A (very) basic introduction
Have you ever wondered about the difference between sex and gender? They’re two very different things, but people often get them mixed up or find them confusing. Here’s our easy-to-understand introduction to this complex question.
What is Sex?
For once, we’re not talking about intercourse – you can find lots of information about that here. When you were born, a doctor or a nurse will have assigned you a “sex” by examining which biological reproductive organs you have, what sex chromosomes you have inside your body, or even by measuring your hormone levels. These sexes are:
Male – The sex assigned to a boy or man who produces sperm cells via the penis. They have an XY sex chromosome, and often have higher levels of the testosterone hormone.
Female – The sex assigned to a girl or woman who produces egg cells via the ovaries, which make up part of the female reproductive system. They have breasts, an XX sex chromosome and often have higher levels of the estrogen hormone.
Intersex – A term used to describe someone who is born with a variety of, or neither, internal and external sexual reproductive organs. They have a XXY sex chromosome and have more balanced estrogen and testosterone hormone levels.
What is Gender?
Once you’ve been assigned your sex at birth, everything from the clothes you wear, to the hair on your head, the way you behave, and the activities you engage in, will all play a part in shaping the gender you identify as.
It’s very important to remember that your gender is not the same as your sex. Gender is personally unique to you, and is not determined by your reproductive organs. Everyone has a gender, but some of us are socially conditioned into identifying as a gender without even knowing it.
What are the different types of Gender?
There are a variety of terms that people use to identify their gender, which include:
Cisgender – Cisgender is a term used to describe someone whose sex they were given at birth matches the gender they identify themselves as. For example; I was assigned the sex of male, I was born with a penis, and I identify as a male. Therefore, I am CisGender.
Transgender – Transgender (or trans for short) is a term used to address someone whose gender identity is different from the sex they were assigned to at birth. For example; I was assigned the sex female at birth, I have a vagina and breasts, but I identify as a male. Therefore, I am Transgender.
Genderqueer – Is a term used which address someone who identifies themselves as a gender that falls outside of the “male” or “female” restrictions. For example; I was assigned the sex of male at birth, I have a penis, but I identify myself as both male and female. Therefore I am GenderQueer. However, other Genderqueer people may choose to identify themselves as having no gender at all.
Gender is not just about being one way or the other – it’s a very complex spectrum. So, while we hope this post has helped clear a few things up, don’t worry if you’re still feeling confused.
You can find out much more about different gender terms on the Brook website, and we will have more detailed articles about gender coming soon. And remember, the most important thing when talking about sex and gender is to always be respectful of a person’s personal gender identity.