Why do we constantly confuse sex with gender?

CW: brief mention of suicide ideation. 

I was a little disappointed with former Labor Aboriginal Adviser, Warren Mundine on “The Bolt Report” last night, when he said, I thought quite flippantly, that in his day there was only two genders; male and female. I thought he may have been a bit more understanding of people who have been historically and, often, still continue to be marginalised. It did, however, make me realise something – that many people –  either accidentally or deliberately –  confuse sex with gender.

There are two SEXES, (not including intersex). There is male and female, XX and XY (again, not including intersex and other chromosomal conditions). That does not mean that everyone strictly identifies with either. I believe as cis – gender people, like myself, don’t have a right to tell non – cis gender people how they should identify or that gender identity is ‘simple”. It isn’t the case for everyone. Has anyone thought that many non – cis – gender people have tried telling themselves to be what sex they were born as, only to fall into depression and suicide ideation? Former Australian Defence Force Colonel, 2012 Order of Australia recipient and transwoman, Catherine Mcgregor has been very frank about her own personal struggles with her gender identity to the point where, before her transition, she was planning to take her own life. For some, transitioning and identifying as the opposite sex isn’t the answer either.


A genderqueer activist on the LGBTQ+ Christian website, Believe Out Loud, used the analogy of computer coding and explained that the digits are coded either 0 or 1 for a software to carry out certain tasks (downloading, uploading a photo on Instagram, etc). The writer went on to say that gender and sexuality in humans isn’t always so straight forward. About the whole, “in my day there were only two genders”? In 2013, creator and star of the hit musical,”The Rocky Horror Picture Show’, Richard O’Brien, told the BBC that he identifies as “70% man”.  and admitted to taking female hormone, although not surgery. The article goes on to explain briefly some findings that has come out of recent research about gender identity, what’s believed to determine it and how in some people, it, like sexuality, can be fluid.


Why is this important? Because transgender – identified people are still a heavily marginalised group all over the world. Transgender suicide rate in the West,is believed to be at 41% according to American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The overall American rate is 6.4%. I truly believe that one of the main ways to combat this is if we get real about what transgender people experience and stop treating them as a joke. Because the marginalisation of transgender people, like any other group, it not a laughing matter.

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