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Sex is defined functionally, in terms of gamete production, which is strictly binary and immutable. Traits thought sex-derived (or related), in being at some remove may not be sex-specific, utilising systems common across sex; however, apparently sex-overlapping traits serve to reinforce, not compromise sex binarity. Sexual identification and orientation might be expected to show degrees of sex non-separation, but seemingly through their very closeness in derivation from sex are themselves binary and immutable. Sexual orientation is of discrete (one majority and one minority aberrant) form; with bisexuality merely ostensible: male hypersexuality and female non-sexual tension reduction. Notions of sexual identity are chimeric: sex dysphoria is mostly latent homosexuality; the remainder intensified sexual self-orientation or psychopathology-driven social contagion of a condition imaginarily possessed.
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Photograph by Geralt –
Steven P. Moxon
Sex is defined functionally, in terms of gamete production, which is strictly binary and immutable.
Traits thought sex-derived (or related), in being at some remove may not be sex-specific, utilising
systems common across sex; however, apparently sex-overlapping traits serve to reinforce, not
compromise sex binarity. Sexual identification and orientation might be expected to show degrees of
sex non-separation, but seemingly through their very closeness in derivation from sex are
themselves binary and immutable. Sexual orientation is of discrete (one majority and one minority
aberrant) form; with bisexuality merely ostensible: male hypersexuality and female non -sexual
tension reduction. Notions of sexual identity are chimeric: sex dysphoria is mostly latent
homosexuality; the remainder intensified sexual self-orientation or psychopathology-driven social
contagion of a condition imaginarily possessed.
: sex, (non-)binary, immutable, orientation, identity.
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That sex is strictly binary and immutable is long established, and applies just as strongly in
the human case (e.g., most recently, Griffiths, 2020; Elliott, 2020; with Marinov, 2020, particularly
stressing its immutability). Sex is defined functionally, in terms of gametes (sex cells), with
individuals producing the small, motile gametes denoted male; those who produce the large,
immotile gametes, female. These authors reaffirm this binarity and immutability, and that no
individuals produce both types of gametes, in any proportion.. Even when the inception or pre-
embryonic development of sexed individuals goes awry, this holds nevertheless. Any of the
extremely rare pre-natal aberrations giving rise to a variety of intersex conditions still entails an
individual coming to possess only one type of potentially gamete-producing organ -- either
ovaries or testes: potential being the operative word, as most intersex individuals are anyway
sterile (infertile).
All intersex conditions … arise from single-gene mutations or chromosomal aberrations on a
genetic background that would have indisputably been producing male or female gametes had
these mutations not occurred. True hermaphrodites possessing both sets of functional
gonads and genitalia have never been observed in Homo sapiens. Therefore the “intersex”
argument against the sex binary is simply not valid. Intersex individuals exist only because of
continuous de novo reintroduction of the relevant mutations in the population, recessive
genes becoming unmasked, or disruptions of normal embryonic development. (Marinov, 2020)
Marinov may not be completely accurate regarding hermaphrodism, in that this could exist
in a tiny subset of cases of a vanishingly rare intersex condition, ovotestis, where there are both
ovaries and testes, and individuals may be fertile, though nearly always only the ovaries actually
produce gametes. In less than a handful of recorded cases instead there is spermatogenesis. The
development of male or female reproductive system is mutually antagonistic, so that the male
pathway being initiated then inhibits the female, or vice-versa, though as with all systems this is
ultimately vulnerable to malfunction. One or two cases have been reported where both ovaries
and testes appear to produce gametes, which might allow the possibility of self-fertilisation,
though no such pregnancy has ever been reported in humans (Bayraktar, 2017).
