Difference between Sex and gender with characteristics and definitions

Sex and gender

The sex refers to the feature set physical and biological genetically defined that determine whether a living being is male, female or intersexual . Sex chromosomes and phenotypic factors are key factors in assigning a human’s sex. In this article we will provide you the difference between Sex and gender.

The genre covers a number of roles, behaviors and attributes socially constructed that are considered appropriate for a person according to their biological sex. These social constructions are traditionally linked to the categories of man and woman , but little by little many other gender identities have been recognized . The social, cultural and spatial-temporal context are determining factors in the definition of gender.

Sex Gender
Definition Physical and biological characteristics that define the sex of a living being. It refers to the set of characteristics, behaviors and roles attributed to a person by reason of their biological sex that are considered socially appropriate.
  • These are genetic and phenotypic attributes.
  • These attributes are determined by the X and Y chromosomes.
  • It is common that there are no changes in terms of sex in a living being.
  • It is a social construct.
  • It involves a social determination and a person’s relationship with his body.
  • You can assume a gender identity other than that assigned socially.
  • Gender identity can go through changes.
Categories: Male, female and, to a lesser extent, intersex. Man, woman, cisgender, transgender, among others.

What is sex?

Sex refers to the set of particular physical and biological attributes that define a male, female, or intersex person . For example, in the case of humans, one belongs to one sex or another depending on factors such as genetic makeup, hormonal processes and phenotypic characteristics.

When talking about phenotypic sexual characteristics , these are the internal and external sexual characteristics that are observable in a person. For example, genitalia, hormonal processes, reproductive system, physical / body constitution, etc. These characteristics begin to develop around the seventh week of gestation of the organism.

Sex characteristics

  • It refers to physical and biological attributes of a living being.
  • The sexual attributes of a living being are determined by the X and Y sex chromosomes.
  • Sexual characteristics define, mainly, two types of sex: the male and the female.
  • There may be rare cases of intersex people.
  • Sex remains stable.

Sex chromosomes

Sex chromosomes are responsible for determining the sex of a living being. In humans, these chromosomes are X and Y, found in pairs (XX or XY). Half of the chromosomes that a human being possesses come from each of the parents.

The female has XX chromosomes, while the male has XY chromosomes. Biological sex is determined at the time fertilization occurs. The father donates either an X or a Y chromosome in the sperm, while in the mother‘s egg there are only X chromosomes.

Sexual characteristics develop according to the type of chromosomes present.

In the case of intersexuals, due to some particular situation at the genetic level, the chromosomes do not follow the XX or XY pattern, presenting themselves in another way (XYY, XXY, etc.). This has the consequence that the sexual characteristics are atypical. In addition, intersex can also occur due to variations in phenotypic patterns (formation of glands, genital organs, etc.).

The sex of a person, in this case, is not clearly defined at the time they are born. An intersex person may begin life with traits characteristic of one sex, and then develop traits of another sex.

What is gender?

The gender is the social perception we have of a person on what is appropriate sexual orientation, and other aspects of their identity in relation to their biological sex. This perception is determined by the social and cultural context , as well as by the biological and psychological characteristics of an individual.

A person may have a different gender identity from that assigned to him in his society. The same can be assigned from before birth, generally associated with the sex of the person.

The characteristics that determine what it is to be a man and a woman vary at the temporal level (the time) and at the spatial level (from culture to culture or society). So gender is fundamentally a social construction (a social product based on social rules and practices that varies from society to society).

It is common for gender to be associated only taking into account the biological difference between the sexes, from a binary perspective. That is, from the male / female dichotomy there is a tendency to assume that there are only two genders: man and woman.

Gender characteristics

  • It can be a form of self-identification, as well as a social perception.
  • It is a social construct.
  • There is no single way to act or behave according to a specific gender.
  • Gender identity and gender roles change according to the sociocultural context and through history.
  • The definition of what a gender is tends to change.
  • There is no one way to experience the genre.

Gender identity

The gender identity refers to how well a person is identified as being of a same gender. This identification with a gender is related to a person’s personal experiences, education and social relationships, according to the patterns established for each gender.

Identity is an element that covers both a social and an individual sphere. On the one hand, a person is socially identified as part of a group, due to their proximity to socially shared practices and habits, as well as physical attributes.

On the other hand, identity is also related to how a person sees himself as part of a group. It is the way in which a person defines himself with respect to other people, according to their physical and psychological tributes.

Examples of gender identities

Today it is more common to talk about the existence of different ways of living gender, different from the binary male / female division. Here are some general ways in which a person can express their gender identity:

  • Cisgender : this refers to those people whose gender identity matches the biological sex assigned at birth. In general, these people represent what is considered the norm in many societies, in terms of gender identity.
  • Transgender : when a person’s gender identity does not correspond to their assigned biological sex. You can also talk about a trans person. This term covers a wide spectrum of gender identities and ways of expressing it that defy social norm.

Gender roles

Gender roles express the expected behaviors that a person is supposed to have based on their sex. These are associated with someone’s gender identity, under the assumption that both must be the same.

Characteristics of gender roles

  • They are behaviors assigned according to the biological sex of a person.
  • They follow social norms.
  • Different behaviors are assigned to each gender.
  • Formal and informal education has a bearing on learning these roles.
  • They can result in gender biases.

Gender roles and social norms

These roles obey social norms and behaviors that in a society are considered appropriate for each gender. However, gender roles do not necessarily go hand in hand with a person’s sex or gender identity.

Gender roles are reflected in the rights, duties, tasks and responsibilities that are socially assigned to a person. They are expressed in the role in the family, work, within a sentimental relationship, rights over resources, sexual behaviors, sexual reproduction, etc.

For example, traditionally, women with children were assigned their care and responsibility for household chores. In contrast, the man was assigned the task of being the provider of the family. In other words, the traditional role of women was to be a caregiver, while that of men was to be a provider.

This does not mean that a woman cannot have a provider role in a family, or that a man cannot perform care tasks. In fact, in reality, both women and men perform tasks and behave in such a way that there is no clear limit that establishes what one gender or another should do. In other words, gender roles are social constructions that do not necessarily adhere to reality.

Another example is the attribution of colors to a gender according to the sex of the person. In the case of children, it is usual to associate the color blue with the masculine, which is why it is promoted that they wear that color in many cultures. As for girls, pink is used in the same way.

However, at the beginning of the 20th century, in the United States, it was common for it to be the opposite. That is, the girls ‘color was blue and the boys’ was pink. Over time, there was an investment in this social construction. Thus, the choice of a color and its assignment to a gender responds more to social practices and habits than to a biological question.

Gender biases

A bias based on gender means that there is a differentiated attitude in the treatment of a person based on their gender .

It involves a discriminatory act , since it takes factors that have nothing to do with a person’s abilities, often limiting their opportunities.

For example, this type of prejudice is manifested socially in the type of jobs or professional careers that is associated with one gender or another.

Consider that women are not capable of occupying senior positions in a company, because they are supposed to be more temperamental than men (because it is a job that requires a cold mentality or few emotions). Or that a man should not comb his daughter’s hair, because it is a task that the mother should perform.

Other ways in which a gender bias is manifested is when it is thought that it is normal, and even valued, for a man to seek and maintain sexual relations with several women. Qualifiers such as “gallant” or “conqueror” are normally used. Whereas if a woman performs the same acts, she is seen in a negative and derogatory light.

In fact, this type of prejudice has placed women in a historically disadvantaged social position, with respect to men and what is associated with the masculine.

That women did not have spaces for participation and political representation in most democratic countries, until a few decades ago, is a result of this type of prejudice.

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