Humans appear to have a great deal of variation in sexual orientation, in what is often referred to as “gender” and in adult behavior generally. When convenient, people will point to “genes” as the “cause” of any particular subset of this diversity (or all of it). When convenient, people will point to “culture” as the “cause” of … whatever. The “real” story is more complicated, less clear, and very interesting. And, starting now, I promise to stop using so many “scare” quotes.

Fixed up and reposted.

Prior to birth there are a number of factors than can influence things like gender or sexuality in a human. You have probably heard of the finger-index (not the index-finger) … often called the 2D:4D ratio. The ratio of length of two of your fingers seems to be associated with certain trends; Men with a certain ratio tend to be more athletic and/or more gay, for instance. The mechanism for the finger ratio variation is probably a surge of steroid hormones that enhances growth rate of whatever bones are forming at that time (I simplify somewhat) and if such a surge occurs at a certain time, a slight shift in bone length ratio affecting fingers occurs and because of the timing, a slight change in something else also occurs, something having to do with what will eventually be adult behavior.1

I am not arguing here for the strength of this association or its meaning, but available evidence shows that there is something going on. To the extent that this particular relationship is true, we see an adult outcome (related to gender, sexuality, or other behavior) being the result of something that is biological and prenatal, but not likely genetic. While the overall pattern of the hormonal environment of a fetus may be broadly determined by genes, variations in the details are just as likely determined by other things. In many contexts, one steroid hormone looks a lot like another, or can convert into another as they float around in the blood supply, so any large surge of steroids could act like sex hormones or growth hormones even if they are merely stress hormones, and there is an exchange of hormones between the mother’s blood supply and that of the fetus. Since the mother’s hormonal environment is heavily influenced by her environment (especially stress hormones), the ultimate cause of steroid hormone-mediated developmental variations in a human is very likely to be strongly environmental, if not entirely environmental, even though it all happens before birth.

Then there is the stuff that happens after birth. Back in the 1980s there was a great deal of attention to what causes gender differences, and several studies were carried out mainly in psychology. This was before the rise of Evolutionary Psychology, so the studies were not necessarily developed within an evolutionary paradigm (probably a negative). On the other hand, they weren’t carried out with the naive assumptions about our evolutionary past often held by Evolutionary Psychologists (probably a positive). Anyway, one study carried out in Australia seems to show that adults in a specific culture (Australian middle class) treated infants very differently depending on their knowledge of the infant’s sex.2 For instance, a boy would be moved around more, tossed about a bit, handed boy-specific toys, and so on, while a girl would be held more calmly, not tossed about, hugged more, and handed girl-specific toys. In that study, the “sex” of the infant (boy vs. girl) was “known” to the adult on the basis of obvious clothing choices and pronoun use, and in fact, the infant was always a boy. After months of treatment as one sex or the other, depending on what that treatment consisted of, one could potentially get a gendered difference. Movement, touch, voice, etc. all form part of the environment in which the infant’s neural system, including the infant’s brain, develops. This would make a difference.

These studies should be taken as somewhat limited, as we can’t be sure how many similar studies with different results were completed but not published or discussed widely because the results did not make sense. But, it probably is true that the sociocultural environment readily takes over from the prenatal environment in the shaping of gender in growing individuals.

And so it goes throughout development; At numerous stages along the way, a human is affected by hormones, bathed in gendered behavior, and eventually, starts to observe her or his own environment and act accordingly. One of those studies seemed to show that at about Kindergarten age, boys were more conscious of how they would fit into a group than girls, paying special attention to what other boys were doing before making certain choices. If this was a general pattern in a particular group of people, one might see girls engage in a wider range of available stereotypes while boys restricted themselves to a narrower range. (Although not suggested by the study as far as I know, I can think of a nice post-hoc evolutionary explanation for that, given that humans are probably mostly femal exogenous!)