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In any case, such a freak event would not compromise the binarity of sex. It hardly would
disprove the rule, as it were, as a highly rare exception indeed proves the rule here. Minuscule
prevalence of an exception would attest to an extraordinary stability of sex in its resilience to the
inevitable great array of possible malfunction occurring in the complexity of pre-natal
development. All manifestation of sex entails to varying degree mechanism that is but derivative
of sex, and, as with all mechanism, is liable to occasional malfunction. Even in that underpinning
the creation of sexed individuals -- the sex chromosome system and the supporting cellular
mechanisms -- there is the very faint possibility of generating male cum female. Whether male or
female is absolutely invariable, or invariable to the extent that exceptions are so rare as to be
practically invisible; either way, sex remains binary.
Moving beyond aberration in immediately sex-derived mechanism of pre-natal
development, there are all sorts of traits that are either sex-specific or sex-dimorphic that may
either fully or partly distinguish the sexes. All is built upon sex in the sense that sex is the focus
directly or indirectly of all adaptation, given sex is foundational to biological system (and social
system, this being very much part of biology) in addressing the inherent most fundamental
problem of gene replication error, that otherwise would accumulate across generations, leading to
infertility and extinction. Sexual reproduction and the sexes evolved not to produce variation but
to effect purging (elimination of deleterious genetic material) through male competition for rank
according to genetic quality and corresponding female mate choice. [For reviews, see Moxon,
2016, 2012.]
Even so, at progressively further remove from sex per se it would be expected that
mechanism is recruited that is not necessarily and likely not sex-specific. It doesn’t need to be so
in itself if it can be recruited for sex-specific utility. Many traits are of this ilk given evolutionary
development is as economical as possible, depending as it does on the strength of selection
pressure. Sex-neutral new or co-opted (exapted, to use the evolutionary biology term) already-
evolved adaptations can evolve to be applied to both sexes (if differently in mode and function),
as these require less selection pressure than would originating new sex-specific traits. That is,
there may be selection pressure sufficient to lead to the evolution of new traits amorphous as to
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sex rather than ones that are sex-specific, as the latter would entail more complex mechanism.
Thus arise traits where the distinction between the sexes is progressively weaker the more distant
is their derivation from sex.
The sum total of traits with their varying degrees of sex-separation produce an apparent
overlap of the sexes, which sometimes is falsely considered a male-female continuum, as a
spurious basis of refuting the binary nature of sex. This is neatly dismissed by Elliot (2020):
[To] aggregate all these traits together and put them on a bimodal distribution, with two big
peaks we call male and female is not how sex differences work. The two big peaks are not
male and female. Rather, the two big peaks represent the average of a given trait for males and
average of a given trait for females. The correct bimodal graph shows a separate bell curve for
males, and a separate curve for females. … male and female are not averages of anatomy and
physiology, but rather, describe the two evolved reproductive anatomies (Hilton & Wright,
2020). A bimodal distribution for males and females means that there is variation within
males and variation within females. A short male does not suddenly become a female, and a
female with a lot of testosterone does not suddenly become a male. Thus, variation does not
equal sex (Schmitt, 2017). The only reason we have a bimodal distribution for males and
females in the first place is because sex is binary.
In any case, the binary and immutable nature of sex is not refuted, because the complete
functional distinction of gamete production remains unaffected. Moreover, the functional divide
of sex becomes further elaborated and entrenched, given that the evolution of subsequent
adaptation to build on what already has evolved cannot but function to fine-tune and reinforce the
very original set of adaptations that gave rise to it. Otherwise there would be no basis of the
evolution. There is no going off at some novel tangent that does not better serve from whence it
sprang, and this applies just as much to culture, so there is no possibility that sex binarity will
ever be undermined. [See Moxon, 2010, for a fuller outline.]
Fairly immediately derived from sex is sexual orientation, though to the extent that it is but
derivative, it might be expected to be non-binary (and not immutable), or at least significantly
less than perfectly so. If instead this turns out not to be the case, then sex would be revealed to be
even more strictly binary (and immutable) than has been supposed.
