Keeping up on one's politically correct terms sometimes seems futile - every term will eventually be pejorative and outdated eventually. As an ally and a holder of most privileges, it's necessary to know about respectful language and terms in attempting to hold a discussion and increase my knowledge on these views.
But it's hard. Terms can go from polite, to being co-opted by schoolkids, to being pejorative in less than a decade - I'm never sure whether I, as a cis, straight person should say queer or gay/lesbian or LGBTQ. In the context of college, where I had a lot of friends identifying as queer, I used queer. But now, living a more vanilla life, I'm more comfortable with LGBTQ.
I saw another example of this in the recently reviewed "Our Guys". Throughout the 1997 book about the 1989 rape of a developmentally challenged teen, author Bernard Lufkowitz uses the term "retarded" to describe the victim. The book is extremely sympathetic towards the victim, and Lufkowitz seems to be advocating from a feminist perspective. But his use of retarded, intended to be medically descriptive and respectful, dates the book immeasurably.
I remember that cisgendered (meaning someone whose gender identification is the same as their sex) seemed particularly silly to me when it was first introduced - alienating, academic, not rooted in colloquial language. I predicted that it would not be long for the PC world - it's good to have a term to describe that particular privilege, but it's not well defined and, as I said, unclear. What, exactly, is a body that's in line with gender identity? Are the only cis people those who were born in the sex that matches their gender? What about intersex persons?
A over at aelphaba today posted a terrific musing on being described by others as cisgendered:
I think that the idea of context is important here. It's not that you can't say that Rush Limbaugh isn't cis just because he hasn't formally claimed that term. But one needs to avoid applying this term to others in the context of a feminist/queer/womanist/whathaveyou discussion. Unless someone identifies with a specific group, assume that they are not in possession of that privilege.
Does the fact that I am currently presenting as female and I’ve never not wanted a vagina (penises are just inconvenient) mean that I am any less gender queer?
No. I have struggled with gender for the majority of my life. I have had panic attacks over it, I have sliced my skin over it, and I am fully aware of the difference between gender presentation and gender identity. The queer community should be too.
I choose to present as female, but female is not an identity that I claim. The problem with the term cisgendered is that it is a term that the queer community is using to apply to other people. This labeling is done under assumptions of presentation. I understand how the term “bio-female” might be taken the wrong way from the transgendered perspective, but I think that cisgendered is not a term that the queer community should be throwing around unless someone self-identifies as it.
A's situation to me is analogous to a light-skinned person of color or a person with a non-outwardly-incapacitating diseases such as fibromyalgia. (Just similar - not less or more or equally oppressive, necessarily). Though folks in this situation may seem to possess a privilege, you cannot assume the details of one's life story.
Read more here.