nice thread! this may or may not be totally coherent b/c i may or may not be more than half a sleep right now, but here goes. gender is totally a cultural thing. activities and preferences that are associated with being masculine or feminine arbitrary. things that are considered "masculine" or "feminine" can change over time, or be assigned to different gender categories by different cultural groups.
the simplest example i can think of here is the "pink is for girls, blue is for boys" convention. there's no reason why a person should have innate attraction to these colors based on their sex. children are rewarded positively for modeling "gender appropriate" behavior and so often comply with convention. even children of gender neutral parents will receive positive feedback for modeling gendered behavior at school and around friends.
the "pink/blue" dichotomy did not emerge until the mid 20th century. before then powdered blue was the color for little girls and red was the color for little boys! pretty much the opposite as it is now. you can see this in early disney heroines like alice & sleeping beauty with their powder blue gowns.
i'm fascinated (and dismayed!) by the extent commercial enterprise now informs our personal concepts of gender. i think there may have been more rationality to gender concepts in the past, but now with television & mass media, people over wide distances can see the same definition of gender roles.
when it first hit the market, marlboro was a brand marketed as feminine & for women. later the company took a U-turn and decided to market their product at men creating the familiar marlboro man/cowboy killer imagery. there's NO reason why a cigarette should be feminine or masculine, but the campaign worked, resurrected a fading company, and created a lasting image of a "masculine" product.
jsmith, you mentioned a continuum of gender. have you ever read about alfred kinsey?
also, this american life produced a fascinating show where they interview two transgender children and their parents. it's fascinating to hear the children describe struggling with gender-identity at such a young age, as well as how their communities and parents react.
so, sorry for being a gigantic nerd.
i love this topic & really did pare down what i had to say.
Well I think you have defined it in better manner..Bit old thread but really like your opinion..