OUTspoken logo

Aren't sex and gender the same?

It is important to understand the difference between sex and gender. A person's sex is assigned soon after birth based on their external gentitalia. The sex marker, male or female, that is chosen by the doctor, stays with them. This assigned sex dictates that individual's clothes, toys, and jobs, what behavior is considered appropriate and every other aspect of their life. Many people do not see a problem with how much their life is influenced by their assumed gender and life on without questioning it.

For people who are not cisgender, their assigned sex does not match their own identity— they are unable to fit into society's traditional gender model. This model is explained by Susan Stryker in Transgender Basics. Society believes that everyone fits into these two categories. Either:

  1. You are born male. You are masculine. You identify as a man. You are attracted to women. Or,
  2. You are born female. You are feminine. You identify as a woman. You are attracted to men.

* For gender and sexual minorities, this model does not hold true.

Not all genders are binary...

Gender is often thought of as a binary, being either male or female. The most well-known identities in the trans* community are transsexuals— either male-to-female (MTF) or female-to-male (FTM)— who live full-time as the gender "opposite" their biological sex. Transmen and transwomen still have binary gender identities. There are many non-binary gender identities that are less understood and often overlooked. Two examples of non-binary gender identities are genderqueer and gender fluid. Genderqueer people often don't identify with being male or female; they may identify somewhere in between these two genders or off the gender spectrum completely. Gender fluid people experience gender differently on different days; they may have masculine days, feminine days or androgynous days. Gender fluidity can be explained as a shifting of gender or movement along the gender spectrum.

Gender Identity Project (GIP)

How to be an ally:

  1. DO use their correct pronouns.
    • If you're not sure, ask them privately.
    • If you mess up, apologize and move on. Don't make a big deal about it, but DON'T mess up again!
  2. DO use their chosen name. And don't ask their birth name— why does it matter?
  3. DON'T ask about what surgeries they have had or are planning to get. It's personal information.
  4. DON'T out them. DO NOT disclose anyone's trans* or queer identity.