More on Sex, sexuality and gender

More on Sex, gender and sexuality

A person's sex, as determined by his or her biology, does not always correspond with his or her gender. Therefore, the terms sex and gender are not interchangeable:

  • Sex refers to the biological differences between males and females, such as the reproductive system; internal and external sex organs; hormones, chromosomes and so forth. A person’s sex is a biological fact and is the same in every culture.
  • Gender, or gender identity, is an invented sociological term that describes the characteristics that enable a society or a culture to define people as either masculine (male) or feminine (female). In many Western cultures, people who identify with a gender role that is the opposite of their biological sex are called ‘transgender’.

So while male or female sex is a biological fact, what that sex means in terms of a person’s gender role as a 'man' or a 'woman' in society can be quite different. Many cultures define a 'real man' as someone with male sex and masculine characteristics and behaviour. Similarly a 'real woman' requires female sex, feminine characteristics and behaviour.

Human sexuality refers to a person’s sexual interest for others and their erotic experiences and responses. A person's sexual orientation is their emotional and sexual attraction to a particular sex (either male, female or both) which often shapes their sexuality. Sexuality can have biological, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects. 

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