The True Story of Joan/John

There is a fine line between sex and gender. In fact, most probably do not even know that there is even difference between the two! People just assume a boy should act like a boy and a girl should act like a girl. Society forces us to think and behave that way. If you think about it when a baby girl is born everything is pink, but not all girls love the color pink. Society shapes the role of each child based on its biological sex. What happens if you do not behave like your sex is supposed to behave? In the article, “The True Story of Joan/John,” Joan does not act like the female that her surrounding pushed on her to be.
This article tells the story of a man who goes through a long journey of finding himself. John was born male, and then through complications was told he was a female and now he indentifies himself as a male. I cannot comprehend how traumatic these gender and sex changes were on his life. In this one situation it shows how John, who was always told he was a girl, still behaved a like a male because in reality at birth he was. This example makes me think that society plays a part in deciding your gender and who you are. However, John was pushed to behave like a girl. He never did, he wanted to play with the stereotypical “boy” toys like trucks.
Is it possible that your biological sex can determine your gender? Social constructionist is not totally correct or accurate. There are girls that are tomboys and boys that gay or just super feminine. Society cannot always push people in the route that they want them in. A majority of times when an individual, like John, does not conform to society they are ridiculed. Harassment can have many effects and sometimes the effect is not to conform them but it can be as serious as suicide. Society interrupts a child’s growth and individuality. In the case of Joan / John, he was living a “double life”.

He knew at a very young age that something was wrong. He didn’t like being put in dresses or playing with dolls. “Joan” just wasn’t performing like other females her age and just about everyone was noticing that. Social constructionism is pushing John to behave differently than how he wants to behave. In a way society was disturbing his normal growth as a child by changing who he thought he was, his gender identity. In the end, he knew he was a male, which relates back to gender essentialism. Dr. Money definitely took advantage of John’s parents by giving them false knowledge.
John’s parents were so uninformed about everything that was going on with John’s situation. Dr. Money was a very strict social constructionist that believed if he told John he was a female then he would be a female. How could Dr. Money, a doctor, think that telling a child that it is a specific sex and that it would grow up believing and acting like that sex? Things just don’t work like that. I think genes and your sex have a big part in identifying your gender. Each situation for each child is so incredibly different I find it too extraordinary that society and environment could change the identity of a person.
I do not think that gender essentialism or social constructionism is the way, but a balance in between the two. Gender essentialism and social constructionism challenge each other. The two are the extremes of reality. A balance between the two is how people live each and every day. In the situation of John, his life shows a journey through all three ways, gender essentialism, social constructionism and reality. Dr. Money believed in social constructionism, but while John was told he was a female he showed his belief in gender essentialism. He ignored people because he “knew” something was not right and that he should be a male.
Now he lives his life as a male but in what I call “reality”. He listens to society in some ways but he focuses on being a father and that to him is what a male is, a father. The article challenges the two opposing beliefs because no one knows the correct answer. Each person and situation is different. Maybe for some the theory of gender essentialism will push them to be who they truly are, while for others it may be society, the theories of social constructionism. For the rest it is reality, a combination of the two. Works Cited Colapinto, John. ““The True Story of Joan/John”. ” Rolling Stone 11 Dec. 1997: 54-97. Print.

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