Sexuality And Gender Conformity in Women Linked?


Researchers from Queen Mary University of London say they believe they have found a link between gender nonconformity and sexual orientation in women.

Building on accepted evidence that gender conformity has some grounding in genetics, psychologists Andrea Burri and Qazi Rahman followed a group of children to adulthood and found that one-third of gender nonconforming girls would grow up to be lesbian.

This, researchers says, appears to suggest a biological grounding that may in fact indicate an interplay of genetic traits and environmental factors.

Burri and Rahman followed a group of 4,000 British women (including one set of twins) and asked them questions about their sexual attractions and behavior. They also asked a series of follow up questions about their gender conformity. The results of this fell in line with previous research: the team observed what they describe as “modest” genetic influences on sexual orientation and childhood gender nonconformity.

From Queen Mary University of London release:

Writing in the journal PLoS One, Dr Andrea Burri and Dr Qazi Rahman from Queen Mary’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences report that a shared set of genes and shared set of random environmental factors is partially responsible both for gender nonconformity and female sexual orientation.


Dr Qazi Rahman, co-author of the study, explains:  “We found that there is a connection between these mental traits and how sexual orientation develops. One idea is that there is an association between these psychological traits and sexual orientation because they all develop under common biological drivers; like the development of brain regions under the influence of genes and sex hormones.”

Dr Rahman adds: “We think environmental factors and genetics drive other mechanisms, like exposure to sex hormones in the womb, to shape differences in gender nonconformity and sexuality simultaneously.”

Researchers also found that 50-80 percent of gender non-conforming boys would in later life identify as gay.

Dr Rahman is keen to stress that while such behavioral traits are commonplace, there are many lesbian and gay people that are gender conforming. Therefore this research should not be taken as supporting unhealthy or even damaging stereotypes that allowing children to act in a gender nonconforming manner necessarily leads to homosexuality. However, he does note that for gay people who are gender nonconforming, this research may be of some comfort:

“Poor mental health in gay populations is partly due to societal stigma and victimisation. Our results suggest that being gender nonconforming and lesbian comes from “within”; there is little you can do about it. So gender nonconformity does not cause mental health problems, but it may trigger negative reactions from other people (like parents and peers) leading to mental health problems,”says Dr Rahman.

As with all research like this, it is important not to draw errant conclusions from what is a narrow yet very interesting study.

The last point that Dr Rahman makes is important though: Whether a concrete genetic cause regarding homosexuality will be found or a combination of factors is determined to be at work here, what is key is that once again research supports the idea of sexuality being innate, or that it is not a choice. Now we find evidence that gender nonconformity may also be a trait outside of our control.

Related Reading:

Zimbabwe HIV Consultant: Decriminalize Gays, Prostitutes
HHS Plans to Collect LGBT Health Data
Federal Study Shows LGB Teens More Prone to High Risk Behaviors

Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to brainchildvn.


Lika S.
Lika P6 years ago

I'm not sure if this study is accurate. Okay, I'd always considered myself a tomboy, because, I hated barbie, hated regular baby dolls, etc. I HATE the color pink, always have, always will. I played softball in school, and during elementary school, loved kickball. Rather than dressing up and having "tea parties", I'd rather kick around a ball.

On the other hand, because I was graceful in the ice rink, sensual on the dance floor and clumsy with soccer, my mother always said I was feminine. Yet what did I want for Christmas? A train set. I wanted to play drums, ended up with a tenor sax... etc... I am not a lesbian.

Granted, okay, about 10% of all females are lesbian, and think about it, there is a "butch" and a "femme" that usually hook up, meaning that for every "non traditional female" who happens to be lesbian, there is a "very girly girl feminine" female who also happens to be lesbian that end up dating each other some how.

I say the study is inaccurate.

Asha W.
Asha Walsh6 years ago

This is a very interesting study, I would certainly like to know more. In my own case, as a gender non-conforming girl, this has not been the case. I'm still non-conforming as a woman but defintiely not gay. Paradoxically my sister, who was (and still is) more feminine than me, is gay. There is still much we do not understand. In the meantime open-mindedness and compassion are key I belive.

Lionel G.
Lionel G.6 years ago

Carmen n., thank you so much for your heart-warming post. I agree that bisexual should be the default mode; it's more inclusive, and it deepens our compassion. I found that having taken the feminine role in sex with men not only didn't diminish my enjoyment of a woman; it gave me a better sense of what would feel pleasing to her. My intuition is that feminine sexuality is the heart of all sexuality, and masculine is a nice add-on to spice things up. In giving sexual pleasure to a man I feel blissfully feminine and ecstatically submissive, as long as he's not domineering (and I relish the taste of a woman). I wish you and your honey the utmost enjoyment of each other.

Darcy H.
Darcy H6 years ago

Labels belong on soup cans, not people.

Gemma M.

But, what are they talking about when they say gender conformity?

Dael D.
Dael Devenport6 years ago

This sounds like one of those self-reporting studies which are notoriously inaccurate. People will say whatever they want to believe about themselves, or what they want others to believe about them and have little connection to reality. For an excellent debunking of gender myths, read 'Delusions of Gender', a well-written, articulate and logical book written by *gasp* a woman named Cordelia Fine. Hmmm, maybe she's gay ;)

Marie W.
Marie W6 years ago

Gender roles are all in your head not your genitals.

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Trina Dewes
Trina Dewes6 years ago

The patriarch is lost without it's categories , labels and boxes. I would like to se ALL DIVISIONS DISAPPEAR. I wish the Patriarchal system would go the way of the DINOSAUR.

Trina Dewes
Trina Dewes6 years ago

I am offended by this faux study. I choose non-conformity because I want to live the way I choose. I HATE GENDER ROLES because they make so many unhappy. I BUCKED the BRAINWASHING on purpose and SURPRISE! I am not GAY. This is just a study to TRY to make everyone who is TRUE to themselves feel less. The ones who should be questioning themselves are Patriarchal Goose stepping Zombies. They have a ring through their nose to be led wherever. We SHOULD question Authority on a daily basis. It is our duty and our insurance to maintain FREEDOM FOR ALL, NOT JUST A FEW.