In recent years, there has been an increased interest into the study of gender identity theories. This interest has recognized the growing recognition that individuals have a fundamental right to express who they are without fear of discrimination from society. A number of gender identity theories have developed as a result of this interest and research into the topic. These gender identity theories focus on both the social and biological aspects of human sexuality. This paper will discuss two of these gender identity theories.
One gender identity theory focuses on the idea that gender is a construct of biology. This construction of gender identity believes that it is the result of hormones in the individual; this theory particularly believes that it is the result of the influence of hormones on the fetus in the uterus (WebMD, 2014). This theory believes that females who identify as males were exposed to high levels of testosterone in utero. Males who identity as females were exposed to high levels of estrogen in the uterus. It is also believed that they were not exposed to high enough levels of testosterone in utero. Another possibility is that they do not respond to the levels of testosterone effectively. Another theory, however, believes that gender dysphoria is the result of socialization. This theory suggests that individuals may be socialized to relate with another gender (Bussey & Bandura, 1999, p. 676).
I had a great-uncle who died approximately fifteen years ago. He had gender dysphoria. He was peri-menopausal baby for his mother. He was not socially raised in any way (from what I was told) in a feminine manner; however, from what I heard, he had identified with female traits from early in his life. This had, of course, raised much commentary in the family early in his life because of the time period and the acceptance issue. During a woman’s peri-menopausal years, there are occasional hormonal surges, mostly estrogen (Mayo Clinic, 2014). It is possible that he was exposed to high levels of estrogen during his fetal development. This would possible explain why he had gender dysphoria. As I was considering this, it made me question whether or not other male children who were conceived and carried during a woman’s peri-menopausal years were at a higher risk for possibly developing gender dysphoria (this would be for male children, as the female body tends to have a surge in estrogen).
According to the article from the Mayo Clinic (2014), “The level of [the woman’s] estrogen — the main female hormone — rises and falls unevenly during perimenopause.” If his mother had experienced several of these surges in her estogen level, then my great-uncle would have had large levels of estrogen in his body as a fetus. However, it is quite possible that his body, for whatever reason, did not respond effectively to the levels of androgens (testosterone) in his body. It should be noted that, according to the family, he always lacked the traditional signs of high levels of testosterone. He did not have a deep voice (which many other male members of the family had.) He also kept a full head of hair until the day he died. The rest of the family members who were male showed hereditary male pattern baldness, which is a sign of higher levels of testosterone.
Obviously, there are more studies needed to determine what causes gender dysphoria. What is most important is to treat all individuals with respect, empathy and compassion, regardless of how they identify. Studies may or may not indicate what causes gender dysphoria. Whether or not it should be prevented, if it can be, is a matter of medical ethics, not one of science, in actuality. There are greater issues at stake than can be discussed in a paper of this length and scope. It must be noted though that there are several possible theories. However, these are just theories and may in the end also be wrong.
- Bussey, K., & Bandura, A. (1999). Social cognitive theory of gender development and differentiation. Psychological Review, 106, 676-713.
- Mayo Clinic. (2014). Perimenopause. Retrieved from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases- conditions/perimenopause/basics/definition/CON-20029473
- WebMD. (2014). Gender dysphoria. Retrieved from: http://www.webmd.com/mental- health/gender-dysphoria