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The Concept of Gender Identity from Sociological and Physiological Perspective

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A person’s understanding of their gender is identified either by the assigned sex at birth or is an influence they had by their beliefs. By most of society, gender is divided into two main categories, male and female, being masculine or feminine. There are people around the world that consider themselves not a part of these categories, such as transgender, gender queer or non-binary. Some countries even have a third gender category. Both sociological and physiological theories play a great role in the concept of gender identity.

There has not been a complete understanding of forming a person gender identity, but there is always the suggestion of nature versus nurture. Biological elements such as genes, pre and postnatal hormone levels hold a part in gender identification. The sex-fixed hormones are produced at an early stage of pregnancy of a mother. If there are any prenatal hormonal changes, the physical makeup could change, and the natural disposition of the brain would not match the genetic makeup of the child. Testosterone is a sex hormone, it is more present in males than females, and affects development and behaviour both before and after birth. Testosterone, when released in the womb, causes the development of male sex organs, in 7 weeks, and acts upon the hypothalamus which results in the masculinization of the brain. In the case of an Intersex person, there were more and hundreds of people who were not a part of any male or female type. By birth, there get surgical and hormonal changes; therefore, making a decision for their offspring’s gender.

Whereas of nurture, it has more of an upper hand than nature. According to John Money, psychologist, by 18 months to the age of two, children are aware and attached to their gender. On the other hand, Lawrence Kohlberg argues that by the age of three a child can identify their gender, and choose activities and toys which relate to their gender. With both their theories we can conclude, children can identify their gender at a young age. In a child’s life, there are many social influences, such as their family, authority figure, mass media. When a child learns a language, they are learning the different attributes of masculine and feminine, and subconsciously they adjust their own behaviour to these gender roles. Also, according to the social learning theory, a child is very observant of their surroundings and will imitate their gender. In many cases, it depends on the way the child was raised. For instance, John Money’s theory of having an abusive father, a mother wish for a daughter, a child raised as a girl even though at birth was a boy; this would do under the parietal psychopathology for gender identity, causing a person to question their gender.

As part of establishing one’s gender, parents play a key role in helping an individual identify their gender. In many cases, if a parent does not support gender opposition they are likely to have children with firmer and stricter views on gender roles. Studies have shown that parents have not taught their kids toys as masculine or feminine, but as neutral. On the other hand, there are still parents that show negative reaction toward items to define gender to their sons, therefore distancing them from feminine roles. When parents follow the traditional gender role of a male going for work and female spending more time at home, it shapes a child’s gender. A study by Hillary Halpern, states that parental behaviour regarding their gender drives a child’s role of gender, but not the parent’s beliefs. For instance, a mother that displays in a traditional view around their children results in their son to act less masculine and daughter to act more feminine.

In addition to gender identity, the minds psychological aspect plays a huge role in one’s gender. Gender Dysphoria, also known as gender identity disorder, is a person who has strong, nonstop feelings of connecting to the opposite gender that was assigned at birth. In order for this diagnosis, this feeling would cause a person to have distress or impairment. People with GID often have a need to look like the gender they associate to. They would dress different and have character assisted in their gender identity to give them the satisfaction of their gender role. But, this is not the case in many. For example, those who identify themselves as a man but have female sex chromosomes will present to the public as a man with hormonal treatment or surgery. Also, with the feeling of distress that comes with this disorder, many individuals become socially isolated. This could be caused by self-choice or rejection, leading to low self-esteem. This could lead a person with GID to have Suicidal ideation, anxiety and depressive symptoms, and substance-related disorders. Among children, the leading mental health issues are a separation anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, or symptoms of depression.

Individuals from gender minority, transgender, genderqueer or non-binary have shown symptoms of anxiety and depression as heterosexual and cisgender. In fact, the anxiety and depression rates among sexual minority individuals are double than heterosexuals. The cause of the increased rate of mental health is because of minority stress. On the other hand, research done by Dr. Kristin Olson, Ph.D., on Mental Health of Transgender Children showed that their children did not show an increase of depression or anxiety compared to the average population. She concluded the research by stating that with the support of the society by accepting their gender, they are more comfortable and open towards many lowering their mental health issues.

Changing one’s gender with the use of hormonal treatment to create the characteristics of the gender they want to become has an effect on the brain. Research has shown that there is an increase with gonadal steroid, and change in time of puberty influences the brain’s structure and function programmed by testosterone and estradiol in the womb. The hormonal treatment blocks the transgender’s chance of puberty to obtain their gender figure. It manipulates the respond to gonadal steroid. On the other hand, the brain’s blood flow creates a response to a certain stimulus. For example, in brain scans, connections within the brain are may be different for different sexes. With the experimental evidence, it helps us understand sexual behaviour, and how it is regulated, reveals some of the factors influencing sexual preference.

