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Sex vs. Gender

Is it just our cultural awkwardness at using the word sex that makes us stick with the word gender to cover all the bases? Or possibly it’s just a matter of uncertainty that makes us choose one or the other.


  • They had a party to reveal the gender of the unborn baby.
  • The sex of my sister has changed over time.
  • It is pretty easy to determine the gender of honeybees.


Let’s be clear: Sex is exclusively about biology, and gender is about social roles and identity. We are becoming increasingly familiar with individuals who identify as a gender that doesn’t align with the sex that they were assigned at birth. An unborn baby has no gender to reveal, but its sex is either male, female, or occasionally intersex (having the physical characteristics of both). So, yes, we may wish to rethink calling it a “gender reveal party.” And as far as we know, honeybees do not express gender identities, so we’re determining their sex only.


Derived from the Latin word genus (kind, family, type, etc.), the meaning of gender separated from the meaning of sex in the twentieth century. Now generally associated with identity, the social concept of gender has real-life usages and implications. Sex, which is connected etymologically with the word section, is about the actual biological characteristics that divide individuals.

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