Is Gender a Social Construct?

Some may say gender is a social construct while others may disapprove and claim biological sex and gender are the same. However studies do show that biological sex is different from gender, as one is through the chromosomes you were born with and another is determined through social identity. There is a long going argument of whether gender is completely a social construct and that gender specific traits are only there due to this construct. Through research findings and personal experience, it is demonstrated that biology does influence gender equally as social constructs do, disputing notions that gender is completely a social construct.


If gender was merely just a social construct, all transgender individuals would be invalidated. However studies show that gender dysphoria, the major cause for how most transgender individuals feel internally, is considered a mental illness. Something that is biologically ingrained within you. According to University of Washington psychology professor Christina Olson (2), transgender individuals can show signs of gender dysphoria as young as 18 months old. A time where social factors have most likely not caused too big of an influence on their developing brains. At 18 months old they have not been in a educational environment and the most social influence they have been met with are the toys they play with and the clothes they wear. Of course this is not dismissing that transgender individuals can be influenced socially in the ways they wish to identify, but it also shows how transgender individuals are born being transgender, not socially inducted to be so.


Multiple studies have also show that young children chose toys that are most aligned with the gender the presented as since birth based on biological sex. Studies from Sex differences in children's toy preferences: A systematic review, meta‐regression, and meta‐analysis (1), show that out of the 787 1-8 year old boys, most of them had chosen toys that were more masculine presenting. Out of the 813 1-8 year old girls, most had chosen toys that were more feminine presenting. As you can see some of the children were as young as 12 months old, barely able to understand language or comprehend it. All they knew was what toy they wanted to play with, not what societal factors played in it. This shows how there is a developmental difference that comes from the biological aspects of these children. Their brains are biologically different and affected by different hormones.


Biology has affected my own behavioral traits as I was already more masculine presenting even before entering the education setting. Since a young age I have rejected traditionally feminine clothes and toys. I hung out mostly with boys and I loved to be active. If it was merely social construct that had influenced my behavior then there would be no reason I should have ever exerted any of this behavior before entering the school system or being exposed to larger societal influences. However I was still a very active child who absolutely hated dresses and would strip my barbies to feed to my dog. I was born with certain personality traits that were further developed through societal factors. I was not influenced to be active, I had just loved exploring. I was also not influenced to be brash and outgoing when I was younger, my personality was just naturally more headstrong. You can even say that as I grew older I become more introverted because of society and the influences that it had on me. So yes my personality changed somewhat due to influences outside of my own biological standings, however I still have a base biology that affects who I am. I still enjoy androgynous fashion and societal influences have only increased my interest in it. However it was not society that created my enjoyment in androgynous fashion rather that is only what influenced me to further explore it. I was born biologically with a personality which already preferred such, and environmental influences only caused me to greater appreciate them.


Gender is a social construct in ways that it can influence us, however that is not to discredit how biologically we were born with certain traits. Traits that yes, can be influenced, but are still there nonetheless. If gender was merely a social construct then transgender individuals would not have felt the need to align with the opposite sex and children as young as 12 months old would not be choosing toys without outside influence. However that is not the case and so it is concluded that biology does have an equal effect on gender just as much as a social construct.



Sources:

http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/18549/ (1)

https://parents-together.org/when-do-transgender-kids-know-it/ (2)

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