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First, it’s necessary to establish aetiology. Homosexuality is regarded both by investigators
and homosexuals themselves as not a matter of choice or environmental causation but as being
inborn. Swaab, Wolff & Bao (2021) state: There is no evidence that one's post-natal social
environment plays a crucial role in the development of gender identity or sexual orientation”.
Bailey et al. (2016) conclude: There is considerably more evidence supporting non-social causes
of sexual orientation than social causes. This evidence includes the cross-culturally robust finding
that adult homosexuality is strongly related to childhood gender non-conformity”. [Note that by
orientation is (nowadays) meant attraction rather than behaviour, as the latter could be merely
situational (as, for example, in the case of heterosexual males in prison environments engaging in
homosexual acts).] In keeping with still no tenable hypothesis for even a frequency-dependent
adaptive value of homosexuality, only a relatively minor genetic contribution is revealed in family
and twin studies, with no candidate genes identified (Roselli, 2018). We are left with aberration in
foetal development. One or a number of potential malfunctions would have a statistical
probability of occurrence, providing a steady very low prevalence.
Long suspected in the case of male homosexuality has been a birth order effect (having a
number of older brothers), thought to be a result of the impact on the foetus of a maternal
immune response to a Y-chromosome protein. However, a meta-analysis of studies reveals this
would apply in the case of only a minority proportion of gays (Rao & Andrade, 2019), which other
research shows are those who prefer a receptive anal position, dubbed bottoms (Wampold, 2018;
Swift-Gallant, Coome, Monks & VanderLaan, 2018). So this concerns erotic roles within male
homosexuality, not sexual orientation.
The other longstanding hypothesis is abnormal pre-natal testosterone level, but evidence
has been at best mixed, and Breedlove (2017) concludes that there is no evidence of this for males;
only in respect of females -- that testosterone levels, compared to heterosexuals, are not lower in
gays, though they are higher in lesbians. Commenting on Breedlove, it’s argued by Skorska &
Bogaert (2017) that there likely is a role for pre-natal androgens in male homosexuality but that it
is complex, and Pasterski (2017) speculates that it may be due to disruption of peri-natal
testosterone, which Swift-Gallant, Shirazi, Puts & Breedlove (2021) posit is responsible for the sub-
group of male homosexuals dubbed ‘tops’, who prefer an insertive anal position. [They also
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suggest peri-natal ovarian steroids augment female heterosexuality, with disruption of these
precipitating lesbianism.] With all the data merely correlational, then in any case androgens may
not be causal but merely part of a cascade producing the end effect; that is, merely proximally
The aetiology -- the distal causation -- instead is clearly epigenetic, the (normally) non-
heritable modification of gene expression. A foetal developmental aberration of epi-marks that
normally protect the developing foetus from natural considerable variation in testosterone levels
(buffering the XX foetus from masculinisation by excessive androgen exposure, and XY foetuses
from feminisation by insufficient androgen exposure). If, unusually, these are not erased and
instead carry over across a generation, then opposite-sex offspring have an homosexual
orientation (Rice, Friberg & Gavrilets, 2012; Gavrilets, Friberg & Rice, 2018). This aetiology appears
to apply to females as well as to males (Ngun & Vilain, 2014). The epigenetic markers can be
detected and are predictive of sexual orientation (Ngun et al., 2015). Mathematical modelling in
the studies shows small-minority homosexual orientation does not undermine the adaptive value
of the epi-marks, and likewise the genes underpinning them. These easily spread in the
population given that they always increase parental fitness and only reduce offspring fitness in the
unusual instances of non-erasure. They are adaptive: there is no evolutionary puzzle. It’s an
inadvertent occasional biological switch whereby in a very small minority is initiated a same-sex
sexual orientation, leaving the great majority unaffected. Consequently, sexual orientation is not a
continuum whereby an individual is mostly homosexual and subsidiarily heterosexual or vice-
versa. It is not bipolar.
