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Is your child a “prehomosexual”? Forecasting adult sexual orientation

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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There are signs, some would say omens, glimmering in certain children’s demeanors that, probably ever since there were children, have caused parents’ brows to crinkle with worry, precipitated forced conversations with nosy mothers-in-law, strained marriages and ushered untold numbers into the deep covenant of sexual denial. We all know the stereotypes: an unusually light, delicate, effeminate air in a little boy’s step, often coupled with solitary bookishness, or a limp wrist, an interest in dolls, makeup, princesses, dresses and a staunch distaste for rough play with other boys; in little girls, there is the outwardly boyish stance, perhaps a penchant for tools, a lumbering gait, a square-jawed readiness for physical tussles with boys, an aversion to all the perfumed, delicate, laced trappings of femininity.

So let’s get down to brass tacks. It’s what these behaviors signal to parents about their child’s incipient sexuality that makes them so undesirable—these behavioral patterns are feared, loathed and often spoken of directly as harbingers of adult homosexuality.

However, it is only relatively recently that developmental scientists have conducted controlled studies with one clear aim in mind, which is to go beyond mere stereotypes and accurately identity the most reliable signs of later homosexuality. In looking carefully at the childhoods of now-gay adults, researchers are finding an intriguing set of early behavioral indicators that homosexuals seem to have in common. And, curiously enough, the age-old homophobic fears of parents seem to have some genuine predictive currency.

In their technical writings, researchers in this area simply refer to pint-sized prospective gays and lesbians as “prehomosexual.” This term isn’t perfect—it manages to achieve both an uncomfortable air of biological determinism and clinical interventionism simultaneously. But it is, at least, probably fairly accurate.

Although not the first scientists to investigate the earliest antecedents of same-sex attraction, J. Michael Bailey, a psychologist from Northwestern University, and Canadian psychiatrist Kenneth Zucker published the seminal paper on childhood markers of homosexuality with their controversial 1995 review article in Developmental Psychology . The explicit aim of this paper, according to the authors, “was to review the evidence concerning the possible association between childhood sex-typed behavior and adult sexual orientation.” So one thing to keep in mind is that this particular work isn’t about identifying the causes of homosexuality, per se, but instead it’s about indexing the childhood correlates of same-sex attraction. In other words, nobody is disputing the genetic factors underlying adult homosexuality or the well-established prenatal influences; but the present work is orthogonal to those causal models. Instead, it is simply meant to index the nonerotic behavioral clues that best predict which children are most likely to be attracted, as adults, to those of the same sex, and which are not.

By “sex-typed behaviors,” Bailey and Zucker are referring to that long, now scientifically canonical, list of innate sex differences in the behaviors of young males versus young females. In innumerable studies, scientists have documented that these sex differences are largely impervious to learning and found in every culture examined (even, some researchers believe, in youngsters of other primate species). Now before that argumentative streak in you starts whipping up exceptions to the rule—obviously there is variance both between and within individual children—I hasten to add that it’s only when comparing the aggregate data that sex differences leap into the stratosphere of statistical significance. The most salient among these differences are observed in the domain of play. Boys engage in what developmental psychologists refer to as “rough-and-tumble play,” which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like, whereas girls shy away from wrestling and play-fighting, instead preferring the company of dolls to a knee in the ribs.

In fact, toy interests are another key sex difference, with boys gravitating towards things like toy machine guns and monster trucks and girls orienting towards neotenous dolls and hyperfeminized figurines. Young children of both sexes enjoy fantasy—or pretend—play, but the roles that the two sexes take on within the fantasy context are already clearly gender-segregated by as early as two years of age, with girls enacting the role of, say, cooing mothers, ballerinas or fairy princesses and boys strongly preferring more masculine characters, such as soldiers and superheroes. Not surprisingly, therefore, boys naturally select other boys for playmates, and girls would much rather play with other girls than with boys.

So on the basis of some earlier, shakier research, along with a good dose of common sense, Bailey and Zucker hypothesized that homosexuals would show an inverted pattern of sex-typed childhood behaviors (little boys preferring girls as playmates and infatuated with their mothers’ make-up kits; little girls strangely enamoured by field hockey or professional wrestling…that sort of thing). Empirically, explain the authors, there are two ways to investigate the relation between sex-typed behaviors and later sexual orientation. The first of these is to use a prospective method, in which young children displaying sex-atypical patterns are followed longitudinally into adolescence and early adulthood, such that the individual’s sexual orientation can be assessed at reproductive maturity. Usually this is done by using something like the famous Kinsey Scale, which involves a semistructured clinical interview about sexual behavior and sexual fantasies to rate people on a scale of 0 (exclusively heterosexual) to 6 (exclusively homosexual). I’m a solid 6; I often say that I wanted to get out of a vagina at one point in my life, but ever since then I’ve never had the slightest interest in going back into one.

Conducting prospective studies of this sort is not terribly practical, explain Bailey and Zucker, for several reasons. First, given that only about 10 percent of the population is homosexual, a rather large number of prehomosexuals are needed to obtain a sufficient sample size of eventually gay adults, and this would require a huge oversampling of children just in case some turn out gay. Second, a longitudinal study tracking the sexuality of children into late adolescence takes a long time—around sixteen years—so the prospective approach is very slow-going. Finally, and perhaps the biggest problem with prospective homosexuality studies, not a lot of parents are likely to volunteer their children. Rightly or wrongly, this is a sensitive topic, and usually it’s only children who present significant sex-atypical behaviors—such as those with gender identity disorder—that are brought into clinics and whose cases are made available to researchers.

For example, in a 2008 issue of Developmental Psychology, University of Toronto psychologist Kelley Drummond and her colleagues interviewed 25 adult women who, as children between 3-12 years of age, were referred by their parents for assessment at a mental health clinic. At the time, all of these girls had several diagnostic indicators of gender identity disorder. They might have strongly preferred male playmates, insisted on wearing boys’ clothing, favored rough-and-tumble play over dolls and dress-up, stated that they would eventually grow a penis, or refused to urinate in a sitting position. As adults, however, only 12 percent of these women grew up to be gender dysphoric (the uncomfortable sense that one’s biological sex does not match one’s gender identity). Rather, the women’s childhood histories were much more predictive of their adult sexual orientation. In fact, the researchers found that the odds of these women reporting a bisexual/homosexual orientation was up to 23 times higher than would normally occur in a general sample of young women. Not all “tomboys” become lesbians, of course, but these data do suggest that lesbians often have a history of cross-sex-typed behaviors.

And the same holds for gay men. In their 1995 report, Bailey and Kenneth Zucker revealed that, in retrospective studies (the second method used to examine the relation between childhood behavior and adult sexual orientation, in which adults simply answer questions about their childhoods) 89 percent of randomly sampled gay men recalled cross-sex-typed childhood behaviors exceeding the heterosexual median. Some critics have questioned the general retrospective approach, arguing that participants’ memories (both those of gay and straight individuals) may be distorted to fit with societal expectations and stereotypes about what gays and straights are like as children. But in a rather clever recent study published in a 2008 issue of Developmental Psychology by Northwestern University’s Gerulf Rieger and his colleagues, evidence from childhood home videos validated the retrospective method by having people blindly code child targets on the latter’s sex-typical behaviors, as shown on the screen. The authors found that, “those targets who, as adults, identified themselves as homosexual were judged to be gender nonconforming as children.”

