Gender identity is one of the hottest topics in the media. Much of the issue revolves around people not understanding what gender identity truly is and the social construct we created to ensure everyone fits in nice little boxes. I have heard so many times, born a girl/boy, always a girl/boy but that isn’t always the case, at least when it comes to Psychology. Gender identity and biological gender differ due to their scientific nature, one is psychological and one is physiological. While gender identity is new to us as a society, there are now in fact, there are 64 new terms for describing gender identity (Abrams 2019). Biological gender is defined as the gender you are at birth and if further defined by the chromosomes housed in your DNA.When I think of logical reasons that a person feels they should be the gender they were not biologically, it makes me wonder if spirituality or cosmic phenomena has something do with it. The idea of reincarnation started in India within the religions of Hinduism, Buddhism, sikhism, and Jainism (Britannica 2020). What if reincarnation could be a potential reason for one gender to identify as the other? Psychology is a crazy concept on its own, why can’t reincarnation be valid also? Many do not believe in reincarnation but more in the world beyond life. In these worlds, people imagine themselves exactly as they are now. In reality, no matter what happens to us after this life, we shed our bodies and return as energy and energy has no gender.
Before we delve deep, I found an article that actually went against the idea of gender identity when compared to biological gender. He states “Gender cannot simultaneously be socially constructed and inherent to the individual (Mascolo 2019)”. He defends his statement by mentioning how gender is an arbitrary creation of society and therefore cannot be considered inherent. He argues that it is not possible for gender to simultaneously be an arbitrary product of culture and an inherent experience of the individual. If gender is a product of culture, then how can it also be an inherent of the individual person? He has a point but I also feel he is wrong.
The one phrase I have heard repeatedly is “I just don’t feel comfortable in my own skin and until I make changes that make me feel real, whole, and alive, I cannot be.” I have multiple genders within my extended family and some of the terms thrown around are non-binary and gender fluid. This means they do not claim to be a specific gender but instead are all and none at the same time. This can be a confusing idea for people to accept. Many people believe that male and female are the only two options and if someone were intersex (both parts) only one truly functions and that would classify their gender. There is also DNA evidence as chromosomes cannot change after they are chosen which makes the want for gender reassignment so radical to some. Biologically, I would agree with them but in the terms of psychology, I fully disagree. I have met people throughout my life who truly believed they were animals, an inanimate object, have an incurable disease when deemed healthy or being hunted by someone, etc. Is it so far fetched to believe that a person of one gender can’t identify and feel as if they were another?
While our existence is to procreate and keep our species alive, we are present in the world and have thoughts outside of sexuality alone which influence us as people. As we start to educate ourselves and study as a society we are finding that things we thought were set in stone are more like guidelines. Society seems to go back and forth on how they feel about the topic of sexuality and gender. The ancient Romans, who avoided the influence of the puritans, saw gender as more of a line with ‘Man’ being at the center as they held the most power and degrees of ‘un-manness’. This allowed for more feminine men to be classified with women and to be treated as such as well (Goetting 2017). This classification system allowed for gender identity to be more natural which allowed more freedom in sexuality.
Sexuality is also a topic that should be accepted for intense discussion. In my family, there are transgender, pansexual, homosexual, lesbian, and A-sexual members (Abrams 2019). Each of them has their own defining remarks about their sexuality. There are points that I can relate to and others that are not for me or are too explorative. A-sexual and pansexual are fairly new terms to me and I have spoken at length with people I know who identify their sexuality as such. The idea of being A-sexual is a little hard for me to swallow. As a woman who has been married for over 10 years, I can see there are times where sex with my husband isn’t desired and may not be for a while but there are other times I cannot keep my hands off him and we have sex multiple times in a week. The idea that someone experiences no sexual drive or desire is a very strange concept for me and society. I feel as if their biological drive should kick in and they should at the very least have the want to procreate, to further their gene pool. Even people who don’t want children still have a sex drive. This makes me believe that maybe there was past trauma in their lives. In the instance of the one A sexual friend, she was adopted from Russia when she was 2 by a family in the United States. She doesn’t remember her time in Russia but states as an adult that she never had any sexually defining experiences good or bad. She simply says “I tried sex a couple of times, it's just not for me and I don’t understand why everyone is so excited about it”. Her husband, however, is not A-sexual and uses random sexual encounters to curve his need with the approval of his wife. He however does relish in the fact that the love they have is deep because there is no sex between them and yet still they remain together. Even though their relationship is not traditional, it works for them because they have one of the best qualities of a healthy relationship; open communication.
Pansexual seems less intimidating to me than the construct of A-sexuality and is kind of the opposite. Pansexual simply means that no matter what sex or sexuality the person identifies as they are loved and accepted; no judgment. This is a beautiful expression of what love could look like if societal roles and gender roles were not forced from the time of birth and all were allowed to be freed sexually. The ability to choose anyone from billions and not have to narrow it down to one gender and one form of sexuality and how you perform in those roles; it would be so freeing. Not to mention it could stave off boredom.
I am not quite sure how we could change the minds of the naysayers from being so close-minded. Talk therapy is the route I have chosen so far. Talking about it will help normalize it but it could take a long time before we are all on board. I have seen a few movies that portray a future with this type of sexuality and gender roles and it seems so foreign yet I envy it. I just envy freedom in the true sense where society doesn’t enforce societal rules based on the generations before them. We need more radical accepting people to make big differences.
While many professionals state that gender is determined in moments you are formed utero and is not specific to your biological sex, many other things can occur to warp your perspective of gender and sexuality. While there are so many theories written by brilliant psychologists like Piaget, Freud, and Erikson, they all agree that the environment has a factor in your personality. I would assume it has some form of influence on how we view ourselves as well in terms of gender. Children as young as 2 start to notice the differences between boys and girls and have usually been influenced by their biological gender as well through the means of gender-specific colors, toys, and images. However, even though children understand the difference, they do not understand what it means and how it applies to them. They simply understand that some people go in one category and others go in another (Martin 2010) .
Parents have a huge influence on the personality of children and that doesn’t just boil down to genes. If a parent raises a child gender neutrally there is a good chance they will raise a more compassionate human who has less confusion about who they are later in life. Society and their peers are going to put enough gender role propaganda on them until we as a society decide to free the cages we have been trained to live in.
Abrams, M. (2019, December 20). 64 Terms That Describe Gender Identity and Expression (J.
Brito, Ed.). Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/different-genders#1
The Editors of the Encyclopedia Britannica, Reincarnation. (2020, May 22). Encyclopedia Britannica.
Goetting, Cody, "A Comparison of Ancient Roman and Greek Norms Regarding Sexuality and Gender" (2017). Honors Projects. 221.
Martin, C. L., & Ruble, D. N. (2010). Patterns of gender development. Annual Review of Psychology, 61, 353–381.
Mascolo, M. (2019, July 31). Time to Move Beyond "Gender is Socially Constructed." Psychology Today.