Every individual has their own concepts or beliefs of gender. Many identify themselves as male or female, but some may identify themselves as Cisgender, transgender male or female, genderqueer or bigender. But, some societies rate of accepting an individual’s gender they identify as different between communities. There have been many encounters of transgender individuals being treated unequally at their work field. For instead, the transgender people report stated, “I’m having a hard time acquiring paid work because of my ‘trans status.’ While I can’t prove it, as soon as a potential employer finds out I’m trans the interview ends suddenly. They find out because they ask for proof of my right to work and see the female marker on my birth certificate,” causing this person to state,“[I was] forced to resign my job, verbally abused and belittled in front of co-workers, stalked, threatened, hate mail.” Also, an example for a teen experiencing discrimination for their gender is about a female high school student, not trans, but wears her hair short with masculine clothes, and is very athletic. Kids in her school and players on teams from other schools repeatedly harass her and call her names because of her gender expression.

The sociology of gender, studies society forms our understandings and perception of differences between masculinity and femininity. The study investigates the influences of identity and social practices. Sex roles describe the tasks and functions perceived to be ideally suited to masculinity versus femininity. Sex roles have converged across many cultures about their positions. But gender is socially built. It is a key theory sociologists use to put gender into historical and cultural focus. It theorizes about how meaning is created through social communication and the things we do and say with other people. This theory states that gender is not a fixed fact, but instead it varies across time and place. Gender norms are socially acceptable ways of acting out the gender. It is learned from birth through childhood socialization. We learn what is expected of our gender from what our parents teach us, at school, through religious or cultural teachings, in the media, and various other social institutions.

As part of religion point of the society, the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A, had no place for transgender people, but during 2010 the church dismissed specific barriers towards transgender people being included. Plus the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has no specific policy on the order of transgender people, making an invite to a transgender minister by the organization in July. On the other hand, some Orthodox churches do not accept those who change their gender, but preferably, they provide special pastoral care for transgender people. The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod gives advice to ministers on how to counsel transgender people and encourage them to seek help for dysphoria. The Pentecostal denomination Assemblies of God “supports the dignity of individual persons affirming their biological sex and discouraging any and all attempts to physically change, alter, or disagree with their predominant biological sex.” And the Southern Baptist Convention method of a solution was that transgender people can only become members if they regret.

In the end, as seen from the essay, gender is a concept seen under the psychological and sociological microscope. In general, gender is a person’s character, labeling themselves as biological sex, Intersex, Cisgender, transgender male or female, genderqueer or bigender. Gender is built either by the sex they were assigned at birth or the way they were raised, by learning from their surroundings. But society has their views on different gender, on the way they should act or represent themselves.

References

  1. “Anxiety and Depression in Sexual and Gender Minority Individuals.” Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA, adaa.org/sexual-gender-minority-individuals.
  2. “Gender Dysphoria | Psychology Today Canada.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, www.psychologytoday.com/ca/conditions/gender-dysphoria.
  3. “Gender Dysphoria and Disorders of Sex Development.” Google Books, Google, books.google.ca/books?id=YQ5GAAAAQBAJ&lpg=PP1&dq=de Vries, et al., Gender Dysphoria and Disorders of Sex Development&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=de Vries, et al., Gender Dysphoria and Disorders of Sex Development&f=false.
  4. “Gender Identity and Gender Expression (Brochure).” Ontario Human Rights Commission, www.ohrc.on.ca/en/gender-identity-and-gender-expression-brochure.
  5. “Gender Identity Is in the Brain. What Does This Tell Us?” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/hormones-and-the-brain/201608/gender-identity-is-in-the-brain-what-does-tell-us.
  6. “The Kaleidoscope of Gender.” Google Books, Google, books.google.ca/books?id=mKn99NiaSZQC&lpg=PP1&dq=Spade, Joan (2010). The Kaleidoscope of Gender.&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=Spade, Joan (2010). The Kaleidoscope of Gender.&f=false.McLeod, Saul. “Saul McLeod.” Simply Psychology, 1 Jan. 1970, www.simplypsychology.org/gender-biology.html.
  7. Human rights and intersex people. The Commissioner for Human Rights. 2017, https://rm.coe.int/16806da5d4.
  8. Nguyen, Hillary B., et al. “What Has Sex Got to Do with It? The Role of Hormones in the Transgender Brain.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 5 July 2018, www.nature.com/articles/s41386-018-0140-7?WT.feed_name=subjects_health-sciences.
  9. Olson, Kristina R., et al. “Mental Health of Transgender Children Who Are Supported in Their Identities.” Pediatrics, American Academy of Pediatrics, 1 Mar. 2016, pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/137/3/e20153223.
  10. Sandstrom, Aleksandra, and Aleksandra Sandstrom. “Religious Groups’ Policies on Transgender Members Vary Widely.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 2 Dec. 2015, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/12/02/religious-groups-policies-on-transgender-members-vary-widely/.
  11. “Sociology of Gender.” The Other Sociologist, 19 Apr. 2019, othersociologist.com/sociology-of-gender/.
  12. Zevallos, Zuleyka. “Transgender Women’s Experiences of Gender Inequality at Work.” The Other Sociologist, 23 Apr. 2019, othersociologist.com/2014/12/01/transgender-women-inequality-work/.

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