What is gender identity?

Identity is a complex issue. It means recognizing yourself as a unique and differentiated being, who remains who he is despite the changes that take place over time and experience.

Identity also has an obvious social character, and involves a certain degree of assimilation of the characteristics that define other groups, with which we feel identified. Moreover, it is a phenomenon composed of many dimensions, which make sense when joined. It cannot therefore be understood only as a character, an orientation or behaviors; but as a more or less harmonious integration of all.

In this article, we will discuss what gender identity is and the emotional correlates that emerge from it., Be an essential element in understanding the how and why of our most intimate relationships.

What is gender identity

Identity, in absolute terms, captures how human beings understand and perceive themselves, Assigning a myriad of properties by which it defines its own individuality. It involves both the personal and the social; and considers aspects as diverse as the religion that is professed, the ethnic group to which one belongs, the place in which one lives and the relational aspects that arise when dealing with others (erecting sexuality as a month of communicative function) .

Gender identity is a key concept for self-definition. An appropriate approach requires considering the physiological, the psychological and the social; aspects most likely to change. The perception of who we are does not remain unchanged, despite the fact that the first years of life are the most relevant for building the foundations on which everything else will be built.

In recent years, we have witnessed a remarkable reinterpretation and revision of the traditional prism, breaking the dichotomy on which the understanding of the human being has been built and unfolding very diverse nuances in which the uniqueness of each can be found. . A better performance space.

Then, we propose concepts related to gender identity, Which are necessary to understand what it consists of.

Gender identity: 5 related concepts

We will then define biological sex, sexual orientation, sexual behavior, gender orientation and gender expression.

Although these are relatively independent concepts, they all have some relation to gender identity, so their knowledge is very important.

1. Biological sex

Sex is a construct by which the phenotypic differences of an animal are classified according to their sexual dimorphism.. In human beings, the “man” or “woman” dichotomy has always been assumed; which generally refers to differential anatomical, hormonal and physiological problems. Thus, it was understood as a strictly biological variable, in which genetics assigned chromosomes XX for women and XY for men.

However, divergences in the basic chromosome arrangement are currently recognized; distinguish the XXX, XXY, XYY and even the XO; as well as men with the XX model (Chapelle syndrome) and women with XY (Swyer syndrome). All of this seems to suggest that sexual reality cannot be reduced to absolute and pithy terms, but that there is a genotypic variety that forces us to rethink the usefulness of this duality.

Recently, the birth of a baby with undifferentiated sexual characteristics was the subject of almost immediate surgery, in order to choose one of the categories that society could accept (male or female). Today, it is a much less widespread practice, because the risk of psychological harm is recognized. In addition, many social currents plead for the explicit recognition of the condition of intersexuality as “third sex”.

2. Sexual orientation

Sexual orientation is defined based on the gender of the people to whom we feel a physical and / or romantic attraction.. In this sense, the most common concepts today are heterosexuality (attraction to people of the opposite sex), homosexuality (attraction to people of the same sex) and bisexuality (attraction to people of the opposite sex). (both sexes). Despite this, it is very important to remember that orientation is a dimensional phenomenon, not a category one can fit into.

Thus, orientation takes the form of a continuum or spectrum whose extremes would be homosexuality and heterosexuality, and in which each person would be at a relative point. There is therefore no possibility of classifying this question in absolute terms, but always by relativity and by dealing with questions of degree. For this reason, no homogeneity can be assumed for people on the basis of their identification as homosexual, straight or bisexual.

There are also individuals who consider themselves asexual, in the sense that they have no interest in either men or women. If this orientation has sometimes been considered as an “absence of orientation”, in many classifications it is referred to as an additional form of sexuality, alongside the classics which have already been cited in this same text.

Finally, queer people would be attracted to others without caring at all about the sex or gender to which they belong, considering that these dimensions imply absurd reductionism. The rejection of these terms would also be accompanied by some social demand for the existence of patriarchal power structures that restrict the freedom to love and feel.

    3. Sexual conduct

    Sexual behavior describes the free choice of other people with whom they have intimate encounters, Depending on the interests and specific circumstances of each person at each moment of his life. So there are people who consider themselves heterosexual but occasionally have relationships with men, and vice versa. The same can be said in the opposite direction, that is, when a person who considers himself homosexual decides to go to bed with a person of the opposite sex.

    Sexual behavior can take on enormous diversity and is not always related to the orientation that each individual sees themselves. Beyond the complexity of desire as a fundamental stage of human sexual response, and the endless ways in which it can be expressed, a number of extraordinary conditions that precipitate behavior have been reported in the literature on the subject. orientation of the people involved.

