The misuse of the word “gender”

It’s on nearly every form one has to fill out.  The question reads “Gender” and then gives you the choices “male” or “female”.  Sounds like a non-issue, but it is a pet peeve of mine.  If you cannot already tell with my previous post (and likely, my subsequent posts), I care about the accurate use of words.  I don’t point these things out to be PC or to be annoying, I point them out because I want people’s choices of words and actions to be refecltive of the realities of our world.  So, why do I harp on the word “gender”?  Because too many people believe the word gender is synonymous with the word sex, when it is not.

So, what is the difference between gender and sex?  To put it in biological terms, sex is genotypic and gender is phenotypic.  A person’s sex is determined by their chromosomes.  Most peopleare either biologically female (XX) or male (XY), although there are exceptions, such as Turner Syndrome, where a female only has one X chromosome, or conditions where people have extra X chromosomes (XXX or XXY), which are also comparatively rare.  There are also people who are biologically intersexed.  On the other hand, a person’s gender has to do with how a person identifies.  For the most part, people who are biologically female identify as women and people who are biologically male identify as men.  These people can be considered cisgendered.  Of course, cisgendered people do not make up the entire spectrum of gender identities.  There are many who are transgendered, genderqueer, or gender-irrelevant.  Often times, each of these different gender identitied fall under the term trans*.  I cannot possibly tell you how many gender identites there are.  And, honestly, it is not really an issue.

So, when I fill out one of these froms, there is always that voice in my head that says “This should say sex instead of gender.”  However, on some of the forms at my progressive liberal arts college, gender identity as asked for, and there are a wide variety of options a person can choose.

I realize these things make some people feel uncomfortable, although I wonder why.  I really can’t speak for those people, but if I were to infer, they truly believe that gender is determined by chromosomes and genitalia, or they are uncomfortable with trans people, perhaps for religious reasons, or do not want to acknowledge the existence of trans people.  More and more, we, as a society, are learning that gender is not determined by a person’s body parts.  Gender is a form of expression.  A person is going to express the gender identity that best fits them.  Sometimes, that gender expression is going to be one which does not match their body.  And that’s fine.

For the people who either are uncomfortable with trans* people or do not wish to acknowledge their existence, I don’t know what to tell you.  Trans* people exist.  Some people are trans*.  That’s just how it is.  It is a reality of the world we live in.  Not everybody is cisgendered.  Don’t rely on stereotypes to shape your view of trans people.  Like with every other classification of people, you are going to find some trans* people who are awesome and good people to be around and some who are not good people and you don’t want to be around them, as well as everything in between.  That’s because being trans* has nothing to do with the content of a person’s character.

Again, I have only scratched the surface with this topic.  Also, there are plenty of people who know a lot more about this topic than I do.  I hope this post starts a lively discussion.  Until next time folks “If you won’t listen to reason, there’s always…Towanda.”

1 thought on “The misuse of the word “gender”

  1. Pingback: Now can the media admit to there not being two legitimate sides to every issue? | Towanda Threadgoode

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