Monday, 24 March 2014

The Social Construction of Sex

The Social Construction of Sex - Pacific Standard: The Science of Society - Alice Dreger

This, then, brings us to the issue of gender identity. Gender identity can be described as the internal feeling of being a boy, girl, man, woman, or something else. Is gender identity socially constructed—that is, are people taught to feel like one or the other?

When I started doing intersex work,I thought so. I thought we were taught to feel, act, and behave like girls and boys. But I don’t think that anymore. That is to say, sure we’re taught these things, but many of us probably get our core gender identities as much from our biological origins as we do from our gender educations. I’ve met too many people who, in spite of careful gender educations—sometimes even intensive gender educations—just clearly felt the gender assigned to them was the wrong one. I’ve also seen a lot of evidence from intersex that prenatal hormone levels correlate with gender-type behaviors, gender identities, and even sexual orientation. (Correlate, not cause! But correlations can be useful clues to causal factors.)
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On this note, let me just say this: People who think gender identities, gender roles, and sexual orientations are all socially constructed are the most naive biological determinists I’ve ever seen. They think all human brains are completely without structure when it comes to these things; we all have empty slates in our skulls at birth. No, we don’t! Really!
In fact, I think we can’t know that much about any individual person’s biology without a huge amount of study on that person—and even then, it’s hard to know much. (I think the same is true about an individual person’s social history.) In this sense, I’m much less of a strict biological determinist than the social constructivists people incorrectly lump me with. I happen to think that, for any given child, we can’t predict with certainty what gender identity or sexual orientation she or he will grow up to have, even if the child is raised in a very sex-role-strict culture. Some will go against our best guesses and educational attempts—we know that again from cross-cultural studies, where transgender, lesbian, bi, and gay children and adults show up again and again.
Yup. That sums it up pretty well.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

It depends on how independent you are and if you want to be social.

Training does not work if reward is not important and you have other inspirations.

Sally

Desert Dawn said...

I sincerely believe that the strength of the reward has little or nothing to do with gender formations. I know hundreds of transsexual individuals who have given up most of their social status to pursue transition. I know some myself included who have faced physical violence to transition.