There can be some confusion around the ideas of gender, sex, and sexuality that can make some people feel uncomfortable. But as with anything, a little education goes a long way, and it’s no exception when it comes to gender.
Let’s begin by defining our terms. Do you know the difference between sex and gender? This distinction is the key to understanding gender identity.
A person’s sex is the physiological reality of their body. This term refers to our biology, including our reproductive organs, genetic makeup, and hormones.
On the other hand, gender is a socially-determined idea of what it means to be a man, woman, boy, or girl. It is an amalgamation of roles and behaviors that society deems appropriate for one gender but not another. These ideas change over time and vary from one culture to another.
From an outside perspective, these gender assumptions may seem arbitrary or transitory. Nevertheless, their influence is mighty, impacting all members of any given culture.
Understanding Gender, Sex, and Sexuality
A person’s gender identity is how they perceive themselves on a deep, personal level — male, female, or something else. This identity can match the sex assigned to them at birth, or it may not, and it may also change throughout an individual’s life.
Note that gender identity and sexual orientation are distinct and are independent concepts.
Society has conditioned many to see gender as a binary between males and females. In this view, gender resembles a light switch that toggles between two and only two options.
However, it’s more helpful to think of gender as a slider with many different gender expressions other than male or female.
Here are some standard terms you might face when discussing gender:
Transgender: This is a general term for a person whose gender differs from that assigned at birth.
Cisgender: This describes a person whose identity matches exclusively the one assigned at birth
Non-binary: This term encompasses a broad understanding of gender that cannot be categorized as masculine or feminine. Non-binary people may express masculine and feminine qualities at the same time or exist outside of those ideas of traditional roles.
Gender fluid: This describes someone whose idea of gender changes throughout their life or day-to-day.
Why Is Gender Identity Important?
Gender identity is a profound expression of who a person is, and every person deserves to feel accepted by the society in which they live. Some people feel that there is a disconnect between the fact of their bodies and the gender identity that their community tells them they are. A person may have female body attributes but identify more with what society considers “masculine.” Or, they feel that their culture’s notions of being “feminine” don’t apply to them.
Some people experience gender dysphoria, which is not an illness, but a feeling of distress and unease because their biological sex does not “match” their gender identity. This dissatisfaction can lead to depression and anxiety. Some change the way they dress and behave to alter their gender expression, and others take hormone treatment or undergo gender reassignment surgery to make this change permanent.
Contact Us Today
Advanced Behavioral Health is at the forefront of compassionate, effective gender-affirming care and strives to create a safe space where anyone can come to express their gender identity.
If you or someone you love struggles with gender identity issues, please get in touch with our team of qualified mental health specialists. You can call us at 301-345-1022 or send us a message online here. One of our team members will be stand by to help you find the confidential consultation you need.