What do “sex” and “gender” mean?

A person’s sex and gender are not the same thing.   Check out this graphic called the “Genderbread Person” for some helpful tips.

What does sex mean?

Sex refers to how your body formed. What kind of gonads do you have? Do you have a uterus (womb)? What about your genitals? And chromosomes? All of these questions are talking about a person’s sex—how a body is put together. There are so many ways in which our bodies can grow. When you have a DSD (difference of sex development)/intersex variation), your body took a unique pathway to becoming you—an alternative to what people usually see.

(Please note: in the Genderbread person, it calls that different formula of sex “intersex,” which is another way people may refer to differences of sex development (DSD.)

What does gender mean?

When people talk about how you feel and identify yourself to others (as a guy, a girl, or otherwise), they are talking about GENDER. People are used to putting genders into two big boxes: male and female.

Sometimes, people confuse a person’s feeling and identity (gender) with gender role behaviors. Gender role behaviors are stereotypes of how men and women ‘should’ act. For example, people may expect girls to wear dresses, cry at ‘chick flicks’, and listen to love songs. And guys might be expected to like watching football, wearing loose, baggy clothes, playing sports and never crying.

However, we know that no two people are exactly alike. Being a boy or a girl doesn’t mean you have to act in a certain way or like certain things. Like what you like, and do what feels right for you. It doesn’t make you any less of a guy or a girl.

Thinking about gender?

It’s okay to think about it—about who you are and how you feel. And it is also okay to identify in a way other than as a guy or girl.

There are lots of terms anyone can use to identify themselves. For more about gender identities, click here for a resource (from the organization Gender Spectrum) on the many ways people identify and what it means to them.