Based on Chapters Four and Five of Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why: The Science of Sexual Orientation by Simon LeVay
Chapter Four: Childhood
Boys and girls show fairly consistent differences in mental and behavioral traits; these traits are called “gendered traits”. Some of these differences arise through socialization, but many arise through biological factors such as hormone levels. Studies have shown that children who become gay adults (“pre-gay” children) are more likely to be gender-nonconformist, i.e. show characteristics typical of the opposite gender.
Two main types of methods are used to understand the characteristics of “pre-gay” children in comparison to “pre-straight” children:
- Retrospective Studies
The most widely used method. In retrospective studies, adults give descriptions of what they were like as children. Using this method, researchers have found that pre-gay boys are less physically aggressive than pre-straight boys and are more likely to take part in traditionally female activities. Overall, both pre-gay boys and girls were more likely to be gender-nonconformist, but for boys, such traits were much more predictive of adult homosexuality.
2. Prospective Studies
A method where two groups of children –a control and a particularly gender-nonconformist group– are studied up to adulthood. These studies have made similar findings; noticeable femininity in boys is a predictor of adult homosexuality. Masculine traits in girls is not particularly a predictor of lesbianism — most girls who show traditionally male traits (“tomboys”) grow into heterosexual women.
Overall, these studies suggest that homosexuality is a part of a “package” of gender-atypical traits while heterosexuality is part of a set of gender-typical traits.
Chapter Five: Characteristics of Gay and Straight Adults
Studies on adults have found that mental and behavioral traits of gay men and women is shifted towards the opposite gender, but not completely opposite. Gay men show more of a gender shift than lesbians, who show no shift at all for some gendered traits.
Women tend to be more verbally fluent than men and better at tasks involving memory. Gay men score similarly to women on tests of verbal fluency and memory, while lesbians score similarly to men on such tests. Gay men and women are similar to their straight counterparts in aspects of sexuality, except in the roles preferred in sexual encounters. Some gay men are more receptive and some lesbians (so-called “butch” lesbians) are more dominant. Gay men strongly prefer more masculine partners and lesbians mildly prefer more feminine partners.
Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why Series:
- Introduction and Chapter One — What is Sexual Orientation?
- Chapters Two and Three — Why We Need Biology; Outline of a Theory
- Chapters Six and Seven — The Role of Sex Hormones; The Role of Genes
- Chapters Eight and Nine — The Brain; The Body
- Chapters Ten and Eleven — The Older-Brother Effect; Conclusions