Numerous studies have since replicated this general pattern of findings, all revealing a strong link between childhood deviations from gender role norms and adult sexual orientation. There is also evidence of a “dosage effect”: the more gender nonconforming characteristics there are in childhood, the more likely it is that a homosexual/bisexual orientation will be present in adulthood.

But—and I know you’ve been waiting for me to say this—there are several very important caveats to this body of work. Although gender-atypical behavior in childhood is strongly correlated with adult homosexuality, it is still an imperfect correlation. Not all little boys who like to wear dresses grow up to be gay, nor do all little girls who despise dresses become lesbians. Speaking for myself, I was rather androgynous, showing a mosaic pattern of sex-typical and atypical behaviors as a child. In spite of my parents’ preferred theory that I was simply a young Casanova, Zucker and Bailey’s findings may account for that old Polaroid snapshot in which 11 of the 13 other children at my seventh birthday party are little girls. But I also wasn’t an overly effeminate child, was never bullied as a “sissy,” and by the time I was ten I was indistinguishably as annoying, uncouth and wired as my close male peers.

In fact, by thirteen, I was already deeply socialized into masculine social norms; in this case, I took to middle school wrestling as a rather scrawny eighty-pound eighth grader, and in so doing I ironically became all too conscious indeed of my homosexual orientation. Intriguingly, cross-cultural data published by Fernando Luiz Cardoso of Santa Catarina State University in a 2008 issue of Archives of Sexual Behavior showed that young prehomosexual males are attracted to solitary sports, such as swimming, cycling, or tennis, over rougher contact sports, such as football or soccer—and also that they are less likely to be childhood bullies. I distinctly recall being with the girls on the monkey bars during second grade recess while the boys were in the field playing football, thinking to myself that that was rather strange.

Another caveat is that researchers in this area readily concede that there are probably multiple—and no doubt very complicated—developmental routes to adult homosexuality. Heritable, biological factors interact with environmental experiences to produce phenotypic outcomes, and this is no less true for sexual orientation than it is for any other within-population variable. Since the prospective and retrospective data discussed in the foregoing studies often reveal very early emerging traits in prehomosexuals, however, those children who show pronounced sex-atypical behaviors may have “more” of a genetic loading to their homosexuality, whereas gay adults who were sex-typical as children might trace their homosexuality more directly to particular childhood experiences. For example, in a rather stunning case of what I’ll call “say-it-isn’t-so science”—science that produces data that rebel against popular, politically correct, or emotionally appealing sentiments—controversial new findings published earlier this year in the Archives of Sexual Behavior hint intriguingly that men—but not women—who were sexually abused as children are significantly more likely than non-abused males to have had homosexual relationships as adults. Whatever the causal route, however, none of this implies, whatsoever, that sexual orientation is a choice. In fact it implies quite the opposite, since prepubertal erotic experiences can later consolidate into irreversible sexual orientations and preferences, as I discussed in a previous piece on the childhood origins of fetishes and paraphilias.

It is fashionable these days to say that one is “born gay,” of course, but if we think about it a bit more critically, it’s a bit odd, and probably nonsensical, to refer to a newborn infant, swaddled in blankets and still suckling on its mother’s teats, as being homosexual. I appreciate the anti-discriminatory motives, but if we insist on using such politically correct parlance without consideration of more complex, postnatal developmental factors, are we really prepared to label newborns as being LGBT?

Then we arrive at the most important question of all. Why do parents worry so much about whether their child may or may not be gay? You might not be one of these fretful parents—in fact you might like to see yourself as being indifferent to your child’s sexuality so long as he or she is happy. I don’t suppose this is entirely untrue for many. Then again, all else being equal, I suspect we’d be hard-pressed to find parents that would actually prefer their offspring to be homosexual rather than heterosexual. Evolutionarily, needless to say, parental homophobia is a no-brainer: gay sons and lesbian daughters aren’t likely to reproduce (unless they get creative). And I would imagine, on a viable hunch, that even in today’s most liberally-minded communities, coming out of the closet to parents is a much easier thing to do for gay individuals who have the luxury of demonstrably straight siblings who can carry their own reproductive weight. As fo rme, with a breeding older brother and sister—not to each other, mind you—and their little respective litters of nieces and nephews, my father at least doesn’t have to worry about his genes going extinct. In any event, I think it’s far better for parents to recognize the source of their concerns about having a gay child as being motivated by unconscious genetic interests than it is to have them fibbing to themselves about being entirely indifferent to their son or daughter “turning out” gay.

And, bear this in mind parents, it’s also important to stress that since genetic success is weighed in evolutionary biological terms as the relative percentage of one’s genes that carry over into subsequent generations—rather than simply number of offspring per se—there are other, though typically less profitable, ways for your child to contribute to your overall genetic success than humdrum sexual reproduction. For example, I don’t know how much money or residual fame is trickling down to, say, k.d. lang, Elton John and Rachel Maddow’s close relatives, but I can only imagine that these straight kin are far better off in terms of their own reproductive opportunities than they would be without a homosexual dangling so magnificently on their family trees. The very thought of making love to a blood relative of Michelangelo or Hart Crane, irrespective of anything else about that person save his heritage, makes me strangely and instantly aroused—and I’d imagine such a person would be eminently desirable to heterosexually fecund women as well. So here’s my message: Cultivate your little prehomosexual’s native talents and your ultimate genetic payoff could, strangely enough, be even larger with one very special gay child than it would if ten mediocre straight offspring leapt from your loins.

There’s one final thing to note, and that’s in reference to the future of this research and its real-world applications. If researchers eventually perfect the forecasting of adult sexual orientation in children, what are the implications? Should broadminded mothers be insouciantly describing their OshKosh B’Gosh-wearing toddlers as “bi-” or fathers relaying how their “straight” daughters started eating solid food or took their first steps at the grocery store today? Would parents want to know? Parents often say to their gay children, in retrospect, “I knew it all along.” But hindsight is twenty-twenty, and here we’re talking about the possibility of really, definitively, no-doubt-about-it, knowing your child is going to be gay from a very, very early age.

I’m not a parent, but I can say as a once-prehomosexual that perhaps some preparation on the part of others would have made it easier on me, rather than constantly fearing rejection or worrying about some sloppy slip-up leading to my “exposure.” It would have at least avoided all of those awkward, incessant questions during my teenage years about why I wasn’t dating a nice pretty girl (or questions from the nice pretty girl about why I was dating her and not doing anything about it.)

And another thing: it must be pretty hard to look into your prehomosexual toddler’s limpid eyes, brush away the cookie crumbs from her cheek, and kick her out of the house for being gay.  

