In a world where gender has only been a public question for less than a century and a personal choice for a few decades – and either of these in only limited parts of the planet – what do we really know about it?
Self-determined gender has emerged as an opportunity at a time when personality is less and less reliant on one’s reproductive organs or “sex,” as it is often called to differentiate genes from gender. Worldwide, we largely agree that identity is formed partially by one’s environment and partially by the unique design of their mind, though the classical competition of nature and nurture persists quantifiably. Beyond this, identity and all of its factors is anyone’s best guess. At worst, it’s a total mystery, and at best, it’s the source of many a strong, contradictory opinion.
Does your biology determine your gender identity, or does your gender identity determine your biology – or neither?
Scientifically, we have biological archetypes for men and women which outline normal, but not absolute, hormonal differences between them. Statistically, men and women consistently deviate from their hormonal archetypes – each harboring an unpredictable combination of hormones according to their own individual DNA. We also know that hormones can greatly influence mental activity. But between the discrepancies in hormonal statistics and the stronghold of gender-affiliated behavioral stereotypes we’re exposed to throughout our lives, it’s impossible as of yet to identify the exact factors that make up identity. Just as many people are genetically different from their hormonal archetypes, many men and women are different from their behavioral archetypes. The inevitable question arises of what correlation there may be between these realities. But the question most concerning me today is: does your biology determine your gender identity, or does your gender identity determine your biology – or neither?
As someone who has personally felt and has known many others to feel evaded, if not betrayed, by gender stereotypes, I struggle with both the association of behavioral stereotypes with respective biology (specifically reproductive organs) as well as with a gender identity that is detached from any biology. I don’t believe that the reproductive organs you have determine whether you feel masculine or feminine on any given day. I do believe that we all have men and women living within us, and that both should be a part of our identity; but this is nothing more than my ideal. Those of us who feel that our sexual biology doesn’t determine anything about our identity beyond the body that we clothe want to support those of us who want to change their biology in order to determine/fulfill their identity and vice versa, but I sometimes think our goals are counterintuitive. That being said I have never felt that I live in the wrong body and will never think someone else is wrong for feeling that way. I only worry about the strong association this implies between sex and gender that has never existed for me – and I hope to one day see a world where our biologies don’t control our identities, and wonder if anyone in that world will still feel the need to change their bodies.