Dictionary.com defines gender as “either the male or female division of a species, especially as differentiated by social and cultural roles and behavior”. It even gives an example: the feminine gender. Typically, however, if you ask people who believe that “transwomen are women” and “a woman is anyone who identifies as a woman” for a definition of gender that does not refer to observable biological sex, you will not be provided with one. You’ll be told to educate yourself, even if you are yourself a literal transsexual. There is a good chance that you will be directed to purchase a $50 book to learn more. If you do so, after reading 300 pages of circular logic, you will be exactly where you started: with no cohesive definition of gender. Plus, you’ve just paid your debate opponent, because they wrote the book.
Lacking a proper definition makes it impossible to have a discussion where all participants are on the same page. So I’ve made a list, because I like lists and I like putting things in my own words. Confusion and discord make people vulnerable to abuse and manipulation. If anyone disagrees with the definitions here, that is fine, but I certainly won’t be revising my definitions without a coherent, detailed, non-circular replacement. I would encourage anyone who agrees to do the same.
Sex: Whether a person is male (has Y chromosome) or female (has only X chromosome). Whether a person’s body is set up to produce sperm or eggs.
Specific Terminology: Man & Woman describe the age, species, and sex of individuals. Man is an adult human male. Woman is an adult human female. Note that the terms Man and Woman describe a person’s sex, NOT their gender. Similarly, boy and girl describe young human males and females respectively, although these terms are also used for other species as terms of endearment, especially as humans may think of even animals as their “children”. For instance, a beloved dog may be a “good boy/girl”.
Gender: The societal and cultural aspects of each biological sex. Not to be conflated with sex. This includes roles, expectations, and behaviors typically associated with each sex. Examples include Masculine and Feminine- NOT Man and Woman. A Man may have a Feminine gender and vice versa.
Sex Dysphoria: When an individual perceives their biological sex as incorrect. This is usually described as distress over specific body parts. This does NOT include distress about social roles.
Transsexual: When an individual has taken steps to modify their body to superficially resemble the opposite sex in order to alleviate sex dysphoria. A transsexual person does NOT become the opposite sex. Note that because Man and Woman are descriptors of sex (and age/species), a transsexual Man does not become a Woman.
Transwoman: An accommodating term for a transsexual Man that denotes her (or his, biologically speaking) status as a transsexual. May be shortened to woman for the sake of politeness, although a Transwoman is NOT a Woman.
Transman: An accommodating term for a transsexual Woman that denotes his (or her, biologically speaking) status as a transsexual. May be shortened to man for the sake of politeness, although a Transman is NOT a Man.
Sex Identity: A person’s relationship to their biological sex. Note that experiencing distress about one’s biological sex does NOT make one a member of the opposite sex. A Woman who would prefer to be a Man is NOT a Man.
Gender Dysphoria: When an individual experiences distress over the social expectations set upon their sex. This does NOT include distress about body parts.
Transgender: When an individual has deliberately taken steps to present as a member of the opposite sex socially in order to alleviate gender dysphoria.
Gender Identity: The precise extent to which a person identifies themself as masculine, feminine, both, or neither. Not every person has a gender identity and each person’s gender identity is so unique that there is no possible way to describe each one. Man and Woman are NOT gender identities. Male and Female are NOT gender identities. You might call it your relationship to the expectations placed upon your sex and the opposite sex.
Gender Expression/Presentation: The precise combination of masculinity & femininity that a person presents to society at large. Not everyone pays attention to their gender expression/presentation. Again, Man and Woman are NOT gender expressions/presentations. Male and Female are NOT gender expressions/presentations. Man, Woman, Male, and Female are biological terms.
What do we mean when we say that trans activists will not define gender? Well, let’s have a look at the definition of… a definition.
- a statement of the meaning of a word or word group or a sign or symbol
- the action or process of stating the meaning of a word or word group
- the action or the power of describing, explaining, or making definite and clear
Now let’s take a look at a definition of “Gender” provided by Make No Assumptions. This is not intended to single out this particular group, but simply to provide an example of the circular definition that is being used in actual political and social debate.
Gender is a term that refers to a myriad of different concepts and ideas, including a person’s gender (otherwise referred to as gender identity), and the social construct of gender which individual gender identities are in reference to.
In other words…
“Gender is a term that refers to… concepts and ideas, including … gender… and… gender which… gender identities are in reference to.”
No- it simply restates the same word several times. It is a circular definition– and a particularly egregious example of one at that.