Sex and gender

8 August 2016

The differences between sex and gender are commonly misinterpreted in today’s society. Sex and gender have a massive impact on the way one is perceived, viewed by others and behaves. To simply define these two terms can be difficult for some people due to the fact that most people continuously interchange the word without using its correct meaning. I think it is important to clarify the differences in these concepts because it could help reduce discrimination, stereotypes and imposed social roles.

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To me the word sex is used to describe physical and biological characteristics that distinguish males from females. Characteristics such as body structure, voice, facial hair and genitalia are all used to determine ones sex. Sex is something one is born with and is continuous. In terms of sex, there are certain biological factors that distinguish men from women such as the ability to give birth and breast feed babies. Many times sex determines a person’s gender identity. Gender is a much more difficult word to define due to the constant change in social norms.

I believe gender is the word used to describe the social and cultural definition of men and women. It deals with masculinity and femininity and the roles a person plays in their society. It is decided by the individual and is also changeable. Gender norms, the way one was raised, sexual preference and individual choice are all factors that help an individual determine their gender. In today’s culture it has become more socially acceptable for men to show interest in things associated with women and women to show interest in things associated with men.

Gender involves self-identification and self-expression, the way you think about yourself and the way you define yourself. A person’s gender can involve many characteristics such as hair, makeup, interests, activities and behaviors. Working at my job there is a regular customer who biologically is a man. When checking in she gives us her first name, which resembles a men’s name. Although she has all the features of a man such as facial hair and deep voice she is always dressed in pink, has french tips always done, carries a pocket book, dresses in women’s clothes and wears women perfume.

When employees have talked about her in the past without knowing her name they would refer to her as the “he-she”. This is a clear example of how people today simply can’t classify a man from a woman in a situation like this. Sex and gender are terms that are mixed up on a daily basis. They often are mistaken as similarities when in fact they are two completely different terms. I don’t think these terms are used correctly. I feel it will take a very long time for society to fully understand the difference between these terms and use them correctly because society and gender roles are constantly changing.

People today are not fully aware of the difference between sex and gender therefore they associate them together with the impression that they both consist of the genetic make up. It is known that by the age of 3 children start to develop a sense of being male or female. Typically boys play with boys and girls play with girls on the playground. Young boys are building leggos and playing with toy cars where as girls are playing with toy cooking sets and barbie dolls. The way these young kids are socialized as they grow up influences the way they feel, think and believe.

It is important for kids growing up to understand the difference between sex and gender and how it shapes us. In order to give kids a better understanding of the differences between sex and gender I feel they must first be aware of all the gender terminology that exists. If you were to ask a select group of people to distinguish between transgender, transvestites and transsexuals I believe majority of people asked would be unable to do so. Aside from these three terms, terms such as gender expression, gender role and sexual orientation should be fully understood in order to grasp the concept of gender and sex at a young age.

I would show a short film that I was shown last year called “I am Jazz: A Family in Transition”. This film tells the story of a transgender girl name Jazz who explains “has a girl brain and a boy body”. This film shows Jazz at her fifth birthday party wearing a rainbow one-piece bikini. Although her natural born sex is male she identifies herself as female. This film would show kids that identifying yourself other than what you were naturally born is something that does happen.

It will also show the struggles of people who go through this and how it can affect them emotionally. Another way in which I would help children understand the difference between sex and gender is I would design a lesson plan using human like dolls. I would have different types of clothing picked out for each doll consisting of dresses, skirts, pink shirts, blue shirts, basketball shorts, etc. I would have the kids dress the dolls in clothes they felt were appropriate for the sex of the doll and explain why they chose specific items.

Depending on how each child dresses the dolls I would explain other options in which girls are interested in boys clothing and boys like girl activities. I feel that this would be beneficial because it would give a chance for young children to see something they are not used to seeing everyday. I feel by having it visualized and explained to them at the same time they will have a better understanding of the differences. Children should have the opportunity ask questions and be fully educated at a young age about sex and gender to prevent discrimination in the future.

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