Main Umbrella: Body Sex

Female is an adjective describing an individual with a specific set of physical and organic chemical characteristics. These are usually separated into primary and secondary sex characteristics; the former categorizing traits that are directly involved with sexual reproduction, whilst the latter does not.[1]

The primary characteristics of female humans include:

  • A high level of estrogen, produced mostly by a pair of ovaries,[2]
  • A uterus, which houses a fetus during pregnancy,[3]
  • A pair of ovaries, which produce eggs and sends them to the uterus via fallopian tubes,
  • A vulva, which includes a labia, clitoris, and urethral opening,
  • A vagina, which connects the vulva to the uterus,
  • A cervix, which separates the vagina and the uterus,
  • Breasts, which contain mammary glands that are used to produce milk.

The secondary characteristics of female humans include:

  • A high pitched voice, due to a decreased production of testosterone,[4]
  • A softer and fuller face, due to an increased production of estrogen,
  • A curvy body shape, which is caused by a high conversion of fat,
  • A large volume in the prefrontal cortex, orbitofrontal cortex, superior temporal cortex, lateral parietal cortex, and insula regions of the brain.[5]

Female individuals are also simply defined as individuals that are typically able to produce offspring.[6]

Female individuals are typically designated their sex during conception by the presence of XX chromosomes.[7] However, chromosomal arrangement, hormone level, and varying gene expression patterns can influence the development of various sex traits, meaning not every female has the exact same characteristics.[8] In some cases, these differences can result in an infant with intersex traits. Of these infants, some may initially appear as female until later discovery of the intersex traits. Individuals that appear female at birth are assigned female at birth (AFAB) via their birth certificates.

Female vs Woman

A female individual is often considered synonymous or closely associated with a woman gender identity, however this is not inclusive of those who are transgender. It also tends to be degrading to call a woman a female as it dehumanizes an individual, referring to them via their bodily anatomy and functions, rather than their human identity or personality.[9]

Müllerian is a more inclusive term that relates to the female sex. The term was created to categorize individuals whose fetal development favored the müllerian ducts, which includes non-reproducing females such as children, elderly, infertile individuals, some altersex individuals, and some intersex individuals.[10]

Transsexual Females

Some transsexual individuals may wish to transition to that of the female sex. Whilst many sexual characteristics can be adjusted or modified to that of the female sex, as of 2019 there has been no successful uterine transplants for transgender patients.[11] However, uterine transplants have been successful for those who were born female. The lack of uterine transplants for transgender patients is not primarily because of discrimination, but because of the potential risks and ethical considerations of testing such a procedure.

"...however, in the absence of sufficient research demonstrating safety and efficacy, uterine transplant in men and trans individuals fails to meet the first stipulation of Moore's Criteria for Surgical Innovation, which requires that novel surgical procedures have an adequate research background." -Ariel Lefkowitz, M.D., B.A., B.Sc. Marcel Edwards, M.D., M.Sc. Jacques Balayla, M.D.[12]

As a result, some consider transsex female individuals that are completely and wholly biologically female to be impossible according to the basic definition of female that requires the individual to be able to reproduce.[13] These claims are not applicable to transgender women due to the difference between sex and gender, or female individuals and women. It is also considered illogical to presume that transsexual female individuals cannot be female, when many individuals born with female characteristics may not be able to reproduce either, or lack certain female characteristics. Thus, if one were to claim that transsexual female individuals aren't female, they would have to declare that infertile female individuals are not female either, of which there is little evidence to denote that such an argument exists.

Related Terms

Label Relationship Description Difference
Intersex Similar An individual whose sex cannot be traditionally categorized as either male or female. Intersex is often described as being between male and female.
Male Similar An individual with a specific set of physical and organic chemical characteristics. Traditional female characteristics differ to traditional male characteristics.
Woman Counterpart A binary gender associated with femininity and a connection to girlhood or womanhood. Woman is the commonly assigned gender counterpart to female.

Flags and Symbols

The female flag was created by @queerflagswithbenton and published by Tumblr blog beyond-mogai-pride-flags on the 18th of September, 2020.[14] The most common female symbol originated from the Venus symbol, which was used to denote female parents in the context of botany.[15]


  1. "sex characteristic". American Psychological Association, https://dictionary.apa.org/sex-characteristic. Accessed on 2 Jul, 2023.
  2. "Estrogen's Effects on the Female Body". Johns Hopkins Medicine, https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/estrogens-effects-on-the-female-body. Accessed on 2 Jul, 2023. Cite {
  3. Rachel Nall, MSN, CRNA. "A guide to female anatomy". Medical News Today, 5 Nov, 2019, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326898#summary.
  4. Wolchover, Natalie. "Men vs. Women: Our Key Physical Differences Explained". LiveScience, 23 Sep, 2011, https://www.livescience.com/33513-men-vs-women-our-physical-differences-explained.html.
  5. "Sex differences in brain anatomy". National Institutes of Health, 28 Jul, 2020, https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/sex-differences-brain-anatomy#:~:text=For%20example%2C%20women%20are%20more,the%20ability%20to%20recognize%20faces..
  6. "female". Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/female#:~:text=of%2C%20relating%20to%2C%20or%20being. Accessed on 2 Jul, 2023.
  7. "Your Baby's Development". KidsHealth, https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/week2.html. Accessed on 2 Jul, 2023.
  8. King, Dillon E. “The Inclusion of Sex and Gender Beyond the Binary in Toxicology.” Frontiers in toxicology vol. 4 929219. 22 Jul. 2022, doi:10.3389/ftox.2022.929219
  9. Holly. "The Problem with Referring to Women as “Females”". Medium, 20 Feb, 2020, https://medium.com/@hollymeijohnson/the-problem-with-referring-to-women-as-females-4728f1f6c3cd.
  10. "Difference between Müllerian Duct and Wolffian Duct". BYJU's, https://byjus.com/biology/difference-between-mullerian-duct-and-wolffian-duct/. Accessed on 31 Oct, 2023.
  11. Cheng, Philip J et al. “Fertility concerns of the transgender patient.” Translational andrology and urology vol. 8,3 (2019): 209-218. doi:10.21037/tau.2019.05.09
  12. Lefkowitz, Ariel; Edwards, Marcel; Balayla, Jacques (Oct 2013). "Ethical considerations in the era of the uterine transplant: an update of the Montreal Criteria for the Ethical Feasibility of Uterine Transplantation". Fertility and Sterility. 100 (4): 924–926. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2013.05.026. ISSN 0015-0282. PMID 23768985.
  13. Ryan T. Anderson, Ph.D.. The Heritage Foundation, 9 Mar, 2018, https://www.heritage.org/gender/commentary/sex-reassignment-doesnt-work-here-the-evidence#:~:text=The%20sex%20of%20an%20organism%20is%20defined%20and%20identified.
  14. beyond-mogai-pride-flags. "Female Flag". Tumblr, 18 Sep, 2020, https://beyond-mogai-pride-flags.tumblr.com/post/629623268274503680/female-flag.
  15. Melissa. "THE ORIGIN OF THE MALE AND FEMALE SYMBOLS". Today I Found Out, 8 May, 2015, http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2015/05/origin-male-female-symbols/.