The Distinction Between Gender and Sex, or the Lack Thereof

The Distinction Between Gender and Sex
The Distinction Between Gender and Sex

This argument makes two basic assumptions:

1) There is no metaphysical trait that is unique to either sex (the only differences between the sexes are physical).

2) As a society, we strive for the sexes to be as equal as possible.

Now, if those two assumptions are true, then it is a simple matter to prove that separating the terms “gender” and “sex” is without merit.

I ask the question, how can someone “feel” more a man than a woman, or vice versa?

When I ask that question, usually it is responded with the assertion that the individual has more masculine or feminine traits.

What is a masculine trait? What is a feminine trait?

I posit that there is no such thing outside of biology.

Usually activities or metaphysical traits are associated culturally as masculine or feminine.

For example, caring for children is a feminine trait. Does that mean that caring for children makes you a woman? No, men can care for children just as much.

Aggression is considered a masculine trait. Does that mean an aggressive female is a man? No, as women can be aggressive too.

Is there any trait, not rooted in biology, unique to one sex? Can only women dance, and only men fix cars?

No, such ideology us outdated. Women can do whatever a man can do, and vice versa, assuming they are physically capable.

Therefore, the logical conclusion is that it is impossible to discern whether you are a man or a woman other than through physical means, as men and women are identical other than their physical bodies.

If it is impossible to determine one’s gender other than through physical means, then the term becomes no different than “sex”.

If we, as a society, decide that if you have more culturally-defined masculine than feminine traits you are a man, regardless of sex, then that enshrines cultural norms and gender stereotypes as a pillar of our culture. This would effectively mean that, as an example, only men can be mechanics, regardless of sex. The distinction of sex and gender inherently relies on the existence of societal gender norms/stereotypes.

Such a culture borders on absurdity, and is not one to strive for.

If we, as a society, decide that gender and sex are one and the same, then we acknowledge that men and women are equal in opportunity. Specifically, that one’s interests are not defined by their sex/gender, but by the individual. This would lead to the eventual abolition of gender norms.

*As an aside, this is applicable to transsexual individuals, but not those who suffer from sexual dysphoria. Sexual dysphoria is characterized by an extreme rejection/aversion to one’s own body. The only known treatment for sexual dysphoria is sex-reassignment surgery. If left untreated, it is likely the patient will either mutilate themselves or commit suicide. This differs from transsexual individuals as being transsexual is not a mental illness, and is characterized by a rejection of how they are perceived by others. Transsexuals are not inherently uncomfortable in their body, which makes them fundamentally distinct from those suffering from Sexual Dysphoria. However, those suffering from Sexual Dysphoria will usually be transsexual as well. This boils down to not all transsexuals have sexual dysphoria, while all those with sexual dysphoria are trans.


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Most Helpful Girl

  • 5d

    It's not about what people can do, it's about what people expect people to do. Men CAN care for children, but women are EXPECTED to. It's a feminine role. I'd argue that if we ceased to care what gender someone was, and ceased to have roles and stereotypes associated with gender (probably even to the point of no longer differentiating gender in language- no more gendered pronouns, just words referring to physical sex features) people being trans would cease to be such an issue because there would essentially be no way to signal a transition at all. Now, it might be the case that gender is natural, as is being transgender, especially given that trans people's brains really do resemble brains of the gender they identify as more than the gender associated with their biological sex. In that case, if gender is natural, it's about something neurological, and transgender people have some kind of thing going on where their neurological configuration doesn't match up with their other sex traits.

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    • 5d

      You followed the argument well.

      The reason you are having minor difficulty is that you are reconciling trans with this idea.
      This argument attacks the very premise of a non-physical trait being masculine or feminine.

      That cannot be done as this argument means that there is no such thing as trans.

      If a male who has a bunch of stereotypically feminine traits/interests, does that make him a woman?
      I would argue no, as there is no metaphysical feminine trait a man cannot have.

      This argument could only be defeated by an example of a trait not tied to physical biology that is uniquely found in men or women, but never the opposite gender.
      If there is no such example, then this is the only logical conclusion.

      This means there is no such thing as transgender, as there is no such thing as an exclusive nonphysical gender trait.

    • 5d

      A good point of view. But (again just my opinion), I don't have an issue with transgender people. THEY do have an issue with me.

      Now.. I will not change my acceptance of facts to appease someone's feelings. I dont feel this makes me intolerant. It is their life, and I don't judge them. I accept them for who they are. But the facts are they are either Male or Female, (dictated by nature). It's like being pregnant... you can't be half pregnant... a woman either is or she isn't. They may choose to identify as a Man one day and a Woman the next, (gender fluid not transgendered). But.. biologically their gender is either Male or Female.

    • 3d

      But there ARE non-physical traits that are feminine/masculine. Not inherently, but by social definition. Yeah, men can have feminine social attributes and be men, and vice versa for women. But at some point, somehow, those feminine or masculine attributes add up and equate to the category of man or woman. Which I admit is I'll defined as shit. But to be fair, so is biological sex, though perhaps to a lesser degree. Biological sex too is made up of a lot of smaller traits that can vary in their combination. Really, this is sort of how most categories that we treat as solid work.

