It was actually during the 1950’s that we started using the word gender instead of sex. The term was originally used to describe articles for nouns, that we know, are not biologically sexed. There are male, female, and neutral nouns. (If you’ve ever taken a foreign language, you’ll know what I’m talking about.) Why did we start using gender instead of sex in our daily lives? The reasons are muddy, confusing, even controversial, but you would be right to say that they mean the same thing.
However, along with sex/gender comes a list of arbitrary social expectations. Pink/Blue, Physical/Emotional, Trucks/Dolls, etc. These binaries change based on societal norms, and pink was considered a “male” color until the 1930’s. When we say things like “ladylike,” or “girly,” you’ll notice we are not talking about biological differences at all. So although gender corresponds to biological sex (or at least it did), it means something else.
Transgender, a term that did not exist until 1969, describes someone who is more comfortable in a social role that isn’t traditionally associated with their biological sex. Here are some facts that might lead to understanding:
- Gender is a synonym for biological sex. However, the transgender community uses it to describe social identity.
- Anthropologists (people scientists, basically) noticed this, and separated the terms to clear up the confusion. Academically, gender and sex are no longer equivalent terms.
- We still use these terms as if they were equivalent, and tbh, that’s what really matters. Although the modern use of gender is becoming more popular, this shouldn’t bother you. It is only a word. Outside of a social context, it really doesn’t mean anything at all.