While it is possible that there is some hidden Jungian subconscious difference between nominal boys and girls resulting in different themes in their behavior (i.e., girls like circles and boys like lines or some such thing), the degree to which kids past a certain age … say six or so … gravitate towards gender specific toys or other objects, or engage in gender specific behaviors, is way too finely tuned to be the product of anything other than high cognitive function. While we know that across cultures, different colors are associated with different genders, within a culture most boys and girls know what the boy vs. girl colors are and to varying degrees express this knowledge as strong preferences, perhaps with boys expressing a narrower range of preferences than girls. Most likely, culturally specific gender preferences for things like toys and clothing are learned early, become deeply ingrained, are unlikely to be genetically determined at any level of detail (if at all) but may be attended to by boys more than girls (maybe that last difference is genetic-ish).

There are many factors that would determine a person’s gender over a lifetime. The above mentioned intra-uterine hormonal conditioning is probably fairly complex, with multiple moments in time when one or another thing might happen, and where one version of the developmental scenario would lead towards one gender orientation than another. After birth there would be more of the same but less hormonal and more cultural, and later on, with puberty, the hormones kick in again, but with a twist: Early conditioning may determine the nature of later hormonal activity by setting up differences in receptor sites or sensitivity, or other aspects of hormone feedback systems.

In speaking of humans it is easy to assume that other animals, who lack the complex and often costly (and therefore presumably ‘important’ in some way) trappings of prolonged development and culture have simpler systems for determining gender. For the most part, I would argue that rodents do in fact have simpler systems of gender than do humans, with the caveat that I’ve just compared an entire order of mammals (and a rather speciose and diverse one at that) with a single species in an entirely different order. But what would you make of a gender-shaping system in rodents that was actually very complex, in which ‘culture’ was the main determinant of, for instance, adult male-ness?

In rats, males get to be males in large part because they have testes that secrete testosterone, which in turn causes other changes. But according to at least one study, the degree to which testes will secrete testosterone is determined by anogentital licking behavior of the mother. This behavior is, in turn, brought on by some sort of cue produced by the newborn male. Without this licking, the testes do not produce much testosterone and andorgenization of the rat does not take place.3

OK, so I was exaggerating slightly when I said that rat “culture” determines adult gender, but prior to hearing this you probably assumed that there was a gene or set of genes that simply coded for which sex the rat would be when it grew up. And yes, you can get some interesting results when the mother rat is replaced with a lab tech and various different variations of the licking thing are tried out. (Using tiny wet paintbrushes.)

And I could go on. But I want to make two points about development and behavior, especially gender. One is that whatever genetic component is working, most aspects of adult behavior and orientation are shaped by non-genetic factors and those genetic factors that may exist come in the form of basic species-specific (but almost certainly gender-differentiated) “drives.” I’ve discussed the importance of drives here, and if you want to read a whole book about the link between drives and everything you do in your life check out Mean Genes: From Sex to Money to Food: Taming Our Primal InstinctsSelf-Help Books)

The second point is that as something complex (and both personal and social) as gender orientation emerges in a person it must be true that it comes to whatever point it comes to after a series of many turning points. If every single factor is thought of as a simple binary choice (and I use the word “choice” with no reference to human decision making) between two canalized options, then the number of possible outcomes could be thought of as 2n where ‘n’ is the number of times a binary choice is encountered. So, if there are, say, three hormonal moments in utero, and one more after birth (puberty) and, say, three life stages that have major influences on gender (and I oversimplify) then the number of possible routes a person may take from conception to adulthood would be 27. That is 128. If these different paths lead to mostly different outcomes, wouldn’t there be over 100 “genders” among humans?

The interesting thing about this is that a cursory examination of potential human gender diversity from a purely biological point of view suggests that there are at least dozens of “genders” but the vast majority of cultures define (or even allow) only a few. Perhaps culture, in this case, is more restrictive than biology. Which, to a behavioral biologist, is not much of a shock, though it might be if considered from a broader social science perspective.

So, the next time you are in charge of making a form to collect personal information from people, when you are designing the “gender” question, you might consider something other than a couple of checkboxes. Perhaps a drop-down list. Or, best of all, just have people write a short essay. Make ‘em think, that will.

