Sex and Gender
We are now living in a world that is transcending beyond the former understanding that Sexuality and Gender identity are purely binary. Now, we live in a world where Sex and Gender lie on a far more complex spectrum than in the past. To many, their Sexual and Gender identity holds a pivotal role in shaping who they are. However, many struggle with their Sexual and Gender Identity at some point in their lives, including those we love. Contrary to what many of us may understand, Sex and Gender is not binary. Our biological sex is what chromosomes, hormones, genes, sex organs, and secondary sex characteristics we have, whereas our gender refers to how we think of our identity in the context of how norms function in our culture. Yet just like how gender falls within a more complex spectrum, our biology isn’t binary either. Students are often inaccurately taught that all babies inherit either XX or XY sex chromosomes and that having XX chromosomes makes you female, while XY makes you male. In reality, people can have XXY, XYY, X, XXX, or other combinations of chromosomes — all of which can result in a variety of sex characteristics. People with intersex traits can usually identify themselves as either Male, Female, or Intersex.
Changing the Narrative for a More Gender-Inclusive Society
‘ The number of conversations and arguments i’ve had on the topic of sex vs. gender is, in my opinion, way too high. Living in a small, conservative town, the idea that gender is fluid is not shared amongst the majority of my peers. That being said, it hinders my ability to discover and present my gender in the way that I want to, because I know they would want an explanation. An explanation at most points I do not have because I am just doing what feels right for me personally, which is a hard topic for some to grasp. ’
‘ It’s time we change the way we view gender. ’
It is definitely difficult for many to change their mindsets towards the gender minorities – genderqueer, genderfluid, and non-binary individuals, especially in a constructed society where we are brought up ONLY to understand a clear and distinct gender binary. However, just like our wish to eradicate poverty, eliminate racial discrimination, improve social mobility, raise awareness of mental health issues etc., creating a gender-inclusive society is possible if we slowly work our way together. Even if we are not a part of the racial minority group, we should not think that we are not obligated to help eliminate racial discrimination. In a similar vein, even if we are not a gender minority individual, even if our friends and family members are not a part of the LGBTQIA+ community, we should all learn to understand, respect, and support them.
How to Support Non-Binary Individuals
Some of us who may not be non-binary, feel apathetic towards the LGBTQIA+ community, but it should not be this way. We should try to acknowledge their stories, struggles, and concerns. We should be conscious of the terminology and find ways to show that wecare. For instance, different non-binary people may use different pronouns. Many non-binary people use “they” while others use “he” or “she,” and still others use other pronouns. Asking whether someone should be referred to as “he,” “she,” “they,” or another pronoun is one of the simplest and most important ways to show respect for someone’s identity.
We should try to show respect towards everyone, regardless of their differing gender and sexual identities. We should not make assumptions regarding people immediately after knowing their gender. We may not be fully aware of certain genders, and it’s okay, but every identity deserves respect.
Advocate for non-binary friendly policies, accept the different gender and sexual identities. Share your understanding with those around you, and love those who may be struggling with their identity as well. Displaying your personal pronouns online can also help reduce the stigma associated with personal pronouns and help stop the alienation of those in the trans community.
The way we view Sex and Gender is changing, and the way we see it 10 years from now, 20 years, 30 years, might be different as well.
Just Some Terminologies
Gender Identity: A person’s deeply‐felt, inherent sense of being a boy, a man, or male; a girl, a woman, or female; or an alternative gender (e.g., genderqueer, gender non-conforming, gender -neutral) that may or may not correspond to a person’s sex assigned at birth or to a person’s primary or secondary sex characteristics. Since gender identity is internal, a person’s gender identity is not necessarily visible to others. “Affirmed gender identity” refers to a person’s gender identity after coming out as TGNC ( Transgender and Gender Nonconforming people ) or undergoing a social and/or medical transition process.
Sex refers to a person’s biological status and is typically categorized as male, female or intersex. There are a number of indicators of biological sex, including sex chromosomes, gonads, internal reproductive organs and external genitalia. (APA, 2012).
Cisgender: An adjective used to describe a person whose gender identity and gender expression align with sex assigned at birth; a person who is not TGNC ( Transgender and and Gender Nonconforming people ).
Gender dysphoria: Discomfort or distress that is associated with a discrepancy between a person’s gender identity and that person’s sex. assigned at birth — and the associated gender role and/or primary and secondary sex characteristics (Fisk, 1974; Knudson, De Cuypere, & Bockting, 2010). Only some gender‐nonconforming people experience gender dysphoria at some point in their lives (Coleman, et al. 2011).
Gender Expression: The presentation of an individual, including physical appearance, clothing choice and accessories, and behaviors that express aspects of gender identity or role. Gender expression may or may not conform to a person’s gender identity.
Genderqueer: A person whose gender identity falls outside of the gender binary (i.e., identifies with neither or both genders). Genderqueer people may also use the term “gender fluid” as an identifier and reject the term “transgender” because it implies a change from one gender category to another.
Queer: An umbrella term that individuals may use to describe a sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression that does not conform to dominant societal norms. Historically, it has been considered a derogatory or pejorative term, and the term continues to be used by some individuals with negative intentions. Still, many LGBT individuals today embrace the label in a neutral or positive manner (Russell, Kosciw, Horn, & Saewyc, 2010). Some youth may adopt ‘queer’ as an identity term to avoid limiting themselves to the gender binaries of male and female or to the perceived restrictions imposed by lesbian, gay and bisexual sexual orientations (Rivers, 2010).
Transgender: An adjective that is an umbrella term used to describe the full range of people whose gender identity and/or gender role do not conform to what is typically associated with their sex assigned at birth. While the term “transgender” is commonly accepted, not all TGNC people self‐identify as transgender.
Lesbian: A homosexual woman. The word lesbian is also used for women in relation to their sexual identity or sexual behavior, regardless of sexual orientation, or as an adjective to characterize or associate nouns with female homosexuality or same-sex attraction.
Gay: 1. A term used in some cultural settings to represent males who are attracted to males in a romantic, erotic and/or emotional sense. Not all men who engage in “homosexual behavior” identify as gay, and as such this label should be used with caution. 2. Term used to refer to the LGBTQIA+ community as a whole, or as an individual identity label for anyone who does not identify as heterosexual.
Bisexual: Bisexuality is the attraction to two or more genders.
Pansexual: A person who is attracted to people regardless of gender. / A person who is sexually attracted to all or many gender expressions.
Asexual: Asexuality is the lack of sexual attraction to others, or low or absent interest in or desire for sexual activity. It may be considered a sexual orientation or the lack thereof. It may also be categorized more widely to include a broad spectrum of asexual sub-identities.
Homosexual: A person primarily emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to members of the same sex.
LGBTQIA+: A common abbreviation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Pansexual, Transgender, Genderqueer, Queer, Intersexed, Agender, Asexual, and Aromantic communities.
As a 14 years old passionate youth in Singapore who has a growing, fervent interest in the arts and sociology, Jia Xuan is also deeply fond of seeking challenges and learning. She aspires to give back to the society and spread more love in the community.