April 29, 2012
‘Is Nature Enough To Trump Nurture?’
For many years Nature v. Nurture has been a topic well-spoken about. People bring up the subject when dealing on the upbringing of a child. When having a child whether it’s a girl or boy, one automatically gets into a state of mind that if they have a girl they have raise it like as a girl and if they have a boy they have to raise it as a boy. Parents from the very moment they have a child they incline themselves to raise their child as the gender they were born in. In the following novel “As Nature Made Him” we see this as the main topic. It’s brought up when the Reimers twin baby boy suffered an accident. The accident caused lot of problems for the family; they had to decide whether or not to raise their child as a boy, who will never be a normal functioning male. Then they came across Dr. Money who brought up the idea of raising their twin boy as a girl and if they nurtured him as a girl he would live a normal and healthy life as a woman. Many people debate that Nature may play a huge role in someone’s life but the nurturing of a child as they grow up plays a bigger role in shaping their identity. Parents and society have a tremendous impact on the upbringing of a child, which can certainly be enough to trump nature, but nature has the overruling of genetics.
David Reimer was a naturally born identical twin boy. He and his brother Brian went in one day for a minor circumcision but something went wrong and the doctor performing the procedure accidently burned David’s penis completely off. His parents Janet and Ron were in complete shock and lost in what to do with their son. They were afraid that if they raised him as a boy with no penis or a reconstructed penis he would be teased and not live a completely normal life. Then one night Janet came across Dr. Money who has had performed procedures where he has turned a naturally born male into a woman, but keep in mind that these people were heterosexual. He also performed these procedures on babies who were born with both genitals of a boy and girl he would pick the best gender that the baby can have a normal life in. Janet was in complete awe that she gave him a call they met with him and he finally one day convinced them that changing their son’s gender from male to female was the best solution to their problem. On their first meeting with Dr. Money Janet recalls, “I looked up to him as a God” says Janet “I accepted whatever he said” (Colapinto 50). Clearly we see that Dr. Money made everything he said sound so convincing and reassuring to the Reimers that they were convinced this ‘procedure’ was indeed going to work. What they didn’t know that for Dr. Money this was an experiment because he had done these procedures on hermaphrodites and heterosexuals not a naturally baby born with an assigned gender. He made Janet and Ron believe that if they nurtured him as a girl that it he would believe he was a girl. Janet and Ron didn’t until later catch on that the procedure performed on their son was merely an experiment.
With so much going on in society it’s really no wonder that Dr. Money and the Reimers really and genuinely thought that raising their baby boy as a girl after his traumatic accident would actually work. Dr. Money gave the Reimers strict rules on how to raise their new daughter. He specifically told them to dress him into girl clothes, buy him girl toys and teach him how to act like a girl, basically nurture her into this new identity and gender. From early on David showed signs that he was never interested in any of that stuff. He just wanted to play with his brother stuff and acted more like a boy than a girl. This gradually frustrated Dr. Money and as David got older he tried to basically brainwash him into thinking that he was a girl and was born that way. Dr. Money would take notes on this and one day published his experiment that women and men are ‘equal’ in every way and there upbringing is what determines their gender identity and stated that his experiment actually had worked. As a surprise many people believed him, they praised him for his success, but there was one discovery that changed the view of Dr. Money’s claim that a naturally born baby boy cannot be raised as a girl. In the following documentary “Sex: Unknown” Roger Gorksey’s intern student makes a discovery that the male and female are similar but there is one part of the brain that defines if you’re a male or female. After they made this discovery they generally stated that male and female brains are similar in many ways but there is that one specific part of your brain that determines our gender not how we were brought up. Although some might disagree, now and then you might hear about that one person who is born a specific gender and raised as that specific gender but from an early start they feel wrong. Like if they were born into a different gender then supposed to. In the following television show “Private Practice” a medical show, one of their episodes was based on gender identity. It was about a little girl who is 10 years old and comes out to her parents that she is a boy. Her parents on the other hand don’t believe her, because genetically she is a girl but mentally she feels like a boy. In the end the doctors finally convince her parents that she has “gender identity disorder” which is when a male or female feels like they should be the opposite sex of what they were born into. Her parents would also have to help her cope and get through with this gender identity crisis. Situations like this, is what makes you question nature.
