More On Gender

I’ve been struggling to write a follow up post on gender identity over the past week, but I haven’t been able to because I’m not seeing a clear baseline for what the term even means. I have my own ideas, but am hesitant to build other points off my own assertions without having that fundamental discussion. So, today’s post we start there:

You meet an alien robot that has recently found its way to Hypothica and the two of you begin to converse. You bring up some recent gender debates with the robot, wrongly thinking that politics makes good small talk. The robot is wholly unfamiliar with the concept and asks you what gender is and what gender identity means. The robot is familiar with related concepts such as mammalian anatomy, sex, sexual dimorphism, and culture.


How would you describe what gender is?

  • Kingfisher12

    One of my favorite classes of trivia is etymology – the origin of words. When we learn about how a particular word came to mean a particular thing, we start to see extensions of thought and relationships of ideas that may have been forgotten, but still present themselves in how our ideas fit into our language.

    Looking at the word ‘gender’, it has relationships to words like ‘genus’ and ‘genre’. (also generation, and gentle, and gentile). So gender evokes the idea of coming from and belonging to a specific group.

    Humans are social creatures, and so the concepts of groups and belonging to groups is very important to us. Gender is another way that we organize and divide ourselves into groups.

    In most cultures, we give ourselves names that instantly identify us as belonging to a certain clan or family group. We identify ourselves by the groups we belong to – whether occupation, nationality, race, religion, fandom, etc. In nearly all cultures we associate with a group consisting of members of our sex as well. That group is called gender.

  • 404_Username_Not_Found

    I would start with the merriam webster definition of the word: “the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with one sex”. And gender identity is the gender with which an individual self identifies.

    I know I went round and round about this a lot last time but gender is distinct from biological sex even though in the vast majority of people they match.

  • Jacob Goldsmith

    Biological sex is a form of classification of organisms within a species that is based on whether the organism produces ova or sperm. Most species have two sexes (male and female.) Humans, being organisms, can be divided into these two groups as well (although some humans are born with intersex characteristics.) There are human males and females, and reproduction happens when a male mates with a female. However, because of the nature of the human species, all classifications carry with them a social context in addition to biological one. The social concept of a male or a female has developed beyond the pertinent biological descriptors to the extent that another term is needed to describe the social criterion that separates people into two (or more) groups as distinct from the biological one. However, the male gender is still obviously associated with the male sex, and vice versa. As a result of that, there is a feeling of alienation that results from one’s biological sex not matching the gender category to which they feel that they belong. This can be resolved by moving oneself into the opposite social stratum (or somewhere in between the two), so that they feel and are perceived as a member of that group, rather than the one to which they were initially associated as a result of their biological sex.

    Gender – The classification of people into broad groups according to characteristics associated with biological sex

  • I thought we discussed the definitions of gender and sex, and our love of binary choices (dichotomies) at length in the earlier post? I’d point the alien robot at those comments:-)

  • Kit.

    Human gender is a supposed (real or imaginary; inborn and/or social) self-classification of human minds correlating with the differences in reproductive functions of their human bodies. Supposedly, such self-classification would allow the bodies to select the best behavioral strategies to reproduce their genes based on their body type, but we still don’t have a good theory explaining our observations that the correlation coefficient is very close to, but not exactly 1.

  • SteamTroller

    Gender noun. The state of being male or female (typically used with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones). synonyms: sex (Source: Google)

    Gender Identity noun. A person’s sense of being male or female, resulting from a combination of genetic and environmental influences. (Source:, medical definition)

    I would also add that a strong mismatch between Gender and Gender Identity causing distress is a mental disorder, called Gender Identity Disorder. It’s unique in that it’s only mental disorder where an accepted treatment is to cater to the disorder both in the patients body and in our legal system.

    I’m fairly confident the entire debate is a divisive waste of time. It’s a polarizing issue that gets a lot more discussion time than it deserves just because it’s polarizing, and feeds well into identity politicking. It’s only become a serious issue to me recently because laws are being enacted penalizing people for not treating other people like special snowflakes. E.g. use the pronouns “ze/hir” upon request or be fined.