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Medicine LibreTexts

5: Gender and Sexuality

  • Page ID
    11709
  • By far, sex and gender have been two of the most socially significant factors in the history of the world and the United States. Sex is one’s biological classification as male or female, which is biologically determined at the moment the sperm fertilizes the egg. Sex can be precisely defined at the genetic level with females having two X chromosomes (XX), while males posses an XY pairing. The female’s eggs contain only an X chromosome, while the male’s sperm contains half X and half Y chromosomes. Therefore, the sperm that fertilizes the egg determines whether a person has XX (female) or XY (male) pairing of chromosomes. The main difference between sexes is the reproductive body parts assigned to each (including their functions and corresponding hormones).

    Gender is culturally-based and varies in a thousand subtle ways across the many diverse cultures of the world. Gender has been shaped by social norms, politics, religion, philosophy, language, tradition and other cultural forces for many years. Gender identity is our personal internal sense of our own maleness or femaleness. Every society has a slightly different view of what it means to be male/masculine and female/feminine. Masculine traits are those we associate with being male, such as aggressiveness, directness, independence, objectiveness, and leadership. Feminine traits are being talkative, submissive, nurturing, emotional, and illogical. Androgyny is when a person shares both masculine and feminine traits. They fit their behavior to the situation; so an androgynous person might cry at a wedding or funeral, but can also change the tire on a car.

    Thumbnail: Gender symbols intertwined. The red (left) is the female Venus symbol. The blue (right) represents the male Mars symbol. Image used with permission (CC BY-SA 2.0 unported; pschemp).