Genes and Hormones: What Make Up an Individual’s Sex

Part of the Crossroads of Knowledge book series (CROKNOW, volume 1)


The twentieth century has assisted the conceptual and practical separation of the terms sex and gender so as to have better tools to address what are considered biological factors versus social factors. The biological construction of sex has delved deeper into the body, beyond the mere genitals, to expose not only reproductive organs and gonads but also molecular components such as hormones, chromosomes, and genes. Since the scientific “discovery” of the sex chromosomes, XY and XX have become quickly adopted as canonic markers of biological sex, while at the same time it has been conceded that biological sex does not produce uniform gender identity. In this chapter I will be looking at some of the components of the biological construction of sex, such as hormones and molecular genetics.

Since the beginning of the discipline of endocrinology, there has been debate about the gendered nature of hormones themselves. The “sex hormones” continue to be referred to as such in clinical practice, largely due to their role in reproduction and development, despite their multiple non-gender-specific regulatory roles. The construction of hormones and genes on one hand shifts the biological locus of sex from chromosomes to a molecular level and on the other hand creates a context-driven medicalization of gender.


Gender Identity Female Body Gender Dysphoria Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome Gender Body 
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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of BolognaBolognaItaly

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