According to William (2006), gender can be defined in terms of social classes (man or woman, boy or girl) or factors associated to living the social duties of man or woman. In addition, they argue that gender identity is the feeling of one belonging to either the category of women or men. On the contrary, he perceives intersexes as lacking gender identity. Additionally, according to He also argued that, there exists a strong relationship between hormones and behavior which consequentially influence the gender identity of an individual.
Gender identity, a process of self-identification in relation to sex, can be based on either the environmental factors or biological factors. Biological factors that may influence gender identity may include hormones and the genetic constitution of an individual while the sociological or environmental factors; the perception and knowledge the society has regarding gender. In addition, the above factors are said to influence the sexual identification and behavior of an individual. The study and discussion below tries to investigate the relationship that exists between the above mentioned factors.
The interaction between hormones and behavior
Hormones play a crucial role in the determination of behavior of individuals. This can be proven by use of researches and findings conducted by various scientists. First, according to William (2006), the amount and time of androgen exposure in animals greatly influence the balance between the male and female reproductive behaviors. In addition, he argued that the direct effect of testosterone on the growing fetus i significant in the male gender identity and male heterosexual orientation. Furthermore, they related this hormonal influence from the gonads to be fundamental in the process of sexual differentiation. In summary, he argued that androgens, male hormones, are responsible for the development of the male or masculine behaviors while estrogen and progesterone basically impact the development of female behavior.
Buchanan and his friends (1992) argued that, activation effects in the body are normally associated with increased hormonal concentrations which lower or elevate levels of moods and behavior. For example they proposed that, in nonhuman animals, estrogen is normally associated with reduced levels of excitement while progesterone is associated with higher thresholds. In addition, they proposed that, estrogen hormone stimulates more positive moods, and absence of estrogen propagates depression mainly in women. They additionally felt that, testosterone hormone found in males has the same effects as estrogen in women. Also in their study they found out that, adjustments in the hormone levels to which an individual is accustomed to; produces deviations in behavior. For example they argued that, during pre- and early adolescence, extreme hormonal effects on behavior are exhibited as compared to the later adolescence, or in adulthood. They attributed these effects to the fact that, teenagers at these stages have adapted to higher concentrations of hormones. Buchannan and his colleagues also argued that hormonal activities in the body produced an irregularity in behavior which may result to instability in the nervous functioning, with possible effects on moods and behavior. For example, Dennerstain et al. (1984) found that hormonal characteristics of the menstrual cycle was totally different in women who were experiencing premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, and women not experiencing this effect (cited in Buchannan, 1992).
Biological psychology influence on the sexual differentiation and gender identity
The biological psychology has been found to having greater influences on sexual differentiation and gender identity. This relationship has been proven by many scientific findings. To begin with, Swaab (2002) in his study, the “Sexual differentiation of the human brain: Relevance for gender identity, transsexualism and sexual orientation”, found that biological psychology greatly influenced the sexual differentiation and gender identity of an individual.
According to the argument of Peggy (2003), science has discovered that males are genetically identified as having one X-chromosome and one Y-chromosome while females are genetically said to be having two X-chromosomes without a Y-chromosome. He additionally argues that the brain plays a significant role in sexual differentiation and gender identity of an individual. This is because, hormonal secretions is said to be greatly influenced by the brain which in the end result to sexual differentiation.
According to William (2006) the gender identity of newborns is normally based on sexual difference clearly identifiable by the child’s external genitalia. He also argues on the fact that, the biological difference between male and female all lie in the mammal embryo which is originally sexually bi-potential. For development of male testes, he generally attributes it to the influence of the testis differentiation gene, SRY, normally located on the Y chromosome. These testicular secretions are responsible for development of male genitalia and brain.
Environmental influences on sexual differentiation and gender identity exhibited
The environment arguably has a greater impact on the sexual differentiation and gender identity of an individual. According to William, environmental influences refer to the rearing assignments or practices that can be used to identify the gender of an individual. Additionally, Chodorow argues that during the first three years of development; gender identity is irreversibly set by the social situation created by the mother and father. Due to these, girls tend to be more close to the mothers while boys tend to stick to the fathers which results to the development of the feminine and masculine characteristics as a form of gender identity. He further clarified that femininity is defined basing on the facts of care, tenderness and household chores while masculinity on the principles associated with separation and responsibility (cited in Suzanne and his friends, 1995). These consequently can result to one being sexually differentiated and identifiable as belonging to a certain gender.
In summary, both the biological and sociological factors have been found to constitute immensely to the sexual differentiation and gender identity exhibited. On the contrary, several psychological scientists have had various opinions on which factors outweigh the other. For example, William (2006) argued that, gender identification basing on the environmental factors which include rearing practices; are much better as compared to biological psychology. Their study which involved evaluation of psychological development of children born with varying intersex conditions; revealed a direct significant connection between gender identity and rearing practices.
In addition, John in his book “Human sexuality and its problems” argues that the biological psychologies vary greatly. He personally opposes sexual differentiation and gender identity basing on genetic makeup and external genitalia because; some people may have genotypes that do not agree with the normal classification of man and woman. For example, women with Turner’s syndrome have one additional or less number of chromosomes on their genotypes which produce different characteristics and behavior as compared to the normal women. Another reason why he opposes gender identification basing on the biological psychology is on the fact that, genitalia are generally differentiated and also individuals may have one or more genital organs. For instance, in the case of hermaphrodites, individuals have both the male and female sex organs, genitalia, which can result to difficulty in sexually differentiating that individual or being able to tell the gender identity of that individual.
On the contrary, Buchanan and his friends (1992) greatly recommend the use of hormonal methods to sexually differentiate individuals and identify their gender. They argue that hormone levels in the body influenced by the brain are the main regulators of behavior which can be used in determination of gender. For example they argue that testosterone hormone is highly found in males than in females which give them their masculine characteristics like development of beard, breaking of voice, development of muscles and growth of hair in the body. On the other hand, estrogen and progesterone hormones are usually found in high levels in females which also give them their feminine characteristics like breast development, smoothness and the ability to bear children. Therefore, whenever one has any of the above named hormones, he or she is classified accordingly irrespective of the genitalia or genetic makeup.