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Healthy Living

Gender Identity

Many times when a man fails to get an erection he is thought to be not man enough. Similarly, when a woman cannot conceive a child she is not thought to be truly feminine. This is a mistaken impression. The ability to get an erection for a man and the ability to conceive a child for a woman are just sexual functions and not qualifications for gender identity. Because of this misconception, people are branded and this judgmental outlook of the society will make the concerned individual loose self-esteem.

There are seven criteria that together determine the gender of any mammal. Human beings are mammals, special ones at that. There are two more criteria applicable to humans.

  1. Chromosomal Sex: Typically, though not invariably, the chromosomal sex of a male will be 46XY and for a female46XX
  2. H-Y Antigenic Sex: A special antigen known as H-Y Antigen can be microscopically recognised in most of the instances on the surface of 46XY only.
  3. Gonadal Sex: The female gonads are the ovaries and the male gonads are the testes.
  4. Prenatal Hormonal Sex: The presence of the male or female hormones when the child is in the mother’s womb will help in the ultimate development of the gender.
  5. Internal Morphologic Sex: The structure of the sexual and reproductive organs inside the abdomen of an individual will give a clue to the gender of the person.
  6. External Morphologic Sex: The presence of indices of genitals outside the person’s body tells us about the gender of the person. (for example, the presence of testes and penis in a man, and the presence of vulva and vagina in a woman)
  7. Pubertal Hormonal Sex: At or after puberty, the predominant sex hormone in the male will be testosterone and in the female will be oestrogen.

Special gender determinant criteria among humans:

  1. Sex of Assignment and Rearing: When a child is born first, the hospital staff and then the parents assign a gender (male or female) to the newborn. This assignment is done mostly on the basis of the external genitalia. Later on the child’s family and the society also do the same. After this initial assignment of the gender, the child is reared (brought up) from these perceptions either as a boy or as a girl.
  2. Developmental Establishment of Gender Identity and Gender Role: As the child grows, it usually accepts the gender assigned to it by the family and the society. This acceptance establishes gender identity. Gender identity is the personal conviction that each of us have about our femininity or masculinity. This identification process occurs around two years of age when a language is being learnt.

    When the child accepts and becomes comfortable with its gender, it also follows the appropriate gender role. Gender role is the set of rules that are laid down by the society to tell us how to behave according to our sex or gender. These rules are made by our culture and not by biology. The rules of the gender role apply from the moment of birth. If there is any confusion or non-acceptance of one’s own gender, then it leads to a gender identity crisis.


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