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Gender, Sex and Sexual Orientation: Know The Difference.

todayApril 4, 2017 4

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By Kimberly Garcia
Blog Content Contributor

A few weeks ago, I became an official Ally at Texas State University. Ever since I learned about being an Ally, I knew it was something that I wanted to do. I decided that if becoming an Ally would help even one student feel safe on campus, it would be worth it. The thing that stuck out most to me at the Allies training was seeing that many people don’t actually understand the difference between gender, sex and sexual orientation.

It’s important to understand that gender and sex differ completely from sexual orientation. Gender, psychologically, can be decided when someone is about 18 months old; whereas sex is determined in the womb or at the time of birth by the identification of the babies genitals and sexual orientation isn’t usually identified until someone reaches puberty.

Gender is what someone feels they are. This feeling is whether they believe that they are a boy or a girl. Gender is about what someone believes they are in their head and has nothing to do with how their body is physically. The gender that someone feels they associate with the most is a part of their gender identity.  I’ve seen times when gender gets confused with sex, but sex is actually about the biology and physiology of a person. When referring to sex, one is to consider what genitals someone has.

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“Identity, attraction and sex are all important characteristics of a person to be able to differentiate.” Photo by Kimberly Garcia.

When determining the difference between gender and sex, it is also important to understand that gender is a social construct. Think about it, as soon as an expectant mother says she’s have a girl, everyone whips out the tutus and pink hued clothes. Society assumes that the fetus with the physical traits of a female will identify as a girl, which means that she’ll gravitate toward what others expect from a girl. This can include stereotypical perceptions about girls like the idea that girls should play with dolls and have a play kitchen. Psychology Today does a good job of sorting through the confusion that happens when someone is introduce to the idea of separating sex from gender.

Sexual Orientation is associated with whom someone is attracted to. This can get confusing when it comes to those who are transgender (a person who has undergone the surgery to change their physical appearance to match their gender) because others may assume that a person becomes gay or heterosexual depending on their sex change. There is no concrete way to approach sexual orientation or labels for anyone because it can vary from person to person.

Understanding the difference between these three concepts is a good way to build a society that is welcoming to everyone’s own identifications and personalities. Educating others about these differences will help to support people who have conflicting feelings regarding who they may be. This allows for there to be a place where everyone belongs no matter what their body looks like, what gender they may be or who they may love.

Featured image by Kimberly Garcia.

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todayApril 4, 2017

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