Person´s gender can be defined variously and nowadays one single black or white definition doesn´t exist. Gender can be divided into different categories and subtopics like biological sex, jurisdictional gender, social gender, gender identity and gender expression.

Biological sex

Biological sex is determined at birth according to one´s biological and physiological features – genitalia, chromosomes. Based on that we are divided into men and women. There are people born with atypical features and in this case, we can talk about intersex individuals.

Approximately 2 per cent of people are born intersex and under that it is meant that one´s genitalia, sex chromosomes and/or hormonal levels are not meeting the customary understanding of female or male bodies.

Jurisdictional gender

Jurisdictional gender is determined to a person at their birth. In Estonia it is possible to determine two genders – male or female and it is marked as the first number of personal identification number. A person can change their jurisdictional gender during a lifetime.

There are countries, for example Australia, New-Zealand, Germany, Nepal, India, Pakistan, that have added a third category to a definition “man” and “woman”.

Social gender

Social gender is the society’s and its members vision and approach to what is a woman like and what are her roles, what is a man like and what are his roles. Social gender is affecting postures and opinions regarding what is appropriate or capable to one or the other gender. For example, women are naturally more caring than men, or men are better and more rational leaders than women. Such statements are stereotypes, rooted attitudes towards gender norms that are missing reasoning neither true nor factual.

Social gender is not a concrete unchangeable inevitability, but it is a social construction, something that has evolved during a longer period. Everything that a humankind has constructed aka created and designed, can be redesigned, and reconstructed. Therefore social gender how we see it today is nothing remaining nor inevitable, we can reconstruct it and this is exactly what we are doing. As today we live with different understandings of roles for women and men, than it was in the middle of 20th century. Then more than likely in twenty years’ time we live with different understandings as we do today.

Gender identity

Gender identity is one´s self-identification from what gender they are aka a whom the person sees and feels themselves to be. As a woman, as a man, as someone somewhere in between or their identity is a mix from different pieces of identities. Or a person doesn´t identify their gender at all.  Estonian language vocabulary is poor in topics regarding gender and sexuality. It’s because we have had little discussion on these topics and that is the reason, we use many loanwords and anglicism.

What is someone’s gender identity can be felt and defined by only the person themselves, no bystander or a society can do it for that person.

Gender expression

Gender expression is considered as one´s clothing, hair style, jewellery, body language, gestures etc that they choose for emphasizing their gender identity. Mostly person´s gender identity reflects from gender expression but is not always the case. Gender identity is personal inner reflection, while gender expression is something that is displayed to other people. Person who identifies as a woman can express themselves in a rather masculine way and on the contrary, person identifying as a man can prefer “feminine” self-expression.

Essential is to keep in mind that masculinities and femininities are social constructs – something that society itself has been forming into masculinity and femininity.

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