What’s the Difference Between Sex Assigned at Birth and Gender Identity?


By Avril Louise Clarke, Clinical Sexologist & Intimacy Coordinator

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Welcome to TPC Identity, a column in which we will discuss everything that makes you, you - from gender to sexual orientation and everything between. Come as you are.  

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What does sex assigned at birth mean?

A sex assigned at birth is the label a medical professional gives a baby when it is born based on their body/genitals, either assigned female at birth (AFAB), assigned male at birth  (AMAB), or intersex.

What is a gender identity? 

A person’s gender identity is how they feel and what they know about themselves. This is a deep feeling inside of being a boy, girl, both, neither, or another gender. ​​Some people’s gender identity and their assigned sex match in a common way. However, others do not. Some people don’t feel like any gender and may be agender, and others feel like all genders. There is no way to tell a person's gender identity - even by noticing how they express their gender through clothing, voice, hairstyles, and more!

A lot of people confuse these two - you may see the term "gender" used when someone really mean to say "sex". A good way to remember the difference is that sex assigned at birth is about one's anatomy, biology and chromosomes and gender is a deep feeling and knowing one has about themselves - whether it matches their sex assigned at birth or not! Let's look into some gender identities to break it down a bit more.

Some examples of gender identities are:

​​Cisgender or “cis”: A person is cisgender when their sex assigned at birth matches their gender identity, or how they feel on the inside. For example, a person assigned male at birth (AMAB) that identifies as a boy is considered cisgender.

Transgender or "trans”: A person who’s sex assigned at birth does not always easily match their gender, or how they know and feel about themselves may be transgender. For example, a person assigned female at birth (AFAB) that identifies as a boy is considered transgender.

Non-binary or "enby": The gender binary is either boy or girl. Those who identify as non-binary or enby, express their gender in a way that is not considered either boy or girl.

Gender expansive: Some people feel that the traditional ways of being a “boy” or “girl” is limiting and not right for them. They show that there are many ways to be a girl, boy, both, more, or neither.

Agender: People who don’t identify with any particular gender or being genderless.

Although there are many gender identities which differ greatly, the similarities between cisgender, transgender, non-binary, gender expansive, and agender people are that we are all human beings that have feelings, thoughts, and experiences that are deserving of respect - however they wish to identify and express their own gender!