|Conscious acceptance of our self-identity without social constructs and biological traits determining so, is what creates our gender identity / Photo by Taa22 via 123RF|
Our world is one with complex and complicated individuals who interact with one another in a large and equally complicated society. For many, gender is a part of their characteristics that has no need to be questioned. However, for others, the question of their gender identity is one laden with many factors taken into consideration.
Perhaps the most important factors of one’s physical development are their biologically inherited characteristics. Females and males are born with distinctive sexual organs that help differentiate them as specific sex upon birth, with the exception of some who were born with both organs. They further develop secondary sexual characteristics as they reach puberty. These distinct changes are caused by several of the hormones that coordinate with one another to bring about these physical changes.
In regard to this, scientists have also found that there are connections between these hormones that bring about physical sexual changes and the expression of one’s gender identity. Men will usually have more androgen than women, and women more estrogen. However, some conditions, such as congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), which affects both males and females, can drastically change the amounts of certain hormones. In that case, the aforementioned condition raises androgen levels significantly compared to those not affected.
While men with the condition appear much like their peers, women will tend to display more stereotypically male traits than their more feminine peers. They also have a chance of being born with extra genitalia. Genetically speaking, however, they are still female, as they possess two X chromosomes. Still, even after having this extra genitalia removed, females affected still tend to have masculine traits, such as being more active and aggressive in physical play, gravitating toward companionship with male peers, and preferring toys and games that are considered masculine.
Environmental and Social Factors
One of the most controversial topics on gender identity is that one can be brought up to have a certain gender identity, or that one actively chooses to be of certain gender identity. This often suggests that upbringing, especially through their parents’ or an authority figure’s influence, can shape the behavior, preferences, and even self-concept of a person to sway them to a certain type of gender identity, especially in the way of teaching and reinforcing sexual or gender stereotypes, this according to MentalHelp.net.
Children taught by their parents which certain activities or actions are deemed appropriate or inappropriate due to their gender will inevitably be influenced by such distinctions in later life, though it may not be necessary for a way that was intended. For example, some girls told early in life that males are better at math may later internalize this and claim that they dislike the subject. Later on, they may even believe they are bad at the subject and perform poorly in activities related to it.
Being impressionable, children often emulate what they see and learn through observation. As such, those who have parents who adhere strictly to the traditional gender roles will likely go on to take on these roles themselves. Those who grow up with less strict and less stereotyped parents will often have more flexible and open choices in their gender roles.
Out of the Norm
Considering the overwhelming factors, there is no surprise that most males and females end up conforming to the traditional gender roles and identities deemed typical to them. These people will often find comfort in their gender status and are secure in the sense that they are doing what is natural to them. They do not feel as though they are being forced into behaviors that they would otherwise reject.
On the other hand, many individuals do not have this sense of comfort in their assigned roles that are meant to be consistent with society’s expectations. Thus, there is a feeling of anxiety that stems from not being congruent with these expectations, as with the fear that society may not accept them for not conforming to typical roles. This includes persons who have gender identities in conflict with their physical sexuality or persons who have homosexual preferences.
|Upbringing can shape the behavior, preferences, and even self-concept of a person to sway them to a certain type of gender identity / Photo by Jan Andersen via 123RF|
Influenced but Not Created
Thus, as explained by an article on Forbes.com, despite the incredible biological and social pressure, there are many who do not identify with the traditional roles. This then means that though these factors are cultural and societal rules and genetics dictate the conformity of gender behavior, they do not outright create one’s gender identity. Gender identity is not the product of these factors working together but is a force that acts and influences one’s self-identity.
Conscious acceptance of our self-identity, or who we are on a fundamental level without social constructs and biological traits determining so, is what creates our gender identity.
People will continue to have their own thoughts and opinions on gender and gender identity and how they should be described or attributed. Continuing discussions on the matter will allow for new perspectives and perhaps a better understanding of their own gender identities and what makes them who they are.