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How is gender identity formed

Discussion in 'Gender Identity and Expression' started by Innoscience, Mar 4, 2015.

  1. Innoscience

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    I know quite a lot on the topic already. However, I have a class assignment in which I am allowed to write on any topic involving gender, and I decided to write about gender identity and expression in children (This topic I chose because I have very clear memories of my own identifying as female and expressing myself as/ thinking of myself as both male and female as a child, and its interesting.). One of various questions I posed for my paper is exactly how the identity is formed. Is it nature, nurture, or both. Any opinions are well appreciated, but if anybody finds links to good articles or knows of a book/documentary that approaches the subject is preferred, because, as interested as I am in the topic and your personal opinions, my class requires I use more scholarly sources. Most of the research I'll do myself; I just thought asking some people here might be a good idea as well.
     
  2. NingyoBroken

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    It's not "nurture", it's most definetely nature. Probably not the things associated with male and female (boys like action figures, girls like dolls, girls like fairytales, boys like trading cards etc.), that is told to children when they are young, so the child associates these things with male or female. But the gender identity itself, is something people are born with.

    I'm too lazy to find a link right now, but you should research the case of the boy who was raised as a woman. Yet he rejected being a female and was depressed, later finding out that they had cut off his penis during circumcision as a baby, and he was a man all along.
     
  3. SamThes

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    I'd definitely say that it's nature, not nurture. My family is obsessed with gender roles. I was constantly told to be "ladylike" and was forced to wear lots of dresses, and as I got older was told that I couldn't leave the house without makeup because I was "female" and that's what females do, apparently. I was taught that "gender is eternal" and that I was female and expected to do "female" things. It was drilled into my brain constantly. But that didn't stop my gender identity from being male.

    I did find a link that discusses that case and a few other studies: Gender Identity: Nature vs. Nurture? | The Evolution of Human Sexuality

    Hope that helps!
     
  4. Coffee Guy

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    I think nature. I was raised to be a very heterosexual male, but that did not change the fact that I am gay.
     
  5. NingyoBroken

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    We're talking about gender here.. Not sexuality.
     
  6. Just Jess

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    I am saying this as a gay woman and transitioner, I think that comment still fits in the conversation. "I was raised to be one thing, and something in me fought it".

    Cis people I think sometimes hear us talk about this stuff, which I think is fascinating, and think "well gosh, was a tomboy" or "I liked playing house and dress up". Gender roles just don't fit anyone, cis or trans. They come from a real place. Body chemistry makes men physically stronger than women on average, for instance. But the idea that you have to be physically strong to be a man is crap. There are many women who can lift more than I ever could. It doesn't make them trans, even if they enjoy bodybuilding.

    Being trans is innate. It's nature. If the bodybuilder was lifting weights in spite of a gender stereotype, she isn't trans. If he is lifting because it is one more way to be a man, he is.

    I think David Reimer's tragedy is important, but I don't think that he should be a template for all trans people. I think there are trans people that compensate with a "gay" relationship (one I would consider straight, although their partner might be dissappointed if they transitioned) and hiding out in the gay community. And I think there are plenty of cis gay people who still strongly identify with the opposite sex, especially with gender role stuff, that do not have any need to actually be a member of the opposite sex and view themselves as members of their birth sex.

    I think I agree with everyone else in that identity and a very basic concept of woman and men is nature. The way a man naturally smells will always be far more unpleasant for me than most straight women and gay men. We learn a lot of things about men and women, and while those things we learn are not nature, a trans person's push to do those things to bring the role we have to play closer to who we are, is nature.

    Or to put it simply, knitting doesn't make you a woman, but a trans person could feel validated and calm while knitting.
     
  7. Awesome_trans_girl13

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  8. anonym

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    It has to be nature. My mum was very traditional about gender roles. If I'd been a tomboy it would have been met with strong disapproval. I was raised as nothing less than a girly girl but look, I've realized I don't feel like a girl at all.
     
  9. Innoscience

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    Thank you all, some of this is very interesting. I'm under the impression that gender has to do with both nature and nurture. Some research says that children develop a gender identity, other research strongly suggest that children are born with a gender identity. The thought I was born feeling female is a comforting one, as if it somehow validates my identity. I wonder if we are born with a predisposition of sorts, as in, we lean more toward one gender identity at birth and that is generally the identity that should be supported, but have no specific concept of gender and thus can't really form an identity until all the complexities of the gendered world. I'm one of those who was born, literally, without a gender identity or any real concept of what gender or sex are; I hadn't really understood the difference until I was eight years old. So, as comforting a thought as being born identifying as female is; it's simply not true. So, I wonder if different children develop gender identity differently, some from nature, some from nurture, some from a combination. One reading I've done mentions that children ignore anatomy when they think of gender before they are six (roughly). They tested this with anatomically correct dolls. A male doll in a dress, for example, was simply a female and vice versa, even when the anatomical sex of the dolls was made apparent. They use secondary sex characteristics to assign gender. A child could come to realize that they are not a typical male or female and to alternate between the two with relative ease in part because unlike adults their anatomy holds no value in determining their sex. It's just something people put on, like a Halloween costume. Sex can be changed when the person changes outfit or hairstyle. A child will have a strong aversion to their assigned sex's roles, but no discomfort with their physical body until it's made apparent to them that these are the characteristics typically used to determine gender.
    Also, I'm trying to portray gender identity positively, so as valid and important a David Reimer's case is, I think I'm going to avoid using him. I may use to to portray why parents shouldn't force gender roles on children, but I'll only bring it up briefly if I do.

    ---------- Post added 5th Mar 2015 at 10:18 AM ----------

    one thing to keep in mind about myself, now that I think about it, was that I was beat by a step-father for expressing the fact I wished to be a girl at around eight or ten. I don't think I quite identified as female at the time, I just knew I wasn't a male in a variety of ways. I had romantic feelings toward male peers, for example. I remember not really thinking of myself as either gender, I was just a person, so it makes me wonder why I eventually came to identify as female. Perhaps it lurked in the back of my mind my whole life, maybe I didn't realize I actually could switch. I also have a tendency to think of others in a fairly gender neutral fashion, and I remember doing this as a child too. I know I didn't just switch gender identities.
    So, I think it may be possible that children are born with all sorts of preferences that fit specific gender roles in the eyes of us adults, but are just normal to them and have nothing to do with that identity, and its not until later that they learn to associate the gender roles they display with societies expectations. So then, with certain cases where a child is forced to act as a gender that does not fit in with the roles they are born assuming. So they would be born with gender roles, but not necessarily identity. Hm, that's sounds so complicated.
     
  10. Michael

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    There is evidence that some parts of transgender brains differ from the brains of cis folks.

    Therefore... Nature.

    Despite of growing up in enviroments against such abnormal behaviour (?), transgenders end up always coming back to their gender issue. Even married men and women with kids. The issue can't be cured by trying to fit in the wrong gender, even when the individual is passing all the tests (being in perfect shape, being in a relationship...) Trying to fit in, regardless of your sucess makes it all even worse.

    Therefore.... Nature.

    To deal with this problem we've got standards of care. There is no other therapy, or at least none that will improve a transgender condition.

    Nurture? Don't think so...