Gender identity is defined as the identification of a human being as being male or female. The knowledge that we have about gender acquisition is still not as accurate as we would like. Biological and environmental factors are at play and not one or the other seems to be completely wrong. Biological views relating to gender identity are supported by chromosomal and hormonal based differences. Environmental perspectives emphasize on modeling and experience (individual and cultural) affecting gender acquisition. However, the only unbiased way to assess gender identity is by taking into account both biological and environmental factors (McCabe, 2007). This paper focuses on gender identity in early childhood development.
Biological Factors in Gender Identity
Gender is determined during fertilization with the sperm carrying the distinguishing chromosome. If a the male sperm carries an X chromosome then the child develops female organs whereas if the male sperm carries a Y chromosome male reproductive organs begin to form. Testosterone, though previously seen as the male hormone, is secreted in both males and females and is related to sexual desire. Men, however, have a higher amount of testosterone than woman. Hormonal imbalances dealing with testosterone may change physical features in females and males. Hypogonadism which affects both males and females is caused by low sex hormones affecting the productivity of sexual organs. People with this abnormality are treated with sex hormone replacement therapy which catalyses their sexual development (Warne, Grover & Zajak, 2005).
Due to a circumcision surgery gone wrong a 7-month old baby’s penis was accidentally removed. After the incident the questions arose as to which sex to assign to the child. At 17 months the parents chose to reassign the boy to a female sex and to rear him as female. The follow-up interview at age 9 showed that the child was going through “tomboy” stage in which she had a female gender identity but practiced male gender norms. The next follow-up interview at age 14, reported that the patient had denied her female identity and began to live life as a male. The patient reported that he had never felt comfortable in his own skin and was exclusively attracted to females (Bradley, S.J., Oliver, G. D., Chernick, A. B,, & Zucker, K. J., 1998). This case study displays that genetic factors have a higher effect on gender identity than modeling or parental rearing. Despite the social and environmental factors rearing her to be a girl he always showed his masculinity. This study is interesting and should also be included in transsexual studies.
Bradley et al., also mention a similar case in which a 2-month year old male was injured during an electrocautery circumcision and his entire penile shaft was burned and the penis eventually sloughed off. At 7-months the rest of the penis and testes were removed and the parents made the decision to reassign their son to a female and...