Topic 2: Gender and sex

Activity 4. Sex variations

Intersex variations

People can vary in their biological sexual characteristic on four main spectrums:

  • Chromosomes: (XX male; XY female)
  • Hormones (women have more estrogen and progesterone; men have more testosterone)
  • Genitals (sex organs: women have a clitoris and a vagina; men have a penis and scrotum)
  • Gonads (sex glands; women have an ovary producing egg cells; men have testicles producing sperm)

The first two spectrums are not visible from the outside of the body. In most people, these divisions are rather clear. In intersex people, the “maleness” of “femaleness” may fully or gradually differ on each spectrum. This means there are many types of intersex people.

This list in reality more elaborate and detailed, see and 


The Greek historian Diodorus Siculus wrote of the mythological Hermaphroditus in the first century BC, who was “born with a physical body which is a combination of that of a man and that of a woman”, and reputedly possessed supernatural properties.

Following Siculus, doctors in Europe used to call people with intersex conditions “hermaphrodites”. This is now considered offensive and incorrect (intersexed people do not always appear with external intersex characteristics).

Intersex activism

Participants at the third International Intersex Forum, Malta, 2013

Activity 5. Gender variations

Activity 6. Gender fluidity

Tracking your gendered feelings

Kelsey: “While I considered myself to be an open-minded person and an advocate for other’s queer identities, for some reason I had a hard time fully accepting it when it was personal. Initially it turned into, “yea I’m genderfluid, but I’m going to force myself to be feminine because I need control”. As this inevitably started affecting my life negatively, I was urged by a therapist to start tracking my gender fluctuations so that I could understand them better. It was good advice, and because I am a data nerd, I ended up taking it to a whole other level.” What do you think: is Kelsey more masculine or feminine?


Activity 7: Sexual orientation

Sexual orientation

Source: De Graaf, Hanneke; van den Borne, Marieke; Nikkelen; Twisk, Denise; Meijer, Suzanne (2017). Seks onder je 25e (2017). Seksuele gezondheid van jongeren in Nederland anno 2017. Rutgers/SOA Aids Nederland. Utrecht: Uitgeverij Eburon

Activity 8: My gendered identity