A sociology of sexuality emerged in postwar America. At the time, sex was imagined as a property of the individual, whose personal expression was shaped by social norms and attitudes.¹ Most societies have binary gender systems in which everyone is either categorized as male or female. Gender, of course, is a spectrum and the male/female dichotomy is false.
- Biological sex refers to someone's objectively measurable organs, hormones and chromosomes. Healthy biological females have a vagina, ovaries and XX chromosomes. Biological males have a penis, testes and XY chromosomes. There are sex chromosome disorders that result in chromosome deficiencies such as X, XXX, XYY and XXY.
- Gender identity refers to how someone, in their own mind, thinks of themselves. In America, gender is seen as either male, or female but actually exists on a limitless spectrum.
- Gender expression refers to the how someone demonstrates their gender. These are typically based on traditional gender roles and comprise how someone dresses, behaves and interacts.
- Sexual orientation refers to the sex and gender of the person someone is sexually attracted to, in relation to their own.
Gender is complex and consists of limitless characteristics such as appearance, speech, movement and other factors that are not limited to someone’s biological sex. In theory, sex and gender do not have to be connected. There are biological males who can and do conform to feminine gender roles. But from the moment an American baby is born, it is taught a gender that coincides with their biological sex. Male babies are dressed in blue, bought ‘masculine’ toys such as cars and dressed, treated and handled according to hegemonic masculinity.
In America, when someone’s gender and sex do not match each other or fit the dichotomy, many consider it deviant. It was not until recently that intersex, transgender or transsexual people were socially accepted. Even now, these escapes from the binaries are not considered common.
1. Seidman, Steven. (1994). Sociological Theory. Retrieved May 8, 2014, from http://www.jstor.org.proxy.queensu.ca/stable/201862?seq=4