Understanding Sex and Gender Identity


What Are the Differences Between Sex and Gender?

There’s more to being female, male, or any gender. There`s usually a biological or assigned sex, however, that`s not all to it. It’s common to find people misunderstand sex, gender, and gender identity. What are the differences though? Let`s take a look. Sex is a label that you’re assigned at birth based, and it is determined by the genitals you’re born with. Gender is more complex; it’s a social status that comes with some societal expectations about behaviors, characteristics, and thought patterns. Each culture has standards for gender-based behavior. Gender identity, on the other hand, is how you express your gender through behavior, clothing, and personal appearance.

What Is Intersex?

Intersex is a general term used for a variety of situations in which a person is born with reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn`t exactly fit the female or male sex. There can be surgeries to make intersex babies and children fit into either of the binary ideas of male or female. Being intersex is a naturally occurring variation in humans, and isn’t necessarily a medical problem. This is why hormone therapy is sometimes required. There are no exact figures to show how many people are intersex, however, there are estimates that about 2 in every 100 people born in the U.S. are intersex.

There are various ways a person can be intersex. Some intersex people have genitals or internal sex organs that are neither female nor male. Some of these people may have both ovarian and testicular tissues. Some other intersex people may have combinations of chromosomes that are neither XY (associated with males) nor XX (associated with females). Some are born with external genitals that fall into the typical male/female categories, however, their internal organs or hormones don’t. The intersex condition can also be so subtle that someone might not know they fall in the category until they reach puberty. Some people even live their entire lives without ever discovering that they’re intersex.

There are growing activism actions by and for intersex people. More people believe that intersex babies should not undergo surgery and other medical interventions until they can decide their sex for themselves when they’re older.

Supporting a child who’s intersex is vital. Show them love and find some support from other parents with intersex children.

What Is Transgender?

The term, “transgender,” encompasses a diversity of gender identities and expressions that don`t fall in the traditional classification of two genders — male or female, referred to as gender binary. Transgender people also include those who have a gender identity that is different from their birth-assigned sex. Their gender expression as communicated through clothing, mannerisms, behavior, and interests don’t align with stereotypical societal norms for their assigned sex. Transgender people seek to express their gender fluidly outside of the gender binary, without restrictions and criticism. Some even go further to undergo hormonal or surgical procedures.

What Are Gender Roles?

Gender roles describe how people are expected to speak, act, groom, dress, and conduct themselves based on stereotypes attached to their assigned sex. For instance, girls and women are expected to dress in ways described as feminine; they`re also expected to be accommodating, polite, and nurturing. Men are expected to be bold, strong, and aggressive. Every society has its gender role expectations, and this differs from group to group. They also evolve over time, even within societies.

How Do Gender Stereotypes Affect People?

ladyA stereotype is a generally accepted bias about a person or group, and may not always be accurate. Also called sexism, stereotypes about gender can cause unequal and unfair treatment.

Types of Gender Stereotypes

Personality Traits

There are personality traits expected of each gender. For example, women are often expected to be emotional and accommodating, while men are expected to be self-confident and aggressive.

Domestic Behaviors

Societies expect that women will cook, take care of the children, and clean the home, while men do the home repairs and take care of finances.

Occupational Behaviors

There are assumptions that women should be teachers and nurses, while men should be doctors, pilots, and engineers.

Physical Appearance

While women are expected to be thin and graceful, men are expected to be tall and muscular. Men and women are also expected to dress and groom in ways that are stereotypical to their gender: while men wear pants and have short hairstyles, women wear dresses and have some make-up.

Hyperfemininity and Hypermasculinity

Hyperfemininity is a term used to describe the exaggeration of stereotyped feminine behavior. Hyperfeminine people may appear overly naive, passive, sexually inexperienced, flirtatious, soft, graceful, accepting, and nurturing. Hypermasculinity, on the other hand, is the exaggeration of stereotyped masculine behavior. Such people tend to compete with other men, dominate females, become overly aggressive, try to be sexually experienced, may be insensitive, physically imposing, demanding, and ambitious. Hypermasculine people are more likely to be physically and emotionally abusive against their female partners, while hyperfeminine people are more likely to endure physical and emotional abuse from their male partners.

Extreme gender stereotypes hinder people from expressing themselves and their emotions. Men, for example, believe they should not cry or express sensitive emotions, while women believe they should not be independent and assertive. These can be harmful to people’s personalities and overall societal progress.

How to Challenge Gender Stereotypes

Gender stereotypes are all around us. A number of us have experienced sexism and some other forms of gender discrimination. Wondering how to challenge these stereotypes? Let`s talk about it.

Point it out

There are negative gender stereotypes all over the media. Comment on them openly whenever you can, and discuss them with friends and family members. This way, you help reveal the subtle gender suggestions the media throws at its audience, and also enable people to understand how sexism and gender stereotypes can be harmful.

Be a Role Model

There`s no better way to challenge gender stereotypes than by living what you preach. Respect people notwithstanding their gender identity, and create a safe space for people to express themselves, regardless of what society’s gender stereotypes and expectations are. This way, people will spot the difference in you and some will emulate you.

Dare to Be Different

transgender manIn addition to pointing out stereotypes and leading by example, you should also be free to violate stereotypes by expressing yourself freely. Don`t give in to the gender restrictions that seem to control your society. So if you`re female and want to drive a truck, do so. If you`re male and want to be a nurse, feel free to do so without fear of criticism.

If you’ve been struggling with gender identity and expectations, rest assured that you’re not alone, and there is support available for you. Speak with a trusted parent, family member, friend, teacher, counselor, or therapist.

Some Mindblowing Gender Facts

  • Sex reassignment procedures can cost between $5,000 and $50,000, while some even cost as high as $100,000.
  • LGBT youth are 2 to 3 times more likely to attempt suicide.
  • Gay men are at higher risk of HIV and other STDs.
  • Lesbians and bisexual females are more likely to be overweight or obese.
  • Transgender individuals are more vulnerable to HIV/STDs, victimization, mental health issues, and suicide. They are also less likely to have health insurance than heterosexual individuals.
  • There are over 1.5 million transgender people in the United States.
  • About 50% of transgender people have reported a family breakdown due to their transition.