In this column presented by Scientific American Mind magazine, research psychologist Jesse Bering of Queen’s University Belfast ponders some of the more obscure aspects of everyday human behavior. Sign up for the RSS feed, visit, friend Dr. Bering on Facebook or follow @JesseBering on Twitter and never miss an installment again. For articles published prior to September 29, 2009, click here: older Bering in Mind columns. Jesse’s first book, The Belief Instinct (Norton) [The God Instinct (Nicholas Brealey) in the U.K.], will be published early February, 2011.

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  1. 1. 101flyboy 10:47 pm 09/18/2010

    Honey, please. For starters, let’s not play the "I have gay friends" line. That gets old really quick. You don’t truly have gay friends if you think being gay is undesirable and wrong, which you clearly do. And the fact you would love your son less if he were gay proves this. Get help and redirect him? No, sorry, playing drill sergeant won’t actually do much more than teach him that being gay is wrong, and that real men are straight, and that’s what he needs to be. You likely just brainwashed him into being a masculine repressed gay/bisexual man. Or he was straight all along and will likely be the homophobe you are today. You also seem to believe that masculinity is somehow "better" than femininity, and really, do you think putting gas in a car makes you a man or is an indicator of heterosexuality? Uh, yeah, nothing much really to say. Congratulations, I’m sure your happy with your new and improved designer child.

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  2. 2. 101flyboy 10:53 pm 09/18/2010

    Abnormal behavior? Hmmmmm. We can say heterosexuality is "normal", but is normal the standard we are all supposed to live by? Plenty of things can be considered "abnormal", but that certainly doesn’t make them any more or less deficient. In fact, what’s normal for some, isn’t normal for others.

    As far as your other points, reduced life expectancy and misery for all gay people? ALL gay people aren’t miserable, but the ones who hate themselves for who they are, and the main reason why the life expectancy rate is lower, is because of the suicide rate, almost solely caused by homophobia. Like yours. You know, hearing how abnormal and disordered you are, just for being who you are, gets pretty taxing on even the strongest of individuals.

    And if you think the only purpose or positive in this entire grand scheme of things is to make a baby? Sucks to be you, then. I tend to think that there is more to life than that. In fact, I think most people do. Yeah.

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  3. 3. 101flyboy 10:58 pm 09/18/2010

    Invented? No, honey, it wasn’t invented just to boost the numbers to feel more "normal". Actually, try Kinsey. And, you know, what you think about the credibility of any study on this subject is sort of irrelevant. Since you think homosexual orientation is a birth defect. So, of course you don’t believe anything that isn’t slanted to fit your myopic homophobic line of thinking. No-one expected differently.

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  4. 4. 101flyboy 11:15 pm 09/18/2010

    For the people who say "10% is too high." The truth is, gay/lesbian folk aren’t identifiable by just looking at them. So there is your first problem. Secondly, a large (and sadly probably most) gay/lesbian folk are in the closet with their sexuality. Think Ted Haggard. Thirdly, a even larger chunk of men/women who are truly gay/lesbian do not identify as such although they engage in homosexual sex. If you think you will find a completely assured detailed modern study on the absolute exact number on the percentage of gay/lesbian folk in society, you will come up empty in results.

    Anyway, this article sort of annoys me a bit. Pre-homosexual is about as loaded a term as it gets. It sort of comes off as if homosexuality is a choice and you can catch and cure it before it becomes a solid part of a persons’ psyche. Secondly, the whole picking and prodding into why people are gay or not seems sort of ridiculous to me. It’s sort of cold, I understand it’s important science and there are questions needing answers, but it’s like "gay" is a freakish and ultra-clinical thing instead of just a normal functioning part of every day life. It’s like gay/lesbian folk are some question that heterosexuals are here to crack. Like a test. I wish we could get to the point where people can just be people, and we wouldn’t need to ask these sorts of questions.

    Thirdly, and most important, Zucker/Bailey have a questionable background regarding this issue in terms of general opinion of their views, and also some backlash with LGBT groups, so using them as an indicator of assurance is a little sketchy. And this article in general doesn’t really seem like much more than an opinion piece. So casting it as completely valid scientific fact is not accurate. Especially considering the potential (and already seen) negative response that follows this.

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  5. 5. cheap p90x 12:02 am 09/19/2010

    can you be more specific about what you’re referring to in this article?

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  6. 6. cheap p90x 12:03 am 09/19/2010

    Why is Scientific American resorting to publishing material that references deranged, imbecilic, irrational nonsense?
    <a href=>p90x dvds</a>

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  7. 7. carlitoernesto 4:05 am 09/19/2010

    Jesse, although I don’t always agree with you,

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  8. 8. carlitoernesto 4:33 am 09/19/2010

    It is disturbing how so many people seem to have misunderstood the main message altogether.

    Jesse, I’m quite a fan of your blog, and while I don’t agree with everything you write (e.g. 10% estimate), you do make very good points.

    What some commenters get wrong:
    1) That the science in this post is all but completely false and of no use.
    –I assume people who assert this may have no background at all in critically reviewing journals and scientific papers. I can understand that the data and conclusions drawn must be limited, but to say altogether that this article contains no legitimate and testable science in it is just plainly stupid.
    2) That the nature of stereotypes is intrinsically bad.
    –for those who believe this go read The Psychology of Stereotyping by DAVID J. SCHNEIDER.
    3) That studies and papers on sexuality (e.g. Archives of Sexual Behavior, Journal of Sex Research, Journal of Homosexuality…) should not be publicized since a few conservatives will use this for advancing more prejudice and discrimination.
    –disallowing active conversation and exchange of ideas certainly ain’t gonna help. Many of the papers Jesse refers to require special access (e.g. university password) and he is actually doing commendable service to the public by disseminating information with little hint of bias.

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  9. 9. markpeaty 9:33 am 09/19/2010

    Zoe Brain, spot on!

    wageslave, you’re trolling of course … ?

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  10. 10. markpeaty 9:41 am 09/19/2010

    Thank you Jesse.

    Thank you Zoe Brain,

    and wageslave is a troll, right?

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  11. 11. Granny 11:56 am 09/19/2010

    How tiresome.

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  12. 12. Granny 11:57 am 09/19/2010

    How tiresome. More objectivity, please.

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  13. 13. charles_tow 1:16 pm 09/19/2010

    @Granny: Go back to bed. By "objectivity" I assume you wanted Jesse to endorse some religious antigay propaganda?

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  14. 14. Sahars Morning 2:49 pm 09/19/2010

    Reflecting on my newly ordained redneck homophobic brother -who at the age of 6 – told me I too could become a boy and then be allowed to play with boys only if I ate the rotten spots on fruit…..after trying to convince me sticking a knitting needle in an electric outlet would get rid of my freckles my mother was unsuccessful at bleaching away.

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  15. 15. CollegeMom 8:23 pm 09/19/2010

    @101flyboy- I appreciate the questions and comments you brought up in response to my story of how 14 years ago my 4-year-old son started showing prehomosexual behavior, and how we redirected it. (My story was posted as a comment on 9/17/10 at 8:09 am.)