    Thus, in physical contexts of great sexual segregation and / or involving a situation of prolonged isolation (prisons for example), it is relatively frequent for meetings of this nature to occur between people of the same sex (without any is described as homosexual.). However, this fact does not need to be unfolded in restricted contexts, but is one more expression of the freedom with which human beings experience their sexuality.

    4. Gender identity

    Gender is a reality conditioned by historical and social moment, and therefore cannot be attributed to a set of defining and immutable characteristics. These are the roles that the environment assigns to people depending on whether they are men or women, and which correspond to the conceptualization of masculinity and femininity. Traditionally, men were given a male role and women a female role, limiting their unique natural qualities unrelated to biological sex.

    It is currently recognized that sex and gender are independent, So that each person can describe themselves as male or female only, or refer to a combination of the two to some extent. There are even people who move around the spectrum, assuming a middle position or holding onto one of its extremes at different times in their lives. All this regardless of the sex assigned at the time of birth.

    If there is a match between the sex assigned at birth (based on recognition of the external genitalia) and the sex the person identifies with, it looks like they are in the cisgeneric category. Otherwise, the term that tends to be used is transgender.

    However, some studies point out that the gender you are born with has a fundamental impact on attitudes and interests. In this way, it was indicated that boys and girls show different attentional orientations from the moment of birth (they pay more attention to human faces and moving stimuli), and soon after, they choose the toys. in a different way. dolls for them and construction vehicles or devices for them).

    Studies at later stages of development also show that girls, when free drawing lessons are presented, tend to depict natural motifs (such as flowers, landscapes, people, animals, etc.), while have the boys doodle war scenes or means of transportation (also using a less varied color palette). Although the authors postulate a differential effect of testosterone on the gestation process to explain this, from a certain age, there may be a social conditioning that influences habits and behaviors.

    On the other hand, it must be said that gender roles, existing beyond each of the individuals who make up society and transmitted as one more element of human cultures, also influence gender identity. It is not simply a phenomenon with purely biological causes, or expressed from genes, but also has to do with the interaction with the social environment.

    5. Gender expression

    The term gender describes the behavioral aspects that the person gives up as another part of their way of being.. There are countries in the world where the divergence between sex and gender is penalized, so many may choose to behave in a socially accepted way to the detriment of their natural desires or tendencies.

    Thus, men who feel identified with the feminine gender may decide to adopt attitudes and habits socially attributed to the masculine (and vice versa). This would avoid conflict situations or even any risk to physical integrity or life. In other cases, social pressure or “what they are going to say” is reason enough to inhibit what is being felt, without it necessarily posing an objective danger. In any case, we know that in all human cultures there are concepts of “man” and “woman” as different realities, so that this type of social pressure is present in each of them to a degree. more or less big.

    Impact of discrimination based on gender identity

    Social pressure can mean that many people go through a difficult time when they want to express their sexual or gender orientation, for fear that this could lead to conflict for others or even involve the rejection of people they deem important. . For this reason, it is relatively common for this process to take a long time and you will have given up a bit from the moment you realized how you were feeling.

    The literature on this subject is abundant, and studies can be found in which a higher prevalence of various associated disorders is highlighted: depression, anxiety problems, post-traumatic stress, etc. However, these results do not suggest greater vulnerability, but are the result of losses that might match during the “coming out of the closet” process.

    The integration of any sexual and gender orientation as a form of human expression that deserves recognition is absolutely necessary., As it is one of the strongholds of freedom on its own body. Only in this way can love be expressed in a constructive way for the goal that unites us all: the pursuit of happiness.

    Bibliographical references:

    • Castellanos, L. and Swaab, D. (2017). Gender identity and sexual orientation. Hormones, Brain and Behavior, 5, 279-290.
    • Francis, B. (2000) Is gender a social construct or a biological imperative? Family Futures: Issues in Research and Policy 7th Australian Institute for Family Studies Conference.
    • Jayme, M .; Sau, V. (1996). Differential psychology of sex and gender: fundamental principles. Barcelona: Editorial Icaria.
    • Moleiro, C. and Pinto, N. (2015). Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity: An Examination of Concepts, Controversies and Their Relation to Classification Systems in Psychopathology. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, e1511.
    • Schnabel, L. (2018). Sexual orientation and social attitudes. Partners: Sociological research for a dynamic world, 4, 1-18.

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