Boy or Girl? (Genetics & Inherited Conditions)
The question of what is “male” and what is “female” can have a variety of answers, depending on whether one is thinking of chromosomal (genetic) sex, gonadal sex, phenotypic sex, or self-identified gender. Chromosomal sex is determined at the time of conception. The fertilized human egg has a total of forty-six chromosomes, including one pair of sex chromosomes. If the fertilized egg has a pair of X chromosomes, its chromosomal, or genetic, sex is female. If it has one X chromosome and one Y chromosome, its genetic sex is male. Toward the end of the second month of prenatal development, processes are initiated that lead to the development of the gonadal sex of the individual; the embryo develops testes if male, ovaries if female. Although the chromosomal sex may be XX, the sexual phenotype will not always be female; likewise, if the chromosomal sex is XY, the sexual phenotype does not always turn out to be male. Naturally occurring chromosomal variations or single-gene mutations may interfere with normal development and differentiation, leading to sexual phenotypes that do not correspond to the chromosomal sex.
One such case is that of hermaphrodites, individuals who possess both ovaries and testes. They usually carry both male and female tissue. Some of their cells may be of the female chromosomal sex (XX), and some may be of the male chromosomal sex (XY). Such individuals are called sex chromosome mosaics, and their...
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Gender Identity Disorder (Genetics & Inherited Conditions)
Gender identity disorder, or transsexualism, is defined by researchers as a persistent feeling of discomfort or inappropriateness concerning one’s anatomic sex. The disorder typically begins in childhood and is manifested in adolescence or adulthood as cross-dressing. About one in eleven thousand men and one in thirty thousand women are estimated to display transsexual behavior. Hormonal and surgical sex reassignment are two forms of available treatment for those wanting to take on the physical characteristics of their self-identified gender. Little is known about the causes of gender identity disorder. In some cases, research shows a strong correlation between children who exhibit cross-gender behavior and adult homosexual orientation. Adults with gender identity disorder and adult homosexuals often recall feelings of alienation beginning as early as preschool.
Although some clinical aspects are shared, however, gender identity disorder is different from homosexuality. One definition for homosexuality proposed by Paul Gebhard is “the physical contact between two individuals of the same gender which both recognize as being sexual in nature and which ordinarily results in sexual arousal.” Other researchers have underscored the difficulty in defining and measuring sexual orientation. Whatever measure is used, homosexuality is far more common than transsexualism.
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Impact and Applications (Genetics & Inherited Conditions)
Biological and genetic links to gender identity have been sought for more than a century. Studies on twins indicate a strong genetic component to sexual orientation. There appears to be a greater chance for an identical twin of a gay person to be gay than for a fraternal twin. Heritability averages about 50 percent in the combined twin studies. The fact that heritability is 50 percent rather than 100 percent, however, may indicate that other biological and environmental factors play a role. One study using restriction fragment length polymorphisms (RFLPs) to locate a gene on the X chromosome associated with male homosexual behavior showed a trend of maternal inheritance. However, not all homosexual brothers had the gene, and some heterosexual brothers shared the gene, indicating that other factors, whether genetic or nongenetic, influence sexual orientation.
Although some genetic factors have been found to influence sexual orientation, most researchers believe that no single gene causes homosexuality. It is also apparent that gender identity and homosexuality are influenced by complexes of factors dictated by biology, environment, and culture. Geneticists and social scientists alike continue to design studies to define how the many factors are interrelated.
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Further Reading (Genetics & Inherited Conditions)
Bainbridge, David. The X in Sex: How the X Chromosome Controls Our Lives. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2003. Describes how the X chromosome controls sexual determination and the relationship between the X chromosome and autoimmune and sex-linked diseases.
Blakemore, Judith E. Owen, Sheri A. Berenbaum, and Lynn S. Liben. Gender Development. New York: Psychology Press, 2009. Examines gender development from infancy through adolescence from biological, socialization, and cognitive perspectives, focusing on gender role behaviors.
Diamant, L., and R. McAnuity, eds. The Psychology of Sexual Orientation, Behavior, and Identity: A Handbook. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1995. Draws from biological and psychological research to provide a comprehensive overview of the major theories about sexual orientation; to summarize developments in genetic and neuroanatomic research; to consider the role of social institutions in shaping current beliefs; and to discuss the social construction of gender, sexuality, and sexual identity.
Ettore, Elizabeth. Reproductive Genetics, Gender, and the Body. New York: Routledge, 2002. Focuses on prenatal screening to explore how the key concepts of gender and the body are intertwined with the entire process of building genetic knowledge.
Haynes, Felicity, and Tarquam McKenna. Unseen Genders: Beyond the Binaries. New York:...
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Web Sites of Interest (Genetics & Inherited Conditions)
About Gender. http://www.gender.org.uk/about/index.htm. A site that looks at the nature versus nurture debate in research on gender roles, identity, and variance, with special emphasis on genetics.
Intersex Society of North America. http://www.isna.org. The society is “devoted to systemic change to end shame, secrecy, and unwanted genital surgeries for people born with an anatomy that someone decided is not standard for male or female.” Its Web site includes or links to information on such conditions as clitoromegaly, micropenis, hypospadias, ambiguous genitals, early genital surgery, adrenal hyperplasia, Klinefelter syndrome, and androgen insensitivity syndrome.
Johns Hopkins University, Division of Pediatric Endocrinology, Syndromes of Abnormal Sex Differentiation. http://www.hopkinschildrens.org/intersex. A guide to the science and genetics of sex differentiation. Includes a glossary.