    You suggested that perhaps I had used "drill sergeant" techniques on my son. No, in our situation there was no humiliation or belittling. The psychologist who guided us had experience in gender identity disorders, and helped us find loving and sensitive ways to redirect my son’s behavior. Before hiring the therapist, I had interviewed him to see what kind of philosophy he had. I knew that harshness would not be effective. After I found out that my parenting style had to be modified, the change was so gradual and gentle that today my son doesn’t remember his old behaviors. The psychologist helped us role play situations we were likely to face and taught us how to calmly refocus my son on activities he really loved doing. I gave a few examples in my story. There are also books on the subject that gave me ideas.

    I agree that giving my son the "boy-only" privilege of filling the gas tank sounds silly to an adult. I don’t blame you for laughing. But for a child to learn how to swipe a credit card, and have the responsibility to enter the zip code, select the grade, and operate a gas pump is really cool. He loved it! I suppose other families would have chosen something else. I think it depends on the kid’s personal likes and dislikes.

    On the next comment, you asked if I consider masculinity to be better than femininity. No, I consider them to be equal.

    Finally, you suggested that I had "brainwashed" my son and created a "designer child." No, my son isn’t a perfect "designer" anything. He is just a happy, laid back 18-year old. He doesn’t experience suicidal thoughts, depression, substance abuse, and the like. He respects other people. I think most mothers want a happy kid (although I realize some mothers are psychologically unbalanced and do not). What you call "brainwashing," I call good basic parenting.

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  16. 16. 101flyboy 10:13 pm 09/19/2010

    Good basic parenting? Is that what they call it these days? I tend, and I think may agree, to call it brainwashing. You know, what I said previously. Because that’s essentially what you did. Brainwash your child into believing that he being more feminine than the "average" guy is somehow a mark against his character. The truth is, you had an image of what your son would be, and when you noticed that he didn’t fit that image, you went to a professional homophobe/transphobe, who justified your own homophobia/transphobia. You didn’t care one iota of your son’s likes or dislikes when you went to get him therapy because you thought he was sick. Credit cards and zip codes are something entirely different than telling a boy to pump gas because men do that, and implying if he doesn’t enjoy it he’s less of a man. I’m not even laughing about it, because it’s actually quite sad to read something like that coming from another adult. And really, from what you have posted, this was about you from the beginning, and yeah, he may be "happy", or at least you think he is. But that certainly doesn’t make him the straight man you want him to be. All it does is make him a guy who has a really warped view on what being a man is about.

    Was your child not happy as he was? That’s something you interestingly haven’t delved in to. Was he depressed? Honestly, do you understand you sound selfish? And that everything you are saying sounds like you projecting happiness and personal (and undeserved) pride onto your kid? He’s a kid. And there is nothing loving or gentle about going to psychiatrists because you think your child is disordered, because he likes playing with dolls and not toy trucks. Nothing loving about that at all.

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  17. 17. 101flyboy 10:15 pm 09/19/2010

    Also, you say you see masculinity and femininity equal, yet you had a problem with your child being more feminine or not being masculine enough to your tastes. You cannot have it both ways.

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  18. 18. charles_tow 6:15 am 09/20/2010

    @College_Mom: You have every right to raise your child as you see fit of course. You probably did it in what you saw as his best interests. But I think you may have missed the point of this article, which is that your son’s early gender atypical behavior may be his "real" (unmanipulated) self and may correlate with his present adult sexual orientation. This is not about your son "deciding" to be gay as an adult. Would you say that you "decided" to become a heterosexual woman?

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  19. 19. bigbaddude 10:17 am 09/20/2010

    You need jesus Christ, prehomo sexual?

    There have never in thousands of years been so many homos

    because of nonsence!
    There is no homo virus no homo psylogical problem.

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  20. 20. 101flyboy 12:14 pm 09/20/2010

    You are right, there is no homo virus or psychological problem. There is, however, an anti-gay problem, and you unfortunately are affected. Try keeping your religious beliefs off of forums that are discussing scientific evaluations and theories, it does not add anything to the discussion. And then try realizing your religious beliefs are not a justification for anti-gay attitudes.

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  21. 21. lonelygirl24 2:42 pm 09/20/2010

    You know what I’d like?

    To live in a society WHERE IT DOESN’T FUCKING MATTER WHAT FUCKING ORIENTATION YOU ARE. You know, where it’s of approximately the same remarkableness as your hair color or the fact you wear clothes when you go Wal-Mart. You know, like it is for straight people all the damn time.

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  22. 22. prototropo 6:51 pm 09/20/2010

    I don’t know if "prehomosexual" criteria hold water, but this article is definietly "pre-enlightenment." Why do words like "omen" frame this story from the first paragraph? Not an objective or scientific approach to a subject that could really use one! My straight friends don’t think in those terms so it’s odd that a gay writer would. Let’s face the prospect of having a gay kid as one of many delightful possibilities along the spectrum of human variation–kids can be left-handed, mathematically gifted, socially gragarious, etc. None of those are deemed categories for anxious scrutiny, are they? So why fret over a possibly gay kid? (By the way, I’m gay and I have biological kids of my own, as do many of my gay friends. So that misconception in particular needs to go away.)

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  23. 23. SocioLens 1:00 am 09/21/2010

    Wow everyone. Are you guys seriously unaware of being trolled? Just because a girl displays "tomboy" qualities does not mean she is lesbian. These "female" qualities, which should be accurately labelled as "FEMININE", are determined by society, not by the sex. Strictly speaking, only childbirth determines the sex difference. Being a girl doesn’t mean liking Barbie; I loved playing with guns and playing in basketball, yet I’m heterosexual. At the age of 5 I knew that Barbies were too superficial and there wasn’t that much imagination to go along with creating Barbie scenes than imitating a New York crime scene.

    If the society deemed football as a feminine sport for females’ agility, we would probably think men are gay too, eh.

    Come on guys. These are gender traits, which are traits a society deems to a sex. There are no "sex traits", other than those obtained via puberty.

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  24. 24. SocioLens 1:07 am 09/21/2010

    Torquemada is saying that SA (scientific American) is only confirming the gender ideologies that mainstream societies have created. Playing with guns does not mean your daughter’s a lesbian, and that photo they used is extremely offending. Are girls playing sports a really weird thing?

    The mainstream society believes that girls liking pink and boys liking blue is a good Dick & Jane norm, but every person is different. Had society said rugby was the girl sport for, let’s say, females’ heightened agility and speed, we would have said males were gay for even thinking of joining a college rugby team.

    The traits the author has listed are GENDER traits, not SEX traits. SEX traits are biological by-products of puberty on an adolescent, such as males’ heightened interest in sexual activity. GENDER only means the traits a society says is valid for a sex to have. An example of a gender trait is that when we say firefighter, we usually think of a male because we don’t see women as "active" heroes.

    DNA does not predict gender traits at all. It may affect the brain when the pituitary gland kickstarts and makes males think more about sex, but it does not affect whether they like guns or barbies.

