BRIDGE Occasional paper: Gender and Sex - a sample of definitions

Author: E. Esplen, S. Jolly
Publisher: BRIDGE
Publication Date: Jan 2006
There has been much debate regarding the meanings of 'gender' and 'sex'. Gender is most commonly used as a contrasting term to sex, as that which is socially or culturally constructed as opposed to that which is biologically given. Yet for many people, assumptions about the universality of male and female sex categories are problematic because they ignore the existence of persons who do not fit neatly into the biological or social categories of women and men, such as intersex, transgender, transsexual people and hijras. Furthermore, for many people the sex categories of female and male are neither fixed nor universal, but vary over time and across cultures. Accordingly, sex, like gender, is seen as a social and cultural construct. This short paper presents a range of definitions of gender and sex, which reveal the diversity of the individual and institutional understandings that exist of these much-debated terms.