The Science Creative Quarterly. http://www.scq.ubc.ca/Genetics-of-sex-and-gender-identity. Features an illustrated article discussing genetics and sex determination and the genetic basis of gender identity disorders.
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Gender Identity (Encyclopedia of Psychology)
The sense of identification with either the male or female sex, as manifested in appearance, behavior, and other aspects of a person's life.
Influenced by a combination of biological and sociological factors, gender identity emerges by the age of two or three and is reinforced at puberty. Once established, it is generally fixed for life.
Aside from sex differences, other biological contrasts between males and females are already evident in childhood. Girls mature faster than boys, are physically healthier, and are more advanced in developing oral and written linguistic skills. Boys are generally more advanced at envisioning and manipulating objects in space. They are more aggressive and more physically active, preferring noisy, boisterous forms of play that require larger groups and more space than the play of girls the same age. In spite of conscious attempts to reduce sex role stereotyping in recent decades, boys and girls are still treated differently by adults from the time they are born. The way adults play with infants has been found to differ based on genderirls are treated more gently and approached more verbally than boys. As children grow older, many parents, teachers, and other authority figures still tend to encourage independence, competition, and exploration more in boys and...
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Gender Identity (Encyclopedia of Children's Health)
Gender identity is a person's sense of identification with either the male or female sex, as manifested in appearance, behavior, and other aspects of a person's life.
Psychologists believe human sexual identities are made up of three separate components. The first shows the direction of a child's sexual orientation, whether he or she is heterosexual (straight), homosexual (gay), or bisexual. The second is the child's style of behavior, whether a female is a "tomboy" or homemaker-type and a male is a "macho guy" or a "sensitive boy." The third component is what psychologists call the core gender identity. According to an article in the May 12, 2001 issue of New Scientist, it is the most difficult to ascertain but is essentially the deep inner feeling a child has about whether he or she is a male or female.
In most people, the three components point in the same direction but in some people, the components are more mixed. For example, a gay woman (lesbian) might look and act either feminine or masculine (butch), but she still deeply feels she is a female. Scientists are uncertain about where the inner feeling of maleness or femaleness comes from. Some believe it is physical, from the body, while others...
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Gender Identity (International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis)
The term gender identity, meaning a person's relative sense of his or her own masculine or feminine identity, was first used in 1965 by John Money (Money, 1965). The term was introduced into the psychoanalytic literature by Robert Stoller in 1968 (Stoller, 1968).
Money used the term to distinguish the subjective experience of gender from the concept of "gender role" which he used to describe the socially determined attributes of gender.
Stoller (1968) developed the idea further to distinguish between the psychological and biological dimensions of sex. He used gender to distinguish ideas and experiences of masculinity and femininityoth socially determined psychological constructsrom sex, the biologically determined traits of maleness and femaleness. This usage has become the standard in psychoanalytically derived discussions of gender and sexuality to refer to the psychological aspects of sexuality, what Freud (1925) called "psychical consequences of the anatomical distinction between the sexes."
Stoller (1968) further distinguishes the general sense of masculinity and femininityi>gender identityrom the earlier awareness of sexual difference, what he calls core gender identity, a relatively fixed sense of maleness or femaleness usually consolidated by the second year of life, prior to the oedipal phase.
Stoller identifies three components in the formation of core gender identity: 1) Biological and hormonal influences; 2) Sex assignment at birth; 3) Environmental and psychological influences with effects similar to imprinting.
In contrast to Freud's belief that the primary identification is masculine, Stoller believes that both the boy and the girl begin with a female core gender identity obtained from the maternal symbiosis. Core gender identity is derived non-conflictually through identification and, in essence, learning. Failure to interrupt the maternal symbiosis pre-oedipally with boys may result in permanent core gender identity disorders like transsexualism. Otherwise, normal development facilitates the boy's shift to a male core gender identity and the subsequent oedipal conflicts associated with obtaining a masculine gender identity.
The concept of gender identity is important historically because it separates masculine and feminine psychology from the innate biological determinism suggested by Freud. Increasing attention to the diversity and multiplicity of the origins and workings of gender have made even the terms gender identity and core gender identity less than adequate to describe the nuances of such a central organizing factor of personality and behavior. It is important to differentiate the term, gender identity, which describes the individual's sense of gender, from Stoller's speculative theory about the origins of core gender identity.
See also: Femininity; Feminism and psychoanalysis; Identity; Imaginary identification/symbolic identification; Masculinity/femininity; Perversion; Sexual differences; Stoller, Robert J.; Transsexualism.
Freud, Sigmund. (1925j). Some psychical consequences of the anatomical distinction between the sexes, SE, 19: 241-258.
Money, John (Ed.). (1965). Sex research: New developments. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
Stoller, Robert. (1968). Sex and gender: On the development of masculinity and femininity. New York: Science House.
Benjamin, Jessica. (1998). Shadow of the other. Intersubjectivity and gender in psychoanalysis. New York: Routledge.
Breen. Dana. (Ed.). (1993). The gender conundrum. London, New York: Routledge
Chodorow, Nancy. (1978). The reproduction of mothering. Psychoanalysis and the sociology of gender. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Fast, Irene. (1999). Aspects of core gender identity. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 9, 633-662.
Stoller, Robert. (1985). Presentations of gender. New Haven, London: Yale University Press.
Wagonfeld, S., rep. (1982). Panel: Gender and gender role. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 30, 185-196.