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  25. 25. Pedro 2:14 pm 09/21/2010

    What can you tell us about the events around the "end of the homosexuality as a mental disorder" in seventies? That´s because it wasn’t a scientific decision but political (see pagess 410 and 411 of "Psychiatry in Law/law in Psychiatry" of Ralph Slovenko, and Ronald Bayer´s "Homosexuality and American psychiatry: the politics of diagnosis", pgs. 101ss, see the last one on

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  26. 26. oldestgeek 4:32 pm 09/21/2010

    The 10% originated in the Kinsey era and comes from a statement buried in a deep boring study that 10% of respondents had reported a homosexual experience. I haven’t heard of one simple random study that asks teens, or adults, "Do you think of identify yourself as homosexual?" or even better "Are you homosexual?". The guesstimates posted are anecdotal. Probably below 50% but I await data before I change that statement LOL.

    If it’s a recessive (and useful) gene then it would be at least 5% as color blindness is in men. (Go hunting with a color blind guy and you’ll understand why.)

    How could a gene not be useful? If it is neutral but attached to something useful. Try wagging your tailbone or warming up by raising your fur.

    How does this apply to homosexuals? Gene mixing is how we survive so well. Mating has some apparent genetic basis for humans and occurs in the "falling in love" sequence, recognition, infatuation…. Who is attracted to whom is so varied that it is no surprise that some people end up attracted to the same sex and/or attractive to the same sex.

    It’s not a queer gene per se but rather a side effect of a major genetic process for mating IMO.

    I don’t think you can tease out the statistics to prove that there is anything favorable or unfavorable to species survival about being gay.

    BTW, my answer to the survey would be "No.". I do fall somewhere in the Kinsey era 10%.

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  27. 27. bucketofsquid 4:50 pm 09/21/2010

    Gary C. – Take your scientology garbage and shove it. Posting a copyright, which you spelled wrong, in a forum where the terms of service clearly state that you are giving up your right to what you post is patently stupid. As is the idea that a professional liar could found a truthful religion in the first place.

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  28. 28. bucketofsquid 5:37 pm 09/21/2010

    I found the study mentioned in the article to be a bit thin on actual science. There were no physiological records to go with the supposed "prehomosexual" behavior.

    As for those who attacked the mom who observed a radical shift in her child’s behavior after a known traumatic event and got professional help for him. What is wrong with you? Do you hate children so much that when they suffer trauma and display indicators of great emotional distress, you don’t want to help them?

    The choice of terminology that a mental health professional uses to alert a parent to the fact that they screwed up is based more on not offending the parent so that they won’t leave and the child will still get help. When my son started to have behavior problems the shrink didn’t say "well duh! look at the stupid stuff you do!". What the shrink said was "Let’s try doing things just a little different and see if it makes an improvement".

    We followed instruction and our son behaved better and was happier. His grades still sucked like a vaccuum but he was happier.

    I doubt that the mom’s son needed much "gender guidence" but he did need some attention and care. Most divorces cause the child to blame themselves because to a child, they are the center of the universe and thus *everything* is because of them. The shrinkster got the family to spend a good quantity of time with him making him feel good.

    Not being omniscient I can’t say that the child would or would not return to his norm if people had just shown they value him without trying to change his new pattern back to his original pattern. I can say that the change from his original pattern was clearly a reaction to emotional trauma.

    In am emotionally charge discussion such as this it is very easy to let our emotions cause us to say really stupid things just to support our own preconceived ideas or political views without considering how stupid it makes us look.

    As case in point: see my prior post responding to Gary C. That was pure emotion with no brain behind it. Unfortunately this forum offers no edit of our own posts.

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  29. 29. pauladriaenssens 6:23 pm 09/21/2010

    Going by the stereotypes and being male I ought to score rather fourish on the Kinsey scale I guess. As a child I played with dolls, but well, never people, only animals (what’s that say??). I was never into playing with cars and such and still think they’re a rather silly way of asserting oneself actually. I never owned one, nor a license and think of them as a nuisance, a disgrace even. As a kid I had an ingrained revulsion of guns and never played with them. I loathed violence in general actually, and still do, and avoided fights and brawls. Argumented against them among my peers. Come to think of it : so did my father. (He’d been in the war …) I was/am a bookworm. Later on I never really went for the jocks-among-each-other kind of socializing. I preferred the company of women and (again) still do. I hate macho stuff.

    I had a number of petty relationships with girls as a teenager, more serious ones later on and actually a rather lasting one with a very sexually demanding lady for something like seven years. I enjoyed it tremendously. When that ended I very soon teamed up with an old school mate, a very beautiful and feminine lady who became my wife a number of years later. We’ve been having great sex for many years now. She also happens to be my best friend.

    So ok: I enjoy women tremendously. I never felt attracted to men in the slightest way. Can I take it further? I haven’t got the slightest why women should be attracted to men (well, you know: with with all the hair and such …). Women I find so incomparably more attractive. Short : I can with the best of intentions only consider myself a Kinsey 0.

    So it’s the only thing stereotypes are for, I guess: simplifying the reality factor.

    And please, please don’t get me wrong: we really do have a number of homosexual friends and find absolutely nothing wrong with that. Why should we and how could we? There’s nothing wrong say with having brown eyes either. Go with the flow, ok?

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  30. 30. momofsparkleboy 9:40 am 09/22/2010

    Thank you for saying something relevant.

    I cant believe how much anger there is at this correlation. Parents can use it to try to understand their kids and help them navigate a world where life will be tougher if indeed the child is gay. Its a positive thing to know this science. Believe me the right wing haters already know it – if you google &quot;pre-homosexual&quot; you will see all the &quot;how to stop your child from being gay&quot; crap out there. Why cant we use this information – 40 years of it to try to accept people as they are instead of denying that the correlation exists.

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  31. 31. momofsparkleboy 9:42 am 09/22/2010

    Thats exactly the point. Why everyone is so bent out of shape about this correlation is misguided.

    Luckily lots of parents of gender non conforming kids are using the info to help and support their kids.

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  32. 32. momofsparkleboy 9:48 am 09/22/2010

    These people know this scientific correlation already and ARE using it against their kids. So why not the rest of us use this scientific correlation to accept our kids with the thought that they ARE probably gay and make our homes accepting.

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  33. 33. momofsparkleboy 9:49 am 09/22/2010

    It doesnt mean all gay people were gender nonconforming in childhhod. It means gender non conforming kids are more likely to be gay.

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  34. 34. momofsparkleboy 9:51 am 09/22/2010

    The article does not say all gays were gender nonconforming in childhood. It says gender nonconforming kids are more likely to be gay. There is a correlation. The scientific correlation can be used for good or for bad. Its a correlation.

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  35. 35. momofsparkleboy 9:55 am 09/22/2010

    Yes, and when parents see that their kids are probably gay they can wake up to the facts of how hard it is for gays and work to make that world.

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  36. 36. JJackson 6:49 pm 09/22/2010

    You need to actually read Kinsey’s 1948 work. He wrote that 25% of males had had one homosexual experience. One in eight males had been exclusively or predominantly homosexual for three years, usually when young. Of those, one-third were exclusively homosexual for their entire lives.

