William Shatner spent the weekend ranting about the word “cisgender” on Twitter

William Shatner
William Shatner Photo: Shutterstock

William Shatner has been complaining about the word “cisgender” on social media for a week now.

The 89-year-old actor who played Captain James Kirk on the original Star Trek series and films first made his objection to the term known in a tweet on Monday, August 3, when a fan sarcastically tweeted that Shatner is an “old white man so you MUST be a hateful bigot.”

Related: Queer Star Trek? It’s out there

“You forgot CIS as in old white CIS man… need to stay current,” Shatner said, even though no one had actually called him an “old white cis man” on Twitter at that point as an insult.

In a tweet from later that day, Shatner said that the only reason for the word “cisgender” is to “harass or debase” people like him.

People explained to Shatner last week that the term is neutral. Cis- is the Latin prefix that is the literal opposite of the prefix trans-. Dawn Ennis at Forbes pointed out that the first known use of the term “cisgender” was by a cisgender biologist, which is appropriate considering that the prefix cis- remains common in organic chemistry and molecular biology.

Shatner responded on Saturday with screenshots of people discussing cis, white, straight, and male privilege and said that it was proof that the term is “a slur & term of harassment.” While the words “white” and “male” were used similarly in the tweets he showed, but he only responded to the use of the word “cisgender” that way.

He continued to tweet about the word “cisgender” throughout the weekend, even writing at one point that people “are merely assuming my sexual identity.” He did not later come out as gay, bi, non-binary, or transgender, so it’s hard to tell what he meant.

Shatner also got support from transphobic people and claimed that he did not want their help in arguing why cisgender people should have a right to take away a useful word for discussing transgender issues.

He also argued that it’s that he doesn’t like being called “white” in the same way other, implying that white people face racism based on “the color of their skin.”

And he claimed that most transgender people would “condemn” the “trolls” who use the word “cisgender.” He did not cite a source for that claim or explain how these trans people refer to people who are cisgender.

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