Running Head: Critical Thinking about Theorizing and Research on Gender Identity
Critical Thinking about Theorizing and
Research on Gender Identity
New York Institute of Technology
Xiang Zhou, Student of Computer Science, New York Institute of Technology.
This report is about the critical thinking about theorizing and research on gender identity based on the knowledge learned from ICBS.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to 223 Store Hill Road, Mail Box 338, OldWestbury, NY 11528. Contact:
Gender identity is a topic that has been investigated for a long time and developed a lot of theories about that. This paper explores theories on influencing factors of gender identity which is biologicalfactors, social and environmental factors and natural factors. This paper will focus on researches behind these theories and use critical think to revaluate these theories. Also, this paper will enforce the knowledge of the psychological processes involved in developing one's gender identity. This paper will first review these theories, then concentrate on the experimental process behind these theories and finally use critical thinking to discuss these theories and processes.
Keywords: gender identity, theories, research, critical thinking
Critical Thinking about Theorizing and
Research on Gender Identity
What is gender identity? It is a person acts and thinks like the gender role he or she belongs to,which is a person's private sense and subjective experience of their own gender. In the theory, there are three influential factors which are biological factors, social and environmental factors and natureversus nurture.
In the most western countries, it's the binary judgement of gender – male or female. The
gender role contains the biological sex, gender identity, and gender expression. Studies showed that gender identity developed in three stages: at the time of toddlers and preschoolers, people learned about defined characteristics, that are socialized aspects of gender; at the time of consolidation, identity becomes rigid; at 5-7 years old, the fluidity will return and socially defined gender role will relax.
This paper focuses on theories filed in the influencing factors of gender identity.
This theory thinks influencing factors are biological factors. It says gender identity is linked togenetic or hormonal influences. This theory said that hormonal factors are stronger than
socialisation. On the other hand, gene also plays a key role. Because female and are different in gene like female is defined like XX and male defined like XY. In this theory, biological influences are very important biological influences defined both the physical and psychological gender identity.
Reiner & Gearhart's research
During the research of biotic influence, the study conducted by Reiner & Gearhart (2004) is
famous. This study focus on what will happen when genetically male children are sexually re assigned female and raised as girls. This study focus on a sample of 14 children who born with cloacal exstrophy and re assigned female, the follow-up to the age of 5-12 showed that 8 of them are boy and showed interesting in male's subject. The same thing happened in David Reimer who was born as a boy but after a botched circumcision went through reassignment surgery to become female. He thinks he feels like a man and at last chooses to come back as a man. Which showed thatbiological variables have an impact on gender identity and behavior independent of socialization. Discussion. From my point of view, that research is not preciseness enough because firstly, 14people are not enough sample for a study. On the other hand, I cannot locate the control variable in the study. An ideal study should let these people not affect by other factors like their parents or sociality, but this study cannot meet that requirement because these object of study must have been affect by a lot of factors during 14 years because they are children and grow up with a lot people. The third problem of that research is it do not focus on the other 7 people who think they are girls during the 5-12 years old which means this result may not be able to meet all the conditions, in another world, this theory is lack of evidence.
Lynda Birke's research
Another research to support this theory is in the article which was written by Lynda Birke "In Pursuit Of Difference, scientific studies of women and men"(1992). That article said that exists mutual influence between human brains and hormone secretions. During the time at the very beginning of fetal development, hormones enter in the brain and have a great effect on the brain which will affect the person in the future. The study found that women's sex hormones follow a monthly cycle while men's sex hormones do not. The conclusion of that phenomenon is mutual influences between hormones and brain have an importance on gender identity.
Discussion. The study of Lynda Birke has a logical problem, which it only shows that there exists a connection between hormone and brain, not show which affects the other. If Lynda found
that hormone affects the brain, it can support the biological factors theory. On the contrary, if brain affects the hormone, that's not biological factors. Because in that situation, the factor effect brain is the original factor. For example, if social factors affect one's thought and that thought affects the secretion of hormones, which mean the gender identity was affected by social factors, not biologicalfactors. For another example, if ones thought can change the effects secretion, the fact will be we can choose our gender identity based on which gender identity we want to belong. On another hand,there exist a lot of examples of transgenders. They are people who could break the conclusion of that study because they are people whose gender identity not changed by the hormones and use theirbrains to choose the other gender identity. I have done research which focusses on hormones changing of human being in a long period like 200 years. I found that it changed and has some connection with events like movement for women's rights. Gender identity changed not only based on biological factors.
Conclusion of biological factors theory
Although these studies are not perfect, they are valuable because gave views to study and consider gender identity. These studies could hardly be perfect because they need to use a long period to research human beings. The researcher could hardly control variables because of human rights which are ethic problems.
Social and environmental factors
This theory think influence is social and environmental factors which say that parents have a strong effect on children including using culture to develop the child. Children learn from their parents and the actions of adults repeat what they accepted. This theory holds a view that babies are neutral, do not have a specific gender identity as burned. Father will tell a boy how to become a man and mother will tell a girl how to become a women, parents will use their attitudes to affect their children. As a supplement, as the children growing up, social people like their teachers and
friends will also affect them, which help them to develop their gender identity. Social influence defined the psychological gender identity.
The study to support this theory uses survey method. The research firstly use ultrasonic to findthe gender identity of the unborn fetus allows parents to choose which gender to choose before bornand let them alter their preparation for child accordingly. After that effort, most of these children developed a stronger gender identity which means behave more like a man or a woman compare to their friends.
