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Gender Identity

Development Of Gender Identity, Implications Of Changing Social Sex Roles, Sex, Gender, And Intersex

Gender identity is the private experience of being male or female. Gender role is the public expression of gender, everything a person says or does that indicates a status as male or female. Gender role includes social and legal identification. Usually gender identity and gender role correspond like two sides of the same coin, with a unity of gender identity/role.

Gender is a psychological and cultural concept, in contrast to sex, which is a biological term. Sex refers to the physical appearance of the genitals and reproductive organs (gonadal sex or sex phenotype) or in some cases the chromosomes (genotype). Sexual dimorphism refers to the division of sex into two classes, male or female. However, some individuals are born with physical intersex conditions, such as a hermaphrodite whose genitals are ambiguous at birth, so that the person cannot readily be typified as one sex or the other. Usually these people are assigned to one sex for rearing. In some societies they may be assigned and reared as hermaphrodites.

The word gender was used primarily to refer to classes of nouns in languages until psychologist John Money adopted the term in 1955 to refer to sexual attributes of people. He first introduced the term gender role to discuss whether hermaphrodites socially disclosed themselves as male or female. Some were reared as boys, others as girls. In most cases, their gender role corresponded to their assigned sex of rearing. The term gender identity was popularized by Money's naming in 1966 of the Gender Identity Clinic at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, which pioneered in evaluation of transsexuals and sex reassignment.

Since the 1970s, the use of the term gender has captured the public imagination in contexts that go far beyond hermaphroditism and transsexualism. Gender has evolved as the term, particularly in feminist usage, to represent the social and cultural characteristics of the sexes as distinct from the biological differences between males and females. Thus, gender is used to imply what is acquired or learned by the sexes, while sex is used to refer to what is thought to be biological and unchangeable. In this framework, sex represents intractable nature, and gender represents malleable nurture. This is a reversal in connotation for the term gender, which Money had used to describe individuals whose physical sex (or intersex) was hormonally and surgically altered to correspond to their psychological gender status.

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