Sex, gender and gender identity

When speaking about human sexuality, it is important to distinguish between sex, gender and sexual identity.
The term sex is a purely biological concept. A human being is born as a boy or a girl. A boy will have masculine genitalia (a penis and testicles), and a girl will have female genitalia (a vagina, uterus and ovaries). There are also a few individuals who are born with the genitalia of both sexes. These people are referred to as intersex, but they represent a very small group.

Gender, on the other hand, refers to a social construction which defines what women are expected to do, think or feel because they are women, and what men are expected to do, think or feel because they are men. The roles are internalised as of birth and are the reflection of a particular culture.

Gender and gender identity

Traditionally, we have tended to assume that there are two genders: one masculine, the other feminine. Each culture defines a certain number of characteristics for each gender.
However, human beings are both diverse and unique. As a result, each individual has their own identity which differs from the identity of others and which also differs from the afore-mentioned list of characteristics.

There is no such thing as a woman, but rather there are women, millions of women, each one totally different from the next. By the same token, there are many different forms of sexual identity. “Gay”, “transvestite”, “lesbian”, “bisexual” and “transsexual” are ways of expressing that sexual identity. And the manner of expressing that identity is a human right.

Consequently, nobody should be put under pressure or discriminated against simply because they express their sexual identity in a manner that is different to that of the majority. Discrimination that is based on sexual identity is referred to as homophobia (in the case of homosexuals) or transphobia (in the case of transvestites and transsexual people).

Homosexuality and bisexuality

Homosexuality is a sexual orientation whereby individuals are attracted to persons of the same sex.
Homosexuality is not an illness nor is it a sexual perversion.
Bisexual is used to describe persons who are attracted to persons of both sexes indifferently.

Transvestism and transsexuality

Persons who wear the clothes and accessories of the opposite sex are referred to as transvestites. Transvestites do not disown their biological sex and body but express their sexual identity by means of characteristics that belong to the opposite sex. If they are a woman they dress up and interact as a man; and if they are a man they do so as a woman.

By contrast, “transsexuals” identify with the opposite sex to the one they were born with and feel that their anatomy does not correspond to the gender they feel they belong to.