Is gender always socially constructed or are we born with a natural predisposition to a certain gender identity? I thought of this question while reading John Colapinto’s, As Nature Made Him. While on the story of David Reimer, the book also explores a person’s reason for identifying with a gender role.
A quote on the subject reads, “that there is something important in the individual’s biological makeup; that we don’t come to this world neutral; that we come to this world with some degree of maleness and femaleness which will transcend whatever the society wants to put into it,” (175). Such a thought was seen as attempting to explain Reimer’s desire to be a man (as he was born), even when being raised as a girl. It makes me wonder of, on a broader scale, what would result from an ideal lack of social influences to conform to a gender role. Would a female, by sex, still identify with the female gender, and likewise for a male? I believe that a female (or simply, one who is born with a vagina and uterus) will associate most with the female gender because it’s in her genes.
“David’s case was evidence that gender identity and sexual orientation are largely inborn, a result of prenatal hormone exposure and other genetic influences on the brain and nervous system, which set limits to the degree of cross-gender flexibility that any person can comfortably display,” (210). This idea, which must’ve been preposterous for its time, also relates to the several accounts of men and women having homosexual feelings despite being raised to be heterosexual. So, how much part exactly does society play in the formation of gender identities? No matter how strong society’s influences, a person’s true gender isn’t formed after birth. As in David Reimer’s case, you can’t raise a male, by birth, to be a girl. Or at least, you can try but would leave the male confused and maladjusted. I think people will always have a natural predisposition to one gender or the other.
Colapinto, John. As Nature Made Him: The Boy who was Raised as a Girl. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2000.