While filling forms and other documents in the hospital, I am bound to inquire from the patients their basic information such as the addresses, names, dates of birth, and gender or sex. Also, as a pediatric nurse, I have been doing this for the last 25 years, overseeing children who are hard to identify, ensuring their safety and care despite the challenges they face. Conversely, most people do not know that gender and sex are two separate terms with different meanings. Scientists view sex as psychological or physical (both primary and secondary) characteristics between females and males, which include the reproductive system, muscularity, and height (Roselli, 2018). On the one hand, gender is seen as socio-cultural dissimilarities linked to being female or male, while on the other hand, its identity refers to associating an individual to being feminine or masculine. As a result, girls are linked to the former as boys are synonymous with the latter (Sravanti & Kommu, 2020). This paper explores gender identity from a personal reflection perspective using various theories.
Human life involves different stages, and this is exhaustively expounded by Jensen and Arnett in their book, which focuses on lifespan and its development. They examine human existence from the cultural lens across the globe. While Human Development and Cultural Approach look at the US with a little comparison of other countries, the scholars assert that even with the United States, diversity is prevalent. As such, the cultural approach bridges the gap with other countries and enables learners to be knowledgeable on the global economy and challenges such as climate change and diseases that occur across the world (Arnett, & Jensen, 2019). Further, the two writers use a picture of a frog on the cover of their book as imagery borrowed from the Chinese, which stands as a reminder for the readers of other cultures. It is cautionary to people to look and learn beyond the horizons as well as to know that there are different ways of life out there (Arnett, & Jensen, 2019, p. xi). Just like the frog, humans have grown in different cultures and think about life differently, forgetting the diversity which is prevalent in the world.
Biological Perspective on Gender Identity
Establishing gender identity is seen as a complex task since its expression involves diversity that has no specific definition.
Further, it involves both biological and social (hormones and genes) factors to elaborate its determination (Roselli, 2018). Conversely, the physical analysis of gender applies to people as they view it differently without associating it with genital sex, thus introducing the transexual group of people. Further, there are extensive studies done by various scholars to unravel the evidence of prenatal influence on gender identity through hormones and genes. However, there is no conclusive evidence to show the correlation between parental genetic influence on transsexuality (Roselli, 2018). As a result, studies are ongoing to prove paternal contributions to transgender conditions among the offspring.
In addition, hormones have been found to influence the development of a person’s gender. For instance, studies show that prenatal testosterone exposure to a baby affects their gender identity. To support this claim, an infant boy named Reimer was circumcised wrongly, and as a result, he was reassigned surgically, raised like a female, and given hormones (Roselli, 2018). Although he was raised as a boy for the first months, the transformation to a girl did not suit him as years later, he realized what had happened and reverted to living as a male. Further, biological studies show that gender identity among males originates in XY infants with ambiguous genitals that result from cloacal exstrophy, 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase, or 5ɑ-reductase deficiency (Roselli, 2018). Consequently, it shows that all were exposed to prenatal testosterone, thus indicating the role and importance of androgens in the development of gender.
Social Cognitive Theory
The social view on identity and development asserts that differences prevalent in gender are a result of the treatment both boys and girls receive from their guardians or parents. As well as the exposure of the children to stereotype communications in the surrounding they live (Miller, 2016). In the beginning, scientists applied traditional learning processes to understand gender differences. Consequently, this angle presupposes that boys and girls develop gender-based traits since they are reinforced and required by society to display behaviors that are consistent with prescribed gender norms. For example, males play with toys that are masculinely provided by their parents, who prefer them to play with balls and trucks but reprimand them if they use tea sets and dolls. Therefore, the traits that are encouraged grow while the behavior that is condemned diminish (Miller, 2016). This shows how society shapes boys and girls to display character traits ascribed to specific gender roles. While highlighting the differences in the development of children, Sravanti and Kommu (2020) assert that girls identify with feminine roles as boys pursue masculine activities such as associating with truck toys.
Besides, the traditional learning theory has highlighted how different adults show varied expectations from male and female children. Further, the kids tend to behave and respond to the differential treatment through the display of societal gender-expected behaviors (Miller, 2016). Also, cognitive theorists see gender development as the main factor in learning and understanding identity. As a result, they see children as actors who seek and interpret information as a way of matching their behavior to ascribed gender roles. Conversely, kids are self-driven in their actions which are geared towards the realization of gender identity. This has resulted in social gender inequality across many cultures and countries in the world (Kaufman & Taniguchi, 2019). Consequently, it is prevalent among people with traditional ideologies on expected gender roles in society.
In summation, as a nurse, I encounter many children from different backgrounds. While the identification of their physical appearance is easy, it requires more scrutiny and scientific learning. As a result, according to various conjectures, there are different assumptions on gender identity. The biological approach presupposes the correlation between hormones and the environment. In addition, the cognitive hypothesis assumes the importance of the aforementioned view, and as such, both social and biological theories play an integral part in the development of roles. However, from my personal experience, gender identity is a unique inner sense of either being female, male or both. Further, the realization of transgender persons has brought challenges since they do not match the assigned sex during birth. Consequently, the recognition goes beyond the standard category of female and male. It is important to have empathy when dealing with such groups and encourage and comfort them by letting them talk to psychologists and doctors who understand what they undergo. Also, gender should not be ascribed to societal roles and characteristics but rather be viewed from an individual perspective.
Arnett, J. J., & Jensen, L. A. (2019). Human development: A cultural approach (3rd ed.). Pearson
Kaufman, G., & Taniguchi, H. (2019). Gender equality and work–family conflict from a cross- national perspective. International Journal of Comparative Sociology, 60(6), 385–408. Web.
Miller, C. F. (2016). Gender development, theories of. Wiley Online Library. Web.
Roselli C. E. (2018). Neurobiology of gender identity and sexual orientation. Journal of Neuroendocrinology, 30(7), e12562. Web.
Sravanti, L., & Kommu, J. V. S. (2020). Gender identity in middle childhood. Journal of Psychosexual Health, 2(2), 192–193. Web.