Intrinsic Inclinations

Last Updated: December 23, 2019

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Definition - What does Intrinsic Inclinations mean?

Intrinsic inclinations are the natural and subconscious tendencies people have to understand express their sexuality and gender identities. These tendencies, along with the influence of culture and socializing with other people, contribute to the eventual way people understand and express these parts of themselves. The term was coined by trans activist Julia Serano in her 2007 book "Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity."

Kinkly explains Intrinsic Inclinations

According to the intrinsic inclinations theory, we all have our own inclinations about our gender, sex, and expression of these. These internal ideas and impulses may align with what is accepted or taught in society, but they may also be separate or subversive. For example, someone may have an intrinsic inclination that they are a boy, even if they physically appear as a girl, and are, therefore, told they are a girl by physicians and parents.

The concept of intrinsic inclinations is an alternative to other theories on gender identity and expression, including gender essentialism and social constructionist theories. However, Serano believes all theories may play a part in influencing our understanding and expression of our gender and sexuality.

Our intrinsic inclinations tend to remain constant through our lives, Serano says. They do not change with socialization. In other words, while socialization may cause us to act in a certain way at different points in our lives, being more sexually reserved with some partners and less reserved with others, for example, our intrinsic inclination to behave sexually one way or another will be more constant.

It’s important to note that the concept of intrinsic inclinations and how they contribute to gender and sexual identity and expression was not published in an academic journal, and never subject to a review by Serano’s peers. However, she offers several pieces of evidence that support her views. For example, she writes of boys with genital defects who receive surgery as infants that makes them appear as female and they are raised as girls, yet have a strong sense that they are, in fact, male. This phenomenon suggests that an individual's intrinsic inclination may be at least as powerful as socialization when determining one's gender identity.

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