Gender & Sex – learning the difference

25 Aug

Last week I saw a short article in the Metro News about a new at-home gender prediction test that pregnant women (and pregnant trans men) can take at 7 weeks.

It is called (no surprise) “Pink or Blue”. *sigh*

But this post is not about colours. It’s about gender versus sex. It’s a distinction that we have to learn in this country (in fact, in most countries) because they are not the same. Once we wrap our heads around this, the lives of transgender individuals will hopefully start to become easier.

A colleague of mine put it quite simply once during a training we were delivering. He said: gender is between your ears, and sex is between your legs. Gender is your sense of being what society says is a man or  a woman. Sex is about what biologically defines you as  male or female. It’s that simple.

Transgender individuals’ gender identity does not match their assigned sex. Cisgenderindividuals’ gender identity does match their assigned sex (Fenway Institute, 2010).   Trans-identified people are challenging what we have been taught about gender and biology. It’s a hard concept for many people to grasp; but it’s a lived reality that sadly is still not recognized by the Human Rights Code (currently gender identity is covered under sex and disability).

Pink or Blue says it tests for gender, but it doesn’t; it can’t. What it is really testing for, is sex. If you take the test and it comes out “blue” (for example) you still have a chance (although slight) that your biological boy will identify as a girl – or vice versa.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with the test. But we have to start changing our language. Doing so will mean acknowledgment and respect for the lived experiences and realities of transgender individuals – something that is still sorely lacking around the world.

See More.

copyright 2011 Annemarie Shrouder
President – Building Equitable Environments


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