Same-gender and same-sex are not interchangeable terms

In his March 10 Xpress commentary, Jerry Sternberg may confuse some readers with his substitution of the term "same-gender" for "same-sex." With rather doltish sarcasm, he wrote, "I don't agree with labeling them 'same-sex partners,' because we can't assume that they have sex," and so he substituted the term same-gender. I'd like to clarify, because his comments may generate misconceptions and misunderstanding.

These terms are not interchangeable (nor do they have anything to do with whether or not a couple has sexual relations). According to Merriam-Webster, gender is "the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with one sex," and sex is defined as "either of the two major forms of individuals that occur in many species and that are distinguished respectively as female or male, especially on the basis of their reproductive organs and structures."

In other words, gender is the identity a person assumes of male, female or intergender variation, while sex is biological.

For example, a person born with the biological characteristics (i.e., reproductive organs) of a woman usually identifies herself as female. But there are exceptions: For example, a person may choose a male gender and actually have the biological sex traits of a female and vice-versa.

Based on this, a same-gender, opposite-sex couple may be legally married in the state of North Carolina. A man may self-identify as a woman and appear as such, but is permitted to marry his female lover because their reproductive organs are different from one another.

— Laura Simmelink
Asheville

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10 thoughts on “Same-gender and same-sex are not interchangeable terms

  1. brebro

    This confusion stems from the shortening of the term “sexual intercourse” to simply “sex” which therefore causes the actual term “sex” to be mistaken for “sexual intercourse” when it was merely meant to distinguish biologically, those who have pee-pees from those who sport hoo-hoos. It was further complicated by groups like Color Me Badd turning it into a verb, in addition to shortening it rather than saying “I Want to Sexual Intercourse You Up” instead.

  2. who

    Is there a possibility of a same-sex couple not being a same-gender couple and still not being man and woman? What scenario would it be if a man who identifies himself as female gender and lives romantically with a woman or visa-versa? I’m confusing myself. What I’m trying to ask is that if same-sex and same-gender are not inter-changeable terms then what scenario in the LBGT rights argument would the difference be distinct and still be within the confines of the LBGT communitie’s aspirations for policy recognition?

  3. Jessica B.

    Boiled down to it’s simplest, sex is between your legs, gender is between your ears. And given that as many as 1 in 500 people are something other than XX or XY chromosome-wise, some actually qualify as neither male or female when it comes to DNA.

  4. Jessica B.

    dhalgren says: “So, if I put my head between my legs…”

    You still wouldn’t be Samuel R. Delany.

  5. Jessica B.

    who says: “Is there a possibility of a same-sex couple not being a same-gender couple and still not being man and woman? What scenario would it be if a man who identifies himself as female gender and lives romantically with a woman or visa-versa? I’m confusing myself. What I’m trying to ask is that if same-sex and same-gender are not inter-changeable terms then what scenario in the LBGT rights argument would the difference be distinct and still be within the confines of the LBGT communitie’s aspirations for policy recognition?”

    A lot would depend on how certain states look at the legality of one’s gender. In NC, if one has SRS and legally becomes a woman, then legally that person cannot marry a woman. However, if that same person is already married to a woman, the marriage still stands legally, literally becoming a legal same-sex marriage. (The same is true for transmen.) This is not true for all states, as some require the annulment of such a marriage, even though the people remain in a committed relationship.

    As for someone whose gender identity is female, yet physiology is male, if they are in a relationship with a woman, they would consider themselves lesbian. (Some transgendered people are gay/lesbian, some are straight, some are bi. Just like everyone else.)

  6. Jessica B.

    shadmarsh says: “I am confused. ”

    Understandable, especially if you’ve never had to experience these issues personally. Confusion can be cured with an open mind though, and so can ignorance. It’s stupidity that you have to watch out for.

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