What is ‘Gender’ and how is it any different from race or sex?
Gender, Race and Sex are markers used to categorize people. As humans, being able to put everything and anything into categories. Without categories, humans can easily become overwhelmed by the diversity that exists in the world. So we categorize and compartmentalize, helping us find order in our chaotic world. To properly understand our compulsion with categorization, a good start would be this NPR podcast called Invisibilia, specifically the episode ‘The Power of Categories.
Some of the categories we ascribe to other humans are based on physical attributes given by internal biology, and the biggest determiner of biology is race. Sex is another biological determiner. When a child is born, they either present male or female genitalia, (which in human serve primarily as reproductive and excretory organs) or mix of both, or none. These are four distinct categories; male, female, intersex and ‘abnormal’.
Here is where we will apply some tangential association. Most plants and some lower animals exist with both male and female genitalia. A tree is not male or female, a tree is a tree and becomes what ‘gender’ it’s biology tells it is necessary to procreate. A tree/flatworm/snail’s sexual organs are not the primary determiner of its functions, they are merely part of its biology. Their gender is irrelevant to their ability to perform functions like photosynthesis.
If we take this scenario and apply it to humans, we see how biology doesn’t and shouldn’t determine gender.
Gender, unlike biology is assigned to humans as category, based on the kind of sexual genitalia they present at birth. Because humans are higher organisms who survive through ‘compartmentalized functions’ (every person is assigned a role and has to perform it for the group to survive), we use gender as a tool for assigning function, based on a set of preconceived (and usually false or inaccurate metrics). For gender to exist, the person assigned a gender has to perform the roles associated with said gender.