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Nature or Nurture

The Case of the Boy Who Became a Girl


Author(s)

Keith K. Schillo
Biology Department
SUNY College at Oneonta
schillkk@oneonta.edu

Abstract

This case explores the question of whether gender identity is determined strictly by genetics (nature) or social variables (nurture).  It is based on a true story about a man who was raised as a girl and later rejected the female gender identity.  The case is designed to help students think scientifically about sex and gender and introduce them to the concept of sexual differentiation. Although developed for an undergraduate course in human anatomy and physiology as an introduction to discussions of the reproductive system, it could be used in a general biology course as a way of giving students practice with critical analysis and making predictions based on theories as well as in a developmental biology course as a way to apply information from animal models to human sex and sexuality.


Objectives

  • To present a fundamental "nature versus nurture" controversy.
  • To raise deep questions about sex and gender.
  • To provoke critical analysis of an important issue in sex research.
  • To introduce students to the concept of sexual differentiation of the brain and behavior.

Keywords

Gender; gender identity; sex; sexual differentiation; gender reassignment; David Reimer; Bruce Reimer; John Money

Topical Areas

Ethics, History of science, Scientific method, Social issues

Educational Level

Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division, Graduate, Professional (degree program), Clinical education

Format

PDF

Type / Methods

Analysis (Issues), Directed, Discussion

Language

English

Subject Headings

Physiology  |   Biology (General)  |   Genetics / Heredity  |   Psychology  |   Sociology  |   Neuroscience  |   Anthropology  |   Developmental Biology  |  


Date Posted

11/17/2011

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Comments


Darlene M.
dmitrano@gsu.edu
Neuroscience
Georgia State
Atlanta, GA
11/17/2011
Thanks so much for the case. I've presented this scenario in an ethics arena, but this is perfect for an Intro to Neuroscience class addressing Sexuality & the Brain.

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