Gender Identity – what does it mean?

Gender Identity – what does it mean?

This is the first of a series of articles on gender diversity in the workplace.

“Society still tends to consider binary explanations of male and female, but gender identity can be more fluid or non-binary.”

(Pride in Diversity)

The Law Society last year took up membership with Pride in Diversity.

Pride in Diversity is a national not-for-profit employer support program for all aspects of LGBTI workplace inclusion. Pride in Diversity was established by ACON Australia’s largest LGBTI health organisation to assist in the reduction of stigma, social isolation, homophobia and discrimination in the workplace, thereby improving the mental health and wellbeing of LGBTI employees.

Pride in Diversity produces a range of publications for use by employers and these can be accessed through the Law Society’s membership. The contents of this article are based on Pride in Diversity resources.

Society used to think that sex and gender was male and female. Many people do not fit within that binary model. Many people in our community identity as neither male nor female or as both or their gender identity is more fluid than any of our labels permit.

Commonwealth and State discrimination legislation make it unlawful to discriminate against a person on the grounds of their sexual orientation or gender identity or intersex status. It is therefore important to understand the terms as they are now used in various pieces of legislation.

What do these terms actually mean?

The Australian Government Guidelines on Recognition of Sex and Gender, November 2015, defines:

  • Sex refers to the chromosomal gonadal and anatomical characteristics associated with biological sex.
  • Gender is part of a person’s personal and social identity and refers to the way a person feels, presents and is recognised within the community.
    A person’s sex and gender may not necessarily be the same. Some people identify as a different gender to their birth sex and some people identify as neither exclusively male or female.

Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation are different concepts.

Under the Commonwealth and Tasmanian discrimination legislation, Sexual Orientation is defined as follows:

Sexual Orientation means a person’s sexual orientation towards:

  • persons of the same sex – homosexuality; or
  • persons of a different sex – heterosexuality; or
  • persons of the same sex and persons of a different sex – bi-sexuality.
  • Many in the community use terms such as ‘gay’, ‘lesbian’, ‘homosexual’, ‘bi-sexual’, ‘straight’, ‘heterosexual’ to describe sexual orientation.

Gender Identity means the gender-related identity, appearance or mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics of a person (whether by way of medical intervention or not), with or without regard to the person’s designated sex at birth and includes transsexualism, and transgenderism.

This can be male, female, or other than male or female, trans, transgender and gender diverse.

The Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act defines transgender as:

Transgender means a person who:

  • does not identify, to whatever degree, with the gender identity assigned to them at birth; and
  • at times or permanently, has a gender identity which might be perceived as atypical for his or her birth gender.

Transsexual is defined under the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act as:

Transsexual is a person who, whether or not intersex and having been legally assigned one gender at birth:

  • assumes the bodily characteristics of the other gender by medical or other means; or
  • identifies himself or herself as a member of the other gender; or
  • lives or seeks to live as a member of the other gender.

Intersex Status is another term which means the status of having physical, hormonal or genetic features that are:

  • neither wholly female nor wholly male; or
  • a combination of male and female; or
  • neither female nor male.

Being intersex is about biological variations, not about a person’s gender identity. Intersex people typically have a gender identity and a sexual orientation.

Many young people prefer to identify under the umbrella term Q – Queer rather than more specific labels.

We need to consider that not all our clients or employees will identify as male or female.

Audrey Mills
EEO Committee