtime media executive Linda Yaccarino as the new CEO of Twitter, months after he promised to step down. 

Research published by GLAAD in June revealed Twitter, along with other major social media platforms, consistently failed to protect LGBTQ+ people from abuse. 

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