Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Gender Expression
At the moment someone gives birth, there is a new-born, a doctor, and a question: “Is it a girl or a boy?” The birth certificate has two boxes, and only one can be checked. This is an example of the gender binary system, where there are two, and only two, very distinct options. It is one or the other, male or female. And the way that question is answered has ramifications throughout one’s entire life. Future options, expectations, and opportunities all hinge on which box is checked. And interestingly, notice that the very question—”Is it…?” withholds person-hood until a gender is assigned.
Sex, gender identity, and gender expression can be experienced on a continuum, creating a nearly infinite combination of identities. The binary gender system says that there are only two genders. Here, we can see that gender is truly far more complex than this binary system.
GENDER IDENTITY refers to a person’s innate, deeply felt psychological identification as a man, woman, or another gender, which may or may not correspond to the sex assigned to them at birth. Gender identity is different from the term “gender,” which is typically used with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones.
GENDER EXPRESSION refers to the external characteristics and behaviors that are socially defined as either masculine or feminine, such as dress, grooming, mannerisms, speech patterns and social interactions. These norms vary culturally.
SEX is assigned at birth based on external genitalia, reproductive organs, chromosomes, and hormones. People with ambiguous genitalia or other biological complexities (such as an unusual chromosome pattern or hormonal shifts) may identify as intersex.
SEXUAL ORIENTATION is the term used to describe what gender(s) someone is physically and/or emotionally attracted to. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, queer, and straight are all examples of sexual orientations. A person’s sexual orientation is distinct from a person’s gender identity and expression.
Thanks to ReconcilingWorks for the content and graphics found on this page
Christ the Good Shepherd
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