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« What is gender after all? It seems to be something so fundamental for our current society that even pronouns are sorted by these criteria. And yet, I realized that despite that, and despite being queer, I didn't have a much better explanation than "It's a social construct and perhaps also some other things." »
Nathan, 21 (male)[1]

Gender is a term that encompasses various human traits that, in a given society, are traditionally grouped together.[2] These traits can include learned behaviors and roles, biological traits (as understood by society), appearance, and more.[3] In Western societies, this notion traditionally corresponds to the binary sexes, man and woman, though this is not always the case.[4] Many non-Western cultures have traditional genders besides male and female, and there is a growing number of people, including in Western society, who identify as nonbinary or genderqueer.

Gender identity refers specifically to the internal sense of one's gender.[5] People who identify with their assigned gender at birth (AGAB) are referred to as cisgender; those who do not are referred to as transgender. People who identify as the other binary gender than what they were assigned at birth are sometimes called binary transgender; those who identify as something else are called nonbinary or genderqueer.[6]

While the concepts of gender and sex are related, they are not the same. However, sex, understood as the system to organize certain biological traits (rather than the traits themselves) is also a social construct and a spectrum. While the traits themselves (such as chromosomes or hormones) are biological facts, how they are classified into distinct groups is a social construct.[7] People who don't fit either category of sex may be called intersex, but the word refers to sex only, not to gender.[8]

History of the term[edit | edit source]

Etymologically speaking, "gender" derives from Old French gendre (in turn deriving from the Latin genus) and used to mean "class or kind of persons or things sharing certain traits". In the 15th century it began to be used as a synonym for sex until the 20th century, when it began to adopt its current meaning.[9] Before then, although gender variance existed around the world, the abstract concept of gender itself didn't exist and was mostly associated with the grammar of certain languages.[10]

In 1945, psychologist Madison Bentley defined gender in Sanity and Hazard in Childhood as the "socialized obverse of sex",[11] and Simone de Beauvoir's 1949 book The Second Sex is often seen as the beginning of the distinction between the terms gender and sex.[12] In current times, gender and sex are frequently used interchangeably, although preserving the distinction is useful, especially for educational purposes.

Relationship between sex and gender[edit | edit source]

« Gender is an evolution. Only in death and in objectification is it ever completely resolved. »
Anonymous, 26 (Genderfluid)[1]

Gender is generally assigned at birth based on the infant's genitalia. Infants with penises are assigned male and infants with vulvae are assigned female. Intersex infants with ambiguous genitalia are often subjected to surgery meant to give them the appearance of a dyadic (non-intersex) person. Then they are assigned a gender accordingly.[13]

The majority of people identify with their AGAB, but some do not. In Western society, this makes one transgender. In other cultures, specific gender identities besides male and female are available based on the person's AGAB, their relations to people of other genders, and other factors.[13] Some intersex people identify as intergender, a nonbinary identity that is tied to one's intersex status.

Transgender people often experience dysphoria, a dissatisfaction with or disconnect from things associated with their AGAB. This includes (but is not limited to) desires to have different sex characteristics. It is unclear how much of these desires are due to the conflation of sex and gender in society, and how much is inborn. The treatment for physical dysphoria is physical transition. Transition for trans women often involves hormone therapy with androgen blockers, estrogen, and/or progesterone;[14] voice training; facial reconstruction surgery; vaginoplasty; and/or hair removal techniques. Transition for trans men often involves hormone therapy with testosterone; top surgery (breast removal); and/or phalloplasty. Transgender children sometimes go on puberty blockers until they decide whether to undergo hormone therapy, to avoid going through undesirable physical changes during puberty.[15] Not all trans people choose to undergo all or any of these treatments, and nonbinary people may also undergo any number of these treatments. Some trans people choose to physically transition despite having no physical dysphoria in order to be socially recognized as the gender they are. This includes acknowledgement from friends, family, coworkers, and strangers, as well as legal documentation.[16]

Gender identity[edit | edit source]

Main article: Gender identity

Gender identity is the internal sense of one's own gender, regardless of physical characteristics, appearance, behaviour or sexual orientation.[5] People who identify with the gender they were assigned at birth are cisgender, while people whose gender identity differ from their assigned gender are transgender or nonbinary.[note 1]

