I guess the word "gender" needs to be defined, but that is part of the problem I suppose, since it can mean many different things to many different people. By gender, I do not mean anatomical physical sexual structures( like breasts, or a penis). Maybe the best definition I could conceive is: whether one identifies as man or women or w/e gender intermediate.

The question is in the title, and I am aware that it could be due to both effects, and was curious about this question due to the existence of transgender people, which in my mind means gender is more of a social concept. But then some transpeople claim they have "felt" that they were a women or man at birth, which implies a biological origin. And even though both are "story-based" evidence, I was hoping for something more conclusive from this stackexchange.

  • $\begingroup$ I've read about Testosterone effect on females- females fetuses who were exposed to testosterone during pregnancy grow up to exhibit male like behaviors, such as mounting or dominating other females. One can say that these females are suffering from gender identity issues $\endgroup$
    – Alex Stone
    Commented Dec 21, 2015 at 1:58
  • $\begingroup$ The term "gender", up until relatively recently, has been interchangeably used by the majority of the population with "sex". Even governments use it interchangeably on legal documents sometimes. $\endgroup$
    – prata
    Commented Jun 20, 2021 at 8:44

4 Answers 4


Gender identity, or the gender that a person feels they are (regardless of physical makeup) is usually imprinted in the neural circuits in early childhood. This could be genetic, environmental, or a combination of both. Gender identity can also change at various points in life, and can change from moment to moment within the course of a day.

There are no nice, neat holes to fit things into (no pun intended.) There are as many possibilities and configurations as there are people.

As an example, the following link discusses these concepts in great detail and draws from multiple studies. References are provided on the 4th page.

"...one's gender is on a continuum, a blending, analogous to a "gray scale." But, our distribution of gender is bimodal, that is, most people are lumped at the two ends with only a minority in the middle. The great majority will see themselves as either male or female with all that implies. Probably more upsetting to our conventional view of gender than this fuzziness of gender roles is that we can be a MIX of male and female identities within the same individual." http://www.healthyplace.com/gender/inside-intersexuality/multi-dimensionality-of-gender/

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ So then are there sources for that though? I was hoping for a comprehensive answer with citations to support. Not that I do not appreciate your effort, thank you. $\endgroup$
    – Ro Siv
    Commented Jul 28, 2015 at 19:47
  • $\begingroup$ Added a source that cites other sources at the end of the article. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 13:37
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Related: cogsci.stackexchange.com/a/9831/2868 $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 16:22
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    $\begingroup$ According to the American Psychiatric Association this answer is wrong. Gender is a man made social construct that changes based on time and place. See my answer here: psychology.stackexchange.com/questions/8803/… $\endgroup$
    – Adam Heeg
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 13:30

There has been a lot of debate amongst scientist, and they are not in agreement on any one argument. In general, there is a trend towards thinking that gender identity is based on biology.

Argument that gender identity is based on biology (but not necessarily genitally):

The arguments here are that the brain patterns of transgendered people are more similar to the brain patterns of people of the gender that they identify with, which seems to indicate that gender identity is based in biology.

Argument that there is a lot more to be understood:

"Neither the affects of prenatal and puberty hormones nor socialization alone are enough to explain gender identity development, the process must lie in a brain structure."


According to the American Association of Pediatrics Gender is a socially determined identity. Gender is based on how a person feels specifically as it relates to how the society that person lives in believes that biological sex should act. Each individual is unique, so each person's Gender should be considered unique, and each society in history has had different standards for Gender roles. So, this topic is very subjective, yet real since so many are engulfed in it.

What this means is that if a person grew up alone their gender would perfectly match their biological sex because there are no preconceived notions or expectations on that person. The Gender issue has increased as a problem as society puts expectations on people that doesn't match their own personal expectations for their biological sex.

The pressure and conflict from this clash of societal will and personal will have resulted in something called Gender Dysphoria. Because Gender is changing term based on person, place, and time and complicated by other social and emotional issues most attempts to discuss the topic end up in ideological conflict instead of caring and personal discussion.

Sex is a biological construct, what is real:
Attributes that characterize biological maleness and femaleness including:

Gender is a social construct, or 'man-made':
Attitudes and feelings that a given culture associates with a persons biological sex such as:
Gender expression
Gender roles and behavioirs
Gender identity
This Varies by time and culture

I am not able to identify to what degree the AAP's views are accepted or rejected by other organizations.

Source: PDF, slide 7, from the AAP


Although most people only have two sex chromosomes (XX or XY) genetic defects seem to occur in this pair of chromosomes more frequently than others even though these are still rare. Some of these are: - Extra X or Y chromosomes - Phenotype one gender with genotype of another (i.e. male who has XX genes) - Intersex individuals with that have characteristics of both genders

Very few of the growing number of people who say they have been born with the body of the wrong gender show signs of chromosomal defects.

Most children are aware of their gender by age three. This becomes one of the first "groups" that they attempt to fit into. There are studies that show many boys and girls within Western society prefer different types of activities. However, the external characteristics that young children show to be like other males or females are not identical through out the world. So these characteristics are evidently learned.

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    $\begingroup$ How are you defining gender in this regard? I do not understand fully why chromosomal defects have anything to do with gender, I assumed being intersexed was suppose to be an exception from being transgender. Also, do you have peer review sources or is this such common knowledge that it need not be sourced? $\endgroup$
    – Ro Siv
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 10:30
  • $\begingroup$ The extra chromosomes knlistman is talking about is one of the topics discussed in the healthyplace.com link included in my edit. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 13:42

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