In most societies around the world, one’s gender identity has traditionally been equated with one’s sexual reproductive anatomy — male or female. In recent times, however, transgender and gender non-binary people (often referred to as queer) argue that their experience of gender does not conform precisely with their anatomy. Subsequently, a growing number of people now see gender identity as referring to the inner experience and self-identification of each individual with regard to gender.
Progressives, who typically hold the view that gender identity is separate from biological sex, often point to intersex individuals, who have both male and female genital characteristics, and babies born with ambiguous genitalia. Progressives argue that ambiguous genitalia and intersex conditions occur at higher rates than people realize. Some progressives assert that to construct gender merely by the presence or absence of external sexual organs is short-sighted and not in line with people's lived experiences. They embrace myriad terms to describe various gender identities — a trans woman, for instance, denotes someone who was born with male genitalia (referred to as assigned male at birth) but identifies as a woman; a genderfluid individual describes someone who purportedly experiences fluctuations in their gender identity. Some professives argue that Western culture has been too rigid in its understanding of gender, and that it would be better for society to loosen its perception of gender, and broaden its acceptance of expressing gender in various ways, outside of biological dictates. They argue that in other cultures, gender is not understood as a binary, but as a spectrum. They point to indigenous Native American cultures, in which transgender individuals are referred to as "two-spirit" and are revered for their perfect balance between male and female attributes.
Many conservatives, however, dismiss the term gender identity, arguing that gender is intricately linked to biology and is not something you identify with — you simple "are" a woman or a man. They argue that bringing the mind into alignment with the body (accepting your biological sex) leads to greater comfort, health and well-being than encouraging people to view gender and sex as separate, which leads to confusion and harm. They state that while there are men who are more feminine and women who are more masculine, the idea that gender and sex are separate things is a harmful notion that leads to mental unrest, discomfort, and even societal decline. They argue that healthy individuals and societies are oriented toward reproduction and the continuation of the human species. Gender signals sexual parts so that people can pair bond, reproduce and form families, and therefore, gender norms expressed in line with biological sex limit confusion and lead people toward healthy male-female relationships and the creation of families. Conservatives see "gender identity" as an especially harmful idea when introduced to children, who are still developing their understanding and comfort with being male or female and the responsibilities and roles that come along with those natural designations. They are concerned that the idea that gender can be separate from biology often leads people down a path of invasive medical interventions that do not bring greater mental harmony, but can lead to long-term and irreversible consequences, such as infertility or permanent physical changes. Many religious conservatives view the male and female sexes as God-given, divinely ordained attributes that are to be accepted and not altered.