GENDER IDENTITY: DIFFERENTIATION

Most people do not question their own or others’ established gender identity and role as male or female. They are readily accepted at face value. What is said and done by men and women in different societies varies and may overlap, since dimorphic norms of gender role are culturally and historically determined. But once an individual’s identity and role as a male or a female become differentiated, they remain stable and are unlikely to be shaken even by major crises in life, physiological, social, or accidental.

The greater proportion of gender identity/ role differentiation takes place after birth. It develops on the basis of prenatally programmed sex differences in body morphology, in hormonal function, and in central nervous system (CNS) function, but is not preordained or preprogrammed in toto by prenatal determinants. Prenatal antecedents lay down a predisposition to which postnatal influences are added. A prenatal defect, skew, or bias may be either augmented or counteracted by postnatal influences.

The dimorphism of gender identity/role as male or female begins with the genetic dimorphism of the sex chromosomes, ÕÓ for the male, XX for the female. It is followed by the differentiation of the gonads with H-Y antigen on the Y bearing sperm governing the differentiation of the testes. Fetal hormonal functioning then programs differentiation of the internal reproductive anatomy, and the external genital morphology. Then follows differential sex assignment at birth, rearing as a boy or a girl, and differentiation of the childhood gender role and identity. The differentiation process is continued through the pre-pubertal and pubertal phase with, in adolescence, a sexually dimorphic response or, more accurately, threshold of response manifested in erotic attraction, falling in love, courtship, mating, and parenthood.

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