Gender is Gender and Sex is Sex, and while the twain may meet sometimes, that doesn’t make them the same thing

So, attempt #1 at starting to build this annotated bibliography with vloggy bits.

First: the vloggy bit.  Clearly, I need to work on little things like camera (aka phone) angle and lighting.

And now for the articles and written commentary.  I realize that the entries should have hanging indents, but I haven’t a clue how to make that happen on WordPress.  That is on the to-learn list also.

Johnson JL, Greaves L, and Repta R. (2009). Better science with sex and gender: Facilitating the use of a sex and gender-based analysis in health research. Int J Equity Health 8(14) 1-11*.
Does a good job laying the foundation for defining sex and gender appropriately for research purposes.  Particularly like the way the authors start with the biological and complicate the idea of a binary at that level before diving into the complexities of gender identity.  The strategies they identify for improving research are 1. revisit an old study and reanalyze or perform a secondary analysis of the data with regard to sex and/or gender, 2. augment an existing research plan with sex and gender-based analysis, and 3. incorporate sex and gender-based analysis from the outset. The case-study used, however, deals strictly with biological sex within the typical gender binary, which is frustrating after such a nuanced beginning.

Kaufman R. Introduction to Transgender Identity and Health. In: Makadon H, Mayer KH, Potter J, Goldhammer H (Eds.). (2008). Fenway Guide to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health. Philadelphia, PA: American College of Physicians.
Intriguing approach to trans identity, leading with a discussion of Kafka’s Metamorphosis. Somewhat dated, as evidenced by relying on the DSM IV not to mention the publication dateSadly, a check of the current edition of the Fenway Guide shows that rather than being updated, this chapter was replaced.  I’d like to have seen if/how the author’s analysis changed in light of the changes in the DSM V. I’d also like to have seen if/how the author would have updated the definition of “genderqueer,” as I don’t believe it is considered exclusive to people who were assigned female at birth. First time I have seen reference to a specific time that the gender identity portion of the brain differentiating during gestation.  Will need to chase down that reference.

Krieger N. (2003). Genders, sexes, and health: What are the connections – and why does it matter? International Epi Assoc. 32, 652-7.
Really excellent and useful breakdown of how gender relations versus biological sex affect various health disparities.  Focus is on cisgender men and women.  It would be really interesting to see someone look at, say, the cardiac case example and break down further how things shake out based on gender assigned at birth versus gender identity, along with looking at what, if any, medical interventions have occurred for those whose gender assigned at birth and gender identity do not match.  That might give us some insight into why cisgender women tend to experience different acute cardiac symptoms than cisgender men.  Is it hormonal exposure?  Is it something about the presence or absence of a y chromosome?  Is it some complex mind-body interaction around living as women versus living as men?  Bit of a tangent there.  Still, very useful article on how looking at gender versus biological sex can impact how we interpret research data.

Phillips SP. (2005). Defining and measuring gender: A social determinant of health whose time has come. Int J Equity Health, 4 (11).
I find this article very frustrating in that the author quickly comes to the conclusion that while sex and gender are distinct, that “[t]here is no practical advantage to disentangling where sex ends and gender takes over as a cause of the sequelae of coronary artery disease” (p. 3*) Obviously, given my curiosity above about why the differences in presentation, which can result in very different outcomes, exist, I think it is very practically valuable to separate out gender and sex to figure out what is really going on.  I do, however, agree that we need to develop some tools with which to do epidemiological studies that study the impact of gender on health outcomes. Given that it has been 10 years since this article was published, one would hope that had happened, but so far as I am aware, it has not.

Springer KW, Stellman JM, Jordan-Young RM. (2011). Beyond a catalogue of differences: A theoretical frame and guidelines for researching sex/gender in human health. Social Science and Medicine. 1-8. doi:10.1016/j.soscimed.2011.05.033.
This article looks at how sex and gender are entangled, and how we often oversimplify differences in health as just one or the other.  For example, the authors mention that differences noted in (cisgender) male versus female glucose processing were originally thought to be related to biological sex (likely hormonal) but were, in fact, readily explained by differences in skeletal muscle mass, making it really a difference more about gender , i.e. differences in expectations around occupation choices, athletic choices, etc. impacting muscle mass (p. 8).  The proposed research methods include determining whether biological or social sex differences are worth studying in any given situation, as well as the entangled biosocial, and if so, designing control groups such that it is possible to tell whether the differences in question.  In interpreting the results, importance is also recommended to be given to within-group variation as well as between-group variation. 

*This is really just the page numbers of the PDF, not the original article, which apparently does not have page numbers of its own.  Being an online journal, I guess that makes sense.

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One thought on “Gender is Gender and Sex is Sex, and while the twain may meet sometimes, that doesn’t make them the same thing

  1. Pingback: Sex And Gender Are Actually The Same Thing (but bear with me…) | Busy Nurse Research

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