The notion of a hetero-to-homosexual continuum, as imagined in the Kinsey Scale of a
trade-off to varying degree between hetero- and homosexuality, is undermined by analysis
showing that the Kinsey Scale is not a measure of a single construct, but instead that opposite-sex
and same-sex orientation are orthogonal (Zietsch & Sidari, 2020); that is, entirely independent of
each other. That there is no continuum is the implication, Ganna et al. (2019) conclude, of the
absence of any genetic basis; as shown by that underpinning why ever versus never engaging in
homosexual behavior is not the same as what underpins the proportion of an individual’s sexual
behaviour that is homosexual. The seeming complexity of sexual orientation has prompted some
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to argue it is not simply a matter of genital arousal (Zivony, 2020; Feinstein & Galupo, 2020), but
this is the proxy for if not the definition of sexual orientation, so anything escaping this measure
hardly can be considered sexual orientation. Diamond (2021) interprets Ganna et al.’s findings as
an orthogonal distinction between sexual orientation per se and some other factor. In other
words, individuals who seem in the main heterosexual (or homosexual) but not exclusively so,
actually do have a binary sexual orientation, notwithstanding behaviour that at times may suggest
otherwise. Whatever this other factor may be, it is not sexual fluidity, Diamond points out, which
is a capacity for variation in sexual expression, and not evident in Ganna’s data. The notion of
fluidity comprises variation of very different forms, whereas Ganna’s data shows specifically
greater openness to unfamiliar, even taboo experiences, and (perhaps or) greater risk tolerance.
This would reflect hypersexuality, that neuroscientific findings by Li, Fernández-Guasti, Xu &
Swaab (2021) indicate is misinterpreted as fluidity.
With sexual orientation being binary, and minority aberration in foetal development
creating homosexuality, there is further scope for developmental malfunction to create apparent
bisexuality; that is, ostensible though not actual bisexuality. There may be several kinds of
malfunctions, which would account for the classification by Savin-Williams (2021) of four types of
bisexuality: primary, closet, transitional or situational; with the attraction to both sexes in the
case of the primary sub-group being “to varying degrees”.
Given the either-or basis of epigenetic pre-setting of sexual orientation, it’s unlikely that
there is a potential fault whereby sexual orientation can be set to be both hetero- and
homosexual. A more likely potential fault is simple failure to set a sexual orientation, so that by
default there would be no distinguishing between the sexes as targets of sexual interest; instead
an indiscriminate sexual interest to encompass both the opposite and the same sex, with perhaps
a generally lower level of sexual interest irrespective of target. Much the more likely basis of
ostensible bisexuality is, however, the impact of non-sex-derived (or more distally-sex-derived)
traits tending to obscure the clarity of sexual orientation, rendering it ostensibly fluid.
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As regards males, there has been much doubt that bisexuality exists, but Jabbour et al.
(2020) in a meta-analysis of several studies conclude, contrary to much previous research, that
bisexual males are indeed sexually aroused by both sexes, though in varying proportion, not
equally. The qualification is illuminating, as true bisexuality would mean just as much attraction
to one sex as to the other. Also enlightening is that almost a third of subjects had to be excluded
by Jabbour et al. through “insufficient genital arousal for meaningful analysis”. This may indicate
two distinct populations of bisexuals. It’s also what Stief, Rieger & Savin-Williams (2014)
conclude, with one population, recruited using stringent selection criteria, found (as similarly by
Rosenthal, Sylva, Safron & Bailey, 2011) indeed to exhibit sexual arousal to both males and females;
whereas the other population, which would be included in sampling by much more relaxed
selection criteria (as also by Rieger, Bailey & Chivers, 2005), has sexual arousal patterns
indistinguishable from those of either heterosexuals or homosexuals. The latter individuals are
really either homosexual or heterosexual, and not actually bisexual (though some may be in effect
asexual). The population that instead is sexually arousable by both sexes, Stief, Rieger & Savin-
Williams reveal to possess elevated levels of sexual sensation-seeking and sexual curiosity, so are
‘‘proceptivity-driven’’; hypersexual, as it were, not sexually fluid. There is no variability in sexual
orientation, therefore. It’s binary. Instead there is simply greater sexual motivation and
consequent expression. In line with this, Lippa (2020) finds that “higher sex drive, sociosexuality,
and neuroticism and lower conscientiousness distinguished bisexual men from other groups”.
