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Students examine definitions of sex, gender

| Monday, February 15, 2016

This week’s installment of the Justice Friday series focused on the definition of sex and gender, as well as the socialization of gender identity. The conversation was led by seniors Bri O’Brien and Vanessa Troglia.  

Troglia said that biologically speaking, gender is not a dichotomy. She said there are instances where a person’s chromosomal combinations can differ from XX and XY.

“No one can see sex, it is chromosomal,” said Troglia. “There isn’t one or the other [sex], there could be something in between.”

Adrienne Lyles-Chockley, a visiting professor in the justice education program, listed several components of gender, and said this means that someone’s gender identity may not match their biological sex.

“There are two components of gender,” Lyles-Chockley said. “My internal sense of self — which you don’t know — and the external, which is my performance … gender expression is performance, identity is sense of self and sex is the biological aspect that nobody can tell.”

O’Brien laid out different terms used for gender expression.

“If your gender identity, your gender expression and your bodily sex all align with each other and is what the expectation is for you, then you’re cisgendered,” she said. “If you deviate from that, then you’re gender nonconforming.”

O’Brien said people put expectations on others based on their biological sex.

“Gender is socially constructed,” she said. “You’re assigned a sex at birth, and from that, different gender expectations are put on you.”

Troglia said the social construct of gender can have real consequences on society such as an equal distribution of both genders in jobs.

“Even though gender construction is made up by society and does not make any real sense, as a consequence, men and women are discouraged from going into certain jobs … ” Troglia said.  “Because of social constructs, there not an equal distribution into certain job fields.”

O’Brien also said society could be different and less exclusionary if gender standards were eliminated.

“It’s an interesting thing to think about,” she said. “We don’t know for sure, but if we eliminated gender constructs in society, it could lead to more opportunity.”

The Justice Fridays discussions take place every Friday from 12:10 p.m. to 12:50 p.m. 

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