Language Impacts Society: “Sex,” “Gender,” and Depression in Patients

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Gender and Sex impact which restroom you can legally use: Photo by Jogungagon

Gender Testing

There has been a push for legislation requiring gender testing before marriage in states that have banned gay marriage. Decoded Science asked Ms. Walworth about gender testing in this context. She replied,

There are many aspects to gender: gender identity, gender expression, gender role, etc. There is no test for gender identity. Whatever a person honestly reports as her/his gender identity is what it is. There are tests, such as the Bem Sex Role Inventory, that query the test-taker about personality traits assigned masculine or feminine value. One could rate people on their gender expression (clothing, hairstyle, jewelry, gestures, speech, etc). I’m not sure what value such tests would have.

Dr. Thompson added,

When people claim a gender test, they actually mean a sex test. They want you to pull down your pants, and have a doctor write down whether you have a penis or a vagina. This is the simple way to test, but is not always accurate. What happens if they run into a dual-sexed individual? How do they classify that? The tests are not always clear in these regards.

Understanding the Problem

Public understanding has improved, but needs more improvement to improve the language problem: Photo by Boss Tweed

According to a study by Jean Malpas, the Director of the Gender and Family Project at the Ackerman Institute for the Family, acceptance of children with transgendered and non-conforming gender traits may be in the best interest of children. The study examined children who presented non-conformist natures, showing that many became conforming adults, while others were transgendered or non-conformist without professional intervention.

Studies like this indicate that gender is far more than masculine or feminine, and acceptance of a child can create acceptance in adulthood. Even if a child does not grow up to be transgendered or gender non-conformist, they will have a better understanding of the complexity of gender. This may result in understanding the implication of language in a way that benefits the transgender community.

Dr. Thompson concluded,

A shift in understanding the problems with language today can help to ease the problems of future persons with gender identity disorders. We should focus on understanding, rather than conformity.

Gender vs. Sex in Society

Understanding the issues surrounding the terms, “sex” and “gender” may be a key to reducing suicide rates and legal complications for transgendered persons in society.

References:

Malpas, J. Between Pink and Blue: A Multi-Dimensional Family Approach To Gender Nonconforming Children and Their Families. (2011). Family Process. Accessed January 20, 2012.

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Study: high rates of bullying, suicide amongst transgender and gender non-conforming people. (2010)National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Accessed January 20, 2012.

World Health Organization. What do we mean by “sex” and “gender”? (2012).World Health Organization. Accessed January 20, 2012.

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