Sex and Gender

29/02/2016 10:25 GMT | Updated 01/03/2017 10:12 GMT

Let me begin by posing what would seemingly be an elementary question, what is gender? Commonly gender is traditionally conceived as "the state of being male or female" and in grammar, with such languages as Latin, French and German, gender corresponds to a class, such as the masculine, feminine, common or neuter. Yet the extent to which gender and language are yoked together is much stronger than appears prima facie. When we consider the definition of what a woman is, she is "an adult human female", but we know that what it means to be female and a woman are not equal for Leibniz's Law states that everything must be the same as itself and thus, anything with different properties that are not identical cannot be the same thing. To state the contrary would violate the principle of the identity of indiscernibles. In accordance with this then, where the definitions of what a woman is and what a female is do not share the same definition they must be, logically, different identity's though often they are positioned within society as identical. A female after all, by definition, is "of or denoting the sex that can bear offspring or produce eggs, distinguished biologically by the production of gametes (ova) which can be fertilized by male gametes". In turn, we may say then that gender is not unequivocally identical or directly linked to the sex one has and as such one's sex should not determine the pronoun one uses to identify themselves.

Gender terms are complex and have historically been mapped arbitrarily to the locus of the body one has, for which there is no good reason for. What we speak of when we speak of the masculine and feminine and the corresponding identifiers of male and female are the gender roles which are associated with such identifiers, which in turn are constantly being discursively constructed by society. It must not go without saying that cultures perception of gender roles vary greatly, wherein one culture might outline that the personality traits, domestic behaviours, occupations and physical appearance of being male results in them having to perform independence, aggression and sexual aggression in the one instance another culture might find that masculinity is performing dependency, gracefulness and a flirtatiousness, traits which otherwise are stereotypically associated with femininity, highlighting that gender classes are artificial and unnecessarily oppressive and restrictive. One is never born a gender, one becomes one as Simone de Beauvoir once famously asserted in her writings The Second Sex. What we know today as man and woman, masculine and feminine and the gender roles we perform are artificial constructions and if we find that no such thing as man or woman exists in today's society it is because they never existed and our understanding of gender and sexuality is fundamentally changing.

Traditionally, sexual orientation has been viewed as a non-complex matter, but today new sexualities are developing and we find that sexuality is not fixed and instead that sexuality can be separated into a number of parts including, but not limited to, sexual orientation, romantic orientation and possibly even sexual behaviour. It is important to note that all of these categories, that is to say, sex, gender and sexuality are independent of one another and so it is possible, and perfectly natural for one to be a biological female, identify as the gender of man, be bisexual, act only heterosexually and perform the feminine gender role. In fact, such an individual may move along anyone of the categories continuums, performing in the one instance heterosexuality, for example, and in the next instance perform homosexuality or any other sexuality they so desire to. Being a man or woman is not an internal reality or fact about us, it is instead a phenomenon that is produced and reproduced all the time.

As a result of the complexity surrounding sex, gender and sexuality it is not uncommon for individuals to experience gender dysphoria, which describes the feeling one experiences if one is born male and is not happy with being a boy or one is born female and is unhappy being a girl. Lots of children and young people feel that their gender identity is not a complete match with the sex they were assigned at birth and often identify as transgender or sometimes even 'gender nonconforming' or something of an alike nature, in fact, it is estimated that one percent of the British Population experience gender dysphoria, equal to 641,000 people. Living with gender dysphoria in today's world is often very stressful, which has lead to fifty-nine percent of young transgender people to attempt to commit suicide, something which can be combatted against through supporting individuals and people on sex, gender and sexuality.

We must resist the concept of ideal gender norms for it is regressive and harmful and to do so we must now act and take part in the discourse on gender and sexuality with focus on dismantling the controls surrounding it as to strive towards a society in which all genders and sexuality's are accepted and seen as equal. Only by examining the great establishments and championing the discourse on gender and sexuality is this possible. I ask each and every one of you to take part in the campaigning in any way possible, be that by supporting the campaign for gender-neutral toilets as those attending higher education institutions such as The University of Hull, Sussex, Bath, Manchester, Staffordshire, Bradford and Oxford have done or be it simply by supporting the use of gender-neutral pronouns it makes a difference and sets a foundation from which we can build a better more progressive future, together.