    The numbers, according to Kinsey, were half for females. Do the math, and it comes out to 3% gay + 6% who were, at one time, involved with homosexuality but wound up more or less heterosexual. The 10% number was pretty much invented by gay activists in the early 1970s, who rounded up 9% to 10%.

    Before you think of me as anti-gay, I’d like to say that I’m happily one of the 3% lifelong homosexuals. Who, by the way, was stereotypically masculine while growing up. Favorite sports were football, baseball, and basketball.

    I did have to take swimming lessons. Just about everyone did because we lived near a lake and they didn’t want anyone drowning. My mom made me take piano lessons, but I rebelled and was allowed to quit after a year and a half.

    As for the study, I think there’s a fair amount of validity to it, as long as people understand that there’s a whole lot of variation. Any parents who think that their young son’s involvement in stereotypically masculine pursuits will guarantee that they’ll be straight had better understand that there aren’t any guarantees of anything.

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  37. 37. maxmuji 7:19 pm 09/22/2010

    A lot of users making comments are being overly sensitive to the supposed stereotyping in this article. Nowhere in this article does the writer say that all feminine boys and masculine girls will become homosexuals. He is simply stating that there is a correlation between gender atypical behavior as a child and homosexuality as an adult. He isn’t saying every child with these behaviors will grow up to be homosexual, as many of the posters seem to believe, only that they are more likely to. And for the poster talking about how all gender differences stem from society and have nothing to do with DNA, it isn’t nearly that simple. While society and culture does have a role in childhood behavior, it doesn’t explain all of it, and there are genetic predispositions that affect childhood tendencies. Studies have shown that behavior comes from a complicated mix of both genetic and societal factors. The writer of the article is not condoning false stereotypes, he is just stating that children who defy typical gender behaviors are more likely (meaning there are exceptions) to be a homosexual adult.

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  38. 38. DeadlyGrim 9:49 pm 09/24/2010

    There are a number of things that I find worrisome about this article but the worst is the fact that it seems that the prospective studies only studied homosexual men and women. Here’s the thing: unless you compare cross-gender play with heterosexual men and women, you can’t make any judgment. To wit, it’s like saying "We’ve found proof that clothes cause cancer! Every person admitted to a hospital for cancer treatment had, at some point in their lives, worn clothes. The evidence is indisputable!" I’m interested in what percentage of heterosexual men and women engaged in cross-gender play and _didn’t_ become homosexual. Without that, any conclusions are invalid.

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  39. 39. momofsparkleboy 9:19 pm 09/26/2010

    Thank you for a gay man actually replying and admitting childhood gender nonconformity. Parents are trying to understand and support our children who are probably gay. That is the point of the article. It SO bothers me that everyone thinks they are defending gays by denying gender that nonconformity exists.

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  40. 40. momofsparkleboy 9:25 pm 09/26/2010

    That was thank you to Rayfus comment #81. I wish more gay men would enter into this general conversation – especially now that the trans advocates are out there trying to convince us all that our kids are definitely transgender and not gay.

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  41. 41. momofsparkleboy 9:30 pm 09/26/2010

    CollegeMom I will also be really surprised if you child is not gay.

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  42. 42. momofsparkleboy 9:34 pm 09/26/2010

    Well the idea isnt to announce "here is my pre-homosexual child eveybody!" but to understand the prejudice and difficulties that the child may face and act accordingly. And to maybe mention and include GLBT people in your life that may not be there if you are a typical suburban heterosexual person. And to ask what is my church (if I attend one) teaching?, etc, etc.

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  43. 43. amanzed 9:01 pm 09/29/2010

    Jesse, I love you! I love your writing, your choice of topics, your position as a scientist and ambassador for science through this forum. But I will add my voice to the chorus that Bailey and Zucker are highly problematic or — depending on how far you’re willing to take the language — evil. Their "science" and ethics are questionable.

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  44. 44. amanzed 9:03 pm 09/29/2010

    I think you’re trying to say something interesting here, but you got tangled up in your own 50-cent words. Please re-write that comment in plain English, or you’re really only have a conversation with yourself.

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  45. 45. georgina2009 5:55 pm 10/5/2010

    I want to say something about this article. There are people who would want their children to be queer rather than straight. I am one of them. Trust me, I am not crazy and this is not a joke. I am a woman in my late twenties and identify as a girlfag and would sooooo love to have a gay son.

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  46. 46. Jan Cosgrove 9:37 am 11/18/2010

    At this late stage I MUST nonetheless urge everyone to VIEW THIS. Wonderful.

    <iframe frameborder="no" width="480" height="270" scrolling="no" src=""></iframe><br /><a href=",14378/&quot; target="_blank" title="How To Find A Masculine Halloween Costume For Your Effeminate Son">How To Find A Masculine Halloween Costume For Your Effeminate Son</a>

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  47. 47. Jan Cosgrove 9:42 am 11/18/2010

    Try again …..

    Link =,14378/

    Try also the failure of porn movie producers to ensure kids know sex is not nice, a lovely send-up of the ‘experts-in-the-studio-discussion’ format and also the one where bereaved parents talk about the pet python that ate their son – it was such a trusted family pet, no one ever thought it would happen… I wonder if they do a SciAm discussion or two?

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  48. 48. Solipsist 2:07 am 03/4/2011

    Amazing how many people get hostile about any hinting that gee, maybe someone’s sexuality is actually…you know, not set in stone?

    I see it in people’s hostility, condescension and denial that CollegeMom’s actions could have actually had an effect on her son’s later sexuality, and one bold assertion that her son must be in the closet. (How they can claim this without having ever met or spoken to him is astonishing. Someone attacked her claim that she has gay/lesbian friends, but I’d bet a paycheck that THEIR opinions have been shaped by having homosexual friends, too.)

    When you consider that sexual proclivities are accepted by most scientists to be at least partially ‘nurture’ (regardless of what people want to think, there is NO definitive proof it’s inborn and immutable), you’d think by people’s reactions that she’d claimed she turned her black son white.

    People love to quote Kinsey, and yes, there were definite problems with his approaches and methodology. But one thing he DID point out, and is often ignored, is that sexuality can/has been shown to change over the course of a person’s lifetime. If it were a single gene or trait, that simply wouldn’t happen. Identical twin studies may show a correlation (early ones were biased by self-selection), but you’ll never find a single reputable scientist claiming that identical twins will always share a sexuality. Many don’t. In fact, you’ll find often that one twin is shy, when the other is an extrovert, or one may have schizophrenia and the other won’t. The brain is a complex (and yes, malleable) organ.

    Now, if you can’t even corner researchers into saying that sexuality is ‘predetermined’, what makes bloggers think they can attack someone else’s anecdote with authority? From my observations, it’s always with the same logically fallacious argument, too — i.e., "If he DIDN’T turn out X, he was never X to begin with, and if he DID turned out X, that just proves my point!"

    Elaborating on this point, ‘Conversion therapy’ is unlikely to change a hetero to homo, homo to hetero, a foot fetishist into a breast-man, or a person attracted to kids towards geriatrics. But these are established brain patterns of sexually mature adults.

