One argument remains the most highly discussed among psychologists, anthropologists, and students through centuries of study of human behavior; the argument between environmental influence or innate factors as the origins of behavior and personality. The subject of sexual identity holds opinions on both sides of this argument and remains a salient issue in modern research.
More recent studies delve into theories and research on humans and animal species to search for another possible explanation for the discrepancies around the subject of gender identification;
Biology: As humans develop, their biological composition can shift for varieties of reasons ranging from diet, psychological health or illness, to physical illness that may affect one’s chemical production and subsequently cause differences in how one identifies in terms of gender. These differences assist in understanding one possible factor in how one creates, explores, or defines gender identity but in no way implies a deviance or abnormality; rather, it sheds light on a spectrum that for years has been rejected in preference of a bipolar model.
The primary types of sex hormones are androgens (testosterone), estrogens, and progestins.
Quick Aside: These hormones are often classified as male and female sex hormones but are not exclusive to their respective gender classifications. Rather, are found in both men and women and the release within the body does not specifically determine maleness or femaleness.
The hypothalamus, which controls the main hormone distribution gland, the pituitary gland, is the main structure of the brain involved with sexual development and differentiation.
In regard to determining aspects of genes in the role of gender identity, the study of the Sry gene on the Y chromosome is presumed to contain the most dominant role.
Morris, Jordan, and Breedlove explain that the presence of the Sry gene distinguishes the ambiguous gonads in utero to become male testes and begin producing testosterone. The production of testosterone then induces the masculinizing effects on the rest of the body. This gene is the major differentiating factor during development because there is no female counterpart to the gene. Simply the absence of the Sry gene is what allows the fetus to begin developing as female instead of male.
Sexual differentiation and gender identity begins in utero and continues through development stages during life by reaction to genetics, hormone release, and glandular functions. Any divergence in these structures or processes can severely affect the way a person identifies with gender regardless of physical appearance.
Environmental role on sexual identity
The recent studies that question the previous notions that women and men had specific and opposite roles, behaviors, and characteristics bring new light on the subject of gender identity and the environmental factors of influence.
In regard to gender role’s effect on self-esteem, studies examined the effect between masculine and feminine roles concluding that individuals who took on masculine roles felt a higher self-esteem. This includes men and women who participated lending to the idea that women who assumed traditionally feminine roles felt a lower self-esteem.
The social constructs around the traditional roles of men and women can put a strain on individuals not content in the role associated with their sexual identity. This causes confusion and ambiguity in the minds of people who do not accept these roles.
A major outside issue affecting the process of gender identity is a set of negative attitudes known as internalized homophobia and can severely damage an individual’s psyche who is coping with the idea of being considered different to society. Internalized homophobia may begin as an attitude held by people who prefer to abide by the Men Are Men, Women are Women, or mamawawa assumption of previous eras or may even be an attitude harbored by a person who is questioning his sexual preference and identity. If someone is living in an area where homosexuality, bisexuality, or transgender identity is not accepted or even hated upon, society may add the pressure of fear, stress, and defensiveness to that person’s already existing challenge of breaking the traditional mold. Sometimes individuals may confuse themselves more by hiding their feelings, others bravely face the scrutiny and suffer the feeling of being outcasts. It is the cultural norms, the traditions held by family members or members of the organization one wants to associate with that cause much more turmoil in the process of accepting one’s gender identity or sexual preference. Without these pressures, people could simply identify their feelings as they naturally grow and develop these feelings, living the way they choose.
Nature versus Nurture
Current arguments presume that people always have a choice to behave like a man or woman depending on his or her individual sex. The understanding among uninformed groups and individuals is that if a man chooses to be homosexual, he is fully aware of the social ramifications and if he did not want to accept those ramifications then he would not choose that way.
This argument holds little validity in consideration of the biological facts behind sex differentiation. Contrarily, overwhelming research supports the idea that the body’s endocrine system and hormone profile play a larger role than conscious choice in determining gender identity.
The endocrine system is a sensitive and precise network responsible for passing different types of hormones throughout the body. Slight differences in these hormones can dramatically alter a person’s mind and body and research is getting closer to making the argument against biological influence all but moot.
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