Creep into thy narrow bed,
Creep, and let no more be said.
Let the long contention cease!
Geese are swans and swans are geese.
Let them have it how they will!
Thou art tired; best be still.
— Matthew Arnold
The more important question to ask is why this word is deemed newsworthy? Why have the concerns of transgender people risen from the margins to the mainstream in what must be the most rapid cultural shift in living memory? Trans people (who constitute less than 0.4 per cent of the population, according to even the most generous estimates) have become probably the most over-represented identity group in history.
There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, ours is an era in which who you are trumps what you do. Personal growth and the non-judgemental recognition of others have never been more culturally esteemed. In this environment, trans people have assumed an important role, as representatives of the marginalised and supposedly excluded. The act of vocally supporting trans people is the easiest way to demonstrate that you are virtuous, that you don’t judge others. If you are pro-trans, then you are probably anti-racist, pro-feminist, gay-friendly and prone to cry over the plight of the poor.
The second and most worrying reason for the rise in interest in trans issues is that gender has become entwined with one’s ‘self identity’. Our gender has become something that we must come to terms with, as a self-conscious act, a perceived imposition that we can affirm, reject or mess around with. Hence the most problematic aspect of the OED’s definition of cisgender is the use of the phrase ‘assigned at birth’. It suggests that doctors, midwives and registrars do not simply record a biological fact when they say what sex a newborn baby is; rather, they are forcing us into a gender box that we are duty-bound to embrace, reject or reformulate.