Biology of Gender Identity

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****Application: Biology of Gender Identity

Gender identity is the subjective experience of being male or female. For most people, gender identity matches their sex; usually, men “feel” like they are men, and women “feel” like they are women. However, there are individuals whose sex and gender identity do not match; these people are referred to as transgendered. For example, a person born male may strongly identify with the female gender, even in childhood. This individual may prefer female friends, may participate in traditionally feminine activities, and may wish to dress like a girl or woman. Transgendered people may elect to undergo hormone treatments and possibly surgery to alter their bodies to match their gender identity, thus becoming transsexuals. Others may not alter their biological sex, but dress and act in ways to match their gender identity. Sexual orientation among the transgendered is variable; for example, some transgendered/transsexual males may be attracted to other males, while others may prefer female sexual partners.

In this Application Assignment, you will draw on two types of sources of information about the biological basis of gender identity: the textbook’s coverage of the topic, which provides a broad but shallow survey of the research literature in this area, and a journal article on the topic, which will give you a more in-depth look at one specific research study. These two types of sources are often complementary – the first provides breadth of coverage but usually lacks specificity or detail, while the second provides depth but lacks perspective. You will need to reflect on how these two different types of sources, taken together, provide a more comprehensive picture of a topic than either one alone.

To prepare for this assignment:

Review the textbook’s coverage of the development of sexual characteristics, paying special attention to discussions of biological factors that contribute to
behavioral and psychological differences between males and females,
sexual anomalies (particularly pseudohermaphroditism), and
sexual orientation.
In the Walden Library’s database of journals, locate and read at least one case study or research report of transgendered or transsexual individuals.
Think about how the information in the journal article relates to information from the textbook.

The assignment: (2 pages)

***Considering both “typical” and “atypical” (i.e., pseudohermaphrodites) sexual development, briefly analyze the effects sex hormones seem to have on the development of gender-related behavioral and psychological characteristics in humans. In other words, what “masculine” characteristics are related to male hormones, and what “feminine” characteristics are related to female hormones?

***Briefly summarize the journal article you found, including discussion of the following points, if relevant:
At what age and in what ways the subject(s) demonstrated characteristics of transgender.
Possible sources (causes) of these characteristics, if addressed in the article.
Description and outcome of any treatments that were attempted, if addressed.

***Compare and contrast the two sources of information (textbook and journal article) regarding biology and gender identity. Include all of the following that are relevant:
How do the sources differ with respect to the type of information provided? In other words, what information can be gained from a literature review (textbook) versus a case study/research report (journal article)?
On what points do the two sources agree?
On what points do the two sources disagree?
How do the two sources complement one another in helping you to understand the biological basis of gender identity? Be specific, using examples where appropriate.

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