You’ve probably heard all of the arguments: There are two biological genders, two sexes for the purpose of reproduction. You’re either XX or XY – there aren’t any other options. So how can someone be anything other than male or female? How could they be born one sex but claim another one later?
To answer these questions, we first have to define some terms, using the Our Whole Lives sexuality education curriculum:
- BIOLOGICAL SEX: The physical sex characteristics – genitals, reproductive organs, hormones, and chromosomes – a person is born with. Roughly 98 percent of people are born male (XY) or female (XX), but around 1.7 percent of people are born intersex (for example, XXY), meaning they have a combination of male and female sex characteristics. That’s about the same number of people who are born with red hair.
- GENDER IDENTITY: A person’s internal sense of their gender. The majority of people have a gender identity that matches their biological sex, but for some people, these two things are very different. Think of gender identity as who your brain tells you you are. Cisgender people are those for whom biological sex and gender are the same. Transgender people are those for whom they are different.
- GENDER EXPRESSION: The way a person reveals or expresses their gender identity through clothing, voice, behaviors, hobbies, mannerisms, etc. Ironically, many of the ways we express gender have nothing at all to do with gender. Clothes, colors, hairstyles – they are all neutral until a culture decides to assign them a gender. Still, these external expressions of gender are one of the primary ways our brains put people into gender categories.
- SEXUAL ORIENTATION; A person’s romantic, emotional, and sexual attractions to others. This is unrelated to biological sex and gender. Anyone can be heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, etc.
From “Welcoming and Affirming: A Guide to Supporting and Working with LGBTQ+ Christian Youth” by Leigh Finke – Broadleaf Books