Gender refers to the set of characteristics that define femininity and masculinity, as well as the distinctions that exist between them. Gender identity and sex-based social structures (i.e. gender roles) may be examples, depending on the situation. Most societies employ a gender binary, in which gender is separated into two categories and persons are assigned to one or the other (boys/men and girls/women); those who do not fit into either of these categories are referred to as non-binary. Some societies, such as the hijras of South Asia, have genders other than “man” and “woman,” which are referred to as third genders (and fourth genders, etc.). Gender is a crucial feature of social organisation, according to most experts.


Although Madison Bentley had already defined gender as the “socialised obverse of sex” in 1945, and Simone de Beauvoir’s 1949 book The Second Sex has been interpreted as the beginning of the distinction, sexologist John Money is often credited with being the first to introduce a terminological distinction between biological sex and “gender role” (which, as originally defined, includes the concepts of both gender role and what would later become known as gender identity) in 1955.

Gender was rarely used for anything other than grammatical categories before to Money’s work. Money’s definition of gender, on the other hand, did not catch on until the 1970s, when feminist theory accepted the idea of a separation between biological sex and the social construct of gender. Most modern social scientists, behavioural scientists, and biologists, as well as many legal systems and political authorities, as well as intergovernmental organisations like the WHO, distinguish between gender and sex.

Gender is sometimes used interchangeably with sex in other settings without implying a clear conceptual distinction. For example, in non-human animal studies, gender is frequently used to refer to the animals’ biological sex. This shift in gender connotation can be traced back to the 1980s. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began using gender instead of sex in 1993. In 2011, the FDA revised its position, defining gender as “a person’s self-representation as male or female, or how that person is responded to by social institutions depending on the individual’s gender presentation.”

Gender studies is a subfield of the social sciences. Other fields of study, such as sexology and neuroscience, are interested in the topic as well. Gender is sometimes approached as a social construct in the social sciences, particularly in gender studies, whereas research in the natural sciences investigates whether biological differences in females and males influence the development of gender in humans; both inform the debate over how far biological differences influence the formation of gender identity and gendered behaviour in humans. There is also a trichotomy in some English literature between biological sex, psychological gender, and social gender role. This paradigm was initially published in 1978 in a feminist article on transsexualism.

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