Words can have a powerful effect on how a person can understand or accept an idea. When I first started learning about transgender concepts and terms, I cringed at the use of cis and trans because my first thoughts were of isomers and that just brought back bad memories of organic chemistry. How can gender be described in such cold terms?
As I started to accept my trans* identity more and started down the path of physical transitioning, I became afraid that in transitioning I would lose my sense of self, that I would lose the identity that has built up in the years of my life. I feared that my past life was false and that I would not know the person at the other end of transitioning, and I walked a path of self destruction and grasped for a way out of that. Of course, I turn to science for comfort, and I saw cis-/trans- as a powerful metaphor for my incorporating my trans* identity into the rest of me.
Isomers have the same molecular formula but differ in how they are arranged in 3D space, where the bonds are rotated to form the more stable molecule. I needed to see that I was still the same person, that all the parts that made “me” are still there and genuine. Gender transitioning is just my rearranging things to move into a more stable sense of self.