What is the difference between Sex and Gender?

August 13 | Posted by Heather | Trans Q and A

The word sex has multiple definitions in our society. It refers to the act of intercourse, and also to a classification of individuals as either Male or Female. At birth, infants are assigned a sex most often based on the configuration of the visible parts of their reproductive organs. When a child’s genitals are ambiguous the individual is intersex, however most medical and identity documents do not allow for a third option, and so intersex people are often arbitrarily assigned one of the two available options. Due to a number of medical and genetic disorders it cannot be assumed that someone identified as Male on their birth certificate will have one X and one Y chromosome, or that someone identified as female will have two X chromosomes.

The word gender has long been used interchangeably with the word sex because, for most people, their sex and gender are the same; either both male, or both female. In discussions about transgender / transsexual issues however, gender is most often used in the anthropological sense, where gender refers to culturally defined aspects of our personality in relation the social expectations associated with one sex or the other. This includes the way we think, approach a given situation, dress, and portray ourselves to the world.

Gender is not limited to only male or female. Some people see themselves as a melding of both genders, or as matching neither gender. The descriptions of such people also vary by culture, but some common examples are Two-Spirited (Aboriginal American), Gender Queer, Androgynous, Hijra (South Asia) and Transgender. There are also numerous offensive and often inaccurate terms which should not be used. These include He-She, Lady-Boy, Transvestite, and in most cases Tranny.