Different though the sexes are, they intermix. In every human being a vacillation from one sex to the other takes place, and often it is only the clothes that keep the male and female likeness, while underneath the sex is the very opposite of what it is above. Of the complications and confusions which thus result every one has had experience; but here we leave the general question and note only the odd effect it had in the particular case of Orlando herself.

In this passage from Chapter Four, the narrator draws a general statement from the particular situation of Orlando. She suggests that gender identity is not fixed, but can change throughout life independently of biological makeup. The novel explores many permutations of this idea. Woolf believes that sexes are intermixed, that though an individual may seem a woman, she really has the qualities of a man, and vice versa.

This idea applies not only to the literal gender of individuals, but more broadly to the gender roles within society. Once Orlando becomes a woman, she realizes all the opportunities and rights that are now closed to her. Though she feels no different at all, society treats her differently because of the clothes she wears. Encouraging the equality of gender roles is a point that Woolf makes in many of her novels.