Being a man or being a woman
Most people are born with one physical sex. They are born as either a man or a woman.
Some people feel that they belong to the other sex. They are born with the body of a woman but feel more like a man, or the other way around. Or they can feel a bit like both. This is called transsexuality.
Some people have characteristics of both the male and female sex. This is called intersexuality.
Gender and gender roles
Men and women also have roles in society. These are called gender roles. The gender refers to all the expectations a family or society has of how a man and a woman are supposed to behave.
Gender gives answers to questions such as:
- How does a man or a woman have to look?
- How does a man or a woman have to behave?
- What is typical for a man or a woman?
- Which behaviour is acceptable or unacceptable for a man or a woman?
These roles and expectations vary in different cultures and societies. They are passed on by parents and society. The roles and expectations change over time and are growing more and more diverse.
In relationships too, men and women have different roles. The roles of men and women are of equal importance.
People can have different sexual orientations. Examples of these are heterosexuality (feeling attracted to people of the opposite sex), homosexuality (feeling attracted to people of the same sex) orbisexuality (feeling attracted to both sexes). Someone’s sexual orientation can change over his/her lifetime.