Gender vs. Sex: Questioning Whether Society Should Still Uphold the Signing of Birth Certificates

 A social institution is the reflection of a group of individuals who come together for a common purpose (Yourdictionary.com). This type of establishment includes specific participants who share common expectations with regards to the 'norm' of a society. Within the established normality of these groups, specific roles are assigned, with rights and duties attached to them. Institutions define reality for us due to being part of the societal standard and the dictation of our behavior and patterns. Moreover, gender is defined as a social construct that establishes the ideologies of a certain culture or society. Within the social construction of gender, one can identify the different relationships created with ourselves, others, and our life chances. Gender cannot be solely identified as an individual’s “true self”. Instead, it is structured in social institutions. For instance, gender is not just an issue that pertains to families or interpersonal relationships, “but also within the structure of all major social institutions, including schools, religion, the economy and the state” (Andersen 2015, pg 32). All of these different areas of our society partake in shaping and molding our experiences and identities. 

An individual's “sex” is defined within biological differences; chromosomes, hormonal profiles, and internal and external sex organs. An infant is placed within a certain category based on the anatomy of their reproductive system. However, referring to a gender as following the 'norms' of the sex would be politically incorrect. Gender describes the characteristics that a society or culture describes as masculine or feminine. Moreover, gender roles in the simplest sense refer to the ideologies different cultures attribute to the sexes. Gender is socially constructed due to our environment, cultural traditions, beliefs, and values, so it is not biologically pre-determined as our society had previously believed. Gender, as it exists now, is merely the creation of different categories that were formulated by society to best fit individuals along the social structure. Throughout history, there is clear evidence of how social standards and positions are distributed among individuals due to their sex. 

Previous generations attributed the biological makeup of women to justify unequal opportunities in education, employment, and politics. For example, women were considered incapable of succeeding at a university unless they were there to search for a husband. Women were considered the weaker sex not only in terms of physical appearance, but emotionality as well. However, this comes to show how far along society has come. In today's society, it is not considered acceptable to require men to be the sole breadwinners, and women to take care of the home and children. Times are changing, and it will not be long until the government and cultures catch up with certain movements. Society needs to let go of its old ways in order to welcome a more prosperous future. 

For instance, before a child is born, the sex is already defined due to biology in certain cases. If in due case the infant has a clear and defining anatomy of the reproductive system, the role in which he/she will be placed is simplified. The gender of the child will be defined primarily by the parents. The caregivers of the child will, in a sense, manipulate and influence the baby by using certain colors (pink vs. blue), toys ( barbies vs. cars), clothing, and different forms of acceptable behavior. As the child grows older, a certain set of rules will need to be put in place in order for the “gender role” to follow its course. For example, females are expected to express their femininity through clothes, makeup, housewife duties, and body language. Males tend to find the need to express their sense of masculinity through violent activities and resisting the need to be vulnerable.

 Society tends to associate these characteristics with sex. Richard Alleyne wrote an article on “a couple who raised their child as "gender neutral" so the infant's "real personality" could shine through. After five years, they have finally revealed he is a boy (Alleyne, 2012), and it was truly fascinating. The parents of the child decided to raised little Sasha in a way that “he would not be influenced by society's prejudices and preconceptions” (Alleyne, 2012). The article did a great job at pointing out a key concept: “Gender affects what children wear and what they can play with, and that shapes the kind of person they become” (Alleyne, 2012).

The ideology of correlating a person’s gender with their sex is incorrect in some cases. For instance, the LGBT community challenges this theory at full force. The LGBT community reflects the opposite of what the 'norm' tends to dictate. For example, why do homosexuals tend to behave in construct to their sex? It extremely important to keep in mind that these individuals do possess the same sex but behave and dress incongruent with the other sex. Such as, Caitlyn Jenner who may not be a perfect LGBT rights advocate but she does represent what it means to belong to the community. This is an individual that was born as a male(sex) and for years had to repress his desire to become a woman(gender). What biology could not fix, plastic surgery and counseling did. However, Beck Laxton, the mother of Sasha, also grew up in a home where her own parents were the complete opposite of what was considered the 'norm'. Her father was a crybaby and her mother was very sporty, indicating that stereotypes did not fit the sex, but it did not make these two individuals any less of who they were. The concept of raising a child within the grounds of neutrality seems more realistic than assigning labels from birth.

Sex vs. Gender leaves me to question the whole concept of even using birth certificates to identify a child’s sex. One’s sex should not be defined at birth before the individual truly knows what gender they choose to stand by later on. I understand the need for parents to know the sex of the child in order to ‘show proper behavior’ ( baby clothes or toys), but what is the point in labeling these kids so early on when some will be raised in a way that will repress their true self? Laxton stated a great point. “Early gender stereotyping was 'harmful'"(Alleyne, 2012). Social construction and its ridiculous ideologies on gender begin with putting infants into certain categories. Society, in general, tends to only divide a child’s sex into two categories (male or female). 

However, many individuals are not aware of DSD, or Intersex cases. I find it interesting how the general public, unless involved in the medical field, will not have much knowledge on this disorder. Technically speaking, a child that possesses this condition does not have a defined sex, and it is up to the parents to decide their fate. It is a decision that the parents, under the advice of a medical professional, determine which sexual traits the child has more of. This decision alone leads to question the value of defining a designated sex when the human body is a mystery. In my opinion, individuals with DSD or those who belong to the LGBT community share this conflict. These people are being labeled without having the chance to define their own lives. Every child should have the opportunity to select their own gender without being oppressed. It is important to acknowledge that “as a child grows they develop their own independent sense of self that will include their own individual gender identification” (Alleyne, 2012).

 

                                      Do you believe society should eliminate the branding of infants ?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References:

    Alleyne, R. (2012, January 20). Couple raise child as 'gender neutral' to avoid stereotyping. Retrieved April 02, 2018, from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/9028479/Couple-raise-child-as-gender-neutral-to-avoid-stereotyping.html

    Andersen, M. L. (2015). Thinking about women: Sociological perspectives on sex and gender (9th ed.). Boston: Pearson.