Difference between sex and gender

By Kasie Von Haden

Lumen Editor

I recently completed an assign­ment in which I had to go to Oak Grove Cemetery and find informa­tion about those who were buried there, including the month and year of both birth and death. I also had to include their gender.

How was I supposed to know? They’re dead. You’re probably thinking how easy that part of the assignment was. All I had to do was look at the name to answer the ques­tion.

But it’s trickier than that. I could only assume the teacher made the same mistake many people do and confused “gender” for “sex.”

For some people, the questions of “what’s your sex” and “what’s your gender” are one in the same. For others, these questions reflect the difficulties in identity. In reality, “sex” and “gender” are quite dif­ferent concepts, and it’s about time people start understanding the dif­ference.

Sex is biological. Gender is a con­struction.

A person’s sex is based on sexual reproductive organs he or she has at birth. If a baby is born with a penis and testicles, it’s a boy; if with a va­gina, it’s a girl. Boys and girls grow up to be men and women.

A person’s gender involves how he or she thinks about himself or herself in his or her head and heart. It’s how people feel; they can be male, female, or in some cases, com­binations of both.

I can’t help but become frustrated when “sex” and “gender” are used interchangeably because they re­ally are not synonymous. Yes, they might be closely related, but they are definitely not the same.

Like my teacher had confused the two words, I also have come across this confusion on applications and other forms I have to fill out. Some, not all, forms ask me for my gender. Male? Female?

For me it’s easy to check a box. But, for others, it’s not always that simple. The distinction, though min­ute, is often overlooked. However, it needs to be considered. Not every­one fits into categories.

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