Identity formation refers to the development of the distinctive personality of a person regarded as personal continuity within a specific stage in life, whereby individual traits are possessed and by which an individual is recognized or known. Identity formation defines an individual to others and themselves. On the other hand, identity is the distinct character that a given person has, or a distinguishing character shared by all members of a specific social group (Bray 12). This essay will be analyzing gender identity as one of the factors in identity formation. A gender identity is the sense of an individual being a male of a female and primarily entails acceptance of membership within a specific group of individuals: a man or a woman.
Generally, fundamental gender identity is normally developed by the age of 3. . Societies have a set of gender groups that serve as the foundation of the formation of a social identity in relation to other societal members. Generally, most societies have a fundamental division between gender traits allocated to males and females. Nonetheless, within all societies, some individuals do not identify with the gender that is allocated to their biological sex (Lipton 32-34). It is an open question why the gender identities of some individuals conform or do not conform to the common model, whereas other people might not identify with any of the provided gender classifications. According to the gender role theory, children learn the suitable behaviors and attitudes from the family and the general culture they grow up with, and therefore, non-physical gender variations result from socialization. The social role theory implies that the social system is the fundamental force for the gender differences and, therefore, the social structure plays a role in determining gender identity (Hasan 22-25).
The film, Boys Don't Cry is a good example of gender identity. Teena Brandon is a young woman who has gender identity crisis. She dresses and shaves her hair like a man in order to look like a man, yet she is a woman. This film is about seeking identity and not only gender identity but the search for deeper self. In the film, all the characters were lost as well as confused, but only Brandon recognized and understood herself. Other characters are generally playing out their hopeless lives while attempting not to think of who or what they are: they are not concerned in finding their identity. When Brandon decides to reveal her true identity, the others are so shaken and shocked and this makes them confront their weak identities too (Kimberly 1-2).
Basically, this film illustrates certain aspects of gender identity, where some people are trapped in a gender they do not want. Brandon dresses, behaves and works hard like a boy. She tries to posses all the traits associated with males (Kimberly 1-2). In particular, the way, she works hard because she pretends herself to be a boy, indicates that men in American society are expected to work harder as opposed to women (Judith 18). The society expects specific genders to go through their respective rituals, rites, and without social sanction and posses the characters that will prove their respective identity. That is why Brandon was so keen to prove his identity as a boy through doing and following the societal norms that formed male identity (Ann 4-6).
Biological aspects that can have an influence on gender identity consist of hormone levels and gene regulation as well. Social elements that can have an influence on gender identity consist of messages put across by the family, media in addition to other institutions. In addition, social learning theory also has an influence on one’s gender (Myers 20). The social learning theory presumes that children develop their gender identity by observing and copying behaviors associated with certain gender and then being rewarded or punished for behaving in that manner. In other cases, for instance, the case of Brandon in the film Boys Don't Cry, an individual’s gender identity can be inconsistent with their biological sex traits and this leads to such people dressing or behaving in a manner that is seen by other people as being outside cultural gender customs (Ann 5-8).
Furthermore, in gender identity, self identity means how an individual understands the way other people perceive him or her. Gender identity doesn’t just refer to placing of an individual into the classifications of a male or a female: gender identity also consists of the interaction concept with the society at whole. A good example of this is Krakauer (15) where in his book “Into the Wild”, Christopher McCandless who is a youthful and a skillful man from a well up family abandons his past life and all the personal identity everyone knew him by and disappeared from the lives of his family members and friends as well. Seemingly, McCandless had been angry with his parents and other people for a long time, the reason he decided to disappear from everybody he knew before (Krakauer 20).
The reason of McCandless’ behavior is the society where he grew up and was a societal member, he never felt like he belonged to it. As a result, he could not identify with it and so he chose to abandon it and his past life and venture into a new life, where he could possibly find the identity he never had (Robert 85-86). This is the reason why he went ahead and abandoned even his name because he wanted to live his past forever. In the story, he is portrayed as dirty and some women even think she might have contributed to his disappearance, when he told him to take a shower. Obviously, McCandless felt alone, without identity and he had to seek an identity that could fit him in his own ways; an identity that would satisfy him and where he could get a sense of belonging (Krakauer 5).
From my personal experience, my identity is still a mystery. There are a few things regarding myself that I do not know. Sometimes I am happy and lively, other times I am serious. Every person I have met knows me in a different way. At times, I behave and think the way other people want me to, while other times I assert my beliefs and do things my way. It feels bad when I realize that at times I am a captive trapped by my own self. Sometimes I am not so sure who the real me is, because I keep portraying different identities depending on different people and circumstances. As a result, I am currently doing some soul searching to get to know my real traits and thus find my identity (Myers 1-2).
Finding one’s identity is important to an individual, because it proves his/her existence. Therefore, as much as knowing and establishing one’s identity can take long, it is worthwhile. Our names are our primary identity and thus each person has the present and the future to cultivate it more and get to discover something that is hidden within us. Discovering one’s identity is fulfillment in life. The reason individuals make any effort is to discover their own personality and strive to realize themselves. As for the gender identity, it comes with gender roles, whereby there are set social and behavioral standards that are perceived as socially suitable for people of a particular sex within the context of a particular culture.