People often misinterpret the terms sex and gender as synonyms. Directly or indirectly, our society is to be blamed for this. It’s not a hidden fact that most of us grew up in a society or an environment where we were simply taught that, there are two sexes namely male and female and they align with two genders that’s man or woman.
But in reality, these two terms are totally different and far more complex than our simple and straight ideas.
Let’s try to understand the difference between sex and gender by looking at the statements provided by WHO and GLAAD –
What is sex according to the World Health Organization (WHO)?
Sex refers to “the biological characteristics that define humans as female or male. While these sets of biological characteristics are not mutually exclusive, as there are individuals who possess both, they tend to differentiate humans as males and females.”
What is sex according to, the Gay and lesbian alliance against defamation (GLAAD)?
Sex is “the classification of people as male or female” at birth, based on bodily characteristics such as chromosomes, hormones, internal organs and genitalia.
What is gender according to WHO?
Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women and that masculine and feminine are gender categories.
What is gender according to GLAAD?
Gender identity is your own internal, personal sense of being a man or a woman.
I hope you must have understood the basics of sex and gender. There are few more terms, which we should be aware of to understand the difference between sex and gender more deeply.
Gender role – A society’s expectations of peoples behaviour and attitude based on their sex assigned at birth, male or female. For example, girls are expected to be polite, nurturing, cooperative and helpful meanwhile boys are expected to be strong, aggressive and dominant.
Gender expression – This is how people like to express or show their gender to others through clothing, behaviour or how they like to be called.
We all know that everyone is assigned sex, by the doctor, based on the genitalia they are born with. But the sex, written on the birth- certificate may not always tell persons actual story.
Many times peoples self-perception may not align with their assigned sex, such people are referred to as Transgender. Transgender is used as a blanket term for individuals whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. While many individuals opt for medically prescribed hormones and/or surgery to align their physical attributes with their gender identity it is not always chosen by people. Transgender identity is not dependent on physical appearances or medical procedures.
How people like to express themselves, how they feel inside or how they feel towards anyone has nothing to do with their “sex”.
Our society, in general, is very disdainful or unaccepting of people, whose gender expression doesn’t line up with their biology. Gender is so deeply ingrained in our society that, if a boy likes the colour pink or likes to play with dolls or likes to do makeup, then people in society automatically label him as effeminate and gay.
You must have heard one of the popular sayings in our society, ” boys don’t cry “. I think this statement is just so illogical, I mean an individual’s feelings have nothing to do with his/her/their sex and gender. Even animals cry when they are in pain, so what’s wrong with a boy or man crying. In a nutshell, nobody is born with a gender, it’s what society makes based on one’s genitalia and their so-called expectations and norms.
It is important to be aware of these terms and understand their meanings because it not only allows us humans to be more sensitive and understanding of people around us but also helps us understand ourselves.
People often use the terms sex and gender interchangeably. But in reality, sex and gender are like two sides of the same coin. They are different from each other which people often fail to understand. Sex is like a tag given to us based on the genitalia we are born with. On another hand, gender is what we feel inside us or how we identify ourselves.
A person’s assigned sex has nothing to do with their gender because nobody is born with a gender, it’s a sense we develop while growing up in society. Every human being on the planet has the right to be true to themselves and live their life as who they are. Every time we chose to overlook a hateful comment or give in to the typical societal ideals, we make life that much more difficult and isolating for transgender people. It is our duty to educate ourselves on these topics and push society to eventually become accepting of all human beings.