1. Do you see gender and sexual differentiation as being based on biology
or culture, or both?
2. How did society's gender expectations help shape your attitudes
and socialization in growing up, or did it play a part at all?
3. In what ways were you socialized to be the gender you are now?
Self, Society, and Culture: Gender Ambiguity
I (Nicole) will never forget the day when I realized how critical the concept of gender is to
our human identity. My sister had some dose friends who were expecting their first child.
This couple decided to wait until the baby was born to find out if they were having a "boy''
or a "girl." When the father called to tell us about the birth, our first question was, "Is it a boy
or a girl?" After a long pause, the father responded, "We don't know." In the coming days,
the parents began unlocking the mystery of their child's biological sex. Chromosomally, their
child was a male. Physically, however, the baby's genitals did not look like those of either
male or female. The parents would better understand their child's gender in a few years when
their child's body would develop in puberty. They were left with a difficult decision to iden-
tify their child as male or female on the birth certificate. They ultimately decided to go with
the DNA results and register the baby as male. They have raised the child as a "boy'' with
an understanding that as he grows up and uncovers his own gender, he may need to change.
Take some time to consider what you would do as a parent in this situation. Consider
how much sex and gender contribute to who we are as individuals and what is expected of us
in our families and culture. This chapter is about understanding sex development and recog-
nizing the importance of gender, gender roles, and gender identity in the human experience.
UNDERSTANDING GENDER IN DEVELOPMENT
AND IN CONTEXT
Someone's gender seems obvious at first glance, or does it? If you encounter someone whose
gender is not dear, do you find yourself intensely curious about whether that person is a man
or a woman? Why do you think that we are so intent on needing to know the answer? The
reality is that the concepts of sex and gender are so deeply ingrained in our identity that it is
difficult to think about anything else without knowing that contextual piece of information.