________________________________________________
1Be careful with this idea: While I’m sure there are several aspects of 2D:4D research that are valid and interesting, it is often somewhat over-reported. Also, the numbers are tricky. The measurement is often done on fleshed and living fingers, but should really be done on the bones directly (using X-ray technology, not sacrificing the subject and defleshing them!). And the meaning of this trait is somewhat open to interpretation. I’d be comfortable sorting out males from females in a skeletal population with good preservation of hands but no pelvic remains, but more reluctant to use this for sorting out ethnic groups, gender orientations, or assertiveness levels. For a recent review see Bailey and Hurd, 2005. Finger length ratio (2D:4D) correlates with physical aggression in men but not in women. Biological Psychology. Volume 68, Issue 3, March 2005, Pages 215-222.)

2The specific research to which I refer was shown on a documentary about sex differences; For an exemplar published study on this work see Frisch 1977. Sex Stereotypes and Adult-Infant Play. Society for Research in Child Development. Vol. 48, No. 4 (Dec., 1977), pp. 1671-1675

3See this study and references therein: Moore and Morelli, 1979. Mother rats interact differently with male amd female offspring. Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, Vol 93(4), Aug 1979, 677-684. doi: 10.1037/h0077599.

___________

ResearchBlogging.orgMoore, C., & Morelli, G. (1979). Mother rats interact differently with male amd female offspring. Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 93 (4), 677-684 DOI: 10.1037/h0077599

Comments

  1. #1 Keith M Ellis
    Kansas City, MO
    February 27, 2013

    I think it’s interesting that you are exclusively using the term “gender” in this post where, in many cases, “sex” is appropriate and arguably preferable. Although, really, I think the implicit argument is that the naive distinction between sex and gender is false (which is itself an answer to the even-more naive idea that everything is biological sex!), and I can get behind that argument.

    Even so, I think it’s helpful right now to work within the current paradigm of sex/gender and within that context emphasize that even sex isn’t what people think it is — which is, more of less, a large part of your argument here.

    if even the developmental biological differentiation (with its impetus being genes or environment, whatever) is extremely diverse and ambiguous, that should all by itself give the gender essentialists some pause.

    That ‘s why I like to argue that sex isn’t at all the dichotomy that people commonly think it is — it’s an extremely complicated process of developmental differentiation that occurs at almost all anatomical levels, but differently, not in lockstep, and variously and “imperfectly” and at many levels along a continuum. So in a given individual you can have an extreme sexual differentiation at one level, intermediate at another, little differentiation at a third, and a differentiation in the opposite direction at a fourth. What “sex” categorically describes that? And the key point in this is that’s before we even discuss anything like self-identity and social-identity and such.

    In my view, I think it’s absurd to believe that there’s no cognitive sexual differentiation in humans. Sexual differentiation is a very important process, it’s functional and systemically integrated and interdependent. It makes no sense to claim that the brain is excluded from this process.

    But so? This is why I like to emphasize that sex differentiation itself is ambiguous. That there’s almost certainly some sex differentiation in human brains and associated cognitive functions doesn’t tell us anything at all about how those supposed differentiation relate to gender norms and roles. (Much less how to achieve a just society!)

    As you say, the irony here is that gender as it usually exists is far more restrictive than the biology. Maybe that’s a kind of necessary social compromise (just as we can’t really expect each of us to have the exact job that combines all of our skills and talents and interests and none of our flaws and dislikes). Categories serve a useful purpose, even when they are compromises with reality.

    But, regardless, the gender essentialists are arguing that the the gender norms mirror the biology, when that’s simply not true.

    If it were true, there’d be, as you argue, a huge number of genders. And then if we allowed for idiosyncratic personal choice and community variation and such that’s purely personal and cultural, then the variation would only be more great. And surely we have to allow that to some degree as, clearly, individuals vary and cultures vary?

    So a view of human experience with regard to how people actually are, in their biology and in their self-evident personal and cultural variation, would be one of a necessarily very diverse “gender”. If one were arguing from reality. But the essentialists are not arguing from reality, they’re arguing from their ideal, their sense of how things ought to be — they just use biology when it’s convenient and discard it when it’s not.