    Without going into morality, I just want to vent my frustration with people who, apparently knowing better than scientists, claim that "Sexuality’s inborn, unable to change, ever, and if you think otherwise, you’re (insert insult)"

    In any case, one thing I hope we CAN all agree on. Attraction IS beyond our control. What we do with it, isn’t.

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  49. 49. Solipsist 2:16 am 03/4/2011

    Addendum: Or lack thereof, not to exclude any asexuals that are reading; I spotted one earlier. :-)

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  50. 50. I-ray 12:43 pm 05/16/2011

    I really have absolutely no idea why you would quote Bailey’s research without pointing out that the man has some very serious bias (he’s associated with some pretty homophobic organizations) and has made some very questionable observations in the past, including but not limited to claiming that most if not all men who identify as bisexual are lying.

    It wouldn’t be a stretch to consider that this is a man who lets his subconscious need to validate his own preconceptions get in the way of researching the actual objective truth. The research you cite is from 2006, and 2002 is when he submitted the very hole-ridden "bisexuals might not be real" idea as a valid theory backed up by scientific research. Considering he referenced it again in a 2003 book (implying that he still believed it), why would he suddenly become an unbiased, completely logic-driven scientist a mere 3 years later?

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  51. 51. Dewey88 5:10 am 09/19/2011

    Thanks for the article! I will most likely not try to apply this knowledge to my future kids to determine whether they are gonna become gay or not, we should love our kids the way they are!
    video to mp3

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  52. 52. kentifer 11:16 am 10/8/2011

    When we talk about being “born gay,” which this study by no means refutes, we aren’t saying that we knew when we were toddlers, or that anyone else could have. We didn’t and they couldn’t. The only one who can, really, declare and determine one’s sexuality is the person him or herself. That’s it. To say, “We can’t say we were born gay because that means we have to call babies gay,” is either missing the point, or completely disingenuous.

    When I say “I was born gay,” I’m saying that little baby Kent was gay, sure. However, it’s a moot point as babies have no sex drive, or concept of sex or sexual attraction on even the most basic of levels, but I’m also not saying that I know, or could label, the sexuality or gender identity of babies. I can’t, couldn’t and would have no interest in doing so.

    Yes, some babies are LGBT, they just don’t know it yet. And since they don’t know, we can’t label them as such. I don’t understand why the idea of an “LGBT baby” makes you uncomfortable though. If “prehomosexuals”(Are there pre-heterosexuals? If not, the term is discriminatory.)) already have their future orientation set in place(something which the study, correctly, does not comment on) then there are indeed LGBT babies, but again, neither you nor I can determine that. Why worry about it?

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  53. 53. Real Scientist 10:23 am 10/26/2011

    Does it occur to anyone that a loving father may want to know if his son is gay or straight so he can better interact with, and guide him in his life and the issues he faces while growing up? Isn’t it possible that a loving parent wants to know and support his son, not just beat the possible homosexual desires out of him or force him to his knees to pray the gay away? The idiotic assertions of “fact” that a parent who is interested in their child’s sexual orientation is “homophobic” makes this article nothing more than an ignorant rant posted in what I thought was supposed to be a scientific article.

    I have had close friends and family members who were gay men. Each of them is now dead. None were murdered by homophobic psychopaths, but by their own choices concerning their sexual fulfillment through unprotected anal sex. They knew what they were doing, they knew the risks and the stakes of their choices, and chose to pursue their sexual desires to the grave. I can’t be called a homophobe loudly enough to change the fact that sexual orientation matters, and kids need to be parented.

    I just want to raise my children to be responsible people who enjoy their lives and their sexuality, and to love and support them as long as I live. Pretending their sexual desires and urges are irrelevant or “homophobic” to consider is just plain idiocy. Loving your daughter means teaching her how not to come home pregnant or infected. It matters what our kids are doing, folks.

    As a straight man I can intellectually understand that there are other men who are gay, but I just can’t relate to their desires. I told my gay brother I found the idea of gay men having sex to be disgusting. We were very close, and he fully understood the difference between my view of his actions versus my view of him. I find the idea of eating a rubbery squid tentacle soaked in garlic butter utterly disgusting, but I don’t find those who like calamari to be disgusting people. That much understood, we moved on even closer.

    A person does not suddenly become gay or straight at the time of first sexual experience. I was straight long before I first had sex with my wife. My brother was gay well before he had sex with another boy. One son totally straight, the other totally gay. Same parents, same environment. There was no choice involved, no conscious decision to be gay or straight, we just are who we are and who we are matters in how we wish to interact with our friends and families. I suppose it’s theoretically possible for someone to “change their mind”, but I don’t see how. I don’t think I can make my kids become either gay or straight, but I am interested in knowing how best to raise the wonderful kids I have as they are.

    In summary, my point is that wanting to understand your son or daughter does not prove the fact of hatred or fear. It does not mean loving your kid is conditioned on the answer to the sexual orientation question, except in the faulty mind of an ignorant bigot spring loaded to demonize a loving, caring, concerned heterosexual parent.

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  54. 54. Kapitano 11:12 am 12/4/2011

    So, a study has found that gay men, when prompted to do so, can find childhood memories of themselves not acting in a stereotypically macho way.

    If nothing else, it’s a great demonstration of confirmation bias.

    Perhaps what it really proves is that boys who grow into confidently out gay men are good at resisting social pressure to be manly. What a surprise that confident boys grow into confident men.

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  55. 55. veralibertas 7:57 pm 01/19/2012

    Gay. Straight. Everyone is a bit of both. Its how the brain uses its different parts to go about in the world. There is no ‘morality’ involved, no predestined gay-dar in use; only what comes as it may along the way of life.
    Plenty of self proclaimed straight many men are painstakingly obviously flaming faggots underneath, and some of the gayest people get turned on by the opposite sex. Let’s not get wrapped up in stupid ideals and words. enough said.

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  56. 56. ashley2112 11:09 am 01/23/2012

    Hello I have a 15 year old daughter. I recently caught her cuddling in her room with her “BFF” and calling her BFF “babe”. My daughter was never girlish in any sense of the word. She always liked cars, balls and rough play rather than barbies and starting at around age 5 refused to wear girlie clothes. I have been suspecting that my daughter is a lesbian for quite some time now. As this article suggests I am certain there are both genetic and environmental factors that determine sexual orientation. What I would like to understand is what are these environmental factors? I was just as tomboyish as my daughter at age 5 but by the time I was 13 I was firmly heterosexual and very feminine. Any insights would be appreciated.

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  57. 57. Allie 5:13 am 01/24/2012

    It is a pretty insightful article that I bet has got many parents thinking, but I still stick to the point that being bisexual is only humans nature, and the way it is revealed in depends on the circumstances around, so parents’ attitude and bringing up may have only partial impact while they are not capable of having overall control over it.

    wmv player

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  58. 58. suzi002 1:03 pm 04/15/2012

    I need to apply this on kid and find out..
    Medical billing and coding jobs

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  59. 59. angelface77 3:28 pm 06/14/2012

    I’m the mother of a happy 3 year old… is he gay or not, who knows… I don’t care either way. He asked to play with dolls… I gave him one, he wants to buy a pink stroller at the toy store, he got it. He wants to wear a pink shirt.. i don’t care. He wants to wear my nail polish or play with my makeup… go crazy. He also rough-houses with my husband and wants to play fireman and trains.

