Being a man or being a woman

    • Brief

    • What does it mean to be male or female, a man or a woman?

    • Sex

    • 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 a woman's body 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 sexes. This is called intersexuality.

    • Gender and gender roles

    • Men and women also have roles in society. These are called gender roles. Gender refers to the expectations a family or society have of how a man and a woman are supposed to behave.

      Gender gives answers to questions such as:

      • How should a man or a woman look (e.g. hairstyle, clothing)?
      • How should a man or a woman 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 grow more and more diverse.

      In relationships too, men and women have different roles. The roles of men and women are of equal importance.

    • Sexual orientation

    • People may 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) or bisexuality (feeling attracted to both sexes). Someone’s sexual orientation can change over their lifetime.