If you want to make a difference and help others while learning about sexual health and keeping yourself safe, then you need to join SMART Youth! You can come to any of our events around the city or come to one of our movie nights or Open Mic events. Check out our schedule to learn what we are doing or e-mail

Friday, November 23, 2012

SMART Youth Answers: Handsome Girl, Pretty Boy

What is the difference between someone's sex and gender?

It might seem like this is a silly question since you don't know if the answer makes a difference in our lives. But you will be surprised the number of times in your life that it will matter. I'm sure you're thinking, aren't my sex and my gender the same thing? If I'm a female, then I'm a girl, right? That's not always the case...let's start by defining these two words.

Someone's SEX refers to the biological definition of some as male or female. This can refer to someone's reproductive organs or to their genetic makeup -- males (XY) or females (XX).

Someone's GENDER refers to the societal construct created to describe one's identity as feminine or masculine.  This might sound a little confusing, so let's start with an example: When a little boy plays with a doll or wears a tiara, what happens?  Most of the time, adults take away the doll or the tiara and tell the little boy that those things are "girls' toys" and give him a truck or a helmet.

Now that you know the definitions of SEX and GENDER, what does that mean to you?? Well, it's helpful to understand how we are viewed by other people and why people (your parents, teachers, people in your neighborhood) have certain expectations of how you should behave. Since these expectations are created by a society, they will change depending on where you live. So what it means to be "masculine" or "feminine" isn't always the same.

You might not always feel like you want to act the way that your community (parents, teachers, friends, etc.) tells you to act. That's because our gender identity can be on a continuum and everyone isn't exactly the same. Check out the picture below to see what the continuum could look like.
Now the interesting part of this discussion so far is that we are not talking about sexual acts at all. Instead, sex and gender are referring to someone's identity -- or the way that you understand yourself and how other people view you. Your identity has many different parts to it, and your gender identity is one of them. The way that you show this to other people is called your gender expression.  So, a boy can wear a dress and that doesn't have anything to do with any sexual acts.

One of the great things about understanding your identity and gender expression is that you can make the choice about who you are and how you want to interact with other people. It's okay to express yourself in ways that are different from what is expected from you because of your "gender". And there are places available that will provide you with the safe space for you to be "yourself".  SMART Youth is one of them!

Check in tomorrow to learn more about identity, and there will be a post about the different types of sexual expression and a definition of sexual orientation

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