Conflation of the words “sex” and “gender” has arisen from Christian prudishness (1) in a language that doesn’t use gendered nouns (English). “Sex” is a homograph – a word with two meanings. Sex means “intercourse”. Also sex is a word that describes two fundamental categories of humans based on their contribution to reproduction – male sex describes men and boys ie. humans with XY chromosomes who produce sperm, while female sex describes women and girls, ie. humans with XX chromosomes who produce ova.
Gender, on the other hand, means nothing more than the perceived masculine, feminine or neutral quality to something.
In our almost physical discomfort from uttering the word “sex” we have erroneously substituted it with the word “gender”. Gender, also a homograph, means both the social stereotypes of appearance and behaviour imposed on people depending on their sex, as well as being a linguistic term used to categorise nouns in many languages.
I’ve seen “sex” and “gender” used to refer to human sex not only as synonyms, but “gender” being used as the preferred, polite, more professional and less smutty form. This habit has permeated all of the English literature, scientific or otherwise.
Something like this would not work so easily in languages that have gendered nouns, such as French or Russian for example, but in English, erroneous conflation of sex and gender has gone unnoticed, becoming a social convention, reflecting our collective discomfort with talking about sexual intercourse.
Also, due to gender being inherently discriminatory to female sex, it was only a matter of time before this false conflation caused serious social problems.
“Sex” has a certain finality about it – it’s factually observable, confirmed in nature, essential for human function and reproduction. Gender is a bunch of oppressor-generated stereotypes, and as with all stereotypes, nobody fits squarely into its categories. Unlike with sex, which accurately describes 99.9% of the population.
So, how does discrimination justify itself? By claiming that it’s natural. We’ve seen racial and gender stereotypes defended as natural before, and anything from bias in research to misinterpretation of evidence, filtering findings through lens of ideology and censorship of opposing views is used to legitimise it.
Furthermore, by hijacking words that mean “sex” (man, woman, boy, girl) and using them as synonyms for words that mean “gender” (masculine, feminine) gender has exploited the factual validity associated with sex in order to justify and legitimise itself.
It does so by claiming gender stereotypes are “inborn”, and like any religion or ideology, gender seeks to dominate by claiming it’s more natural and important than the thing it seeks to replace. This tactic has been so successful that “gender” is now replacing “sex” in law, therefore obliterating sex-based protections which were given to women in order to mitigate the effects of oppression of their sex, which is rooted in gender stereotypes.
This is the mental and verbal gymnastics used to justify identity claims such as “transwomen are women”.
Women are discriminated based on their sex, not based on gender stereotypes they may or may not identify with. Redefining sex-based protections as gender-based protections legitimises discrimination of women and worse. The perpetrator – gender – assumes it’s victim’s name and is now the only, real victim.
This is echoed in activism where men claim that women who challenge primacy of gender over sex are “transphobic” “TERFS” and perpetrators of “literal” violence, while men who campaign, sometimes violently, to reduce female sex to gender stereotypes, are victims.
As for the word “transwoman”, there are many precedents in English language. Sealion is not a lion. Cantelope is not an antelope. Jewish is not a wish. Likewise, “trans” is a prefix which changes the meaning of the word it is associated with, for example, transatlantic is not the same as Atlantic.
So when new laws and definitions are being proposed, the best way to avoid pitfalls is to examine them critically and ask: What impact will this have in the real world?
(1) The aim of this post was not to criticise Christianity at all, I was simply referring to the well-documented tabooisation of human sexuality which is evident in western civilisation, which is based on Christian canon. This is echoed in so many ways, from avoiding to speak of sexual matters openly and double standards toward male vs female sexuality to denial of reproductive and other rights to women and shameful history of church-led witch trials.
After a couple of reactions by Christians, I considered whether to self-censor what I thought was an important point, in order to prevent the knee-jerk reaction. I decided not to, because I believe such self-censoring of the facts, for the sake of appeasing offended feelings, has led us to this point. If this will cause Christians to embrace transgender ideology just to distance themselves from people like me, than that is regrettable. If it will cause them to resent or ignore me, while carrying on fighting transgender ideology from their angle, I can live with that. For the sake of my own ethics and integrity of my arguments.