Gender Vs. Sex

Recently I had a conversation with my in-laws about a “Gender Revealing” party they saw on television. The expectant couple had the ultrasound technician find out the sex of the baby, write it on a card, and the couple didn’t peek at it. (Now that’s self-control!) They gave the card to a bakery, and a special cake was made based on what the card read.  At the “Gender Revealing” party, when they cut it open, a pink or a blue cake was discovered, thereby revealing the “gender” of the baby to be. My response? “I went to a party like that! Except they called it a ‘Sex Party’, which is what it was… they were revealing the sex of the baby, not the gender.  The true gender won’t be revealed until the baby is much older.” The blank stares I was met with weren’t surprising. So few people ever think of the distinction between gender and sex, but due to my work and experiences with loved ones, I understand how important this distinction is. Do I need to be educator at every turn, or explain the distinction any time someone mentions something like this? Probably not. But, the reason I do it is this: the more people in society who understand the distinction between sex and gender, the better off gender nonconforming people will be.

To be perfectly clear… sex refers to genitals and sex organs; either male or female genitals/sex organs make one biologically male or female.  One’s gender identity comes from the brain, and may or may not align with one’s sex.  I believe gender identity is something that is formed in the womb along with the genitalia; sometimes they just don’t match.

Gender is in reference to what a person feels like as a result of having a male or female brain.  If one identifies as having a male gender, he is most likely going to be comfortable with being called a male name, having male pronouns used for him, and will want to present as male. If one identifies as having a female brain or gender identity, she is going to want to be referred to by a female name, female pronouns, and will want to present as female.  Often I simplify this so-not-simple concept with this question: “When you check out at the grocery store, do you want someone to say ‘Thank you, Ma’am’, or ‘Thank you, Sir”?  I say this because it relates it to an everyday experience which we all can relate to. It just wouldn’t feel right to ANY of us if someone addressed us with the “wrong” title. In these everyday experiences, sex organs don’t matter, but brains certainly do. And yet transgender individuals have to deal with being referred to by the “wrong” gender (due to their sex) often for years before transitioning.

So when a baby is born and the parents hear, “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!”, that is a statement of what sex the baby is. One’s true gender (may match the sex, or may not) is revealed much later when the individual becomes old enough or aware enough to express the gender identity of their brain.

Trans Youth Family Allies

On Monday 5/23/11, I had the pleasure of listening to Kim Pearson speak at the LGBT Center! I have heard so much about her, and I was thrilled to finally get to meet her in person. Kim is an amazing woman and mother of a trans individual. She is the Executive Director and co-founder of Trans Youth Family Allies (TYFA), an organization that connects and supports families of trans children. The “little t” in LGBt, as Kim would say! 🙂 Her organization plays a crucial role in advocating for and educating for this underserved population.

I approached her after the talk and told her we must connect, so the next day we met up for coffee.  It was wonderful to talk to someone who is so passionate about working with gender variant and transgender children, and completely validated my beliefs about the work I do with them. As she said at the end of our meeting, “It’s so nice to meet like-minded people!” Likewise, Kim! Thank you for all the work you do. See the link below for more information about Kim and TYFA.

http://www.imatyfa.org/aboutus/bio-kimpearson.html

Also, consider donating to keep this AMAZING, volunteer-based program alive. http://www.imatyfa.org/permanent_files/donate.html

Stay tuned for more blogs about valuable information and insights I gained from connecting with Kim.