The Difference Between Sex, Sexuality, And Gender


Definitions are important, but it is important to note that they are always changing. They are ways in which we are able to make distinctions and come to understand essential issues and ideas. In honor of the approaching Pride season, let’s break down some vital concepts that you might be hearing or reading about on social media. It’s important to know the difference between sex, sexuality, and gender in order to respect the spectrum of genders and sexualities present in our community. You might be confused, but worry not, we’re here to explain it to you.

1. Sex

Sex is basically defined by the sex organ you were born with. It’s that thing on your birth certificate that you may or may not identify with. There is a difference between sex and gender. Sex does not define your gender and is only an indicator of the male or female sex organ that assigns you this categorization. Sex refers to differences in genitalia and sex or hormone differences between classified males and classified females. Sex is a binary, while gender and sexuality are not.

The Difference Between Sex, Sexuality, and Gender

2. Gender

Gender is a fluid spectrum of identity. You are not born with a gender, but you can accept your assigned gender you get when you’re born. This is called being cisgender. For example, I am cisgender, meaning I was identified as a baby girl at birth because of my sex organs and hormones, and I still identify with she/her pronouns.

The Difference Between Sex, Sexuality, and Gender

Outside the Binary

Many people do not identify with the gender they are assigned at birth and choose to transition to another gender or a gender outside the male/female binary. Many people are gender-non-conforming (GNC), two-spirit, or non-binary. These fall under the umbrella of transgender or trans, which means not identifying with the gender you were assigned with. There are also genderqueer people, who do not express or identify their gender within the binary. Not everyone who identifies as genderqueer identifies as trans or nonbinary.

Queerness

The aforementioned folks fall under a larger umbrella of queerness. Being queer means you are not cisgender and/or not heterosexual. It is important to note that “queer” is a slur, but has now been reclaimed by many folks in the LGBTQ2S+ community to explain identity. It’s important to know that gender is a social construct and it has been historically constructed as a boy/girl and man/woman binary. This is not conducive to the many gender identities that actually exist and are valid ways of being a human.

The Difference Between Sex, Sexuality, and Gender

Representations of Gender and Pronouns

Gender presentation is a large aspect of identity. Most people try to express their gender identity through their clothing. For example, girls traditionally wore dresses, and boys wore slacks. However, fashion today has been deconstructed to align only with the likes and dislikes of people with varying identities. You should never assume someone’s sexuality or gender identity based on their clothes or physical appearance. It is important to ask and offer your pronouns. Pronouns are they/them, ze/zine, she/her, he/him, and more. Sometimes there is a difference between how you may perceive someone based on their appearance and what they actually identify as.

Think about how you would feel if someone called you by a different name or addressed you as a different gender than you are. Respecting pronouns means that you do not pass judgment, deny, or invalidate someone’s gender. It means that you use their pronouns and the name they want to be called. There are many different ways someone might identify; be open to learning about trans and genderqueer folks and their experience.

The Difference Between Sex, Sexuality, and Gender

3. Sexuality

Sexuality refers to the way that people process and express themselves and express themselves to others sexually. There is no one definition of sexuality, but generally, it is an indication of a person’s sexual orientation or way of being attracted to one or more potential formal or informal partners. This connection can include biological, erotic, physical, emotional, social, or spiritual feelings and behaviors. There are many different sexual orientations a person may have. Throughout history, heterosexuality (a man/woman romance) has been considered the norm. Homosexuality, bisexuality, pansexuality, asexuality and other sexualities have often been overlooked. Gender or sex does not indicate or dictate a person’s sexual orientation.

The Difference Between Sex, Sexuality, and Gender

Whether you are queer, an ally, or questioning your identity, it is important to know that you are valid. I hope you learned a bit today about the difference between sex, sexuality, and gender. If you need further resources here are some below:

Did this answer your questions about the difference between sex, gender, and sexuality? Something else you want us to know? Leave a comment below and share this post with friends.

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