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Gender Identity

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March 18, 2010

Gender Identity

When it comes to the subject of gender identity, everyone has his or her own take. Each person sees the world differently because they have experienced different events and situations throughout their life. This is why there are so many avenues to look at when addressing gender identity. One issue that comes to mind is the controversy over homosexual and transsexual people. Do people choose their sexual orientation or which gender they identify with? Nature versus nurture is another way to think of this controversy. Does the chicken come from the egg or does the egg come from the chicken? Psychologists over the years have contemplated gender identities and how we develop our own. It seems that which gender we fit into and our sexual orientation is biological.

Typically a girl is XX chromosome and a boy has an XY but does this mean that all boys that have XY act like boys, of course not. Gay men and transsexuals have an XY male chromosome but act like they have XX female chromosomes.

Gender identity can be defined lots of ways. Wikipedia defines gender identity as identifying with one sex or another and what roles are adopted to fit that sex, resulting in a gender. The Gender Organization in Europe defines gender identity as the sense of feeling masculine or feminine which is constant and persistent. Sex is different than gender. Sex is the physical part of being male or female, while gender is how we identify ourselves, either being masculine or feminine. This makes it possible for someone of one sex to relate to the opposite sex. According to most gender identity definitions, whichever gender one identifies with, it is a natural feeling that is not learned, taught, or chosen. To determine a gender identity disorder you will be evaluated by a doctor but no blood work is required. So much progress has been made to help people adjust to living in the wrong body. Gender Identity Disorders are more common today then some cancers, yet cancer is more acceptable as an illness. There may never be a good statistic for how many people have a gender disorder because people are afraid to talk about it. Those brave enough to come forward have to be really strong and have a good support system.

The criteria for diagnosing gender identity disorder are having persistent cross-gender identification, a discomfort with his or her sex; the feelings are not part of an intersex condition and a feeling causing stress in social areas. Sometimes someone will meet one or all of the criteria. It will be up to you and your doctor to decide if you have a gender identity disorder. For children from religious parents it may be especially hard to ask for help or to come forward. Most religions are against homosexual and transgender lifestyles. Most homosexual and transgender people are treated differently and often physically abused by the public. The Catholic religion is the hardest on homosexuals because the catechism is strictly against it. Trying to be a good Catholic and also be true to oneself causes an internal struggle that often ends in suicide. Some homosexual or transgender try to change their thoughts and feelings through psychotherapy or faith. This is usually a losing a battle. The disapproval rate for homosexuality in the United States is 50%, Chile is 32%, and Kenya and Nigeria is a staggering 98%. The American Psychological Association says that being homosexual is not a mental, social or emotional disorder.

Researcher Simon LeVay conducted a study from deceased straight and gay people. He wanted to see if there was correlation between the hypothalamus and being gay but he wanted the study to be unbiased so he conducted the study not knowing which sample came from a gay person. After nine months of research he concluded to his amazement that one cell cluster was more predominate in straight men then in gay men or women. LeVay believes that the brain's anatomy is influenced by sexual behavior patterns but that the hypothalamus is not the sexual orientation center. It seems that gay men pick occupations that are women orientated like florist, decorator or flight attendant.

Sigmund Freud, a Jewish-Austrian neurologist who founded the psychoanalytic school of psychiatry, formed the first theory to try to explain the development of feeling masculine or feminine. Everything related to sex to him, from focusing on pleasure at the mouth, anus and genitals to wanting to have sex with the child's mother or father. A child goes through these stages in their early life. Freud focused on the struggle of sexual tension between the child and their parents, and between the child's sexual impulses and ideal behavior. Because of the period in which this theory was published, the idea of a male identifying with the female gender, or vice versa, did not come into play. Homosexuality also was not discussed. Could a son want to be like his mother, instead of wanting to be with his mother? Could a daughter get more pleasure out of participating in her father's activities than staying in the kitchen? Although Freud does not discuss homosexuality or transsexuality, it seems that his theory states that gender identity is biological and that we all, naturally and without conscious awareness, identify and relate to one gender over the other. According to his theory, a child will jump from idealizing their mother to their father and end when they realize which one they truly identify with.

Another psychiatrist to develop his own theory was Carl Jung. Although Freud influenced Jung in his early career, the two theories differ. Jung stated that men and women have both masculine and feminine traits. Men have feminine traits, called anima, such as sensitivity. And women also have hidden masculine traits, called animus, such as aggressiveness. With their complimentary opposite traits, the theory stressed that men and women complete each other, creating a whole. This theory was used to emphasize the male and female bond. Because, again, of the period this theory was written, each role is played by the stereotypical sex, male or female. I believe that it is true that we all have both anima and animus traits, but it does not reflect on our sex. Disregarding sex, isn't it possible for two people to complete each other based on compatibility and the love they have for one another? Yet, Jung categorized the women and men who did not feel that the opposite sex completed them as being confused about their gender identity and sexuality. This way of thinking that the opposite sex attracts one another has persisted throughout the years and lasts today.

In CBC News Indepth, there was a story of a boy who had been brought up as a

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