Endocrine disorders linked to same-sex attraction in some women

One specific area of hormone-related research has involved women born with the condition of congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH). Researchers have found that women with (CAH) are more likely to be gay. Science writer Megan Cartwright (2015) summarizes scientists’ findings in a recent article for Slate:

“In congenital adrenal hyperplasia, a person overproduces masculinizing hormones like testosterone, starting when they're a fetus. A boy with CAH could go through puberty very early, but the extra hormones don't change how likely he is to be straight or gay. However, a girl with CAH is much more likely to identify as lesbian when she grows up.” (Cartwright, 2015, para. 10)

It’s important to note that most women with CAH are heterosexual, and CAH only affects a minority of women who identify as lesbian. In other words, the impact of CAH on sexual orientation is one factor among many that scientists are discovering as they explore a complex and many-layered human trait. Kenneth B. Ashley, MD, offers a useful reminder:

“There is much more work which needs to be done to understand the origins of sexual orientation. What is known at this point is that sexual orientation represents a highly complex behavioral trait with multiple determinants involved, including genetic, hormonal, [and] possible immunological factors interacting with one another and the sociocultural postnatal environment.” (Ashley, 2013, p. 181)

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Read more about the research on sexual orientation in women, including studies of CAH.

Where’s the Scientific Research Into How Sexual Orientation Develops in Women?


Ashley, K. B. (2013). The science on sexual orientation: A review of the recent literature. Journal of Gay and Lesbian Mental Health, 17(2), 175-182. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19359705.2013.767179

Cartwright, M. (2015, August 3). Where’s the scientific research into how sexual orientation develops in women? Slate. http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2015/08/03/sexual_orientation_in_women_why_so_little_scientific_research.html

Gender Identity Gender identity icon Our core sense of who we are as a man, a woman, a mixture of both, or neither.

Gender Expression Gender expression icon How we show up in the world through choices like clothing, hair style, mannerisms or tone of voice.

Attraction attraction icon How we feel toward others sexually, romantically and/or emotionally.

Biological Sex Biological sex icon Physical attributes such as reproductive organs and genitalia, chromosomes, genes and hormone levels.

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