Sex, Gender or Identity?

Topics: Gender, Homosexuality, Sexual intercourse Pages: 7 (2616 words) Published: March 12, 2013
During the past few years, there has been an explosion of research regarding sex, gender and sexuality. Researchers and scientists have been debating each other in regards to what these terms mean, the implications these definitions have for individuals and most importantly if the terms are caused by nature or nurture. No consensus has been reached and it will probably be years before one is reached, if ever. One of the more important debates currently happening is if you are born with your sexuality predetermined or if it is given to you by society. There are many arguments made for both side. However, you cannot discuss sexuality without also discussing gender and sex because the three are so intricately linked one into the other. Scientists and researchers also debate over whether sex and gender are inborn or societal, so one must first clarify these terms before attempting to clarify sexuality. It is of my opinion that sex is genetically funded while gender is socially constructed. To me it is like an equation: sex is nature + gender is social = sexuality which is a mixture of both. Sexuality is half nature and half nurture.

The first step towards discussing sexuality is taken by clarifying what is meant by sex and why it is nature and not nurture that determines sex. Many people us the terms sex, sexuality and gender interchangeably, however they each have their own general definitions and each researcher has their own more specific definition of each term. Adie Nelson (2010) in her book, “Gender in Canada”, describes sex as referring “to the condition of being male or female, as identified from a biological standpoint” (p. 23). Generally, when a child is born the doctor will examine the external genitals to determine the sex of the child. However, when a child is born with ambiguous genitals, the doctors must look at other factors to determine the sex. The doctor does not look at how feminine or masculine the child appears to be, instead they will look at the internal reproductive anatomy, genes and hormones. Nelson establishes seven variables that need to be considered; chromosomal sex, gonadal sex, hormonal sex, reproductive sex, genital sex, brain sex and assigned sex. For me one of the variables that stand out more is chromosomal sex, which is defined as being the X and Y genes given by each parent to the fetus at conception. Since it is established at conception it is the only variable that can never be altered. All the other variables can be altered with the help of medicine therefore it should be valued more highly in the decision process, especially in cases involving intersex babies. For example, when a baby is born with ambiguous genitals doctors must take into consideration the different hormone levels, the interior and exterior reproductive organs and which chromosomes the baby possesses. However, when someone would like to undergo sex reassignment, that person must first take hormones to alter their body. If a man wishes to be a woman he is given estrogen:

Which promotes the growth of facial and body hair, enlargement of the Adam’s apple, lessening of subcutaneous body fat, increase in muscle mass, some shrinkage of the breast, some enlargement of the clitoris and eventual dormancy of the ovaries and cessation of menstruation. (Nelson, 2010, p.29)

Further tests require that he live as a woman, meaning he would dress and behave as a woman; afterwards he would undergo surgery to alter his genitals. Thus he is not only changing his genitals but also adopting the mentality and behavior of a woman. Dr. Richard Henry Raskind is a good example of a male to female reassignment. After becoming Dr. Renee Richards, she was contested as having an unfair advantage in the field of women’s tennis. “Richards was psychologically female, functioned socially as a female and possessed female genitals, all, she argued, more valid parameters of femaleness than chromosomes” (Nelson, 2010, p. 38). As a result one...

References: Fausto-Sterling, A. (2009). Dueling Dualisms. Sex, Gender, and Sexuality: The New Basics, an Anthology (pp. 6-21). Oxford University Press.
Nelson, A. (2010). The Social Construction of Sex, Gender, and Sexuality. Gender in Canada (pp. 1-15).
Nelson, A. (2010). Biological, Psychological, and Social-Psychological Perspectives. Gender in Canada (pp. 38-69). Toronto: Pearson.
Religion Facts. (n.d.). Homosexuality and the Ancient Greeks. Religion Facts. Retrieved from
Seidman, S. (2009). Theoretical Perspectives. Introducing the New Sexuality Studies: Original Essays and Interviews (pp. 3-13). Routledge.
Siltanen J. & Doucet, A. (2008). Against Essentializing and Dichotomizing Sex. Gender Relations in Canada: Intersectionality and Beyond (pp. 52-57). Oxford University Press.
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