Discussion. The problem of that research is the absence of spelling out gender identity. The standard of this study is from behavior and appearance. That's the important part of gender identity but not the key part of that because these appearance was choosen by their parents. Which means parents could dress their son like a girl but no evidence shows that this action could change the son's gender identity. Same thing in opposite, parents let their son behave more like a man but no evidence show that strengthens the gender identity. The logic of the study is one like boys' toys thenthat person has a male gender identity, a person likes girls' toys then that person has a female genderidentity. It is rediculous because gender identity is the reason of preference. We could not use the result as a reason to prove something. The researchers need to go to something more powerful to find out one's gender identity. From my point of view, gender identity is something of one's
character, the speciality of a person, would be constance for a long time. To find out one's gender identity, we should firstly let that person have the as much freedom as possible to choose what he orshe wishes to choose. During that research, from the observer of these children, what showed is their family role, maybe not very fit with the gender role. In the film that show in class, a lot of transgenders, but, before they made the decision of changing their gender, they seem to hold on the original gender identity without any problem. That's like something shocked them. What is the gender identity of a person, if it is determined by society, why they could change their gender
identity suddenly? There must something existed between social factor made this kind of changing.Research 2
This research focusses on the balancing gender roles and identity. It shows that gender identityis changing and developing during the whole life of a person, like one's job, changing by the society.
Discussion. If that is possible, different society should develop different gender identities. However, difference is not so obvious as expected. Even between different species, difference is notso obvious.
My study on ducks
I have done research on ducks in 2012. Ducks are always acting as a group. They are a social animal which is similar as human beings. Gender identity for ducks is simple: during the period of incubation ducks acts with couples. Female duck would incubate. We found that the only thing famel duck would care about is her eggs. We took away her male duck the female duck has no response while we walk to the eggs the female duck would warn us. The male duck protects the female duck. Only thing male duck cares about is his female duck. We took away the female ducks, male duck would warn us, after he calms down, we took away eggs, male duck had no response. Wetook away all the eggs secretly from the female duck, she did not fount that happened, did not warn us, then we took away the female duck, the male duck would warn us. That kind of action model was highly similar during different duck couples.
To sum up, male gender identity for ducks is taking care of the female duck. Female gender identity for ducks is take of her eggs.
Experimentation process. After that, we divided three experimental groups which are
indicated as A, B and C. In each group, there are 13 eggs. Group A was given to female ducks and group up as normal. Group B was feed by us, separated from each other, which groups without social effects. Group C grows up with a cat which was in a totally different environment as normal.
One year later, these ducks went in the heat. Group A act like the normal, gender identity was obvious. Group B and Group C did not know how to do at the beginning. But when they see what group A did, they develop obvious gender identity quickly.
Conclusion. During my research, conclusion is social influence like the key to gender identity.Gender identity has already existed, but in a wrong society or without society group C missed the way to develop gender identity, after they learn from each other from their society, they open the door of gender identity.
If so, we can explain why gender identity seems so similar in different societies. Because gender identity was already existed.
Nature verse nurture
This theory combines the biological factors theory and the social and environmental theory together. Which think influences comes from both social factors and environmental factors. So it named nature versus nurture. This theory is more open because it does not focus on which kind of influence is more important. It focusses on how these two kinds of influence work together on the development of gender identity. This theory considers hormone and gene make the first step gender identity, because gene mutation will change ones gender identity. That's the fact. The social influence is the second step influence which will help one to develop one's gender identity psychologically.
This theory stated that the idea of nature verses nurture affect gender identity strongly. Nature has impacted on gender identity because some certain genetic variations could cause gender-variant identities. That's genetic influence on gender identity. The second part is nurtured. That is environmental aspects and parental influence on gender identity.
The most famous example was David Reimer. He lost his male genitalia because of a faulty
circumcision as a baby. Then, he was intended to be a girl. David's parent let devid rounded by girl'stoys. They told David that he was a girl. David feels sad but he did not what was wrong. Once he was told that he was born as a boy, he went to get the proper genitalia back.
Discussion. This story is told that gender identity was a very complex system. But this
example also has a problem of not controlling variables. We have not found what make David feel that something was wrong and what make him feel better. Although after he went to the surgery andhe felt better, we do not know if there is something happened at the same time and changed his feel.If we want to fix that problem, we have two ways to go. (A) analyze all of the things that happened at that time and figure out the result. (B) have a big sample which means that we should find more situation like what David in and the same result as David had, to study if there is the same thing happened on all of them at that time, and such thing is the reason for the result.
Conclusions and Future Study
Why we need to focus on gender identity? That's a way to understand ourselves. Gender identity will develop during a person's life. In general, female gender identity has roles like daughter, girl, wife and mother, sometimes , these roles would be contradictory to each other. Similarly, male gender idendity minimumly contains the son, boy, hasband and father. However, with the development of society, female gender identity also contains female/male homosexuality. This new role was totally different from the wife role and husband role. If gender identity changes and maybe some triditional idendity will disappear in the future. We need to think deeply about what actually define our gender and what is gender.
Reiner, W. G. and J. P. Gearhart (2004). "Discordant sexual identity in some genetic males with cloacal exstrophy assigned to female sex at birth."New England Journal of Medicine350(4): 333-41."In pursuit of difference: scientific studies of women and men," in Inventing Women: Science, Technology and Gender. Ed. by G. Kirkup and L.S. Keller. Polity/Open University, 1992, pp. 81-102.
Birke, Lynda. The Gender and Science Reader. p. 311.
Richard G. Kopf, Edward Nersessian, Textbook of Psychoanalysis, (American Psychiatric Association, 1996),
BBC News Toronto couple defend move to keep baby's sex secret
Bryjak, George J. and Michael P. Soraka. Sociology: Cultural Diversity in a Changing World. Ed. Karen Hanson. CITY: Allyn & Bacon, 1997. 209-245
CRITICAL THINKING ABOUT GENDER IDENTITY 11
If you can learn more, here are subjects besides gender identity.
Identity (social science)
List of transgender-related topics