Your gender expression is about how you choose to outwardly express your gender identity. This can include your appearance, clothes, hair and mannerisms among other things.
Your gender identity is your personal understanding and experience of your gender → it’s all about who you are and how you identify regardless of any medical stuff.
Your biological sex is the sum of biological and physiological characteristics that medically define someone as male, female or intersex. This can be external or bodily characteristics like having testicles or a vagina or it can be hidden in your DNA.
We like using spectrums as a way to introduce these ideas but some people prefer other ways to think about gender, sex and identity. It’s also important to remember that some people are not on our spectrums at all.
Sexuality is who you are sexually and emotionally attracted to. Check out our sexuality section for more info!
Biological and physical characteristics that medically define someone as male, female or intersex.
Gender vs Sex
Socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women.
The Male/Female Binary
Lots of people still think that everyone on the planet can, and should, be divided into one of two categories. This is called a gender binary system and it means there are only two choices for everyone. They either fit in the male box or the female box:
Splitting everyone into these two boxes can be pretty restrictive – some people don’t relate to either gender and some people don’t fit into the gender box that they are slotted into.
When society splits people up into either male or female it also decides what types of behaviour, character traits and personalities belong with each gender. Traditional gender roles in Scotland might look like this:
Girls like… pink, make up, shopping
Boys like… blue, sports, cars
We also reinforce gender roles through the language we use. Phrases like ‘man up’, ‘throws like a girl’, ‘boys don’t cry’ and ‘boys will be boys’ all tell us about the ways that society thinks girls and boys should behave.
What does this mean?
We’re not saying that there is anything wrong with an individual boy liking sports or an individual girl liking clothes but there is something wrong with a system that teaches people that they aren’t normal if they don’t fit in with gender stereotypes. We all know that there are lots of amazing female sports professionals and tons of brilliant male fashion designers so why do we still see fashion as feminine and sport as masculine? Why does gender need to come into it at all?
Gender roles can also have more worrying consequences. When we teach boys that they need to be strong and not show emotion we leave boys feeling like they have to be violent and struggle with hiding their feelings. When we teach girls they have to be pretty and skinny we see girls who are totally healthy trying to lose weight and avoid doing things like sport where they might look ‘unattractive’. When we grow up with really strict gender roles we can end up hurting ourselves or others and thinking that one gender isn’t as good as the other.
Check out this video to see the impact of gender roles on grown women:
We love this video because it shows that gender stereotypes hold us back from our full potential. If we get rid of strict gender roles that leaves more choice for everyone!