Sex/gender, diversity and health

Sex/gender is multifaceted and includes several social, cultural and biological dimensions. Social dimensions of sex/gender include, for example, expectations of the social environment towards people because of their gender (gender norms). Biological dimensions include, among others, genetic characteristics or hormonal balance. Neither social nor biological gender is binary. For example, genetic characteristics or hormonal balance vary greatly within sex/gender groups, which makes it impossible to assume clearly defined sex/genders. 

What does sex/gender-sensitive mean?

Health research and health monitoring are sex/gender-sensitive when they comprehensively take into account  social and biological dimensions of sex/gender, as well as their interactions, thus assuming a multidimensional understanding of sex/gender.

What does the concept of intersectionality imply?

Statements about health among groups of women and men are often inconsistent with individual experience because they are highly generalised. For one thing, comparisons between women and men do not take into account the diversity within and between sex/gender groups. Furthermore, other social dimensions besides sex/gender, such as education, income or ethnic origin, shape people's realities in significant ways. According to the concept of Intersectionality these various social dimensions are inextricably interwoven, and through their combination unique life realities emerge.

What is gender?

Gender is an umbrella term that encompasses different social and cultural aspects of gender. Examples of these aspects are socially-constructed norms, roles or identities that relate to the (ascribed) sex of a person. You can read about other dimensions of gender here.

What is sex?

Sex relates to the biological aspects of sex/gender. It is similarly multidimensional and describes those physical characteristics according to which a person is described as female, male or intersex. As a rule, such an attribution is made at the latest after birth on the basis of the external and internal reproductive organs of the child. Other dimensions of biological sex are described here.

Can social and biological dimensions of sex/gender be considered separately?

The social construction of sex makes it clear that social and biological aspects of sex/gender are ultimately not separable. Moreover, the two dimensions can interact with each other in different ways. Therefore, throughout this website, we use the term sex/gender that is understood to include both the social and biological dimensions.

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