    I love this blog post because it’s such a strong counterexample to the ideologically-driven insistence on either nature or nurture with regard to gender, the insistence that it’s entirely arbitrary and a cultural invention or entirely determined by biology — this is just infuriating and accounts for about 90% of public discourse on this topic. I’d like to see many more commentators explaining and discussing how complex and ambiguous both sex and gender are, and particularly how a big part of the complexity arises from the interdependence of biology and culture.

  2. #2 Albatross
    Downstairs
    February 27, 2013

    What determines sexuality, sexual preference, and gender is mindbogglingly complex, and I think that’s part of the problem with any media-driven exposition on the subject. Imagine a thorough, careful ninety-minute Frontline documentary on the topic – it would be the tip of the iceberg of the issue, and yet that’s more than most of the general public would sit still for.

    A grounding in statistics is invaluable as well. Pretend I could identify a gene XYZ that had some measurable, provable impact on adult outcomes. It would still be necessary to explain to the audience that the presence of such a gene means that in a population of 10,000 healthy adults from the same environment, five more might exhibit a particular behavior than in a similar population without the gene. The public – and certainly the homophobes – are looking for a toggle switch labeled “gay/straight.” Watch the actor John Barrowman’s “Making of Me” series and you see a man who appears to be* desperately searching for a “gay gene” to explain why he is gay (and incidentally why his twin brother is straight.)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m27Awmlgi38
    This is bad science, of course. There’s no one thing. It’s all statistics and likelihoods in the face of innumerable genetic and cultural influences.

    I have two pet theories on the emergence of homosexual traits. Biologically I credit simple evolution – genetically your sibling and you are identical, so if you don’t reproduce and he does successfully its genetically and evolutionarily just as good as if you did. So if you are a homosexual creature and you help your sibling’s reproduction, you incur the benefits of an extra adult without the expensive biological cost of reproduction yourself.

    Additionally, I suspect there are a number of “biological registers” in both your body and that of your mother. These counters are things like stress hormones and signalling hormones that tell your body what the population density is, and what the stress level is in the environment (among many other things.) I suspect that the higher the stress and the higher the population, the more likely homosexual tendies are to appear in adulthood – because of the biologically perceived increased need for adult support for offspring to survive to reproduce and the lower availability of resources such as food, space, or mates.

    The second theory is that we’re seeing what “appears” to be an increase in homosexual humans in large part, of course, because of cultural issues allowing homosexuals to (somewhat more) safely self-identify, but that even those cultural issues are driven by the other major factor, our increasing population. There are seven times more humans now as in the turn of the 20th century, and about six times more Americans. Absent other factors that not only means there are six times more homosexuals in raw numbers, but they as a group have reached a critical mass of group support – harm a homosexual in 1900, and one person might want to object, harm a homosexual today and there are seven.

    Finally the two theories overlap – it would not surprise me if there is an actual per-capita increase in homosexual (and I’m deliberately just sticking to homosexual right now for simplicity’s sake – there is of course a multidimensional array of sexual expression and identity tucked behind that one word) adult outcomes BECAUSE the various hormonal registers are likely signalling the increased population and the stress level.

    This hints at the idea that homosexuals would be more prevalent in cities – since the increased population density and stress levels would be more likely to suggest homosexual outcomes. But of course the migratory influences muddy that up, since homosexuals like other minority groups are drawn to cities where the larger population provides a sufficiently large pool of homosexuals to form a supportive and protective community.

    That’s my own set of inexpert and extensively oversimplified ideas, and it is a lengthy comment with a lot of areas for disagreement and clarification. Discussing such a complex topic in an educational and reasonable fashion within the larger culture or in the mass media is all the more complicated and difficult, even if we don’t take deliberate obfuscation, obtuseness, bigotry, and propaganda into account.

    It’s a super-complex issue.

  3. #3 Albatross
    February 27, 2013

    *Oh yeah, I said “appears to be” because I suspect he knows perfectly well the issue is more complex than that, but he’s a professional actor working within the constraints of a reality program. Still its a regrettable focus on an oversimplified and inaccurate view of genetic science.

