Somewords can be used interchangeably while others have a distinctmeaning. The terms sex, gender, gender identity and sexualorientation are examples of this viewpoint. Sex, as a concept,denotes a person`s biological status. The biological indicators of aperson`s sex include the external genitalia, which is visible to thehuman eye, sex chromosomes, gonads and other internal reproductiveorgans. A person can be male, female or intersex (a combination ofmale and female features) depending on his biological buildup (sex).
Conversely,gender is perceivable as the attitudes, feelings or behavior that areassociated with a person`s biological sex. This type of perception isusually dependent on the culture of a particular region. When aperson`s behavior is compatible to his cultural expectation, he orshe is considered gender–normative. On the other hand, when anindividual`s gender is incompatible with his her culturalexpectation, his orientation is labeled gender non-conformity. Hencegender identity is dependent on how individuals view themselves: asmales, females or transgender.
Theterm transgender is usually used to refer to individuals whose genderidentity and sex are incongruent. Gender expression is primarilyconcerned with how a person`s perceives his or her gender within aparticular cultural context. This expression may or may not beconsistent with the prescribed gender roles of that culture. Thus,inconsistency may result from the socialization and communicationpatterns, clothing and interests of that culture.
Finally,sexual orientation refers to the sex that a person is attracted toboth sexually and intimately. Individuals who feel attracted tomembers of a similar sex are viewed as homosexual (gays or lesbians).Conversely, persons that are drawn to members of the opposite sex arereferred to as heterosexuals bisexuals are interested in both maleand female sexes.
Thedebate on sexuality has evolved profoundly over the years. Scholarsare keen on gaining insights on the factors that center on sexualityand sexual orientation. In the past decade, many people have beenstigmatized because of their sexual orientation. However, people arebecoming more open and beginning to talk about these issues, and, asa result, terms such as ‘coming out` are increasingly beingadvanced.
Peoplewho ‘come out` go against the norm. These individuals defy the setgender roles and embrace their gender identities, in spite of thestereotypes that societies forward. Western countries, in particular,are more open to this ideology, unlike other nations of the world.Regardless, it is important that people deliberate further about thissubject. Scholars such as sociologists are curious about finding theconnection between sex and gender. They contend that there is theneed to determine whether gender identity results from one`sbiological sex or other external factors that come into play.
Sociobiologistsargue that male aggressiveness and female nurturance arise fromnatural selection. Conversely, bio-sociologists believe that thecharacteristics inherent in biological species determine theirperceptions of gender, for example, women take care of their infants.Although these schools of thought have come up with differentperspectives of understanding this topic, they all concur on onething: the notion of maleness and femaleness in determiningindividual properties.
Themeaning attached to the terms concerned determine the reason why thisissue is significant. In many cases, people in different setups usethe words incorrectly. For instance, a man who takes up femininetasks may be mistaken for a gay. Likewise, a woman who tends to beaggressive may be seen as a lesbian.
Hencethe primary question still lingers: what lies behind one being a maleor female? Research has not succeeded in revealing whether theprocess of childhood socialization influences future behavior orcreates femininity in women or masculinity in men. As opposed to onlyfocusing on differentiating actions, situations or setups that arethe basis of sexuality and gender identity, scholars should alsocontemplate the underlying factors in a more comprehensive manner.The types of environmental interaction that lead to this kind ofcategorization should also be considered.