August 10, 2013
Dr. Nhung Phan, PsyD.
Many people have difficulty differentiating between sex and gender. Sex is an actual biological distinction, which includes the genetic make-up, hormones, and organs. The chromosomal make up of an embryo determines the sex of a person. For example, a biological female embryo has two X chromosomes in the nucleus of its cell, while a biological male has an X and a Y chromosome (Groleau, 2001). There can be situations in which chromosome abnormalities occur but, for the most part, biological females have the XX chromosomal make-up and males have the XY chromosomal make-up. Gender differs from sex in that is the mental characteristics and behaviors associated with being a male or being a female. It is the expectations placed on a person by society about the proper behavior for a boy or girl, and for a woman or man. Gender is not only the biological and social identification of a person, but also the masculine or feminine legal status of a person ("PP," 2013). Through sex and gender, a person develops a perception of his or herself as a man or as a woman, otherwise known as a gender identity. Gender identity can be expressed through behavior, clothing, and personal appearance. Gender identity is not only how a person feels and expresses their gender but it also establishes that person’s masculine and feminine roles ("PP," 2013).
In order to determine the interactions between hormones and behavior and how these interactions affect the determination of a person’s gender identity, it is important to understand the roles of the biological factors on sexual differentiation and gender identity. Then, it can be determined whether nature or nurture has a greater influence on gender identity. This understanding will help facilitate a resolution for some of the current arguments about sexual identity. Biological Factors
Biological factors play a very large and important role in shaping a person’s physical development. Genetic make-up and hormones are two biological factors that greatly influence the sex of a person. Hormones influence the development of not only sexual organs, but also behavior. The genetic make-up of an individual determines the development of certain glands and the release of hormones. Genetic Make-up
Women and men differ in their genetic make-up. As previously mentioned, females contain two X chromosomes in their genetic make-up. Therefore, all female eggs consist of one X chromosome. However, because males contain one X and one Y, a male’s sperm will consist of either an X or a Y chromosome. Therefore, development of a male or female zygote depends on whether the sperm is carrying an X or a Y chromosome. This genetic make-up will determine the sexual development of an embryo.
Females and males produce different types of hormones that not only produce different results, but also produce different behaviors. For example, if a sperm that enters the egg is carrying a Y chromosome, it will promote the sexual development of a male. The Y chromosome promotes the production of larger amounts of testosterone, as well as other male sex hormones. These hormones cause the individual to develop male sex organs, such as testicles and a penis, through the release of the Mullerian Inhibiting Substance, as well as different brain developments. This causes males to exhibit different behaviors than women, such as aggression ("The Mind’s Secret Reality," n.d.). In contrast, if the sperm going into the egg is carrying an X chromosome, it will promote the sexual development of a female. The X chromosome induces the production of higher levels of female hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone. Both males and females contain testosterone and other androgens (male hormones), as well as estrogen and progestins (female hormones). The only difference is that one chromosome promotes a...
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