  4. #4 Kathy Dettwyler
    Newark, DE
    February 27, 2013

    Overall, an excellent and thought-provoking post. Just a few comments — there ARE people who talk about the complexity of the concepts of sex and gender (as well as sexual orientation) — how they are multifaceted continuums, rather than dichotomous categories that always go together. See, for example, my chapter on this topic in the introductory cultural anthropology textbook “Cultural Anthropology and Human Experience” (2011, Waveland Press). “Gender” isn’t just one thing. I’m not at all feminine in clothing preference, hairstyle, jewelry, shoes, or makeup, but I am very maternal and love to cook, and have been married to my sweetie (who is male) for 33 years.. I’m also assertive, confident, and a natural leader and teacher, but totally unathletic and not interested in sports. Chromosomally, anatomically, and hormonally, I’m female, but I’m certainly not a girly girl. “Gender” is a continuum across many different realms of behavior and feelings and cognitive skills. Think of it like a huge asterisk (*). A person can be located anywhere along the continuum, for any chosen attribute, including sexual preference. Also, in most cultures, the basic gender categories are defined along similar lines by sex. I do think that gender norms significantly mirror biology. If gender were completely cultural, rather than being based in part on the underlying biological differences, then you would expect to find equal numbers of cultures that assign one activity or personality trait to males as assign that same activity/personality trait to females. The “more aggressive” sex would be male in 50% of cultures, and female in the other 50%. Or perhaps 25% male, 25% female, 25% both, and 25% neither. But the reality is that the vast majority of cultures assign aggressiveness to males/masculinity. Likewise, weaving being a female profession is not a cultural universal — there are a couple of cultures (you can count them on one hand) where only men weave. So obviously, interest in and skill at weaving is not 100% biological, as the men are excellent weavers among the Hopi and Bambara, for example. But you would expect to find more variety than 99% of the cultures where ONLY women weave, and just a couple where ONLY men weave, and perhaps a few where both sexes weave, and a few where no one weaves. If there were no biological underpinnings to typical behavior by sex (whether based on chromosomes or hormones) you would expect to find more men cooking, cleaning, and caring for older children, and more women engaging in warfare and risky sports. Like the 2D:4D ratio data, the sexes, for the most part, overlap. 47% of women fall in the “male” range of longer ring fingers, and 40% of men fall in the “female” range of longer index fingers. In closing, let me say I love the phrase “tiny wet paintbrushes.” Hilarious.

  5. #5 toto
    February 28, 2013

    “– genetically your sibling and you are identical,”

    Actually you’re 50% identical. Big difference. Your own kid will also be 50% identical to you, but your sibling’s kids (nephews) will only share 25% of their genes with you.

    So a gene leading you to forsake reproduction and help your sibling reproduce instead, would need at least to double the reproductive efficiency of your siblings to be positively selected.

  6. #6 Miriam R. Arbeit
    February 28, 2013

    “Most likely, culturally specific gender preferences for things like toys and clothing are learned early, become deeply ingrained, are unlikely to be genetically determined at any level of detail (if at all) but may be attended to by boys more than girls (maybe that last difference is genetic-ish).”

    I have heard many important theories and hypotheses for why boys express “a narrower range of preferences than girls,” without relying on genetics. I firmly believe this difference is not related to genetics at all. And yet, once you come upon something you don’t understand,
    you’re willing to call it genetics. Why?

    You are falling into the very traps being critiqued — for anything you haven’t (yet) figured out how to understand through social/behavioral/cultural development, you just throws your hands up and call it genetics.

  7. #7 Greg Laden
    February 28, 2013

    Miriam, no one is throwing their hands up and making assumptions. Your comment is actually a bit obnoxious.

    Do yo have a constructive suggestion by way of expanding on that which gives you your firm beliefs? Feel free to let us know about the important theories and stuff. Seriously.

