Sex: refers to biological differences between male and female bodies
Gender: refers to social and cultural expectations and norms ascribed to that sex
Gender identity: refers to whether a person identifies as a female or male,
regardless of that person’s biological sex
Sex is biological, gender is sociological, sex is born in nature, gender is socially
All people have subjective experiences of what it means to be male or female. As a
result, we all have reactions to behaviors we encounter that do not mesh with
deeply held expectations and assumptions about gender. Being confronted with a
young person who is dealing with gender identification confronts our values, our
beliefs, and our customs.
On Halloween night, a 4-year old girl wants to go out as Bob the Builder; a 4-year
old boy wants to go out as Barbie. How do you react?
Sex difference theories rely on two central assumptions:
That the division of the human species into male and female categories is
natural and fixed
That the physical (genital) bodies of the male and female indicate internal
features that define us as male or female
(Freud: “anatomy equals destiny)
The idea of inherent and fixed masculine and feminine traits do not hold up well
under scientific scrutiny.
Gender traits are influences by dominant ideologies and power dynamics
(worldviews that rise to prominence through repeated reinforcement by people in
positions of control and influence).
st generation: “This is how we decided to do it”
nd generation: “This is how our elders did it”
rd generation: “This is how it is done”
th generation: “This is the way the world is…this is reality”
Different cultures have different definitions of what is “masculine” and what is
Social structures reinforce girls and boys into distinct patterns, which some people
believe to be wrong for them.
Dealing with gender issues puts us in the position of experiencing the interaction
between our knowledge of self, our professional roles, and our relationships with
young people (Brown).
Currently, in clinical circles, when people experience dissonance with their sex and
their gender they are said to have “gender identity disorder”.