What is the difference between sex and gender?

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The terms “sex” and “gender” are sometimes used interchangeably, however this is erroneous. Gender and sex are distinct, and it’s important to understand why.

The physical variations between males, females, and intersex people are referred to as “sex.” At birth, a person’s sex is usually assigned based on physiological traits such as genitalia and chromosomal makeup. A person’s “natal sex” is the sex ascribed to them at birth.

Gender, on the other hand, refers to a person’s self-identification. Gender, unlike natal sex, does not have binary forms. Gender, on the other hand, is a vast range. A person can identify at any place along this spectrum, or completely outside of it.

People may identify with genders other than their natal sex or with no gender at all. Transgender, nonbinary, and gender-neutral identities are examples of these identities. There are several more ways for a person to describe their gender.

Gender can also be defined in terms of social conceptions, such as gender “roles” or “norms.” These are the socially created roles, actions, and qualities that a culture thinks proper for men and women.


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Anatomical and physiological indicators are used to determine a person’s sex at birth.

Male and female genitalia, both internal and external, are unique, as are the hormonal and chromosomal makeups of male and female bodies. These characteristics are used by doctors to determine natal sex.

Female-assigned people have greater estrogen and progesterone levels at birth, whereas male-assigned people have higher testosterone levels. Assigned females normally have two copies of the X chromosome, whereas assigned men typically have one X and one Y.

Maleness and femaleness are frequently viewed as biological opposites in society. This distinction, however, has certain flaws. For example, chromosomal markers are not always precise. Just as some female babies are born with a Y chromosome, some male babies are born with two or three X chromosomes.

In addition, due to a discrepancy in sex development, some newborns are born with atypical genitalia.

This difference was originally referred to as a “disorder of sex development,” but that term is now defunct. In a 2015 study, the majority of respondents thought the phrase was derogatory. According to a second study, many people don’t use it at all and instead use the term “intersex.”

Being intersex might imply a variety of things. A person’s genitals or internal sex organs, for example, may fall outside of binary code categorization. Another possibility is that a person’s chromosomes are arranged differently. Some people are unaware of their intersex status until they reach puberty.

Biologists have begun to consider the possibility that sex is a spectrum. This is not a new notion, but it has taken some time to gain traction in the public sphere. In a 1993 study published by the New York Academy of Sciences, for example, the concept of sex as a spectrum was examined.


Gender has traditionally been characterized as a binary in the United States. Many other cultures have long acknowledged third genders, or do not accept a binary in the same way that the United States does.

In any case, the idea of gender as an either/or issue is incorrect.

“Cisgender” refers to someone who identifies with the gender given to them at birth.

Nonbinary, genderfluid, or genderqueer are all terms used to describe someone who is not cisgender and does not identify with the gender binary – man or woman, boy or girl.

A person who identifies as transgender has a gender identification that differs from their natal sex.

In contrast to genetic conceptions of sex, a 2016 study reveals that gender exists on a broad scale.

A person may identify completely or partially with current gender roles. They might not identify with any of the gender roles. Nonbinary people are those who do not identify with existing gender binaries. Genderfluid, bigender, and gender-neutral are only a few of the identities included by this umbrella word.

Society and gender

Gender is a social construct as well. As the World Health Organization (WHO) explains:

“Gender refers to women’s and men’s socially constructed characteristics, such as norms, roles, and relationships within and between groups of women and men.” It varies from society to society and can be changed.”

Some societies have more stringent gender roles than others. However, roles and preconceptions are not necessarily carved in stone, and they might change over time. This change is reflected in a 2018 meta-analysis of public opinion polls on gender stereotypes in the United States.

Health and gender

Gender has a complicated link with both physical and mental health.

Health systems are not gender-neutral.

Gender stereotypes and stigmas influence a person’s healthcare experience, according to a WHO research. Gender stereotypes can have an impact on health coverage, care routes, accountability, and inclusion in health systems all around the world.

Health institutions can perpetuate prescriptive and exclusive gender binaries by neglecting to address gender-based inequities, according to an examination of first-hand case studies.

These discrepancies in treatment, according to the researchers, might connect with and aggravate existing societal imbalances.

According to the findings, health systems must be held accountable for gender inequities and restrictive gender norms.

Identity and expression

A person’s gender can be expressed in a variety of ways.

Gender identity refers to how a person feels on the inside, while expression refers to how they portray themselves to others. For instance, a person may identify as nonbinary yet appear to the outer world as a guy.

GLAAD, formerly known as the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, defines gender identity as “one’s internal, personal sense” of belonging to a group of people who fall anywhere on or off the gender spectrum. The organization adds:

“Most people have a gender identity of man or woman (or boy or girl). For some people, their gender identity does not fit neatly into one of those two choices.”

“External manifestations of gender, expressed through one’s name, pronouns, clothing, haircut, behavior, voice, or body characteristics,” according to GLAAD. These indicators are classified as male and feminine by society, yet what is deemed masculine and feminine varies by country.”

Visit our dedicated portal for additional evidence-based information and resources for LGBTQIA+ .


Many societies have imposed the idea that a person is either a male or a woman based on their physical attributes for ages. This concept erroneously conflates sex with gender. Gender and sex are not same.

Gender comprises a person’s identities, expressions, and societal roles, whereas sex refers to a person’s physical characteristics at birth.

A person may identify with a gender other than their natal gender or with no gender at all. Although the latter identity is frequently referred to as nonbinary, this is an umbrella word that encompasses a wide range of identities.


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  • Thttps://www.glaad.org/reference/transgender
  • https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/gender-identity/sex-gender-identity/whats-intersex