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By: Ash Easton, {She/Him/Theirs}

Let’s start with what do we mean by ”sex” and “gender”?

Sometimes it is hard to understand exactly what is meant by the term “gender”, and how it differs from the closely related term, “sex”.

“Sex” refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women or intersex. These are assigned at birth and are typically dictated by the acronyms AFAB and AMAB, where AFAB means “assigned female at birth” and AMAB means “assigned male at birth”.

Intersex is typically a person who is born with sexual anatomy, reproductive organs, and/or chromosome patterns that do not fit the typical definition of male or female. They may identify as any sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Gender” refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women (those AFAB or AMAB).

To put it another way:

“Male” and “female” are sex categories, while “masculine”, “man” and “feminine”, “woman” are gender characteristics. This may also include “neutral/androgynous” which is typically described as a mix of genders as well as “agender” which is typically “genderless”. Aspects of sex will not vary substantially between different human societies, while aspects of gender may vary greatly.

Some examples of sex characteristics-

  • Those who are AFAB typically menstruate while those AMAB do not.
  • Those who are AMAB typically have testicles while those AFAB do not.
  • Those who are AFAB typically have developed breasts that are usually capable of lactating, while those AMAB have not.
  • Those who are AMAB typically have broader shoulders as compared to those AFAB.

There are some people who identify as male or female and do not experience said sex characteristics above such as those who are trans or have health complications. The lack of these sex characteristics does not mean that their identity is any less real as gender and sex do not mean the same thing.

Some examples of gender characteristics-

  • In the United States (and most other countries), women earn significantly less money than men for similar work.
  • In Vietnam, many more men than women smoke, as female smoking has not traditionally been considered.
  • In Saudi Arabia, men are allowed to drive cars while women are not.
  • In most of the world, women do more house work than men.

 What’s the Difference Between Non Binary and Binary Genders?

Binary is the idea that there are only two genders when, in fact, this isn’t true while non-binary is the belief of more than two genders. Those who identify as non-binary typically refer to a gender outside of male or female. This may include but is not limited to genderqueer, trigender, neutrois, or agender.

Gender is typically described as a spectrum where someone falls and some people move on the gender spectrum such as those who are genderqueer and genderfluid. Someone’s gender can also fall outside the gender spectrum as exemplified in those who are agender.

 What are the Different Non Binary Genders?

Agender: literally means “without gender”; some use it to describe a gender identity that they don’t know the word for or for choosing not to label themselves with a gender.

Androgyne: typically described as feeling both feminine and masculine simultaneously, but not necessarily in equal parts.

Bigender: literally means “two genders”; people who feel exactly two genders either simultaneously or varying between the two; does not necessarily feel masculine and feminine but can also include non-binary genders in the felt two.

Cisgender: a person who identifies with the sex assigned at birth as their gender

Demigender: someone who identifies with a gender partially but not wholly; such as a demiboy identifies as man partially but not wholly and same with demigirl; they may or may not identify with another gender in addition to feeling demi

Genderfluid: someone who flows along the gender spectrum and is “fluid” where their gender varies

Genderqueer: typically used a constellation term for non-binary genders or for those who choose to not use a label.

Hijra: persons in south Asian cultures who are psychological male but adopt female gender identity and expression, female clothing as well as other feminine gender roles; can be described as a type of third-gender as neither male nor female Intersex: typically, a person who is born with sexual anatomy, reproductive organs, and/or chromosome patterns that do not fit the typical definition of male or female; may identify as any sexual orientation or gender identity

Pangender: a non-binary gender experience which refers to a wide multiplicity of genders that can (or not) tend to the infinite (meaning that this experience can go beyond the current knowledge of genders); their experience can be either simultaneously or over time

Transgender: a constellation term for anyone whose internal experience of gender does not match the gender they were assigned at birth which is typically based on genitalia; also refers to those who transition to the “opposite” gender such as MTF (male to female) or FTM (female to male)

Trigender: literally “three genders”; describes people experience exactly three gender identities, either simultaneously or varying between them

Two-spirit: a culturally distinct gender that describes Indigenous North Americans who fulfill one of many mixed gender roles found traditionally among many Native Americans and Canadian First Nations indigenous groups; the mixed gender roles encompassed by the term historically included wearing the clothing and performing the work associated with both men and women

*There are many more but these are the most common gender identities, there are also many gender identities that people have not discovered and are not named.

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