Sex and GenderMar 27, 2018
"The proper term should be ‘sex assigned at birth,’ ‘gender assigned at birth,’ not ‘biological gender,’ or ‘biological sex.’"
That quote is from Dan Press, a member of the Fairfax County School’s “Family Life Education Curriculum Advisory Committee” (FLECAC). He was arguing in support of a motion he made on March 8th to change the term “biological sex” to “sex assigned at birth” in all 8th, 9th, and 10th grade objectives for Family Life Education.
“Sex” and “gender” have become confusing terms for many people in recent decades. The terms used to be understood with very little difficulty. Dictionaries still define the terms very clearly today.
Sex = “either of two divisions into which many living things can be divided according to their roles in reproduction and which consist of males or females.”1
Gender = “the state of being male or female.”2
These words are synonyms, but have different purposes.
“Sex” is related to reproductive functions – which are determined by biology. “Gender” is related to social and cultural roles, and also grammar.
“Sex” is about the biological reality, and “gender” is about how we describe that reality. “Male” and “female” are sex terms used to identify the two reproductive roles. “Him” and “her” are gender terms used to describe the two sexes.
Birth has nothing to do with determining sex or gender. There is no assignment taking place. Biology textbooks recognize the differences between the two sexes long before birth.3
This is what students in Fairfax County Schools are being taught in their biology textbooks. This is scientific reality.
Instead of keeping the curriculum in Family Life Education consistent with scientific reality, Dan Press argued in favor of “sex assignment.” Instead of upholding scientific reality, all but three members of the FLECAC voted to change the term “biological sex” to “sex assigned at birth.”
This change doesn’t help students understand the world around them. It promotes confusion and misunderstanding.
The FLECAC decision is not final, and efforts are being made to keep the Family Life Education curriculum consistent with the biology curriculum in Fairfax County Schools. You can help by sending scientific articles, medical journal articles, biology and medical textbooks, and other resources that accurately describe “sex” and “gender” to Sean Maguire at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you live in Fairfax you can attend the next FLECAC meeting on April 12th.
1. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary Definition of “sex” for Students. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sex. Accessed 3/27/2018.
2. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary Definition of “gender” for Students. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gender. Accessed 3/27/18.
3. Developmental Biology. 6th Edition. Gilbert SF. 2000. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK9967/. Accessed 3/27/18.