There is a lot more to being male or female or any other gender that is assigned at birth. While some people tend to use the terms ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ interchangeably, these two terms are not equivalent.
Difference between sex, gender and gender identity
It is common for many people to confuse sex, gender and gender identity for the same thing when they all mean different things.
Sex is a label- male or female- that one is assigned at birth by a doctor. It is based on the genitals you are born with and your chromosomes and goes on your birth certificate.
When someone’s sexual and reproductive anatomy does not fit the typical definitions of female or male, they are described as intersex.
The terms sex or biological sex does not capture the complex biological, anatomical and chromosomal variations that can occur. And having two options: female or male, cannot describe what goes on inside a person’s body.
So instead of using biological sex, some people prefer to use “assigned male at birth” or “assigned female at birth”. Doing this acknowledges the fact that someone else has decided to assign sex.
The assigned sex may or may not align with what goes on with a person's body, how they feel or how they identify.
Gender is much more complicated. It is a social and legal status, entailing societal expectations regarding behaviour, characteristics and thoughts. Each culture has a set of standards about how people should behave based on their gender, which can sometimes translate to gender inequality in adolescence. It is easy to confuse sex and gender. Just remember that biological sex is about biology, anatomy and chromosomes.
Gender identity is about how you feel inside and how you choose to express those feelings. Clothing, appearance and behaviour are all ways to express your gender identity.
There are different types of gender identity. Most people feel that they are either male or female. Some may be masculine female or feminine male. Some may feel neither male nor female and may choose to be non-binary. Feelings of gender identity can begin as early as 2 or 3 years of age.
It is important to understand the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity. While gender identity is how you feel about yourself and how you identify yourself, sexual orientation is how you feel towards others and the gender(s) you are attracted to.
What is the meaning of non-binary/ genderqueer? H2
Binary means ‘two’ and in the context of gender identity, it refers to the ‘two genders’ – male and female.
So non-binary gender identities are identities that exist apart from the male/female identity and come as a ‘third’ gender. The term enby comes from the abbreviation of non-binary (NB) is also used.
Although we think of non-binary as something that comes from the west, it has been around since ancient times in India. Around 400 B.C.- 200 A.D., the hijras were identified as non-male/female.
Types of Non-Binary Gender Identities
While there are many different types of non-binary genders, some are more talked about than others. These include:
- Agender: Having no specific gender identity or neutral or undefined gender identity. Sometimes is called genderless and neutrois.
- Bigender: Having two distinct gender identities, either simultaneously to alternatively.
- Genderfluid: Moving between two or more gender identities.
- Genderqueer: An all-encompassing term for individuals with non-binary gender identities.
Gender Identity And Pronouns
Gender pronouns are used to refer to a person’s gender identity. Just like there are different types of gender identity, there are also several pronouns.
The most common gender pronouns are “he, him and his” and “she, her and hers”. Some people use these pronouns strictly for “females” and “males”; however, a person could use she, her and hers pronouns and not be a ‘female’ or use he, him and his and not be ‘male’.
They are also people who identify as nonbinary, meaning they do not fit into either male or female category. So, these people may use “they, them and theirs” pronouns.
Why are pronouns important?
Sharing your pronouns and asking for someone’s pronouns is basic etiquette. It shows you care about their humanity and gender identity. Asking for someone’s pronouns is the first step in supporting and understanding LGBTQ youth.
It is okay to ask for someone’s pronouns if you do not know what they are. Even better, make it a habit to ask for their pronouns before they even have to tell you.
Making assumptions about someone’s pronouns or actively ignoring their pronouns can hurt them and affect their confidence and self-esteem.