  8. #8 Serge D.
    February 28, 2013

    Interesting articles on gender identity, especially brain anatomy differences in transexuals

    Garcia-Falgueras A. and Swaab D. F. (2008) “A sex difference in the hypothalamic uncinate nucleus: relationship to gender identity” Brain Oxford JournalsMedicine Brain 131 (12) 3132-3146.

    http://brain.oxfordjournals.org/content/131/12/3132.long

    Kruijver F. P. M., Zhou J. -N., Pool C. W., Hofman M. A., Gooren L. G. J. and Swaab D. F. (2000) “Male-to-Female Transsexuals Have Female Neuron Numbers in a Limbic Nucleus” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 85 (5) 2034-2041

    http://jcem.endojournals.org/content/85/5/2034.full

    Of course, more research is needed, but these studies suggest that certain brain structure in the limbic nucleus might predict gender identity.

  9. #9 Greg Laden
    February 28, 2013

    There is an area of the brain that is different in people who like grilled cheese sandwiches vs those who don’t.

  10. #10 Serge D.
    February 28, 2013

    Hopefully there will be a way to have brain maps at the resolution of neuron and dendrites… and hopefully in a living human. So much to learn about human behaviour… So inefficient our words to describe our own. Much more goes on in the brain than what volunteers can witness.

  11. #11 Keith M Ellis
    Kansas City, MO
    March 1, 2013

    “There is an area of the brain that is different in people who like grilled cheese sandwiches vs those who don’t.”

    This is a pretty great comment, actually. It reads as snark, but I intuit that it was intended to both be a bit snarky while also alluding to an important point.

    A lot of the nature/nurture debate includes within it the implicit assumption of dualism. That is to say, with regard to Greg’s comment, that there’s some sense in which some given aspect of cognition/personality would not be identifiable as a “difference in an area of the brain”. Unless one is a dualist, then everything reflects some difference in brain function at some level of anatomical detail, including a predilection for grilled cheese sandwiches.

  12. [...] How Do You Get Sexual Orientation and Gender in Humans? [...]

  13. #13 john
    Florida
    April 14, 2014

    It is often said that female and male complete each other and they are like quantum mechanics and general relativity. However, emotions do not know the boundary existing between these two sexes. It goes to the level of one preferring the same sex as a lover or sexual preference. This phenomenon is disturbing to many and some still abominate that such a thing could be as real as it seems. Anyway, there is only one to find out whether or not, there is any anthropological backup to why it is such a difficult concept to grasp. Some claim that it is abnormal for others to be in a same sex relationship but the concept of sex and gender could be the key to decipher the puzzle.

    For thousands of years, people around the world has argued over sexual subjects, among which there is one that always brings emotional reaction: Are sex and gender the same thing? According to biological anthropologists, humans have always displayed all varieties of sexuality since the beginning of time. However, as we go deeper into what sexuality means to mankind, the answer may differ depending on whom you ask, for so many people confuse the word sex with the word gender. Scientists claim that sex is referred to the biological and physiological characteristics that define a man or a woman whereas gender to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities and attributes that a society dictates to be appropriate for men and women. Based on these definitions, we can clearly see that the dubious reaction towards the question of gender and sex could be settled in a blink of an eye but there are other things to consider.

    There are people in our American culture that has modified their physiology to become like the other sex and had also adapt to the gender role of the other sex. Such concrete example was a friend of mine who lived in Massachusetts, she had surgery and implanted a penis in the place of her vagina and had exercises as well as other surgeries that make her look identical to a man.Furthermore, she talks like a man, has testicles like a man and is now living with a girl with who she has an adopted child. Back to the initial point of this debate, one thing becomes vital to mention how both definitions for gender and sex are met in this case.

    So, every logical person would agree with this statement but one might raise an important point by saying: What about reproduction? This is a crucial analysis, I think, because reproduction plays a great role in defining your sex. Nevertheless, to say that a previously female individual has to have spermatozoids that are effective for reproduction, really means that all males have to have efficient reproductive spermatozoids. In reality, it does not always work like that for every man. So, to say that a transgendered woman needs to have reproductive organs to be accepted as a man really means that a man should have reproductive organs to be considered as a man. As hard as I try to believe that this statement is true, I just cannot believe it because it does not fit to the world in which we are living. In other words, we humans do not put emphasis on whether or not you can reproduce to assign the female or the male title to an individual.

