Gender Identity What Does the Term 'Cishet' Mean? By Ariane Resnick, CNC Ariane Resnick, CNC Facebook Ariane Resnick, CNC is a mental health writer, certified nutritionist, and wellness author who advocates for accessibility and inclusivity. Learn about our editorial process Updated on February 20, 2023 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Monica Johnson, PsyD Medically reviewed by Monica Johnson, PsyD Dr. Monica Johnson is a clinical psychologist and owner of Kind Mind Psychology, a private practice in NYC specializing in evidence-based approaches to treating a wide range of mental health issues (e.g., depression, anxiety, trauma, and personality disorders). Additionally, she works with marginalized groups of people, including BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and alternative lifestyles, to manage minority stress. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Joxxxxjo / Getty Images Table of Contents View All Table of Contents What Does It Mean to Be Cisgender? What Does It Mean to Be Heterosexual? History Gender and Sexuality Assumptions Cause Harm How to Be More Inclusive The term cishet (pronounced sis-het) refers to a gender identity as well as a sexual identity. This two-part identity means that a person is both cisgender and heterosexual. A cishet person identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth, and they choose romantic partners of the opposite sex. What Does It Mean to Be Cisgender? To be cisgender means that you identify with the gender you were assigned at birth. If you are cisgender, which is often shortened in discussion to "cis," chances are you have not experienced gender dysphoria, where you feel unaligned with your assigned gender. People who identify as cisgender may never have to think at all about their gender identity. That is a privilege. People who are gender non-conforming, transgender, or of another marginalized gender identity often have a much more complex journey in relation to their gender identity, and face much more discrimination than cis people do. Origins of the Term The term cisgender emerged as an antonym of the word transgender. It includes the Latin prefix cis, which means 'on this side of.' The term was first introduced in 1994 and added to dictionaries in 2015. The "Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria" Controversy What Does It Mean to Be Heterosexual? To be heterosexual means that you are attracted to and partner with members of the opposite sex. For example, if you identify as a woman, being heterosexual means that you partner with people who identify as men. The word heterosexual is often shortened to "hetero," or in the case of the word cishet, to "het." It's also used synonymously with the word "straight." Just like being cis, many hetero people don't ever think about being heterosexual at all. This is also a privilege. People who are queer face more discrimination throughout their lives than people who are heterosexual do. So what is the difference between cis and cishet? Not all cis people are cishet. Cis people can also have sexual orientations other than heterosexual, including gay, lesbian, bisexual, or asexual. The History of Gender and Sexual Identities We may have only started talking more freely about gender identity and sexual identity in the 1900s, but that doesn't mean it's a new topic. Throughout history, societies have had people in them who didn't fit into male/female binary categories, or who didn't partner only with members of the opposite sex. One example of this is the Two-Spirit identity in Native American culture. The words "heterosexual" and "homosexual" weren't coined until the late 1800s, by Karl Maria Kerbeny. In more recent years, advocacy groups for marginalized people have made those who aren't in a sexual or gender minority more aware of the discrimination that LGBTQIA+ people face. This has led many to believe that those groups of people didn't exist prior. In reality, LGBTQIA+ people have always existed. The Difference Between Gender and Sexuality Gender and sexuality are often conflated. This happens often by people who are cishet, because they have a sexuality and a gender identity that is in the majority. Cishet Privilege Along with being in the majority, cishet people have societal privileges, such as not being subjected to gender- or sexuality-based discrimination, that allows them to generally not have to think about their sexual orientation or gender identity. In reality, gender and sexuality are entirely different things. A trans person might consider themself heterosexual if they partner with people of the opposite gender, for example. You can be a minority in regards to either sexuality or gender orientation. The Problem With Assuming People Are Cishet Assuming that everyone is cisgender and heterosexual is common in our society. It happens because of something called heteronormativity. Heteronormativity is the assumption that everyone is straight. That means that it's common to assume that romantic and sexual relationships are always between one man and one woman. Heteronormativity also treats being straight as the only normal or natural way to express sexuality and attraction. There isn't a word for assuming that everyone is cisgender, the way there is that everyone is straight, but heteronormativity can also include gender. Even just thinking that everyone is a woman or a man when many people are, in fact, nonbinary or gender non-conforming, could be considered heteronormative. Erasure The assumption that everyone is cishet can make all the people who are not cisgender or heterosexual feel invisible. Everyone deserves to see themselves represented in society, but if you think about it, up until pretty recently most of the people we saw represented in media were cishet. By not showing more people who are outside of cisgender and heterosexual identities, harm is caused in two ways. For one, people who aren't cishet are made to feel as if they don't exist. And for another, cishet people aren't being exposed to others who aren't like them, so they may not be aware that they exist or are valuable members of society. If you think about greeting cards, TV shows, billboards, and popular music, you can easily see that the majority of representation in our society continues to be heteronormative, with cishet as the default norm. This doesn't serve anyone, because, in order for all people to be accepted and receive the rights they deserve, they need to be visible. How to Be More Inclusive If you are cishet, the best way that you can be inclusive of people who aren't is to not make assumptions about them. When you meet someone who is feminine-presenting, don't necessarily assume that person identifies as a woman. When you meet someone who you think looks heterosexual, don't assume that they are. There is little to be gained in making assumptions about others, but much to lose. Another way to be inclusive is to participate, in inclusive activities. One example of this is sharing your pronouns. Sometimes cishet people think they shouldn't need to share their pronouns, but they identify with the gender they're perceived to be. But that puts all of the emotional labor on non-cis people, which isn't fair. Lastly, you can be inclusive as a cishet person simply by being more conscious and aware of your privilege. As a cishet, you have likely not been discriminated against for your sexuality or your gender identity. Because of your privilege as someone who is cishet, you can help non-cishet people by speaking out about discrimination whenever you witness it. Mental Health Resources to Support the LGBTQIA+ Community Summary If you are a cishet person, it's important to remember that LGBTQIA+ people face hardships for their sexual and gender identities. Expanding your knowledge about other gender identities will allow you to be a better ally for those who identify as non-cishet. What Is Gender Expression? 4 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Grant JM, Mottet L, Tanis JE, Harrison J, Herman J, Keisling M. National transgender discrimination survey, [united states], 2008-2009: version 1 [Internet]. Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research; 2020. American Historical Association. Tracing terminology: Research early uses of "cisgender." Casey LS, Reisner SL, Findling MG, et al. Discrimination in the United States: Experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer Americans. Health Serv Res. 2019;54(S2):1454-1466. doi:10.1111/1475-6773.13229 OutHistory. Constructing the Heterosexual, Homosexual, Bisexual System. By Ariane Resnick, CNC Ariane Resnick, CNC is a mental health writer, certified nutritionist, and wellness author who advocates for accessibility and inclusivity. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist Online Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.