Boys will be … defined? Is nature (sex) v. nurture (gender) settled debate?

When I fill out paper forms I cross out “gender” and write “sex” next to it.  The PC police get mad at this, “it’s gender” they tell me and some even cross out “sex” and re-write in “gender”.  I can only wonder how it was over time a persons sex turned into gender in classifying the sexes.  Sex, defined, is the 2 main categories of humans based upon their reproductive functions (Sex organs).  Gender, defined, is the state of being male or female based upon social and cultural differences and not by biology.

The argument of nature versus nurture as impacting human behavior has been going on the my entire social science career of 40 years.    Except in rare circumstances people are born with either male or female reproductive functions and so throughout time we have identified people as either male or female.  For example,  you might be a heterosexual male or gay male but you were still identified by reproductive ability, male.  Your sexuality and sexual preferences were separate from your sex.

Enter Gender Feminist Theory which holds that the sexes are actually “genders” and the state of being male or female is based upon social and cultural differences entirely and not on biology in any amount.  The theory holds that your sex (defined by nature) has no bearing on how you act as a male or female, but that you are socially constructed to act a certain way.  Boys will be boys because they are taught to be boys by society, so the theory goes, ditto for girls.

I guess missed the “it’s settled science” memo and reports in peer reviewed scientific journals explaining that nurture won out totally.  I have seen no paper or report discussing that the issue of nature (reproductive function) over nurture (socially constructed) was settled science or that one had more weight than the other.  From what I had read and reviewed, forced gender identification opposite to your sex actually caused developmental problems.  A good example of biological sex holding over socialization is the case of David Reimer (Bruce at birth).

One of twin boys, Bruce, born in 1966 he had a botched circumcision which seriously damaged his penis.  His parents brought him to a psychologist who advocated for the theory of gender neutrality, socially constructed boys and girls, and convinced his parents he would be better off raised as a female, so Bruce had sex reassignment surgery (testes removed) and was to be socialized as a female, Brenda,  and given estrogen in adolescents for breast development.  But the socialization didn’t work and “Brenda” did not identify as a girl.  From 9 years old on “she” wasn’t acting the part and knew he was a boy.

At 14 years old “Brenda” had surgery (including a double mastectomy, testosterone injections and his penis reconstructed) and he changed his name to “David”.  The failure of the gender socialization was reported in medical circles by noted sexologist Dr. Milton Diamond debunking the blank slate social construct gender theory and to prevent this from occurring in the future.  The story was told in 1997 in the book “As nature made him: the boy who was raised as a girl”.

Even though the theory of a socially constructed “gender” was debunked prior to the turn of the century we still write “gender” on our forms and there are those who still see men and women as “socialized” beings, ignoring their biological sex.  Certainly nurture plays a role in how we develop, and there is great overlap in how male and female humans behave naturally.  But it is easy to see that it is the forced roles placed upon children which are bad, this whether you are forcing a boy into a traditional male role or are trying to force a boy into being a female.

We are beginning to see some people calling out the “gender” feminists for putting forth a socially constructed sex theory which is scientifically unproven and wrong and contrary to biology.  Dr. Barry Kuhle, an evolutionary psychologist speaks to this denial of science in his piece in Psychology Today entitled “Giving feminism a bad name”.  He points to the gender feminists radical response and denial of any science which contradicts their theories and beliefs.

Christina Hoff Sommers has also pointed to “gender” feminists theories undermining science most recently in a Dartmouth Review interview where she not only takes to task those who would distort the truth for their ideology, she points to how those who put the social construct theory into practice with their own toddlers soon learn of its fallacy.  A recent article in Intellectual Takeout, “Neuroscientist: Gender-neutral Parenting is Futile” quotes neuroscientist Debra Soh who cautions against treating children as blank slates with no biologically determined sex characteristics.  The articles author, Annie Holmquist asks the valid question, “Are we actually degrading both male and female by encouraging them to ignore scientific fact and abandon the natural differences between the two sexes?”

I would answer her, yes we are.  In my mind gender feminists are the sexists as they would define the behaviors of both male and female by their definition of acceptable behavior based upon unproven theory all the while ignoring science based avenues of study with proven outcomes.  Theirs is not a social science, it is a dogma to be followed with religious fervor.  And treating children as blank slates and forcing them into unnatural gender roles can be damaging to their development.

Boys will be boys, girls will be girls, with a little bit of nurture piled on top of that.  And it is our responsibility to ensure that each one, individually, is allowed many varied experiences and many opportunities so that they can decide what they enjoy and how to be for themselves.  The argument of the weight of nature versus nurture will go on unsettled as individuals don’t fit into any one category.  By definition nurture is to care for and encourage growth and development and I see in neither nature or nurture where it is beneficial to force upon or remove sex based roles upon a person.