    Talking of the male and female title, I think that is an interesting point to discuss relating it to the sex and gender issue. If we are to differentiate between whom is female or male, our standpoint should hinge upon decision making and self-concepts rather than just an appearance because so many people are changing their outer self to inflict a new appearance to it. Instead of using the same old mindset that has put us in war for the past fifty thousand years and relay on mythical explanation to define our gender and sex, we should rely on logics which tells us that gender and sex are merely subjective concepts.

    In a nutshell, it can clearly be seen that the definition for sex and gender do not hold true in some situations. However, these two concepts has caused numerous individuals to lose their lives in the ancient world. Not being able to accept the lifestyle of homosexuals and bisexuals, many cultures have destroyed anyone who would deviate from traditional sexuality. Today, people are more tolerant towards these individuals but that does not mean the majority likes it.Altough it seems evil to hate people in our own species but the fact seems to have a legit anthropological origin: If everybody was homosexual, there would be no procreation. This is the question that many are trying to answer: Are we hostile towards same sex relationships because we are haters or is it just because of our evolutionary past?

    Paper Text

    John Charmant Baines Kristina Subject: Anthropology Hour: T, 6:30-9:15 Reaction Essay II Sex and Gender It is often said that female and male complete each other and they are like quantum mechanics and general relativity. However, emotions do not know the boundary existing between these two sexes. It goes to the level of one preferring the same sex as a lover or sexual preference. This phenomenon is disturbing to many and some still abominate that such a thing could be as real as it seems. Anyway, there is only one to find out whether or not, there is any anthropological backup to why it is such a difficult concept to grasp. Some claim that it is abnormal for others to be in a same sex relationship but the concept of sex and gender could be the key to decipher the puzzle.

    For thousands of years, people around the world has argued over sexual subjects, among which there is one that always brings emotional reaction: Are sex and gender the same thing? According to biological anthropologists, humans have always displayed all varieties of sexuality since the beginning of time. However, as we go deeper into what sexuality means to mankind, the answer may differ depending on whom you ask, for so many people confuse the word sex with the word gender. Scientists claim that sex is referred to the biological and physiological characteristics that define a man or a woman whereas gender to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities and attributes that a society dictates to be appropriate for men and women. Based on these definitions, we can clearly see that the dubious reaction towards the question of gender and sex could be settled in a blink of an eye but there are other things to consider.

    There are people in our American culture that has modified their physiology to become like the other sex and had also adapt to the gender role of the other sex. Such concrete example was a friend of mine who lived in Massachusetts, she had surgery and implanted a penis in the place of her vagina and had exercises as well as other surgeries that make her look identical to a man.Furthermore, she talks like a man, has testicles like a man and is now living with a girl with who she has an adopted child. Back to the initial point of this debate, one thing becomes vital to mention how both definitions for gender and sex are met in this case.

    So, every logical person would agree with this statement but one might raise an important point by saying: What about reproduction? This is a crucial analysis, I think, because reproduction plays a great role in defining your sex. Nevertheless, to say that a previously female individual has to have spermatozoids that are effective for reproduction, really means that all males have to have efficient reproductive spermatozoids. In reality, it does not always work like that for every man. So, to say that a transgendered woman needs to have reproductive organs to be accepted as a man really means that a man should have reproductive organs to be considered as a man. As hard as I try to believe that this statement is true, I just cannot believe it because it does not fit to the world in which we are living. In other words, we humans do not put emphasis on whether or not you can reproduce to assign the female or the male title to an individual.

    Talking of the male and female title, I think that is an interesting point to discuss relating it to the sex and gender issue. If we are to differentiate between whom is female or male, our standpoint should hinge upon decision making and self-concepts rather than just an appearance because so many people are changing their outer self to inflict a new appearance to it. Instead of using the same old mindset that has put us in war for the past fifty thousand years and relay on mythical explanation to define our gender and sex, we should rely on logics which tells us that gender and sex are merely subjective concepts.

