1 introdUction Understanding Our Gender Identity: ConneCting the Personal with the Professional — tamar Jacobson — Acquiring gender identity is complex. Many different sources are involved in helping us understand what it means to be male or female— a man or a woman. Young children are strongly influenced by significant adults in their lives: mothers, fathers, siblings, grandparents, extended family members, caregivers, teachers, guardians, and neighbors. They are also shaped by forces in society, and affected by media and cultural mores. Most of my recent writing explores how feelings and life experi- ences affect teacher interactions with children in classrooms (Jacobson 2003; 2008). For this book about gender perspectives in early child- hood, quite naturally, I have been thinking about the topic of gender quite a bit of late. Specifically, I have been thinking about what it means to a woman or a man and how our gender identity affects our interac- tions with each other and the children in our care. My gender identity is a subject that causes me not a small amount of discomfort, for it is directly related to my own feelings of self-worth, self-perception, notions about my sexuality, and, even, fears of intimacy. Indeed, it exposes me to my deepest shadows and vulnerabilities. It is at the very core of my being, the foundation of who I am, and how I inter- act with the world—personally and professionally. My gender identity