What is the difference between sex and gender?
The short answer is this: sex is about your body, gender is about who you feel yourself to be, and sexual orientation is about to whom you’re attracted sexually.
‘man’ = male sex+ masculine social role
‘Woman’ = female sex + feminine social role
Sex refers to biological differences; chromosomes, hormonal profiles, internal and external sex organs.
Gender describes the characteristics that a society or culture delineates as masculine or feminine.
So while your sex as male or female is a biological fact that is the same in any culture, what that sex means in terms of your gender role as a ‘man’ or a ‘woman’ in society can be quite different cross culturally. These ‘gender roles’ have an impact on the health of the individual.
In sociological terms ‘gender role’ refers to the characteristics and behaviors that different cultures attribute to the sexes. What it means to be a ‘real man’ in any culture requires male sex plus what our various cultures define as masculine characteristics and behaviors, likewise a ‘real woman’ needs female sex and feminine characteristics. To summaries:
“Sex” is the term we use to refer to a person’s sexual anatomy (his or her sexual body parts). So if a doctor were to say that a girl is female in terms of her sex chromosomes, her sex organs, and hormonal make-up, the doctor is referring to the girl’s sex (her body).
People with disorders of sex development (DSD) are born with a sex type that is different from most men’s and most women’s. Rather than being male typical or female typical, people with DSD have one or more sex atypical traits. That means a woman with DSD has some sex traits that are relatively unusual for females, and that a man with DSD has some sex traits that are relatively unusual for males.
Recall that disorders of sex development are defined by the medical community as “congenital conditions in which development of chromosomal, gonadal or anatomic sex is atypical.” So DSD is an umbrella term covering a wide variety of conditions in which sex develops differently from typical male or typical female development.
Measurement of gender identity
Early gender identity research hypothesized a single bipolar dimension of masculinity-femininity, with masculinity and femininity being opposites on one continuum. Assumptions of the one-dimensional model were challenged as societal stereotypes changed, which led to the development of a two-dimensional gender identity model. In the model, masculinity and femininity were conceptualized as two separate and orthogonal dimensions, coexisting in varying degrees within an individual. This conceptualization on femininity and masculinity remains the accepted standard today.
Two instruments incorporating the multidimensional nature of masculinity and femininity have dominated gender identity research: The Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI) and the Personal Attributes Questionnaire (PAQ). Both instruments categorize individuals as either being sex typed (males report themselves as identifying primarily with masculine traits, females report themselves as identifying primarily with feminine traits), cross sex-typed (males report themselves as identifying primarily with feminine traits, females report themselves as identifying primarily with masculine traits), androgynous (either males or females who report themselves as high on both masculine and feminine traits) or undifferentiated (either males or females who report themselves as low on both masculine and feminine traits). Twenge (1997) noted that men are generally more masculine than women and women generally more feminine than men, but the association between biological sex and masculinity/femininity is waning.
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