    I look into his eyes and I can say with absolute certainty that I don’t care if he’s gay or not.. I just care that he is happy and that he has friends, is respectful, motivated and learns his ABCs; and someday will become a happy adult with love, friends and family in his life.

    I agree that being gay or not should be regarded as being left-handed or not. It should not be a big deal. There are people out there who have children that are dying of incurable diseases, that have severe disabilities and some who’s children have been killed or have been snatched away from them. Is a gay child really such a big deal? They will put you through your paces as much as any straight child… you will have ups and downs no matter what… no difference. If you don’t get that… then don’t have children… you don’t deserve them, gay or straight.

    Stop worrying about your child being gay or straight and worry about being a good parent helping your child navigate the real scary things in life… such as avoiding drugs and underage binge drinking. That’s what you should worry about. Remember… little kids, little problems. Big kids, big problems.

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  60. 60. topics123 3:03 am 06/25/2012

    No not drill sergeant or brainwashed “just redirected” part of being a parent is being patient and watching your child grow up and seeing how they turn out no mater what. You messed up the patient part of parenting and also the turning out part. My dad used to say that the “fun part of parenting was seeing how I turned out” and that “children are like cookie dough not risen yet you have got to wait to see what shape it comes out in”. Changing your child to be perfect in your eyes is wrong let kids grow up and turn out untouched character wise.

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  61. 61. topics123 3:05 am 06/25/2012

    and any other way

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  62. 62. frankierain 4:11 pm 07/10/2012

    “…psychologist Kelley Drummond and her colleagues interviewed 25 adult women… all of these girls had several diagnostic indicators of gender identity disorder… only 12 percent of these women grew up to be gender dysphoric”.

    If those 3 or so people from that sample are transgender (that is, gender dysphoric), they were and are not girls or women. They are either men, or non-binary people. Thus they were either boys, or they were simply children.

    Trans people *are* their gender. They are not a ‘woman/man in a man/woman’s body’, as well-meaning cisgender educators like to say to a cisgender audience to avoid challenging their stereotypes. The point of transition is to align their bodies with what they feel that they are, not what they ‘want to be’.

    It would be that bit less offensive if they were referred to as ‘female designated people’, and that ‘all of these children’ had several diagnostic indicators [..], and that ‘only 12 percent of these people grew up to be diagnosed with gender dysphoria’, or even better, ‘grew up to identify as transgender’.

    Really, I know that cisgender gay men often have problems with that tricky ‘T’ letter, but this is not even 101 level. In fact, just for the sake of fighting ignorance, here is a good trans* 101. [ ]

    By the way, 3 out of 25 being transgender is an awful lot for a sample of 25 non-gender-conforming people, considering the overall figure is supposed to be 0.3%! About one in ten is not ‘only’, that’s a lot.

    So to be honest, I see the point in telling parents their non-gender-conforming children might be trans*. 12% is forty times higher than the average figure. With figures like those, that kind of information is not alarmism, it’s a fact parents need to consider.

    Gender stereotype studies on children are largely inconclusive. As another commenter said, bear in mind that this study is coming from a place of conservative bias.

    Take for instance: boys tend to go for things that are blue. Girls often go for things that are pink.
    Now, before the late 1930s, pink was generally the colour for boys. Blue was preferred for girls, as it was thought of as a ‘gentler’ colour, whereas pink, the watered-down version of red, was thought of as more ‘aggressive’. [Ladies' Home Journal, 1918]
    Previous to that, there were no set colours for male or female children. It would have been an extravagance to buy different clothing for different gender children– all children were dressed the same until a certain age, regardless of gender.
    So how is that preference innate at all? You can only assume it isn’t. It would be ridiculous to suggest that this is genetic.

    If, therefore, you can throw this one logical fallacy in the trash quite easily, it casts doubt on the rest of the ideas about social gender. In short: there is absolutely no hard-proof way to say whether or not it is genetic or socialised.

    Even in twelve months of a baby’s life, it will have been socialised very differently (consider, for instance, how babies are treated by other people; this graffiti [ ] sums it up pretty well). There’s a good chance a baby boy will have been given different toys from a baby girl, played with differently, talked to differently, and treated differently– taught in different ways what is normal, and what is expected of it.

    Now, consider that even studies on babies and what toys or colours they prefer are fairly useless before they have started playing with toys, or are able to choose toys or colours. In that time, they cannot have avoided gender socialisation.

    You see, there is the problem. How can you tell whether or not it’s innate? You… can’t. The only way to do so would be to raise a baby in a bubble, totally shut off from any interaction or outside stimulus, and then run this test on it. And obviously, human rights quite rightly would not allow a test of that sort.

    How does this connect to this article? Suggesting that it’s innate to prefer one kind of behaviour over another is problematic. It infers that gay men are not ‘real men’ or that lesbians are not ‘real women’, not to mention that it’s connected to apologism and excuses for sexist and homophobic social structures.

    I could suggest myself that our gender stereotypes are heavily culturally bound in heteronormative thinking. If, from an early age, a child has seen ‘feminine = attracted to men’ or ‘masculine = attracted to women’ played out all around them, they might be more inclined to act those gender roles. And as for whether it’s uncomfortable to think of a baby as gay, well, no, not really.
    Most parents are happy to think that their small child is straight. So why not gay? Many LGB people report knowing from an early age who they were attracted to. That’s anecdotal, of course– I can’t find a study– but you will find plenty of people who can tell you that themselves. Heck, I knew when I was about seven years old that I wasn’t straight. Maybe even before then.

    On the other hand, of course, there is that study of brain activity [,8599,1815538,00.html ] that suggests that the gay male brain has similarities to the straight female brain, and vice-versa for the lesbian brain.
    So maybe it is partially innate for a lot of young LGB people to empathise with the ‘opposite’ social gender (though it’s my personal belief that gender roles themselves are not natural, for reasons I won’t add to this wall of text. I’m sure that if you read this far you can look it up). Who knows?

    It’s definitely interesting that of that sample, 8% turned out to be straight and cisgender– actually less than those who turned out to be trans*, who are supposed to be one in three thousand of the population– but to assume that it’s completely innate is just as fraught a logical jump as assuming it’s totally socialised. Also, the study pool was ridiculously small to be making any conclusions based off what the researchers observed.

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  63. 63. AnnaD 2:28 am 07/31/2012

    I’m not sure I buy into this. Growing up I was the typical “tom boy”, I did everything boys did. I dressed like boys, I played baseball and even had very few female friends. My brother on the other hand, even though he liked to play like a boy still had a doll and enjoyed playing with his doll. He didn’t have many dolls, only one. But I was a “tom boy” through and through. My brother and I are both straight so maybe we’re just the exception.
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  64. 64. futuremd 1:04 pm 11/16/2012

    So, to summarize, “nature” claims to have defeated “nurture” and immediately brought back phrenology. Nice.

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