By Rainn Meyer
We all know that sex and gender are similar but are they the same thing?
Let’s look at the definition of sex on Google: “either of the two main categories (male and female) into which humans and most other living things are divided on the basis of their reproductive functions.”
Now let’s do the same for gender: “either of the two sexes (male and female), especially when considered with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones. The term is also used more broadly to denote a range of identities that do not correspond to established ideas of male and female.”
Now that we have the definition of both, I’m going to break it down to something a bit more manageable.
Sex is biological, meaning your genitalia or your chromosomes; XX being female and XY being male. Some individuals are born with XO, XXX, XXY, and XYY (there very well could be more, this is just what I saw).
This is called being intersex, these people are born with both male and female traits. Of course I only touched the surface of intersex genetics, but you can find many informational articles about it online if that topic interests you.
Now onto gender.
Gender is unbelievably complex, and it is very difficult to explain it in full detail. But I will try to explain it to the best of my ability.
The common belief is that there are only two genders. But really this is untrue, these people get gender mixed up with sex, and even then as you saw in the paragraph above there are three sexes (in a way).
Gender is actually made up! Or otherwise a social construct. Gender comes from the Latin word “genus.” meaning according to Google:
“(In philosophical and general use) a class of things that have common characteristics and that can be divided into subordinate kinds.”
So essentially, a category or norm.
Historians are led to believe that gender norms or roles come from the biological differences between men and women. If you don’t know what a gender role or norm is, it is essentially the socially acceptable way for men and women to act. For example, men in society are supposed to act tough, hard-working, and emotionless. And women are supposed to stay at home, enjoy makeup and dresses, and be emotional. Of course not many people follow these rules anymore in 2021, but there are some who still follow these roles.
Gender is how you WANT to identify yourself, another example being how I am biologically female. Meaning my chromosomes are XX. My SEX is female, but my GENDER is male. I’m a trans-FTM (female to male) man. I feel discomfort in my own body, so I present myself as more masculine to fit in with male gender roles.
So to answer the question that we started with.
Is there a difference between sex and gender?
Yes, there is! Now, I am no expert on biology. But research can really help those who are struggling to understand sex and gender.
Rainn Meyer is a student at Grand Meadow High School. Rainn is one of 14 area students participating in the Journal Writing Project, now in its 23rd year.