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Are any socially defined group identities biologically determined?

According to the free dictionary, the notion of Identity stands for a group of characteristics which confer the uniqueness of an individual. In the society, there are notions of social identities which distinguish individuals among a group from the others belonging to different appurtenances according to their behavior or particulars. These social identities are defined as gender, sexual orientation, stigmatized groups, ethnic or religious affiliations. To explain the differences that arise among these various entities, there are two approaches that are found: Essentialism and Social construction. 1. Gender From birth, the gender is already determined by the various sex chromosomes. The Y chromosome, being the only element which determines whether the new born will be a boy or a girl. The attribution of this chromosome occurs genetically and one cannot predict before a child is born whether or not he will be a girl or a boy. Many studies have been performed to understand gender differences in cognition, behavior, academic performance and so on. Their main objective was to understand the role of prenatal hormones on human brain changes and its impact on behavioral aptitudes. Although the results obtained from rats, birds and primates failed to be directly correlated to humans (Hess, 1990, p100 of the Fetal fork); some insights can be taken into account. This assertion is also supported by Baron-Cohen, (2005) who said that the level of prenatal testosterone is likely to reflect the social behavior of the future child. Indeed, an upsurge of testosterone level will lead to lesser eye contact of the child and slow language development.

2. Race The second group identity we will take a look at is Race. Race is a major concept as many societies worldwide used race to classify their population. Mostly based on external features such as skin color and/or face pattern, a human being can be attached to one of the following racial groups: White, Black, Asians. The physical characteristics of each racial group are inherited from ancestors and therefore only genetic is responsible for the particular phenotypes observed. Whether there are any differences among persons from two distinct races has always been a source of polemic. As, from the grouping of citizens according to their race arose racism.

3. Sexual orientation As explained by Baron-Cohen, (2005) prenatal testosterone is likely to reflect the social behavior of the future child. But can sexual orientation like social behavior be biologically determined? Up to date, there are no studies that have shown a clear relationship between someones sexual orientation and his biological patterns. As the interest towards a person from same or different sex has not yet been linked to any genes nor hormones. The ability for hetero-, bi- and homosexual to choose their partners are the same (Holloway, 2005, p. 407). We believe this choice depends merely and solely on each individual. Several factors such as the environment where one lives can also further affect the sexual orientation.

4. Disability As fourth point of focus, we will take a look at disability. According to the definition given by WHO, disability refers to an interaction between features of a persons body and features of the society in which he or she lives. This definition of WHO is more likely to follow the social model of disability as explained by Holloway, (2005, p. 404) in which lack or poor societal norms account for the negligence of people physically impaired. Thus social construction is held responsible for the disability of a group of persons mostly because of lack of appropriate care from the society. Also, physical impaired individuals are sometimes considered as half-persons because of their features.

Conclusion In conclusion, we can say that biological factors can shape group identities but societal and cultural norms must also be taken into account.

References From the Fetal fork, as mentioned in the document. Brizendine, 2007. PP 36, 37 and 38. Hess, 1990. P. 81 Baron-Cohen, S., 2005. The Male condition. The New York Times. Available from www.nytimes.com. -Haslanger, M. Gender and Social Construction: Who? What? When? Where? How? Pp 17-23. -Holloway, S., 2005. Chapter 29 Identity and difference: Age, Dis /ability and Sexuality. Pp 401409. Knopp, 1990; Valentines, 1993; Parr and Buttler, 1999 Holloway, (2005).