Gender expression[edit | edit source]

Main article: Gender expression

Gender expression refers outwardly visible traits that are related to one's gender identity. This includes pronouns, clothes, hairstyle, movements, inflection, speech patterns, and more. People's gender expression generally functions to communicate that person's gender to others via similarities to other people of the same gender, but there are exceptions.[17] People whose gender expression differs from what is expected given their gender are called gender nonconforming. Sometimes transgender people have gender expressions similar to people of their AGAB because it is how they grew up presenting, and sometimes transgender people are closeted, and have a gender expression that specifically does not convey their gender to others. Many people simply enjoy playing with gender norms.

Gender roles[edit | edit source]

Main article: Gender roles

Gender roles refer to the way society expects people with a certain gender to behave. For example, in the traditional Western binary system, men are expected to be strong and avoid showing their feelings in public while women are expected to be soft and kind. Gender roles don't define one's gender identity, which means that, for instance, somebody can identify as a woman but behave according to the masculine gender roles and vice versa.

See also[edit | edit source]

See also a blog post about this topic on our Tumblr.

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. While generally a nonbinary person is transgender by definition, some nonbinary people prefer to avoid the transgender label for themselves.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 This quote is a snippet from an answer to the survey conducted in the year 2018. Note for editors: the text of the quote, as well as the name, age and gender identity of its author shouldn't be changed.
  2. "Gender and health". World Health Organization. Archived from the original on 17 July 2023.
  3. "What is Gender?". The Gender Dysphoria Bible. Archived from the original on 17 July 2023.
  4. Archived on 17 July 2023
  5. 5.0 5.1 Morrow DF (2006). "Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Expression.". In Morrow DF, Messinger L (eds.). Sexual orientation and gender expression in social work practice: working with gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. New York: Columbia University Press. pp. 3–17 (8). ISBN 978-0-231-50186-6. Archived from the original on 19 December 2021. Retrieved 19 December 2021. Gender identity refers to an individual's personal sense of identity as masculine or feminine, or some combination thereof.
  6. Reisner, Sari L.; Hughto, Jaclyn M. W. (27 August 2019). Shiu, Cheng-Shi (ed.). "Comparing the health of non-binary and binary transgender adults in a statewide non-probability sample". PLoS One. 14 (8). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0221583. PMID 31454395. Archived from the original on 17 July 2023. Non-binary-identified transgender people may have different sociodemographic characteristics than binary transgender people (e.g., those who identify with a binary gender such as transgender men or transgender women).
  7. Marston, Cicely (16 March 2020). "Sex is biological and gender is social – right?". LSHTM. Archived from the original on 17 July 2023. Retrieved 26 June 2023.
  8. "Intersex people". OHCHR. Archived from the original on 17 July 2023. Retrieved 26 June 2023.
  9. Harper, Douglas. "gender (n.)". Etymonline. Archived from the original on 17 July 2023. Retrieved 28 June 2023.
  10. Holmes, Brooke (2012). "Introduction". Gender: Antiquity and its Legacy. Oxford University Press. pp. 1–2. ISBN 978-0195380828. For as it turns out, what we call gender is a fairly recent concept. It's not that people in Ancient Greece and Rome didn't talk and think and argue about the categories of male and female, masculine and feminine and the nature and extent of sexual difference. They did in [ways] both similar to and very different from our own. The problem is that they didn't have the concept of gender that has grown so influential in the humanities and the social sciences over the past four decades.
  11. Bentley, Madison (April 1945). "Sanity and Hazard in Childhood". The American Journal of Psychology. 58 (2): 212–246. doi:10.2307/1417846. ISSN 0002-9556. JSTOR 1417846. Archived from the original on 17 July 2023. Retrieved 17 August 2021.
  12. Witt, Charlotte E. (2011). Feminist metaphysics: explorations in the ontology of sex, gender and identity. Springer. p. 48. ISBN 978-90-481-3782-4. OCLC 780208834. Archived from the original on 17 February 2022. Retrieved 6 September 2021.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Archived on 17 July 2023
  14. Archived on 17 July 2023
  15. Archived on 17 July 2023
  16. Archived on 17 July 2023
  17. Archived on 17 July 2023