Society has had for many years much influence when it comes to gender identity. Society itself puts out so many things that continue to separate females and males. For instance with toys, clothes, career, even the way you act. If you’re a girl/female you are supposed to dress a certain way and act a certain, or have a certain job. In the following article ‘Gender Roles in Society’ the author states, “A female is usually expected, obliged to do, or interested in household work, child care and education, leaving professional and social roles more for the males”(Magar 1). You can see so much of this in television shows, toys for girls, magazines and so much more. On the other hand if you’re a boy/male you get the image that you have to be tough, only where a certain colors and you are the person who is most likely to support the family. In ‘Gender roles in Society’ there definition of a male is, “For instance, males are more interested in or perform physically tough activities like, working in heavy industries, and defense services while females perform tasks like raising children, cooking, embroidery and so on” (Magar). Again stating that females should be the stay at home mother while the male is the tough and successful person in the family.
In the world that we are living in today society has so much influence, they put so much out there, they somewhat have some influence on your gender identity. This would probably be one reason why now a day parents are choosing to raise their child gender neutral. Gender neutral is basically raising a child who doesn’t really know about genders or what gender he/she is. Their parents choose a neutral name that can be for a girl or a boy. They let the child choose the clothes they want to wear and toys they want to play with. In the following article “Couple raise child as 'gender neutral' to avoid stereotyping” talks about a couple who chose to raise their child gender neutral to avoid stereotyping for five years but had to reveal their child’s gender because soon the child was to start school. The couple only revealed their child sex to people close to them and everyone else had to refer to the child as ‘the infant’. The mother stated, “Gender affects what children wear and what they can play with, and that shape the kind of person they become” (Alleyne). She is clearly stating that society has so much influence they put so much out there on gender identity and state well if you’re a girl your inclined to wear a dress and wear makeup and if you’re a boy their inclined to wear pants and like sports. Society shapes who we are, so this couple decided that if they raise their child gender neutral the child will not feel pressured to play the role of the gender they were born into. Although the couple wanted to avoid stereotype for their child they still received it because in our society today we yet have to accept this type of upbringing of a child.
Lastly the argument of Nature v. Nurture is that although nature has a big influence on gender identity genuinely the nurturing of the child and the influence around him/her is what most likely to determine that persons gender identity. In the following article, ‘Gender identity: Family as the most important influence’ it states, “It is important to understand the difference between gender and sex. Sex is biologically determined by one reproductive organs. Gender, however, is socially constructed” (Mason-Brown). That’s where the nature v nurture argument comes in, this author is stating that you may be born genetically a specific gender but the way you socialize and are raised is what determines your gender. Family of course has the biggest impact because they are the ones who raise you, and teach you the fundamentals of your gender.
Therefore, although nurture may genuinely have a huge impact on the outcome of a person’s gender identity, I personally think nature trumps nurture. We saw it in David’s story clearly, he was born as a male and raised as a female, yet he felt nothing like a female because genetically he was a male and that’s how he felt. Everyone around him tried to help him and make him believe he was a female, but it was no help because again he was born a male. We also saw it in the documentary Sex: Unknown the people who researched a male and female brain discovered that male and female brains are so similar but there is one part of the brain that specifically separates you as a female and male. Other people may argue and say nurture is the main key to gender identity and it’s understandable because of the society we are raised in today has a huge influence on us; society teaches us how to dress, act and so much more. Family also has a part in our gender identity because they are the ones who raise you. Lastly everyone has their own opinion about Nature v. Nurture and it is going to continue to be a debate mostly argued about, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
Alleyne, Richard. "Couple Raise Child 'Gender Neutral' to Avoid Stereotyping." The Telegraph. N.p., 20 Jan 2012. Web. 29 Apr 2012.
Andrew Cohen, and Stephen Sweigart. Sex:Unknown. N.d. Video. YoutubeWeb. 20 Apr 2012.
Colapinto, John. As Nature Made Him. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2000. 50. Print.
Magar, Prashant. "Gender Roles In Society." Buzzle.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Apr 2012.
Mason-Brown, Sapphire. "Gender Identity: Family as the most important influence." Helium.com. N.p., 24 May 2007. Web. 29 Apr 2012.
"True Colors." Private Practice. ABC: 5/1/12. Television.