Categories: Let's Talk About Sex

Sex and Gender: Born with it or perceived to be it?

Sex vs Gender | Credit: ofmdfmni.gov.uk

Often, society misunderstands the difference between sex and gender. El Sheila Kanavathi tells you why you are so much more than the sexual organs you are born with.


Many times I have heard people talk about Sex and Gender interchangeably like it is one and the same. Is it the same?

Sex = You are born either as a male or a female. You have :

1. Male/female sexual organs and body fluids (sperms and eggs);

2. Male/female-related hormones; and

3. The possibility (mind you, not ability) of being pregnant and breastfeed your child.

All the above categorizes you either as a male or female. It does NOT automatically mean that if you are a girl, you must be/do the following :

1. Wear skirts/dresses whenever possible. Pants would indicate that you are a “tomboy”;

2. Speak softly in public;

3. Wear your hair long till the end of your life;

4. Limit laughter especially in public areas. To only do so when permitted and in a feminine manner;

5. To get married before you turn 30 and have plenty of children; and

6. To be able to whip up a meal everyday even after a long, hard day at work.

It also does NOT automatically mean that if you are a boy, you must be/do the following:

1. ONLY wear pants, period;

2. Speak loud in public especially in the presence of beautiful women (to indicate masculinity);

3. The more crew-cut the hair, the more “macho” the man;

4. Giggling not allowed;

5. To marry any one (or two, or three, or four) woman of their choice at any point in their lives; and

6. To never enter the woman-section of the house, i.e. the kitchen.

Did God make these rules for us when he made us men and women? I don’t believe so. These are what we call Gender Roles. How the society perceives us to be. In an ever changing world, why is it that we cannot get our minds around the fact that people are ever changing too in terms of our likes/dislikes/preferences. Are we merely finding fault in them because we are too much of a coward ourselves to accept the differences?

Please read this story about transgenders in Malaysia that talks about how tough it is to go against the perceived gender roles of our society. If gender roles are created by society, then can society be willing to change its perception of such? After all, the only thing in life that is constant is change.

So put on your Gender Lenses and make a change first in yourself and then in others.

Ed’s note: Further reading on LoyarBurok:

A valuable lesson from a Mak Nyah by Derek Kok

El Sheila Kanavathi is what you would call a potpourri of Malaysian Culture (you name the race, I have it in my blood – well, almost everything). She loves working with, & for young people and actively promotes Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights of Adolescents. She blogs at babymom.wordpress.com

El Sheila Kanavathi

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El Sheila Kanavathi

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