Consider each of the following statements about health and consider which factor(s) you think is most relevant sex, gender, or both.
1. Sex and gender. Sex reassignment itself is related to both sex and gender, in that people seeking to change their biological sex do so because it doesn’t match their gender identity and because they cannot easily adopt roles and behaviours in keeping with their gender identity.
Inconsistent coverage of sex reassignment procedures in Canada is also related to sex and gender. As we saw in Module 1 and 2, widespread acceptance that sex and gender fall into fixed categories, female/feminine and male/masculine, makes it difficult for many people to understand and support sex reassignment procedures. Indeed, sex reassignment is regarded as a change so profound that in some provinces psychiatric evaluation is required for approval and funding of procedures. For more information about Medicare funding of sex reassignment procedures, see http://www.xtra.ca/public/National/Sex_reassignment_surgery_in_Canada_whats_covered_and_where-7706.aspx and http://www.egale.ca/index.asp?lang=E&item=1086.
2. Gender and sex. It might seem that this statement refers only to sex since it addresses the sex of the mice and rats being used for experimentation – males rather than females. Certainly the outcome of using mainly male mice and rats has implications for what we know about diagnosing or treating disease in female bodies. A growing body of research demonstrates that by ignoring the influence of sex, this practice has endangered the health of women and girls who are diagnosed and treated using models and drugs that have only been tested in male laboratory animals.
But the choice to use male versus female mice and rats is ultimately about gender. For generations, scientists maintained that they could not use female rats and mice for experiments because estrogen was a “problem”, a complicating factor in the design and analysis of research. By comparison, no one raised concerns about the “problem” of testosterone. By choosing to eliminate estrogen from the equation, scientists behaved as if the male body was the norm and the female body was a departure from the norm. http://www.healthzone.ca/health/yourhealth/women%27shealth/article/963096–research-controversy-male-mice-used-to-study-diseases-that-affect-women?bn=1
3. Sex and gender. Research shows that there are differences in rates of diabetes between the sexes. Diabetes is somewhat less common among females than males in Canada (5.9% versus 6.6% in 2006-07). We don’t know, however, if this difference is related to biological sex or to differences in eating habits and physical activity that are linked to gender norms. We do know, however, that men are far more likely than women to suffer renal failure and limb amputation related to diabetes. Research on masculinity and health suggests that men are less willing than women to consult a physician with the result that illnesses, including diabetes, can spiral out of control and lead to serious conditions.
From the Beginning: Understanding Diabetes Using Dis‐aggregated Data by Lissa Donner and Margaret Haworth‐Brockman
4. Sex. Although all men have breast tissue and can develop breast cancer, very few do – less than 1% of all cases. Women’s biology, including genetics, timing of puberty, and proportion of body fat, put them at greater risk of developing breast cancer. When men do develop breast cancer, it often seems to be related to their levels of sex hormones.
5. Sex and gender. Women are physiologically more vulnerable than most men to HIV infection because vaginal tissues are more permeable and liable to damage than the tissues of the penis and scrotum. Semen typically contains much higher concentrations of HIV than vaginal fluids, which means women engaging in heterosexual intercourse are at much greater risk of infection than their male partners. The exception to this generalization is men who have sex with men and are “bottoms” during anal intercourse. Because the tissues of the rectum and bowel are also permeable and vulnerable to damage, and because they may be exposed to high concentrations of the virus, these men face comparable risks of HIV infection.
At the same time, women are more likely than men to be infected with HIV because gender roles and expectations render them more vulnerable. Women may not be able to resist unwanted or unsafe sex because they lack not only physical strength, but also economic independence, political freedom and/or protection of their human rights.
6. Gender. With the exception of fire-related injuries that lead to death, men outnumber women in every other category of violent death: homicide, suicide, poisoning, and motor vehicle accidents. Many factors contribute to differing patterns of violence and injury, but gender is key among them. Norms of masculinity in many societies mean that men are more likely than women to be soldiers, to engage in physically high-risk behaviours, including drinking and driving, and to become involved in gang violence. In many parts of the world, norms of masculinity also condone violence against women. Although women are less likely than men to be victims of homicide, they are more likely than men to die at the hands of an intimate partner. According to a World Health Organization report, “women are particularly vulnerable to abuse by their partners in societies where there are marked inequalities between men and women, rigid gender roles, cultural norms that support a man’s right to sex regardless of a woman’s feelings, and weak sanctions against such behaviour” (Summary, p.16).