Gender Identity and Its Development throughout Life

March 23, 2016

 

Experts define gender identity as someone’s personal conception of himself/herself, which in turn leads to the concept of gender role. Gender role and gender identity are two different things; gender role on is a person’s manifestation of personality, behaviors, and appearance that reflect his/her gender identity (Argosy University, 2015). Meaning societal norms dictate both men and women supposed to behave, act, and dress. While gender identity reefers to how a person identifies himself/herself based on a combination of inherent and extrinsic or environmental forces.

Difference between Gender and Sex

A lot of times people confuse gender with sex or sex orientation. They are two different things: the term gender is being defined by experts as the psychophysiological processes that involves self-identity and social role. On the other hand, a person’s sex is defined based on the gonads, or potential gonads, whether phenotypically or genotypically (APA, 2015). To make this a little clearer, a person's sex can be defined as his/her primary state of anatomic or physiologic parameters. While a person's gender is a conclusion reached in a broad sense when individual gender identity and gender role are expressed (Medscape, 2015).

My memories of masculinity and femininity are plenty, I remember when I was growing up I was the only boy in the family and three girls. It did not take me long to realize the big differences between me and them, based on how we were dressed, the way we speak, the types of toys we were playing with, as well as our role and responsibilities in the house. My parents got me toys gun, toys cars, toys airplanes, etc.  To play with, while the girls had baby dolls, toys houses full of kitchen accessories.

Their dress color and style were different than mine. Pink for them most likely and navy blue for me. When it comes to responsibility in the house. Even though I participated in the kitchen and house works I have always known they were not boys like responsibilities, due to the fact that I have never seen those who I identified myself with performing those kind of works, such as my dad, my uncles, and my grand-father. The reason why I was able to identify myself with them is because they are biologically looked like me, we had same features, body shape, and same types of dress. So these people somehow were my role models, especially my dad.

However, my grandmother was a little bit different. Even though through her actions gender role was still at place, however, she had me do all kind of works; men’s works and women’s works according to the societal norms and expectations of both genders, because, for her there was no such thing, men are supposed to watch while women are coking, doing laundry, etc. but she unconsciously used gender bias, because she would not let the girls lift anything heavy but me. It did not matter how far I was or what I was doing, lifting heavy stuffs was technically my job since I was the little man in the house.

That automatically registered into my mind, which made me realized that I was stronger than the girls and I assumed that the girls felt the same way, as girls, they were weaker than me. Other things that influence my gender identity was the media and the society. I have never seen a man dressed like a woman or a woman dressed like a man. In fact, being catholic in the Caribbean, wearing pants as a woman was not a very good thing at all back then. Women were supposed to dress like women and same way for men.

So not only society has great influence on how a person express his/her gender, such a norms can be different from one society to another. This means, culture and traditions also take part in shaping a person’s gender identity and his/her gender role. Children learn through observation. They observed what others do and repeat the same things. So despite the biological formation, brains structure, etc. observing those I considered as my role models and can relate myself to as I was growing up resulted in my masculinity.

Influence of Gender on Roles and Decisions

As mentioned before, gender roles are based on norms and standards established by society in which a person is evolving. Often, those norms take the form of the culture or tradition of the area. Some cultures are harsher on women than others. While in other cultures, such as westernized cultures, women seem to have better treatments. However, across every culture gender bias or gender stereotype remains a serious barrier for women and an obstacle in the way of achieving gender equality (Argosy University, 2015).

Those expectations set by society impact everything both men and women do in life as well as how far they have succeed. Men are always associated with strength, success, and aggressiveness. While women are often associated with passivity, nurturing, and subordination, etc. society expects women to stay home and put their families’ wellbeing above their own well-being. As a result, most women do just that. This is why there have been serious gap between professional women and professional men.

And sometimes, even when the woman is a professional, society still expects her to perform her gender role activities, such as cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, etc. Many are those who believe that men are better in math and science than women, but there is no scientific evidence to prove that. However, scientific evidence shows that there are not that many women who make career choices relate to math and science topic due to gender bias.

