Gender refers to how one relates to the gender categories within one's society and culture. One's gender is built from many different aspects, including gender identity, gender presentation (also referred to as gender expression), gender alignment, and gender modality.
All societies have a set of gender categories, each with their own cultural norms and expectations, which are typically based on a division of labor. In most Western societies, there is a gender binary, meaning two recognized genders (male/men and female/women), and those who exist outside these categories fall under the umbrella terms non-binary or genderqueer. Some societies have gender categories other than men and women, such as the hijras of South Asia. These are often referred to as third genders (and fourth genders, etc.).
Gender identity is a term referring to the way an individual experiences their identity in relation to societal and cultural norms and expectations regarding gender. This can include deeply-held inner feeling of whether one is female, male, both, or neither (including third genders, genderlessness, xenogender etc.) An individual's gender identity is an internally held identity and is not seen by others.
Gender presentation, or gender expression, is an aspect of gender referring to how an individual's appearance and behavior is categorized by society in relation to the genders recognized in that culture.
While gender presentation is often thought of as being an indication of one's gender identity, that is not always the case. For example, a woman may present androgynously or masculinely, or a non-binary individual may present masculinely or femininely. Individuals whose gender presentations do not align with their actual gender are known as gender non-conforming. Some individuals may change their gender presentation from day to day or along with their gender identity.
Gender quality is a set of gendered qualities or traits to describe an individual or their gender. As an example, a man is someone's gender identity, but their gender quality may be masculine. Gender quality ties closely to gender presentation, but gender quality can also define one's internally defined gendered traits such as personality or method of thinking.
Gender alignment is an aspect of gender referring to the way an individual's gender may intersect with other genders. This concept is often used by non-binary individuals who experience an alignment with a binary gender that is not expressed by their gender identity, but any gender can have an alignment to any other. Alignment is not identifying as the gender identity itself but a quality of it, or partial aspects of it.
Gender modality refers to the correspondence (or lack thereof) between one's assigned gender at birth and one's actual gender identity. The two primary and most well known gender modalities are cisgender and transgender. However, those are not the only possible modalities one can have.
Gender vs. Sex
Sex is a biological value, generally determined by genitalia, hormones, and/or chromosomes. Genitalia is typically the basis for one's assigned sex at birth. For example, an individual born with a penis is generally assigned male at birth and is typically raised with the expectation that they will identify as male. If one's sex characteristics differ from male or female, it is known as intersex.
It is generally accepted that sex refers to one's physical characteristics, while gender identity refers to one's internal sense of identity and relation to the gender roles in one's society. In short form, sex is considered physical or biological, whereas gender is considered psychological, cultural, or sociological. Sex and gender do not have to align, though there are ties between sex and gender; such as males being naturally stronger due to their increased testosterone output, thus resulting in the trait of strength presenting as an aspect of manhood. However not all men are naturally strong, and may not relate to the concept of strong masculinity as a result.
Individuals can experience a disconnect with their sex at birth, and the sex they feel they should be. These cases are referred to as transsex and altersex individuals. When sex does align with one's sense of self, they are referred to as perisex individuals.
Gender as a social construct has been seen throughout history, though was not necessarily defined as 'gender'; these gendered aspects typically changing throughout the various eras of history, also differing per region. Gender has especially dictated roles, economics, politics, culture, and society as a whole, though in some societies roles were based on status, wealth, and family rather than gender.
Gender has often been used as a way of judging, stereotyping, and holding prejudice against others and their associated gender. As a 20th century example, Egypt is ranked 134th out of 153 countries according to the Global Gender Gap index, with striking gender differences in employment and political power. Compared to ancient Egypt where citizens generally saw men and women as equal, these sources often denote the ever changing concept of gender.
The definition of the "gender role" was created by Sexologist John Money in 1995, aiming to introduce the terminological distinction between biological sex and gender. He defined it as "all those things that a individual says or does to disclose himself or herself as having the status of boy or man, girl or woman." Before his work, it was uncommon to use the word gender to refer to anything but grammatical categories. However, this meaning of the word did not become widespread until the 1970s, when feminist theory embraced the concept of a distinction between biological sex and the social construct of gender.
In some contexts, the two words are still used interchangeably, such as with non-human animals. For instance, in 1993, the US FDA started to use gender instead of sex for animals. Later, in 2011, the FDA reversed its position and began using sex as the biological classification. In legal cases alleging discrimination, sex is usually preferred as the determining factor rather than gender, as it refers to biology rather than socially constructed norms which are more open to interpretation and dispute.citation needed
Due to the psychological and sociological aspect of gender, gender is often depicted as a wide spectrum. This spectrum traditionally ranges between the two binaries (men and women), with the in between being androgynous or non-binary. Because the spectrum is so large, many labels are created to categorise certain areas between the extremes, thus presenting an easier way of identifying oneself and others in a more conclusive manner. As an example, those who identify as 75% of a male gender may identify as a demiboy. Or those who identify as 90% of a male gender may identify as a paraboy. These subterms create an important distinction between those who identify as binary men, and those who are only partly men.
Where the binary genders lack though, other gender labels are created to describe similar gendered experiences between individuals. As a Western cultural example, though masculinity may represent strength, and femininity may represent nurturing, neither binary genders represent honesty, extraversion, or efficiency. Though any man or woman may have these traits, they are not inherently linked to either binary gender. As a result, other gender labels are created to define these more unique experiences and personalities. These unique gender identities are not new, and many individuals throughout history do not fit into either binary gender, however the terms created are new to the modern day. Such umbrellas include: genderlessness, abinary, atrinary, maverique, and xenine genders to the spectrum. Due to social constructs being so inherently complex, the gender spectrum is often considered multi-dimensional and infinite.
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