Gender as a Psychological Construct

11154968_394318284083775_1727804353313483432_oDoes biology matter at all?

Some posts not just on WordPress but across the internet – from both LGBTQI and cishet people – have got me thinking recently about the entire question of gender, and in just exactly which concept it should be seen in.  It is nowadays accepted fact that any type of inherent sexuality each is born with (as opposed to learned behaviour) is perfectly normal, and most educated people find that acceptable.  I would argue that the same must apply to gender.

Let’s get this correct first; there is not one of us born or alive who is “all man” or “all woman”.  That is actually a biological impossibility.  Females have a certain amount of testosterone in their bodies, as men have a certain amount of oestrogen in theirs (and some more than others dears) – get used to it.

And of course, we all start as ‘female’ in the womb.  Yes, guys, even you.  How the hell do you reckon you got those nipples?  Any of you with moobs, that’s all your own doing – there are no female hormones in beer or kebabs.  But it is not only about nipples.  The ‘blueprint’ embryo has a genital bud, which if the male chromosome dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is introduced, will grow into a penis, and without DHT, it would develop into a clitoris.  However, Müllerian Inhibiting Substance (MIS) prevents a female reproductive tract from forming, thereby allowing the penis to develop further.  Then of course you guys have that ‘seam’ running down the middle of your scrotum.  That is the Raphe line, which is basically a scar.  To explain, every embryo, as well as the genital bud has a genital opening.  When female hormones take over, this develops into the labia / vagina, but with male hormones, this opening fuses together as the penis develops, eventually leaving a line running from the anus, across the scrotum to the base of the penis.  Doubt this, guys?  Try tickling your perineum (the area between the scrotum and anus) and find how pleasurable that feels.  Of course it does – you’re basically exciting your ‘labia’ (laughing here at images of cishet men reading this suddenly pulling their hands away from their crotches).

It is important to make these distinctions, for in science what we are talking about above is not gender – it is sex.  People often confuse the two when they are not one and the same thing.  Sex refers to biological differences between ‘males’ and ‘females’ with the chromosomes being XX for female and XY for male.  Sex however does not determine gender, no more than it determines sexuality.  Genital development takes place in 6 to 12 weeks of pregnancy.  At this time the brain is not fully formed, which does not take place until around 8 weeks into the pregnancy.  Some would argue that it is due to this ‘misalignment’ in development that some are born trans, and some are not.  I say phooey.  If it is a misalignment, then it is one we all go through during foetal development, and if that is the case, then it can be strongly suggested that gender is purely a state of mind.

What better evidence to support this than to look at intersex children?  I am of course speaking of babies born supporting both ‘male’ and ‘female’ genitals.  Either as an embryo or as a baby, the gender of such a child has already been determined in their brain.  This is why I applauded brave little Malta for being the first country in the world to ban parents determining the sex of intersex children.  To do so is to impinge the gender the parents want, not whichever gender the child is psychologically.  I would strongly argue that to do is a breach of human rights.  It needs to be that child, once they are old enough to make a distinction, to decide which of gender, if either, they belong to.  I say “if either” for the simple fact that some intersex people refuse to proscribe to either side of the gender binary but are happy to remain intersex, and as a genderqueer pansexual I can relate to that (I’ve never had sex with an intersex person, but I would imagine it would be one helluva lotta fun to do so).

Consider further that it is only in relatively recent history that trans and intersex people have been able to undergo transition.  Before then, even before our ancestors came down out of the trees, down throughout history there have been trans and intersex individuals who lived out their entire adult lives identifying as either one gender or the other (or even both with some).

Should this come as a surprise to any of us?  People are fickle creatures living lives which are far from black and white.  We are a mixture of animal and human, savage and gentle, male and female, in different degrees and at different times.  Even the most brutal individual can have great moments of compassion; even the gentlest of persons can be incredibly cruel if circumstances give rise to it.

We already know that we all have the mixture of male and female within us; the propensity for men to show their feminine side, and women their masculine side.  If this is the truth, and given the way our bodies and brains form, then one can only surmise that whatever their biology may say to anyone, it is an irrelevance, and psychologically we are all ‘transgender’ to some degree.

Thoughts peoples please.

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6 thoughts on “Gender as a Psychological Construct

    • Thank you. I don’t think it refutes all feminism, as feminism is hugely important to social change. However, I do think it does refute one particular brand of feminism, such as the type that caused me to do a facedesk while researching it; “Females are the SUPERIOR gender, and the basis for all human life.”

      I despair at times. I honestly despair.

      • I don’t think feminism is hugely important to social change. At best it might be a sliver of it. Egalitarian thinking is what we need rather than something which is focused on gender.
        Clearly gender is not a good way to divide society up for analysis. Gender represents demographics but as you point out it does so in a very poor way. Calling feminism important to social change is to credit it with more value than it truly represents. It is firmly rooted in old ways of thinking – the very ways that got us to this mess we have now.

        Banging only one side of your forehead on the wall will not produce better results, it just leaves one side looking better than the other.

      • I suppose you could be right in that feminism reinforces the gender binary and we really need to challenge that and break down the barriers it creates. However, maybe I’m just being a pragmatist in recognising that is how most people see things. After all, I am genderqueer but as Xandra I see myself as female. Trans people ascribe to either side of the gender binary. So, I don’t necessarily disagree with your points, which are very laudable, but I reckon that the egalitarian thought you speak of will take a lot of education, and you and I shall never live long enough to see such a society exist.

  1. I would say this supports feminism. Feminism is about fighting restrictions on half the population based on their gonads alone- not their gender, gifts, personality, etc. If you argue that one can be feminine with testicles or masculine with ovaries, all basis for sex discrimination falls away, except in the moment of creating foetuses.

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