Is there a difference between sex and gender identity? Some might say that they are the same thing while others might think they are completely different. The definition of the word sex is a label, either male, female, or intersex, that is assigned to a person at birth based of their reproduction functions (Dictionary.com). The definition of gender is “a similar category of human beings that is outside the male/female binary classification and is based on the individual’s personal awareness or identity” (Dictionary.com). Even though many people think that gender and sex are the same thing, they actually aren’t at all. They are different based on their biology, how many labels they have, and social perspective.
Sex and gender identity are different based on biology. Sex is about your biological identity that you were assigned at birth. According to Planned Parenthood, “Assigned sex is a label that you’re given at birth based on medical factors, including your hormones, chromosomes, and genitals. Most people are assigned male or female, and this is what’s put on their birth certificates” (“Sex and Gender Identity.”). There is also intersex, which is where you have both male and female genitals. This shows that sex is based off your biology, or what you are physically, but that doesn’t mean it matches up with your gender identity. It doesn’t take into account how you feel on the inside, in fact, you could feel completely different inside than you do outside. That is what gender identity is. According to the American Physiological Society, they explain the difference between gender and sex. The article says “In summary, it is appropriate to use the term sex when referring to the biology of human and animal subjects, and the term gender is reserved for reference to the self-identity and/or social representation of an individual” (Torgrimson). Gender doesn’t have to match up with your body, but it is what you feel on the inside. This is different because even though many people do identify with how their body is physically, some people have a different gender than their sex. For example, someone’s sex could be male, but their gender and how they identify could be female. Gender is what you want to be known as whether it is male, female, intersex, or something in between.
Sex and gender also differ in labels and how many there is for each. Sex only has three labels, those being male, female, and intersex since sex refers to what you are physcially. Gender identity, on the other hand, has multiple genders and labels that people could identify as. They could identify as demigirl, demiboy, genderqueer, and more. For example, demigirl or demiboy is when they identify as only partially male or female (Abrams). This shows that there are many ways to identify when it comes to your gender, but when it comes down to biology, there are only three. A common one that people identify with is nonbinary. Nonbinary is an umbrella term that means you don’t match up with male or female. Those people could feel like they are a combination of male and female, neither, or something else (Abrams). Gender can be all encompassing to everyone because it is how you feel inside. Of course people can also have their gender match up to their sex, but not all people have it that easy.
When people’s gender and sex don’t match up, it causes internal and external problems for people unlike people whose sex and gender do match up. People who identify the same gender as their sex are called cisgender (Abrams). Cisgender people don’t get the feeling off not being in the right body because they feel in line with their body. While they feel at peace within their body, the people who don’t have struggles. “Pressures to conform at home, mistreatment by peers in school, and condemnation by the broader society are just some of the struggles facing a child whose expression does not fall in line with the binary gender system” (“Understanding Gender.”). Kids feel those struggles because parents start enforcing the child’s “gender” at such a young age through stereotypes. Parents buy their little girls dolls because that’s what girls do, play with dolls. Parents buy their little boys cars because that is what boys do, play with cars. While some people might realize their body and their mind don’t match up until their teenage years, a lot of kids actually realize their body doesn’t match up with their mind at very young ages, although some parents enforce that their children act a certain way according to their sex. When people do switch their pronouns, it can lead to people purposefully misgendering them, parents not supporting them, and even sometimes larger extremes. While these issues are getting better throughout the years in society, there is still a long way to go.
Furthermore, sex and gender identity are different based on biology, amount of labels, and issues that happen when their gender and sex do match up versus when they don’t. Sex is what you are physically while gender identity is how you want to be known as. While doctors might need to know what your sex is, gender identity is what we should really focus on within a person because that is how they would like to be perceived, and society should make it more normalized that your gender doesn’t have to match up with your sex.
Dictionary.com, LLC, 2022, https://www.dictionary.com/browse/gender. Accessed 15 February 2022.
Dictionary.com, LLC, 2022, https://www.dictionary.com/browse/sex. Accessed 15 February 2022.
“Understanding Gender.” Gender Spectrum, 2019, https://genderspectrum.org/articles/understanding-gender. Accessed 17 February 2022.
Abrams, Mere and Ferguson, Slan. “68 Terms That Describe Gender Identity and Expression.” Healthline, February 9 2022, https://www.healthline.com/health/different-genders#e-h. Accessed 17 February 2022.
Torgrimson, Britta and Minson, Christopher. “Sex and gender: what is the difference?” American Physiology Society, 2022, https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/japplphysiol.00376.2005. Accessed 17 February 2022.
“Sex and Gender Identity.” Planned Parenthood, Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc., 2022, https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/gender-identity/sex-gender-identity. Accessed 17 February 2022.