Gender queer and third gender identities



The purpose of this paper is to analyze the psychological concept associated with gender identity, a debate that has attracted concerns from different scholars in the recent past. According to psychologists, gender is perceived as an individual’s self-conception as either male or female (Richards et al, 2016). It is imperative to accept that in the current society, some people feel that their biological sex does not fit in the norm, sexual orientation that is often posed by people in the society. Therefore, the issue of gender identity has experienced varied interpretations in the recent past as more people are coming out as third gender, something that has received increased concerns from different scholars. Cultural issues also play a significant role in the interpretation as it dictates the role of an individual in the society based on their gender identity (Bockting, 2008). Additionally, gender is perceived as a social status of an individual as either man or woman. The rationale of this paper is to investigate the issue of gender queer and third gender identities. To achieve the study objective, the paper will appreciate some of the vital psychological theories which have sought to explain the concept.  Additionally, the paper will review the recent paradigm shift in western societies by focusing on people who are coming out as third gender and how the issue has gained recognition in the recent past.

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Social Psychology theories

Gender identity is influenced by a number of things but it has been found out that, the societal expectations and the individual make-up is responsible for the particular sex. One question that arises is how those individuals born with ambiguous genitalia develop or acquire gender identity.  There are a number of theories that have been developed to explain gender Queer and gender identity which include among others; prejudice or discrimination theory. According to this theory, people who do not identify them as either masculine or feminine are not social accepted in the society. Both the binary transgender and the cisgender individuals including members of the gay, bisexual, lesbian, and the transgender communities are victims of societal discrimination.

A study that was conducted in 2008 shows that the gender queer and other cisgender people are more likely to receive or suffer from physical assaults, experience bad treatment from the police as well as harassment of other social group members, and consequently opt out of the treatment due to discrimination. On another study but in relation to the theory mentioned above, the participants who were identified as neither female nor male were more likely to be of multi-racial, Asian or Black but less likely to be Spanish/ Latin America By origin. The second theory that has been put forward to explain gender identity development is the gender schema theory. According to this theory, young individuals learn this gender typical interactions practices, behaviors, and the societal expectations from others and gradually begin to acquire and develop different ways of interpreting their experiences as either feminine or masculine (gender schemas). Immediately, the young population begins to identify their own sex, they are in a position to exclusively select the gender schemas that are in line with being a male or female.

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Although many theories have been put forward to explain how an individual develop gender identity, there still exist a number of researches that explain the specifically androgens, and many believe that prenatal hormones are the primary determinants and explanation of the future gender queer development identity and identifications. With regards to social discrimination and gender schema theories, people who fall on the category of neither masculine nor feminine are victims of all physical assaults and brutality. Most importantly is that, the gender development commences way too early before toddler stage and that the gender development is influenced by environmental factors such as social expectations, and cultural norms (Starr and Zurbriggen 2017).

Recent paradigm shift in western societies

It is of paramount importance to note that, the shift in paradigm occurs in many disciplines with the advance in technology and knowledge.  Notably, the shifts in cultural paradigm are infrequent as compared to other sectors of the society and mainly denote a transition in historical events. An example of paradigm shift is illustrated in by transition from industrial to modern society in Europe. It is essential to note that in the 1960-70s, analytic philosophers displaced many of the beliefs that supported the modern society.

It is important to note that, philosophers deconstructed the philosophical foundations of western history as well as the modern culture. However, they did not furnish the impetus essential for reconstructing society. Reconstruction of society calls for establishment of circumstances that expose social injustices while providing an alternative solution to offer great equality and freedom in the society. It is worth noting that, the combination of the economic recession, social media and ring-wing culture war are both moral imperatives and scenarios that create paradigm shift in the cultural values.

The transgender people have made commendable efforts in achieving legal recognition. In some western countries such as Argentina, legal standards for gender recognition have been established. The legal framework provides that on attaining the age of 18 years individuals are free to choose their desired gender identity, revise the official documents and undergo gender recognition without a need for medical or judicial approval. Additionally, children can do the same as long as they have consent of legal advisors or representatives. It is worth noting that, many countries have eliminated any legal barriers to gender recognition. More importantly, the right to recognition is guaranteed in numerous human rights treaties and is an essential aspect in affirming the value and dignity of each and every person.

Legal gender recognition, is a critical element in protecting human rights such as right to freedom of expression, privacy and the right to be free from any arbitrary arrest as well as the rights to health education, employment and access to justice. The freedoms lie at the heart of freedom of individuals and personal autonomy.

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From the above study, it is evident that number of individuals coming up as third gender in Europe has increased significantly. This is attributed to the recent recognition by different stakeholders and the increased literature on the topic. For instance, there are numerous studies from different parts of Europe which have shown the increased demand to assess their gender. Nonetheless, although the proportion of people who are identifying themselves as third gender remains unknown in most societies, it is likely that with more research studies, the figure will be known. However, despite the existence of the various psychological theories set in place, existing psychological tools are limited and cannot provide adequate information on the topic to make informed policy implication.

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  1. Richards, C., Bouman, W. P., Seal, L., Barker, M. J., Nieder, T. O., & T’Sjoen, G. (2016). Non-binary or genderqueer genders. International Review of Psychiatry, 28(1), 95-102.
  2. Bockting, W. O. (2008). Psychotherapy and the real-life experience: From gender dichotomy to gender diversity. Sexologies, 17(4), 211-224.
  3. Starr, C. R., & Zurbriggen, E. L. (2017). Sandra Bem’s gender schema theory after 34 years: A review of its reach and impact. Sex Roles, 76(9-10), 566-578.
  4. Whitley Jr, B. E., & Kite, M. E. (2016). Psychology of prejudice and discrimination. Routledge.
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