3. Definitions used in this Guidance
While the terms sex and gender are used by some people interchangeably, there is not strong consensus about the meaning of these terms in different contexts. A number of organisations have attempted to set out definitions of the aspects of sex, gender and transgender for the purposes of collecting consistent data. The definitions stated are broadly similar across these organisations.
For the purposes of collecting data, a person's sex is generally defined as male or female. There are different aspects to a person's sex:
- Biological: as determined by a person's anatomy, which is produced by a combination of their chromosomal, hormonal, genital and gonadal characteristics, and their interactions.
- Legal: typically legal sex is their sex registered at birth. However, for a trans person with a full Gender Recognition Certificate, their legal sex is their acquired sex..
- Self-defined: a person's innate sense of whether they are female or male
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)'s "Statement on Sex and Gender Reassignment: legal protections and language" explains that in UK law sex is understood as binary and a person's legal sex is determined by what is recorded on a person's birth certificate. A trans person can change their legal sex by obtaining a GRC and a trans person who does not obtain a GRC retains the (legal) sex recorded on their birth certificate for legal purposes.
Organisations such as the World Health Organisation, and the Royal Statistical Society define gender as:
- a social construction relating to a set of norms, roles and relationships that is founded in social mores, laws, processes and policies based on labels of masculinity and femininity. This is time and culture specific;
and gender identity as:
- a personal, internal perception of oneself, and so the gender category someone identifies with may not match their sex registered at birth
- what an individual experiences as their innate sense of themselves as a man, a woman, as having no gender identity, or as having a non-binary gender – where people identify as somewhere on a spectrum between man and woman
And define transgender as:
- anyone whose gender identity differs from their sex registered at birth.
For the overwhelming majority of people, all the factors involved in determining sex and gender identity are aligned. For some people, there are differences. People will not necessarily answer a question about their sex in exactly the same way: most will need no reflection at all, some will think about their biology, some their legal sex and some their self-defined sex.
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