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How Can You Differentiate Between Gender and Sex

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Have you ever noticed someone whose physical appearance seems like a specific gender, but you get vibes of the opposite Gender from that person? The question arises in our mind that why this is so…?

Most of us and the generation before us believe that there are only two genders, male and female, and they have the sexuality of masculinity and femininity, respectively. But with the passage of time, the world understands the complexity of this topic.

With the emergence of a clear definition of genderqueer or non-binary and gender non-conforming persons, the line between Gender and sex becomes more clear.

In this article, you can get the chance to understand the difference between gender, sex, and sexuality.

What is Gender?

Society has taught us the basic definition of Gender, which has a clear cut either/or categories. That a person is either a male or a female. Society identifies people who are born as males are males, and those who are females at the time of birth are females. This is the binary concept of genders. But the reality is something different.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines Gender as: “Gender refers to the socially constructed characteristics of women and men, such as norms, roles, and relationships of and between groups of women and men. It varies from society to society and can be changed.”

Gender is not an either/or situation. Rather it is a spectrum. That means there are not only two possibilities, but there is a wide range of probabilities between and beyond these two genders.

Gender is the role of any person according to culture or society. While ignoring genetics, people often accept their Gender and gender roles according to their society, environment, family, and education.

Apart from roles according to genders, society and culture also influence the physical appearance of the person according to the Gender assigned at the time of birth, like the dressing, hairstyle, etc.

The newer umbrella-like term genderqueer for non-binary is used now that covers the people whose identity does not match with either man or woman. These people are free from the binary discrimination as male or female.

There is another term in this spectrum of Gender- Bigender that covers people who identify themselves as both male and females at varying points. In addition to this, another term A-gender is used for those who do not identify with any gender.

Different cultures named these groups of people in their societies with different names. In South Asia, they are termed as Hijra, and in Indigenous America, they are known as Two-spirit folks.

Gender responsibilities vary among males and females according to society, culture, religion, civilizations, and countries.

These roles and responsivities are showing a shift towards each other’s roles like many women are adopting the roles that were traditionally linked with the males, and on the other hand, many males are playing the roles previously adopted by the females.

What is sex?

It refers to the physical, biological, and chemical makeup of any human. The person’s sex is differentiated on the basis of differences in chromosomes, genes, internal and external sexual organs, and hormonal profiles.

Some people believe sex is determined by the genitals of the person. Like the males have penis and females have a vagina. But this belief is not true for people with a difference of sexual disorder (DSD). Because these people have not properly developed genitals. Adults having DSD are usually known as intersex.

Chromosomes are also believed to determine your sex. XX chromosome combination determines females and XY as males. But in the case of trans-genders, it is not necessary that this chromosomal combination determines the sex identity. Trans people don’t match with their sex; like a transgender man can be a male with XX chromosomes.

Similarly, hormones also control the physical characters and appearance of the person. Usually, estrogen is linked with females, and testosterone is with males. But keep in mind that every person has both types of hormones at the same time. But the predominance of any specific hormone exhibit the specific characters in any person i-e predominance of testosterone shows features of males and predominance of estrogen exhibit female characters.

What is gender identity?

Gender identity is how you like to identify yourself to express your sexuality. Cis-people like to adopt the Gender that is given to them at the time of their birth, and that is related to their physical experience.

But non-binary people are the opposite of this.

What is sexuality?

The sexuality of a person is the way people express themselves sexually. This includes biological, erotic, physical, emotional, social, or spiritual feelings and behaviors.

Sexuality is related to your interest, how you experience sexual and romantic attraction, and your preferences around sexual relationships and behavior. 

According to the sexuality of an individual, he or she can be categorized into different groups like heterosexual, bisexual, gays, lesbians, Asexual, etc. 

It is normal to question your sexuality and identify your sexual orientation. If you are still confused about your sexuality, and you are facing some mental issues due to this, you can consult a Psychologist for that.

As this gender identity and sexuality is fluid and can be changed at any stage of life, you should be well-aware of it.

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Noman Imam
Noman Imam, Ph.D., is a psychologist and expert in relationships. He possesses expertise in gender identity problems, psychology, and sexual challenges within relationships, couple issues, social anxiety disorders, and depression.

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