Sex, Gender, Gender Expression, and Sexual Orientation

This is something I know very well and live. It’s like breathing – second nature that when it comes time to explain it, it’s hard to do because it’s something I don’t even think about anymore. What brought it to the forefront was that I was talking to a friend of mine and he mentioned it took him sometime to realize that they were in fact separate entities. Society tries to condition us to believe they are one. It isn’t true. There are only a handful of sexes but there are as many genders as there are people.

Sex refers to biological differences; chromosomes, hormonal profiles, internal and external sex organs. Such differences can be distinguished by the fact that male and female bodies behave differently. Females have periods while males do not. Females have breasts that produce milk while males do not. Male and females have different sex organs. There is also intersexed that has characteristics of both.

Not even sex is set in stone but is harder to change than gender. People who feel their sex doesn’t match their body can get surgeries and take hormones to get the mind and the body to match. This is called being transgendered. Some people who identify as transgendered chose not to transition at all, others only to a point to where they can “pass” as their chosen sex, and others transition top to bottom. It’s different for different people and is a personal choice. Transgendered is regardless of operation status. Transsexual applies to those who are transitioning, have transitioned, or intend to transition.

Gender describe the characteristics that society determines to be masculine or feminine. Gender is constructed by society. Unlike sex, people are not born with gender. Gender is something learned. “Gender roles” are what society denotes should be the characteristics of each sex. However, gender and sex don’t always match. For example, my sex is female but my gender presentation is masculine. My hair is cut short and I wear men’s clothing. In my head, I don’t feel like either gender or sex is what I am so I identify as female-bodied genderqueer. Likewise, there can be people who are of the male sex who present a feminine gender by dressing in dresses and skirts and maybe have long hair but in their head they are male sex and female gendered. Sex and gender have nothing to do with each other. They are two separate things.

Plus, gender and gender expression are two different things. You might have someone who is female sex masculine identified gender dressing in dresses to avoid raising eyebrows on the street. You can’t judge someone’s gender by their gender expression because it varies. Gender isn’t set in stone. Some people change gender with the seasons, other daily, some minutely. Your presentation doesn’t define your gender. Just like being punk, it is all about what’s in the mind and inside.

Now, to make things more complicated – we can toss sexual orientation into the mix. Unlike people like to believe, sexual orientation seems to be more fluid than concrete. Sexual orientation is what people find erotically attractive. Most people aren’t a hundred percent gay or straight – some people are but most people on the Kinsley Scale seem to fall in the middle. Also, keep in mind most people aren’t attracted to “just women” and “just men”. Most people have a preference for a sex but also certain gender characteristics they find attractive. For example, I tend to find butch women attractive which confused me for the longest time to think I was straight because I only got feminine women hitting on me and only saw feminine women in my daily life and I am not attracted to them. However, there is no defining rule for attraction. Everyone has different likes and dislikes. I know with me, I have my personal preferences, but if I met an awesome person – their sex and gender wouldn’t matter to me. However, some people have personal boundaries on what they will and won’t do. For example, someone who has a strict heterosexual identity is automatically limiting themselves to half the people due to mindset. Homophobia comes into play because nothing is an absolute – labels are useful guidelines but people are really fluid. That’s when people get afraid is when they realize things aren’t black and white and are shades of gray. Instead of accepting and embracing the unknown to grow and become better, some people respond with hate.

I think if we all learned to love instead of hate and accepted the fact we are humans and everyone is different and that’s okay the world would be a much happier, safer, loving place.

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One Response to “Sex, Gender, Gender Expression, and Sexual Orientation”

  1. Pythos Says:

    I really can’t add anything to this. You hit the nails directly on the head. Bravo.

    I do find it difficult to say to people “no I am not having the change” “No I am not gay”, “No the fact I am wearing leggings opposed to jeans does not mean I am attracted to men.” “My androgynous appearance is for my self, if someone is attracted to it, OH TOTALLY rock on!!!”

    It is social conditioning that was meant to hold one part of the population back. Pure and simple.

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