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Gender Identity

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Gender Identity When the word gender is brought up, the first thought that comes to mind is weither the person is male or female. This is not necessarily correct. The term sex is a biological term that refers to the physical differences between males and females. If sex is the term that encompasses male or female, then what exactly is gender? Gender is a psychological term that refers to the awareness and reaction to the biological term of sex. It also is a term that can construe more than one meaning. Gender is determined by biological, psychological, and sociological factors. Gender consists of three elements: gender role, gender identity, and sexual orientation or preference (Kenyon, 1994-2006). Gender role, is defined as the outward manifestations of personality that reflect the gender identity. Basically, it occurs when someone adopts the masculine or feminine behavioral traits that are associated with each sex. Gender role is manifested within society by observable factors such as behavior and appearance (Ghosh, 2009). Gender identity refers to a person’s personal sense of whether he or she are male or female (or rarely, both or neither). Gender identity, in nearly all instances, is self-identified, as a result of a combination of inherent and extrinsic or environmental factors (Ghosh, 2009). And sexual orientation or preference is whom a person is physically and sexually attracted to. In this paper the topics of discussion will be the interaction between hormones and behaviors in addition to how these interactions affect determining gender identity. It will also explore the biological factor, and how it influences gender as well as nature or nurture in influencing the gender identity of a person. Prenatal exposure to androgen could influence the development of gender role behaviors. For example: boys playing with construction toys and girls playing with dolls. In addition, there is evidence that hormones have an effect, and plays an important role in determining someones gender. Hormones influence gender in two ways. One by influencing the development from conception to sexual maturity of the anatomical, physiological, and behavioral characteristics that distinguish one as a female or a male. And two by activating the reproduction-related behavior of sexually mature adults (Pinel, 2009). Hormones carry messages from glands to cells to ensure maintenance of chemical levels in the blood system that achieve homeostasis. The presence of hormones acts as catalysts for the chemical changes necessary for growth, energy, and development at the cellular level. There are two main types of hormones: steroids and peptide. Steroids are the general hormones related to sexual maturation, and fertility of an individual. They are made from cholesterol by placentas in the womb or by the adrenal gland or gonads that are testes or ovaries. Nature vs. Nurture is an argument between those who believe that human behavior and individual’s development processes are caused by inherited genes (nature) or the environmental influences (nurture). The nature side of the debate argues that our behavior and development are genetically inherited and therefore it cannot be altered, whereas the nurture side of the debate argues that the environment in which we grow and socialize shape our human characteristics. Either way, there is no clear conclusion to this debate; however, in my opinion both nature and nurture are very important in the individual’s developmental processes. Many psychologists believe that gender is the result of environmental influences, particularly the way we are treated by our parents, guardians, friends, and relatives. According to Dr John Money we are psychosexually neutral at birth, and our gender is a consequence of the nurture we receive as children (Kenyon, 1994-2006). A less popular view is that gender is the result of nature, particularly the effects of hormones on the developing brain (Kenyon, 1994-2006). In 1972, John William Money and Anke Ehrhardt reported the case of a seven month old baby boy, one of a pair of twins, born in 1963 whose penis was removed after an operation for circumcision damaged the newborn's penis. At 22 months old the child was surgically reassigned as a girl and brought up according to the prevailing view at the time that we are psychosexually neutral at birth (Kenyon, 1994-2006). This case entered the textbooks and informed medical opinion for several decades because Money reported that the child had adapted well as a girl. However, long-term follow up of this case by Milton Diamond paints a very different picture of the success of this application of the nature theory of psychosexual differentiation. Despite being raised as a girl, Joan never felt happy. At 12 years old, she was given estrogen therapy to complete the conversion to a woman. She grew breasts, but was never accepted by other girls, nor felt comfortable as a woman. At 14, she rebelled, confessing to her doctor: "I suspected I was a boy since the second grade” (Kenyon, 1994-2006). She was eventually given a mastectomy to remove the breasts and was given male hormones. At the age of 25, now John once more, he married a woman who already had children and continued his life as a male. Based on my evaluation on the roles of biological factors (nature) and environmental influences (nurture) on sexual differentiation and gender identity, I believe that both are equally important. In my opinion, you receive both throughout one's life. Nature is represented from the beginning, before someone is born he or she is given certain instincts, and genetic factors from each parent. Giving them certain unique features and qualities before he or she is even born yet. And nurture is represented by social influences. In my opinion, people become who he or she is from how he or she were raised and what he or she has been through during his or her lifetime. Each person is different, because of who he or she is and where he or she came from.

In a recent article, Bem (1996) has argued that nature sets the scene for nurture to determine sexual preferences. A developmental theory of erotic or romantic attraction is presented that provides the same basic account for opposite-sex and same-sex desire in both men and women. It proposes that biological variables, such as genes, prenatal hormones, and brain neuroanatomy, do not code for sexual orientation per se but for childhood temperaments that influence a child's preferences for sex-typical or sex-atypical activities and peers (Bem, 1996). These preferences lead children to feel different from opposite and same sex peers to perceive them as dissimilar, unfamiliar, and exotic. This, therefore, produces heightened nonspecific autonomic arousal that subsequently gets eroticized to that same class of dissimilar peers: Exotic becomes erotic (Bem, 1996). Specific mechanisms for effecting this transformation are proposed. The theory claims to accommodate both the empirical evidence of the biological essentialists and the cultural relativism of the social constructionists (Bem, 1996).
Conclusion
This paper has discussed the interaction between hormones and behaviors in addition to how these interactions affect determining gender identity. It has also explored the biological factors, and how it influences gender as well as nature or nurture in influencing the gender identity of a person. In my opinion, both nature and nurture are great influences on gender identity. When it comes to identifying one's gender nature is seen in the beginning before a baby is born instincts and genetic influences are passed down to the unborn child. Then once the child is born, the nurture part kicks in. The child then begins to pick up certain behaviors that can lead to certain gender identitys. For example: once the gender of the baby is known, they are normally dressed in the corespnding color, females wearing pink and males wearing blue.
References
Bem (1996). Exotic Becomes Erotic:A Developmental Theory of Sexual Orientation. Psychological Review, Vol. 103, No. 2, 320-335.
Ghosh, S. (2009). Sexuality, Gender Identity. Retrieved from: http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/917990-overview
Kenyon, C.A.P. (1994-2006). The Nature and Nurture of Gender. Retrieved from: http://www.flyfishingdevon.co.uk/salmon/year3/psy364gender-nature- nurture/psy364gender-nature-nurture.htm
Pinel, J.P.J. (2009). Biopsychology (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.…...

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