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