    In a nutshell, it can clearly be seen that the definition for sex and gender do not hold true in some situations. However, these two concepts has caused numerous individuals to lose their lives in the ancient world. Not being able to accept the lifestyle of homosexuals and bisexuals, many cultures have destroyed anyone who would deviate from traditional sexuality. Today, people are more tolerant towards these individuals but that does not mean the majority likes it.Altough it seems evil to hate people in our own species but the fact seems to have a legit anthropological origin: If everybody was homosexual, there would be no procreation. This is the question that many are trying to answer: Are we hostile towards same sex relationships because we are haters or is it just because of our evolutionary past?

  14. #14 John Mayer
    Fl
    April 21, 2014

    Sex and Gender It is often said that female and male complete each other and they are like quantum mechanics and general relativity. However, emotions do not know the boundary existing between these two sexes. It goes to the level of one preferring the same sex as a lover or sexual preference. This phenomenon is disturbing to many and some still abominate that such a thing could be as real as it seems. Anyway, there is only one to find out whether or not, there is any anthropological backup to why it is such a difficult concept to grasp. Some claim that it is abnormal for others to be in a same sex relationship but the concept of sex and gender could be the key to decipher the puzzle.

    For thousands of years, people around the world has argued over sexual subjects, among which there is one that always brings emotional reaction: Are sex and gender the same thing? According to biological anthropologists, humans have always displayed all varieties of sexuality since the beginning of time. However, as we go deeper into what sexuality means to mankind, the answer may differ depending on whom you ask, for so many people confuse the word sex with the word gender. Scientists claim that sex is referred to the biological and physiological characteristics that define a man or a woman whereas gender to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities and attributes that a society dictates to be appropriate for men and women. Based on these definitions, we can clearly see that the dubious reaction towards the question of gender and sex could be settled in a blink of an eye but there are other things to consider.

    There are people in our American culture that has modified their physiology to become like the other sex and had also adapt to the gender role of the other sex. Such concrete example was a friend of mine who lived in Massachusetts, she had surgery and implanted a penis in the place of her vagina and had exercises as well as other surgeries that make her look identical to a man.Furthermore, she talks like a man, has testicles like a man and is now living with a girl with who she has an adopted child. Back to the initial point of this debate, one thing becomes vital to mention how both definitions for gender and sex are met in this case.

    So, every logical person would agree with this statement but one might raise an important point by saying: What about reproduction? This is a crucial analysis, I think, because reproduction plays a great role in defining your sex. Nevertheless, to say that a previously female individual has to have spermatozoids that are effective for reproduction, really means that all males have to have efficient reproductive spermatozoids. In reality, it does not always work like that for every man. So, to say that a transgendered woman needs to have reproductive organs to be accepted as a man really means that a man should have reproductive organs to be considered as a man. As hard as I try to believe that this statement is true, I just cannot believe it because it does not fit to the world in which we are living. In other words, we humans do not put emphasis on whether or not you can reproduce to assign the female or the male title to an individual.

    Talking of the male and female title, I think that is an interesting point to discuss relating it to the sex and gender issue. If we are to differentiate between whom is female or male, our standpoint should hinge upon decision making and self-concepts rather than just an appearance because so many people are changing their outer self to inflict a new appearance to it. Instead of using the same old mindset that has put us in war for the past fifty thousand years and relay on mythical explanation to define our gender and sex, we should rely on logics which tells us that gender and sex are merely subjective concepts.

    In a nutshell, it can clearly be seen that the definition for sex and gender do not hold true in some situations. However, these two concepts has caused numerous individuals to lose their lives in the ancient world. Not being able to accept the lifestyle of homosexuals and bisexuals, many cultures have destroyed anyone who would deviate from traditional sexuality. Today, people are more tolerant towards these individuals but that does not mean the majority likes it.Altough it seems evil to hate people in our own species but the fact seems to have a legit anthropological origin: If everybody was homosexual, there would be no procreation. This is the question that many are trying to answer: Are we hostile towards same sex relationships because we are haters or is it just because of our evolutionary past?

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