What is the difference between sexuality and gender

Gender or sex? Why gender is not the same as gender

We are not born as men and women, but made into them, wrote Judith Butler (analogously). But what does that mean?

“Frauenfrage”, a column by Louisa Albrecht

! This column reflects my personal opinion at the time of publication. I do not represent or support all of the positions presented here today.

In the course of the column I have certainly used the terms sex and gender very often - two terms that are both translated as gender in German.
But what exactly is the difference and why is it so important to keep reminding yourself of it and paying it the necessary attention?

(In the following I will differentiate between s-gender and g-gender for gender in the sense of sex and gender in the sense of gender, unless the context makes it clear).

Sex refers to the biological sex, or in other words: the expression of gender characteristics (e.g. penis vs. vulva) that we classify as either "male" or "female". Everyone is born with or without certain biological traits and in theory these are all geared towards a specific biological gender (sorry for this strange and inadequate choice of words). Practically mostly too, but not always. There are also people who do not have the “typical” number of chromosomes (46 XX = female, 46 XY = male), whose hormone levels do not have the average levels of testosterone or estrogen for people of one sex ... from the sports press you should as some more recent examples come to mind. In addition, there are people whose gender characteristics cannot be anatomically classified as clearly female or male. Likewise, intersex people can have mixtures of all of these. Often enough, as a result, shortly after their birth, these people are, to a certain extent, forcibly assigned to an s-gender through surgical interventions or hormonal influences.

Apart from that, there are also trans * people. But what does that mean?

trans-infos.de uses the definition from a medical point of view. “When a person“ constantly and permanently identifies mentally and completely with the opposite sex ”.

With transsexuality there is:

1. the desire to live in the opposite sex
2. Feeling uncomfortable or not belonging to one's own gender, as well as
3. The desire for hormonal and surgical (opposite-sex) treatment

However, the medical definition may be too narrow. Action Transsexuality and Human Rights, for example, uses this definition: “Transsexuality means body characteristics that deviate from one's own gender self-image or the actual gender of a person. Knowledge of this is innate. Authoritarian ideas about gender (social, culture-dependent understanding of gender roles) prevent a healthy coming-out in some societies.
Regardless of culture and social identification models (whether binary, non-binary, ...), people with transsexuality have the need to bring their bodies into harmony with their actual gender. This includes hormone treatments, but also operations.
Transsexuality is not a question of gender identity. "

The fact that a person is born with a certain biological gender does not mean that this person also feels that they belong to the corresponding social gender.

To come back to the Judith Butler - what is the social gender and thus gender?
Gender is the sum of social norms regarding g-gender roles. What is typically male? What is typically female?
Every society has its own ideas about it and these also change over time (high heels, for example, used to be reserved for men and pink was a boy’s color for a long time, as it was kind of the "little red", the color of rulers).

To be aware of the difference between gender and sex is especially important in order to recognize that people of a certain s-gender do not act in a certain way simply because of their biology.
Children show socially desirable behavior as early as the age of 2 and if we look around in everyday life we ​​will quickly find that there are a lot of behaviors that are okay for one gender and not for the other. Boys will be boys. A girl doesn't fight herself. You are smart / beautiful / strong / tall / ... for a boy / a girl.

But just as easily as stereotypes can be found, deviations from them can also be discovered. Strong women who have a career, men who stay at home and become "housemen" ... (to dig deep into the cliché box).

The fact that women like to shop, for example, is still not biologically justified (if they do, you will be the first to find out. I'm currently working on a project at the university on sustainable clothing consumption and thus also gender-specific shopping behavior ...). With the addition of social norms, however, something like this can easily be explained relatively.

People are also shaped by the biological conditions that their body brings with it. But we are influenced even more by other people who tell us every day that what we do is “right” or “wrong” for someone like us, although we are still only divided into the categories of men and women.
The question I want to ask at this point: Why is that still necessary?
If we leave childbearing aside, people should be able to do anything today. I know women * who can lift heavier than men * and men * who cook, sew or whatever better than women *. Why are people still restricted because of their biological gender? Even nowadays, social norms are far too often a restriction in free development!


Tagged biological gender, women's question, gender, column, louisa albrecht, Medienblick Bonn, sex, socialization, differentiation