Gender identity is a term which is used to refer to a person as a female or a male. It is the personal conception of a person of either being a male or a female while in rare circumstances one may manifest both the female and male characteristics. Gender identity is usually defined by a person depending on how such a person feels concerning his identity in terms of gender.
Gender identity is different from gender role in that while gender identity refers to an individual’s feeling’s about his or her gender, gender roles are usually defined by the society and they are based on the physical appearance of a person as well as behavior of a person. As such, gender roles serves as outward expressions of a person’s gender identity. A person who claims to be a male for example must exhibit male behaviors in deed, dressing and also his behavior.
Normally, gender and sex are always used interchangeably although scientifically and medically they are different words which are not even synonyms (Ghosh, n. d). Influence of hormone and behavior interaction on determination of gender identity The interaction between the behavior of a person and their hormonal composition is the most complex ideology of gender identity especially because it is difficult to truly ascertain that hormones directly influence the behaviors of an individual. However, there exists a relationship behind the two components of gender determination with this relationship having a reciprocal form.
Presence of high levels of certain hormones in a person may influence or lead to certain behaviors while some behaviors may also lead to changes in the hormonal composition of an individual thus affecting their gender identity (Litosseliti & Sunderland, 2002). Gender development of a child begins before he or she is born, that is, gender identity matures even before a child is born. After birth, the gender identity of an individual is determined by psychological, biological and sociological factors.
Male and females have different hormones which affect the development of a person thus affecting or influencing the gender identity. In males, testosterone is the dominant hormone which leads to the development of male organs in a person. Testosterone is responsible for the development of major features found in males which included breaking of the voice, development of the genital organs and it also governs the distribution of fats in a person. On the other hand, estrogen is the dominant hormone in female which leads in development of feminine characteristics in females.
This hormone aids in breast formation, formation of sexual organs and it also aids in development of other features common with the females like fat distribution in the body. These hormones also determines how a person behaves whether as a male or as a female. The behaviors of a person are also indicators of the gender identity of a person (Wolfe & Mash, 2005). Some of the major determinants of gender identity are the hormones and the behaviors. Usually, hormones are the ones which influence the behavior of a person.
People with more concentration of testosterone are more masculine while those with high levels of estrogen are more feminine. Testosterone and estrogen hormones are responsible for the sexual behavior of an individual which determines the sexual orientation of an individual. Interaction between the hormones and the behavior of an individual determines or influences to a great extent the gender identity of a person. Children reared in a neutral environment learn from an early age what are the acceptable roles and behaviors of the two different genders.
As the hormones of a person correlate with the acceptable behavior of a certain gender, a person forms an idea of his or her gender identity. Also, at very tender age, parents also play a major role in shaping the behavior of a child. Parents usually buy cars and balls for the boys while girls are bought for baby dolls and other feminine toys. The behavior that the children are taught by the society determines how a person identifies himself or herself in terms of gender. Consistency in behavior may influence a person’s gender by influencing hormones release to the body.
However, hormones also play a major role in formation of gender identity. Males with higher female hormones tend to behave like the ladies and may often wish to be a woman which forms his gender identity. This is also the case with females who find themselves interested in male activities. They exhibit behaviors similar to that of the males which is as a result to hormonal composition of such a person. When the hormones interact with the behavior of a person, such an individual is able to determine his or her gender identity (Jacobs, Thomas & Lang, 1997).
Psychological factors also affect gender identity of a person. It is believed that all persons are born with some intrinsic level of testosterone that is whether male and female. However, the level of this hormone varies from individuals and is usually exhibited through such behaviors as dominance. Testosterone hormone is directly and positively correlated to dominance and this affects the gender identity of an individual. All persons who are higher in the rank have an innate urge to dominate while those who are lower in the rank are less dominating.
This is a psychological aspect and it also contributes to how a person views herself or himself in terms of gender. Ladies or women who are higher in the rank may exhibit male characteristics which may form their gender identity. Likewise, men who are lower in rank tend to behave more like women which influences their gender identity (Lee, 2005). Environmental factors are also contributors while forming our gender identity. The environment in which a person is reared in determines or influences his gender identity formation. The treatment one gets from different gender groups shapes his or her gender identity.
In an environment characterized by clearly defined gender roles for the males and the females, people are likely to identify with either of the genders mostly through association and task performance. In a neutral community or society, gender identity tends to be more influenced by personal interaction and hormonal composition rather than environmental forces. Biological composition of a person also greatly influences the gender identity of a person. Unlike the psychological and environmental factors, biological influences are innate which a person is born with.
The biological factors influencing gender formation cannot be influenced by the environment in which a person is reared though they may lead to discomfort especially when the outside pressure is more on a person. It is believed that the gender of a person is determined during prenatal development and as such it is a biological condition. Genes of a person determines his gender identity which cannot be reversed especially when these genes are very strong (Sonderegger & Anastasi, 1984). In gender identity determination, the biological influence is stronger than all other influences.
Most of males who have feminine characteristics being dominant continue to behave like women despite their environment or psychological exposure. This also applies to women who are more masculine than feminine. Usually, such people end up looking for sex re-alignment to transform them to the different sex. Also, a person who is has different sex characteristics as being dominant in them always feel uncomfortable while identifying with the gender the society view them to belong to. As such, biological influence is much stronger than all other influences while defining the gender identity of a person (Ehrhardt & Meyer-Bahlburg, 1981).
Reference: CREWS, D. & WILLIAMS, E. E. (n. d): Hormones, Behavior, and Speciation. Retrieved on 7th April 2009 from, http://icb. oxfordjournals. org/cgi/content/abstract/17/1/271 Ehrhardt A. A & Meyer-Bahlburg, H. F. (1981): Effects of prenatal sex hormones on gender-related behavior. Journal of American Association for the Advancement of Science, Vol 211 Ghosh, S. (n. d): Sexuality: Gender Identity. Retrieved on 7th April 2009 from, http://emedicine. medscape. com/article/917990-overview. Jacobs, S. , Thomas, W. & Lang, S. (1997): Two-spirit people: Native American gender identity, sexuality, and spirituality.
ISBN 0252066456, Published by University of Illinois Press Lee, J. W. (2005): Psychology of gender identity. ISBN 1594542147, Published by Nova Publishers Litosseliti, L. & Sunderland, J. (2002): Gender identity discourse analysis. ISBN 902722692X, Published by John Benjamins Publishing Company Sonderegger, T. B. & Anastasi, A. (1984): Psychology and gender. ISBN 0803241526 Published by U of Nebraska Press Wolfe, D. A. & Mash, E. J. (2005): Behavioral and emotional disorders in adolescents: nature, assessment, and treatment. ISBN 1593852258, Published by Guilford Press