We have always identified people in two categories; male and female. But with the increased visibility of transgender individuals and people who simply do not conform to the notion of gender, many people are beginning to understand that the categories of sex and gender are far more complicated.
What exactly is sex? Typically we have always understood sex as either female or male but some people are intersex, or have a difference of sexual development (DSD). DSD is used to describe chromosomes, anatomy or sex characteristics that cannot be categorized as exclusively male or female.
Genitalia: Some believe genitals determine sex, with males having penises and females having vaginas. However, this definition excludes some people with a DSD.
Chromosomes :People with XX chromosomes are female and people with XY chromosomes are male. This broad compartmentalization excludes individuals with a DSD, who may have different chromosomal configurations or other differences in sexual development.
Primary sex characteristics: We tend to associate a predominance of estrogens with females and a predominance of testosterone with males. It's important to understand that every person has both of these hormones.
Secondary sex characteristics: Many secondary sex characteristics are easily identifiable. This includes facial hair, breast tissue and vocal range. And these secondary sex characteristics are often used to make quick assessments about sex.
What is gender?
Gender isn't an either/or scenario. It's a spectrum. Many non-Western cultures have a long history of welcoming third-gender, non-gendered and transgender people in society. This includes the Two-Spirit folks from Indigenous American cultures and Hijras in South Asian cultures.
What's the relationship between gender and sex?
Although we now know and understand that a person's gender is independent of their sexual orientation, the language distinguishing between sex, gender and sexual orientation has to be learned in order to be used.People often like to separate gender and sex by saying things like "gender is in the brain" and "sex is in the pants." Although accepting someone in their correct gender is a good first step, beliefs like these can actually be harmful to the Trans people.
What is gender identity?
Gender identity is your own personal understanding of your gender and how you want the world to see you.
What is gender expression?
We all have something known as gender expression. Many people associate women with having a feminine gender expression and men with having a masculine gender expression. But as with gender identity, gender expression is a spectrum. Femininity and masculinity may be the bookmarks, but there are countless points in between.
Gender is different than sexual orientation. Sexual orientation has very little to do with your gender identity. It's solely about who you're attracted to. People of all gender identities may qualify as straight or as somewhere on the LGBQ+ spectrum.
It may be true that people who are gay, lesbian, queer, or bisexual are also gender non-conforming, but there's no direct correlation.Although there are thriving butch and femme cultures in queer communities, the gender identity and expression of butch or femme individuals is about their gender and not who they are attracted to.
Before the term "transgender" gained momentum in the 1970s, many people had to make sense of their gender identity through the only concept that was available: sexual orientation.