Also, regardless how successful a woman can be, society assesses her success based on whether or not she is married and has a family. I can say that my personal experience about gender closely relate to the opinion of the community or the society as a whole. There has been an oppressive movement against women across culture that is trying tirelessly to bind them domestic works and this has greatly impact women’s ability to succeed in every tradition (Argosy University, 2015).

Transitions, Conflicts, and Challenges

I cannot recall any time in my life where I was in conflict with my gender. I was always feel like a man and still feel like one today. However, I had some conflicts over gender role especially after my experience with my grand-mother who technically shaped who I am today. She taught me that I am no better than anyone that I am supposed to respect women, and treat them as equal because I came into this earth through a woman. They are not responsible to take care of me as a man nor that am I responsible to take care of them as women based on the fact that I am a provider (Human Rights Campaign, Shuvo G. and Caroly P., 2015).

Everyone can be a provider, a man or a woman, and everyone can and should be allowed to perform any kind of duties at his/her own discretion; whether domestics, outdoors, etc. society creates norms that need to be followed by both gender in order to be seen as normal. Based on those norms, there are also expectations, and sometimes those expectations are unfair to one specific gender or both. In my house, there times I cook, clean, and do the laundry. The society is been constructed on the principle of male privilege and value, which leaves very little room for women privilege and value (Human Rights Campaign, Shuvo G. and Caroly P., 2015).

Sexism is been around me my whole life. I can from a culture that is very conservative. It dictates what a man/woman can do or cannot do from domestics and outdoor works to who should ask who on a date.  On top of that, I spent most of my adolescent years in a sex-segregated school, which reinforce the gender stereotypes that I have already been exposed to easily. But my experience with my grand-mother changed that. She meant a lot to me, she was my second mother after my biological mother passed away. She took her time to make understand the importance of treating everyone, especially women fairly and respectfully.

Some of my experiences with sexism are but not limited to: a woman must stay at home to take care of the family while the man’s job is to be out there looking for opportunities in order to provide for his family. I do not see myself comfortable being depended on nobody. I do not think women are any different from me, with that says, being depended on someone else to provide for you limits a woman’s success, her happiness, and what she can achieve in life (Argosy University, 2015).  Women who are not married and have children are usually despised by the society and they are being looked at as a failure or a bad example for other women (Naomi C. and Fionnuala D. Ni Aolain 2010 and Human Rights Campaign, 2015).

The of Gender Identity in my Life

As I mentioned before in this assignment, a person’s gender identity is defined as how that person feels about himself/herself. Having that definition in my mind, I do not plan of feeling any different on who I am today. I do not think there will be a time where I do not feel like a man anymore. As I become more mature, my ideologies will change, the way I view things and others around me will also change. However, how I feel as a man will never change. But the concern about about gender role will remain a topic of interest throughout my lifespan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Argosy University (2015). Developing of Gender Identity. Data Retrieved on 04/15/2015, from: https://digitalbookshelf.argosy.edu/#/books/0558217257/pages/48386285?return=/books/0558217257/outline/8

American Psychological Association (2015). Definition of Terms: Sex, Gender, Gender Identity, Sexual Orientation. Data Retrieved on 04/15/2015, from: http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/sexuality-definitions.pdf

Human Rights Campaign (2015). Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Definitions. Data Retrieved on 04/15/2015 from: http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/sexual-orientation-and-gender-identity-terminology-and-definitions

Naomi C. and Fionnuala D. Ni Aolain (2010). Gender, Masculinities and Transition in Conflicted Societies. Data Retrieved on 04/15/2015, from: http://scholarship.law.gwu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1373&context=faculty_publications

Shuvo G. and Caroly P. (2015). Gender identity and gender role. Data Retrieved on 04/15/2015, from: http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/917990-overview#aw2aab6b2

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