Hi everyone! This video is going to be about the difference between sex and gender, as well as the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity. Some people may not know what the difference is, while others do. Being a male to female trans person, I do encounter many people that are confused about what the difference actually is. People have said to me that there is no way I could be a female when I was born a male. Or, because I am also attracted to females, essentially being a lesbian, that it’s also not possible. So, I will discuss the difference between sex and gender, as well as sexual orientation and gender identity.
Sex vs. Gender
First is the difference between sex and gender. Many people use the terms interchangeably, and for the most part there is no reason not to. That is until you get to intersex and transgender individuals or people whose sex is not congruent with their gender. Sex essentially is the physiological and biological characteristics that make up men and women. Such as their genitals and chromosomes. While gender is social and psychological characteristics that make up male and female. Such as how the person behaves, and what they feel like they are in their mind. In other words, sex refers to the physical body and gene chemistry, while gender refers to the mind and how the person presents themselves.
For many people, the two are congruent. Such as a male who was born male, who knows they are male and behaves as such according to the society they live in. Or a female who was born female, who knows they are female and behaves as such according to the society they live in. The two terms, sex and gender, can be used interchangeably for anyone who fits this criteria.
However, not everyone’s gender is the same as their sex. This is evident with intersex individuals which may be born with both or part of both sex’s genitals or variations to the chromosomes. Females have two X chromosomes, while males have one X and one Y chromosome. However, for transgender individuals, they can be born as male or female, but their gender would be the opposite of that. So, a person whose sex is male, who was born male and has an XY chromosome, could have the gender of female. In other words, the sex they were born as is not the same as their gender.
This could make the person a transsexual, or someone that essentially identifies as the opposite sex they were born as. The term ‘transsexual’ falls under the transgender umbrella. If you would like to know more about the terms ‘transgender’ and ‘transsexual’ please watch my video on it that I’ll have an annotation and a link in the description. [Transgender vs. Transsexual] Anyway, in order for a trans person to have their sex congruent with their gender, the only thing that can be done is to attempt to change the sex they were born as. They cannot change their gender. So, someone who was born male, male is their sex, but their gender is female. By trying to change their gender to match their birth sex, male, it’s not going to work. This is because gender is psychological. By trying to psychologically change how the person has been conditioned and behaves, and more importantly, how they identify, it’s going to create resistance, denial, and cause the individual even more frustration and stress. There is no way of changing the person’s gender.
However, it is possible to change the sex to a limited degree. With this example, the person who was born male, male being their sex but female being their gender, they have male chromosomes, XY. They cannot change this. It will always be XY. However, they can change their body. They can transition by take hormones to experience the physical, emotional, and sexual changes associated with that of the opposite sex they identify as. In addition, they can get surgery to physically change their bodies. Male to females may get breast augmentation, facial feminization surgery, and/or sex reassignment surgery, which would essentially reconstruct their penis into a vagina. While a female to male may get a mastectomy and/or sex reassignment surgery, which would reconstruct their vagina into a penis. The results of the sex reassignment surgery depends on many factors and generally has a better outcome for male to females.
So essentially, sex and gender, while many people may use the terms interchangeably, are in fact different and someone can have a different gender than their birth sex.
Sexual Orientation vs. Gender Identity
There is also a difference between someone’s sexual orientation and their gender identity. Sexual orientation is attraction someone has for another individual, such as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual. Whereas gender identity is how a person identifies, such as male, female, other. Your gender identity is essentially your gender and is different from your sex, which was discussed in the previous section. Additionally, transgender, which is part of the LGBT group, is not a sexual orientation, whereas the other three are. Transgender is when one’s gender doesn’t match their assigned birth sex.
While it may be clear for some that sexual orientation and gender identity are two very different things, it’s not so clear for everyone. A perfect example I’ve heard many times has to do with the fact that I am a transgender lesbian woman. I was born as a male, but always identified as a female. In order to lessen the resistance and depression I was facing about my body not matching how I always felt on the inside, I needed to transition to female to be happy. I even had sex reassignment surgery to change my genitals to that of what I should have been born with. I was attracted to females prior to transitioning, which would have essentially made me a straight male. But since I didn’t identify as male, this made me a lesbian female. And, after transitioning I still am attracted to females. Since I identify as a female and am attracted to other females, this makes me gay, a lesbian.
Now, what people have said to me many times is that they don’t understand why I transitioned at all when I would still be attracted to females. Or, that I should not have had sex reassignment surgery if I was interested in females. This is a concept a great deal of people cannot grasp. How I identify, which is female, is independent of my sexual orientation, which is lesbian. The two are not connected.
For instance, someone that is transgender, let’s say someone that was born male but identifies as female, they could have any sexual orientation. Since they were born male, but identify as female, if they like other females, then they are gay, if they like men, then they are straight. Despite the fact that they were born as a male, it does not make them gay to like men if they identify as female.
The only similarities between the two terms, sexual orientation and gender identity, is that we cannot change them. If we were born in a male body but identify as female, that is not our fault and we cannot just choose to identify as our birth sex. Same goes for someone that is gay. They do not choose to be gay, it’s just who they are attracted to. It’s all psychological. And as I mentioned earlier, trying to change the fundamentals of our personality, how we are conditioned and identify, we are creating resistance and denial, which would result in more problems in the person’s life. Instead, the only way is to accept who we are, be ourselves, and express ourselves however we wish.
So in conclusion, sex and gender differ in that sex is what we are assigned at birth, our genitals, chromosomes, biological, and physiological characteristics. While gender is how we behave, present ourselves, and is psychological. Sexual orientation is whom we are attracted to. While gender identity is the gender that we identify as. Sex and gender, as well as sexual orientation and gender identity, while they may be similar in some ways, they are in fact different and not connected. Variations can occur.
I hope this video was informative and helpful. Thanks for watching!