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Lately, the medical and psychological side of gender is called into question, especially with the controversy surrounding the rights of transgender individuals. Obviously, it is not a conscious choice as gender identity is developed usually in early childhood, and does not really change.
Interestingly, gender actually is socially constructed, at least to some degree – boys and girls, from birth, are dressed differently, treated differently, and have different interests. Television, friends, and books can all solidify or sometimes upset a child’s gender identity – playing around with gender identity is completely normal in childhood and actually serves to develop a gender identity by adolescence. However, there are biological differences between the sexes that play a significant role in the development of a gender identity, including verbal ability, spatial reasoning, vulnerability to disease and injury, and emotional problems. The exact effect of these innate characteristics can be very hard to quantify, but biological differences in gender are undeniable.
That isn’t to say that any gender identity differing from one’s biological sex is invalid – on the contrary, there are people who are statistical outliers (hermaphrodites, androgynes) that are often very challenged in developing a “normal” gender identity. These individuals as children tend to exhibit behaviors and interests that are not in line with their predominant sex, and probably as a result, they tend to have much higher rates of adverse psychological issues later in life
These same issues plague the transgender community, which has been grossly disenfranchised by the psychiatric diagnosis of gender dysphoria, originally in the DSM-III. This has been both good and bad for sufferers, as it provides them with a legal basis for anti-discrimination or hate crime suits, but conversely having a diagnosed mental illness can be detrimental in legal circumstances. Given the strong genetic component of gender identity – which is tied to but not solely determined by biological sex – transgenderism and gender nonconformity are certainly not mental illnesses, but like homosexuality are almost entirely genetic and should be accepted accordingly. Unfortunately, people who do have persisting gender identity issues tend to be at a greater risk for mental illness, sexual deviance, and crime. It logically follows that because of the ostracism, abuse, and invalidation they face at the hands of peers, doctors, and parents, that these challenges are probably not a result of the cause of a non-biological gender identity, but instead are the result of the constant struggle they face.
This is a very difficult topic for a even sympathetic professional – is it okay to give children hormones simply because they don’t “feel” like their assigned gender? Should minors be allowed to get sex reassignment surgery? Should adults be allowed to, especially considering biologically male brains aren’t done developing until almost 30? Although medical professionals do validate the former condition, they offer no clear solution for society, nor do transgender people themselves – the only consensus is that we are in dire need of improvement.
Use on the AP test includes any topic regarding gender identity or sexuality, acceptance of others, and the value of informed and educated opinions. Obviously, faith in educated individuals, medical doctors, and science are very valuable. This could also be used against uninformed decisions, intolerance, and general bigotry.
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