Thursday, December 22, 2016

Gender and Sex (Are they the same thing?)

Words, either written or spoken, are used to convey ideas. For example, look at the picture below. What word or words come to mind?

Was it one or more of the following? Home, house, mansion, family, neighborhood. Was it something else?

Consider a moment the difference between the words “home” and “house.” Do they mean the same thing or is there a subtle variance? The answer will differ depending on who is asked.

In 2016, in America social media (and society in general) escalated the debate on the meaning of the word “gender.”

To many, the word “gender” means the same thing as the words “biological sex.” To others, the two have different meanings. Who, then, is correct?

Both, and neither.

Again, words are simply ways to put ideas into a form to express that idea. English is a living language. Sometimes, words change meaning over time. For example, consider the word “gay.”

In some Christmas songs (and even in the opening theme to the TV show “The Flintstones”), the word “gay” means happy. In 2016, the more socially accepted meaning of the word refers to a homosexual.

One person could say, “I remember my grandpa. He was so gay.” Another person could respond, “No he wasn’t! He was faithfully married to your grandma for 65 years until the day he died!”

How a person understands the idea behind a word will influence how they will interpret it in some contexts.

Who, then, is correct in how they interpret the word “gender?”

Consider the definition of the word from the Oxford English Dictionary: “The state of being male or female (typically used with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones).”

Notice the difference: gender refers to social and cultural differences. Sex is connected more with the biological aspects.

To help make this clearer, consider the following: In many languages, words are either male or female.

In Spanish, for example, “la mesa” means “the table” in English. Because it uses “la” before the word, “mesa” is considered to be feminine. In contrast, “el piso” means “the floor” in English. The “el” makes “piso” masculine.

In the picture above, there is a table and a floor. Neither one of these objects has biological parts which make them feminine or masculine. Why? It is because gender is not the same as biological sex.

Here is another example of how “gender” is a social or cultural defined concept. Look below. Which color is associated with boys and which is for girls?

In 2016 in America, pink is generally associated with girls while boys are connected to blue. But it wasn’t always that way. In an NPR article on the subject, it states, “a 1918 trade catalog for children's clothing recommended blue for girls.” It goes on to state, “We think of pink as such a girlish color, but it's really a post-World War II phenomenon.”

This is another example how the concept of gender changes over the years in society.

There are many these days who do not like the current socially dictated concepts of gender. As they try to change what is the social norm, there are those who are against it for various reasons. One of these reasons is because of the confusion (on both sides) about the difference between gender and biological sex.

Case in point, look at the following picture:

Socially, gender has defined women as dress wearers and men as those who wear pants. However, this person may have something to say about that:

It’s easy to see how gender and biological sex are intertwined and connected when it comes to bathrooms—one of the hot issues with gender activities. When a sign, based on the concept of gender, is used to indicate a room based on a person’s biological sex, confusion and misunderstandings will happen.

There are those that would argue that bathroom usage should be based on gender, not biological sex. However, consider the following picture:

These urinals are clearly designed for those of a certain biological sex, not a gender. The same is true for bathrooms which contain these signs:

From a strictly logical point of view, those of different biological sexes have different body parts. Despite social or cultural views on the subject, the different body parts have different functions. Bathrooms, at their most basic, are designed around biological functions—not based on what color a person prefers to wear, or if they want to wear a dress (or any other idea which defines gender).

There are bathrooms which are designed to accommodate people of either biological sex. Yet, there are those who are hesitant to share a bathroom with someone of the other biological sex. Often, those who speak up about such reservations are labeled as intolerant or biased. Why? Because society is changing to redefine the meaning of gender—and it is gaining momentum. Media tends to lean on the liberal side which promotes change.

Ignorance of the difference between the words “gender” and “biological sex” is confusing the issue. People then go on to argue using the same words which mean different things to them as individuals.

For true understanding, and resolution to differences, to occur, the meaning behind the words used must first be established. Without that, no progress will be made as gender is redefined by society, but biological sex is not.



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