Sex vs. Gender: Understanding The Difference

Society invents ways of expressing ideas. These are called a social constructs. Most of the time, they are used to simplify an otherwise complex concept. They are not always used with malicious intent. Regardless, this can cause more harm than good.

Gender Reveal Cake by SocialThoughts

Sex refers to genitalia. This is how expecting parents determine the sex of their unborn children. Gender Reveal Parties are popular, today. Rather than merely throw a baby shower, the parent(s) and guests are informed of the unborn baby’s anatomy. This can include surprises, such as a cake that’s cut open to show either a blue or pink center. Likewise, it could be a box of balloons released, all blue or pink in color.

Sex

  • Anatomy
  • Biology
  • Hormones

Terms

  • Male
  • Female
  • Intersex

Cisgender refers to those who identify with their anatomy in the binary sense: Someone with a penis calling themselves a boy or man; someone with a vagina labeling themselves a girl or woman.

Cisgender Associations:

  • Blue for boys
  • Pink for girls
  • Breadwinner = male
  • Caregiver = female

The Trans Community

Most people use the terms “man/woman” and “male/female” interchangeably; however, this is not an accurate representation of sex and gender. While the majority of kids are likely to identify as cisgender, some will not. For example, a transwoman is not a man; but if they’re pre-op, they could still be considered male. This automatic association is part of the gender binary of male vs. female.

Of course, not all transpeople use a distinction between gender and sex. Many transpeople call themselves male or female, according to their identity, regardless of their body.

Non-Binary

Another way to identify, which breaks the male/female binary are those who call themselves “non-binary.” Non-binary is an umbrella term that means exactly as it sounds: Gender with neither, both, or its own concepts outside the binary. Some people specify their non-binary gender, while others simply go by “non-binary.”

There are many terms for this category of gender identity. Here are a few:

  • Agender: Lacking gender
  • Androgynous: Physically appearing as neither entirely masculine nor feminine
  • Genderfluid: Free-flowing within all types of gender
  • Genderfuck: Combining masculine and feminine appearance to the degree that it purposely causes society to question gender itself.

Thoughts from a NB:

As a self-identified non-binary person, I used to find the idea of a gender reveal party to be enraging, as it restricts the gender options for the child in question. Many other NB people feel passionately against any gender implication about such a young person. The most extreme feel that children shouldn’t be given any items that define gender, be it toys or clothes.

Over the years, I have realized that it’s not oppressive to assume that a baby will connect with its own body in a way that follows the binary. The only problem if the child does eventually state that they cannot identify with the binary, that the parent(s) then reject their own child.

Yes, there are good points made about keeping a growing baby within genderless boundaries, but I no longer believe that it is harmful not to. Clearly, even though I was brought up with the assumption that I would always consider myself a “girl,” my gender fought and won in the end.

A strict binary code is not typically pushed on kids. They may have mostly masculine or feminine toys, clothes, and such, but most items do not limit kids as much as some argue. Even many colors are or have become genderless: Green, light blue, cream, brown, black, gray, and so on.

I hope that LGBT and advocates will continue to redefine gender definitions; however, I don’t think that fighting everything to remain outside the gender norms is the answer; otherwise, we’re fighting fire with fire. Politely questioning someone’s rigid gender beliefs, perhaps in relation to their own and even the issues within the binary, would be more likely to help shift the focus for everyone to free themselves from living within the binary.

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