Gender has been turned into the huge Swiss Army Knife Champ xlt of terms with a dictionary’s worth of alternative meanings. This pretty much makes it meaningless unless the person using it provides a textual and subtextual reading defining their usage of the term.
In a feminist psych class at Berkeley in 1971 I used the term “core gender identity” in a term paper. My usage was meant to describe the inner sense of self that says I am male/I am female. This was in accord with the concept of gender as being that sense of self that was made popular in Money & Ehrhardt’s “Man, Woman/Boy,Girl”. Yeah, yeah but Money was still in people’s good graces at that point.
At that point we didn’t discuss gender roles but rather sex roles.
With the reactionary right wing neo-Victorianism that resurfaced in the 1980s sex became a sort of dirty word more or less reserved for doing the nasty.
Now granted calling sex roles gender roles wasn’t all that big a leap since a lot of sex or gender role behavior is the product of socialization or teaching. But what is taught, what kids are socialized into is a time and culturally defined role deemed proper for a person with a given set of genitals.
Liberal societies have less rigid sex/gender roles than conservative ones do. Secular humanist societies have less rigid than fundamentalist religious societies.
Now where we get in trouble is when we conflate sex and gender as being virtual synonyms and thus interchangable. They aren’t. Sex is about male and female or male=man=boy/female=woman=girl. Whereas with gender we are talking in terms of masculine/feminine.
Then we get gender identity. This takes us back nearly 40 years to when I was writing about core gender identity. Here we bump smack dab into a serious philosophical difference. On the one hand you have the Cartesian, “I think therefore I am” vs the Existential “I act and through my actions I become.” the latter having a role in de Beauvoir’s “One is not born a woman, one becomes one.”
It has become popular in post-modernism to postulate that everything is a social construct. There is also a mindset that says identity trumps physical reality.
I don’t know beyond saying that over the many years I’ve come to use feminine pronouns with almost anyone who requests that I use feminine pronouns as long as their appearence isn’t such a total contradiction of those feminine pronouns as to force me to explain. Hell even then I sometimes resort to explaining why I called some one “she” with “It’s a camp gay thing and you just don’t get it.” The same is true of F to Ms except a lot of butches are touchier about being called he than sissy gay guys are of being called she.
So on one level I do believe gender is acquired. But why people acquire a gender that totally contradicts everything they are programed to acquire is a question I can’t answer.