What's the difference between sex and gender?
A lot of people aren't even aware there is a difference between sex and gender.
Your sex refers to your biological sex characteristics. While this can often be understood as either female or male, we now know that some people are born with natural variations to sex characteristics.
Gender, on the other hand, is how you understand who you are and how you interact with other people. Many people understand their gender as being female or male. Some people understand their gender as a combination of these or neither. Gender can be expressed in different ways, such as through behaviour or physical appearance.
Transition or affirmation refers to the process where a trans or gender diverse person takes steps to socially and/or physically feel more aligned with their gender. This can be done in a variety of ways, from how you interact with others, changing your appearance or even seeking medical assistance and surgeries.
A few key words and phrases
Here are a few definitions that can help to make it a little clearer what people are talking about when they talk about transgender. Always remember though, it's important that we use the terms someone uses to describe themselves when speaking about them or talking to them.
- Trans - Short for Transgender. This refers to someone whose gender does not align with the one they were assigned at birth.
- Cis - A person who identifies with their gender assigned at birth - essentially the opposite of Trans.
- Intersex - A person who has been born with reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn't seem to fit the typical definitions of male or female.
- Gender identity - How you feel inside and how you express your gender through clothing, behaviour, and personal appearance.
- Gender reassignment surgery - Surgery that refashions a person's sex organs to match that of their desired sex.
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) - Using hormones to change your biochemistry so it matches your gender identity.
"As a kid growing up," James said, "I remember I always used to play with the boy toys. I hated the girls' ones. I always used to demand my parents buy me boy clothes. I even remember being confused when people said I couldn't do things the boys did."
"As I grew older, I became pretty confused. At first I thought I was just a lesbian, but that didn't feel right. It took me a few years before I finally figured it out. The more I thought about it, the more I just kind of realised I was a guy. I felt comfortable with that. That's who I was. It's who I am now."
"I always had guy friends, did guy things, and it just took a long time for it to all click together. It's not the kind of thing where you just wake up one day and say, 'Oh hey I want to live as the opposite sex.' It's a big, life-changing deal. You have to go through a lot of meetings with therapists, doctors, all kinds of things. But it's worth it because you don't have to lie or hide who you are anymore."
"Now I'm living happily the way I want to live. As a regular guy. Being transgender isn't a part of who I am, it's just something I happen to be. On the inside I'm just a regular guy, just like all the other guys."
"The only difference is that I look a little bit different. But everyone looks different, right? I'm just being who I was born to be!"
Find out more
If you're interested in finding out more about trans and gender diverse issues or looking for advice these organisations can help.
- YGender - Melbourne-based organisation running events, programs and projects based around the needs and interests of sex-and-gender-diverse young people.
- Wayout - Providing support to rural and regional Victorians who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans.
- Transgender Victoria - Victorian organisation created to help transgendered people who aren't quite sure where to start.
- The Gender Centre - Australian organisation providing transgender resources and education. It offers support for transgendered people as well as news about transgender issues.
- Minus18 - National network and support organisation for gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans and intersex youth.
- Black Rainbow - National advocacy platform and touchpoint for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Queer, Transgender and Intersex (LGBQTI) peoples.
- Switchboard - A peer-driven support service for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender diverse, intersex, queer and asexual people and their families, allies and communities.
- IPSA - Intersex Peer Support Australia, an intersex peer support, information and advocacy group for people born with variations in sex characteristics and their families.