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Frequently Asked Questions? FAQs

What is the differences between Sex and Gender?

Historically, the words sex and gender have been used interchangeably in the English language. However, in recent times as the phenomenology of transgenderism reaches beyond a medical issue and gains more traction as a social issue as well, it is becoming increasingly clear that sex and gender are two distinct aspects of being human. Here, I will attempt to expand on the current thinking about sex vs gender. One's sex is a physiological term being used to connate the shape and function of one's genitalia. Typically each of us is assigned as male or female at birth
This is done immediately based on visual examination alone. With the exception of children born with ambiguous genitalia, (intersexuals) it is usually a straight forward determination. One's sex then becomes both a prescription for how the child should be raised as well as a core marker for future identity purposes.
Gender on the other hand is a brain centered identification marker determined by the number of androgen/estrogen receptors in the brain. These receptors and their ability to accept hormones produced by the body, ultimately becomes responsible for influencing behavior that is either masculine, feminine or androgynous. We are now certain that one's sense of gender identity is apparently fixed and unchangeable.

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What causes gender roles?

Gender roles are highly influenced by physical limitations and cultural needs. They are also influenced by personal interest. This latter element, personal interest is, in turn, highly influenced by hormones. Although both males and females produce testosterone and estrogen, men whose testes are working properly, have 10 to 20 times more testosterone in their systems than women do. When you combine that with having a correspondingly larger number of androgen receptors in their brain, the individual is going to need to express all of that in what we consider masculine behavior. In addition to the brain responding to all that testosterone, muscle mass, both sexual and physical energy levels are also effected in a more robust way. Keep in mind, however, testosterone can also have a negative effect on a willingness to cooperate with one's peers, a dulling of sensitivity, the blunting of emotional lability and lack of interest in nurturing.

Women on the other hand, have very limited amounts of testosterone. What little they have is produced primarily by their adrenals, which aid them in maintaining muscle tone and sexual desire. What women lack in androgens, they more then make up for in estrogen produced primarily by the ovaries. Estrogen however, makes an entirely different contribution to the female anatomy by rounding it and giving it the typical female shape and soft look. Along with physical changes, estrogen feeds the female receptors in the brain. The receptors in the brain regulate the complex female reproduction system, expands the individual's emotional range, develops tactile and emotional sensitivity, and encourages reproductive desires.

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If you believe society causes gender roles then why do you think [so]?

Society may describe and encourage gender roles but it does not cause them. Both I and a host of evolutionary psychologists think that over the centuries both men and women have simply worked out a set of gender roles that tends to work best for both of them. Although that is and has always been in flux, men will always tend to express themselves in a masculine way because they are testosterone-driven, Women will always tend to express themselves in a feminine manner because they are estrogen-driven. Again, however, that behavior will be highly influenced by the ratio of androgen to estrogen receptors in the brain and the bodies ability to provide the correct hormone in sufficient amounts.

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If gender roles have a biological explanation, then please explain deviations from the "norm" or "stereotyped" gender roles.

We all start out female at conception. For a male embryo to develop, several other elements beside just having a Y chromosome from the father need to come together at the right time to defeminize the embryo. This is a complicated process that I do not have time to get into here. Roughly, the genitals develop early in the process, then early in the second trimester, if the child is chromosomally male and the testes have developed properly, a surge of androgens is supposed to masculinize the brain. It is entirely possible for that process to get crossed up leaving some genetic males with partial to full feminized brains and some genetic females with partially to fully masculinized brains.

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What are the masculine gender roles? What are the feminine gender roles?

We see masculine and feminine gender roles played out around us daily. Gender roles are about male or female expression. One expresses either masculine or feminine behaviors in the way they talk, walk and relate to those around them.

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DISCLAIMER: 

Nothing on this site should be viewed as providing therapeutic advice. No formation of a client/therapist
relationship with Dr. Vitale is intended or to be implied or inferred. The information provided in this site is for educational
purposes only. I attempt to keep the information current but make no representation or warranties in that regard. You should
not rely upon this information as a substitute for consul with a qualified mental health professional.