      Also, I'm not trans. I can't fully understand how this works or why it works. I'm basing this off of my understanding of gender, plus what I know about gendered brain structure and the brain structure of trans people, and the words of my trans friends (one of whom actually thought as you did as well for a long time, but never managed to escape the feeling that they didn't want to interact/be perceived as the gender associated with their biological sex)

Most Helpful Guy

  • 7d

    Masculine and feminine traits, activities, etc. are real and still exist. But it doesn't mean a man can't or shouldn't do feminine things. And vise versa. It's correlated with biological norms but it's not a rule.

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    • 5d

      But if there is no (non-biological) trait unique to either gender, then the genders are indistinguishable.

      So this brings a dilemma.
      There are only two logical conclusions at this realization: either gender doesn't exist sepsarate from sex or it is an infinite spectrum, with no two individuals having exactly the same gender.

      If you were to go down the latter option, you keep gender as a idea but it loses any semblance of usefulness.

      It can be likened to the statement "everyone is unique."
      Yes, that is true. But if everyone is unique, then uniqueness itself becomes worthless as a descriptor.

      If everyone is a different gender, then the term gender is useless at performing its one purpose: to describe.

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What Girls & Guys Said

47
  • 7d

    This was a very good mytake, well done. I followed your points well and they make sense-- except for the part about transsexuals. You lost me there I am not sure what you meant at that point.

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  • 7d

    (maybe add a little conclusion i just read it and have no idea what point you just made) but yes gender norms/roles must perish

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    • 7d

      I dont think they should perish at all. I can't give birth or breast feed, so I think the ladies should keep that one. Gender and sex are the exact same thinf.

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    • 5d

      Outside of biological functions, (and this is just my opinion), there is nothing that either gender can't do. Gender is not disconnected from sex. Indeed they are the same thing. Biology determines gender.
      Therefore gender is not disconnected frim biology.

      Now... we know that Males and Females are better at certain things than each other. There is a reason that Militaries use "gender norming", (lower fitness standards for women than that of men).

      Nowhere is this more evident than in sport... there is a reason that Males and Females do not compete against each other in Rugby, Grid Iron. Athletics, weight lifting etc.

      Is it right for a Male to decide that they identify as a Female and then compete against females who would now be at a severe and obnoxious disadvantage? I think it is wrong and not fair.

      You cannot magically change your gender. Even after a sex change regardless of the number of hormones used... the cells of the body remain Male.

    • 5d

      And can we pause for a moment and define equality. Equality is equal opportunity, equal rights and equal responsibility.

      Equality of outcome is impossible. If it was.. I could Identify as a Woman, become pregnant and give birth...

  • 2d

    While sex and gender are closely linked together they are still different. Though gender is how you are perceived as in society. Generally, a lot of people identify as either male or female and anyone around them perceives people as male or female based on secondary sex characteristics.

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  • 6d

    The Elliott Hulse adage "The Body is the Mind" sums this up well.

    They are directly connected and one effects the other. Problems arise when we ignore this fact. Scientifically proven that simply your posture can change your mood, all around attitude and how you walk through the world as such. But we're to believe having an entirely different dominant hormone balance and hardware have no effect? Riiiiiight.

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  • 3d

    There should be congruence between biological sex and gender (that mental/ personality characteristics exhibited by said sex). When there isn't it is mental illness, just as when one's maturity doesn't match with their chronological age.

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  • 7d

    I identify as a lolipop... cuz the left said I can..

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  • 4d

    Simple:

    Sex is male and female.

    Gender is masculine and feminine.

    Call me simple minded but I don't care. I don't agree we have more than 2 of each like sexologists says.

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  • 7d

    Gender and sex are the same thing.

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  • 7d

    Sex in physical and a gender is social

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    • 5d

      Let's have a civil discussion.

      I see your profile picture is male, I assume you are a man.

      What makes you a man, and not a woman?

    • 5d

      Sex refersyour genetics and your physical body. Most people born male or female but the are cases where people are between the two.

      Gender refers to how you view yourself and how you want to be treated. That why i say it social. Most male identify with being a man and females identify with woman. And do see cases where men identify as women and vice versa.

  • 7d

    Good mytake

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  • 4d

    You seem to be operating under the assumption that it needs to be all or nothing. I don't think anyone says anything like childcare makes a woman. I think that's a straight up misrepresentation of it. A collection of traits makes these things, just as one note doesn't make a song and one song doesn't make a genre.

    "Is there any trait, not rooted in biology, unique to one sex?"
    Irrelevant question. There doesn't need to be anything unique in order to identify gendered behaviour.

    "This would effectively mean that, as an example, only men can be mechanics"
    Faulty assumption. No, it wouldn't. I would simply identify trends in behaviour.

    So basically, your conclusions are wrong, because the premises you used to build on to reach them are erroneous.

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