Bisexuals also have more pronounced dark triad traits: psychopathy and narcissism, according to
Jonason & Luoto (2021).
Male bisexuality is here revealed to be not a sexual orientation per se but the result of what
are personality factors raising the intensity of sexual interest to the point it overrides the usual
restriction to targeting one sex. In some circumstances the range of sexual targets can widen to
encompass both sexes, notwithstanding that sexual orientation per se is unchanged. Apparent
sexual fluidity is thus explained. Note, as aforesaid, that there isn’t equal attraction to both men
and women, but that these men are more aroused by other men than are heterosexual men, and
more aroused by women than are homosexual men, so that compared to men of either sexual
orientation they are more equally attracted to both sexes. This is what would be expected if these
ostensible bisexuals actually have an underlying either heterosexual or homosexual orientation,
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but through being unusually ‘proceptivity-driven’ (hypersexual) their sexuality spills over, partly
overcoming the usual discrimination between appropriate and inappropriate sexual targets.
In respect of the above-mentioned possibility of a malfunction to produce no sexual
preference for either sex -- no sexual orientation at all -- there may also be a population of male
ostensible bisexuals who reflect this, identified by implicit association testing (Snowden, Fitton,
McKinnon & Gray, 2020). This species of bisexuality also would be ostensible rather than real.
Overall, then, male bisexuality, in however it manifests, appears not to be a sexual
orientation per se, so is no challenge to the binary (and immutable) nature of sex, even though
issues of sexual orientation are but sex-derived -- at some remove from sex itself.
Turning to female (apparent) bisexuality, it is well recognised that whereas for males
homosexuality is much more prevalent than (apparent) bisexuality, for females it is the inverse.
That is, “women are more likely to report as bisexual than an exclusively same-sex orientation;
men show the opposite pattern” (Bailey et al., 2016). Indeed, in women, “bisexual behavior is an
order of magnitude more common than exclusive homosexuality” (Luoto & Rantala, 2020).
According to Diamond (2021), “Instead of describing women as ‘more bisexual’, it is actually more
informative to describe women as ‘less exclusively same-gender attracted’”. It appears to be a
much looser phenomenon. So it is that Stief, Rieger & Savin-Williams (2014) find that bisexuality
in women is not just through elevated levels of sexual sensation-seeking and sexual curiosity, as it
is for men, but also, unlike for men, because of elevated levels of sexual excitability.
Hypersexuality and not fluidity, again. Luoto & Rantala similarly find that bisexual women have
“more male-typical personality traits, more unrestricted sociosexual attitudes and behavior, and
higher sexual responsiveness”.
There is something more profound afoot, however. According to Baldwin et al. (2016),
“bisexual women say that their attraction to other women is mainly emotional and their
attachment to men more sexual. This completely undermines the notion of female bisexuality.
Bailey et al. (2016) additionally point out that “women appear more likely than men to experience
same-sex attraction in the context of close affectionate relationships”. Few would dispute that
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female intra-sexual affiliation -- women’s same-sex friendship -- is notably very close and physical,
such that distinguishing between the platonic and not entirely platonic is not easy. It is quite clear
that (apparent) bisexuality in women is even more a misnomer than it is in men. Furthermore,
this appears to apply to female sexual orientation more generally, not just to ostensibly bisexual
women. It has long been well established that whereas men’s sexual orientation is clearly
indicated by their sexual arousal to erotic stimuli, this is not the case for women, who show
physiological sexual arousal to both sexes, irrespective of sexual orientation (e.g., Holmes et al.,
There would seem to be an explanation (at least in part) for generally weak female sexual
orientation in women’s sexuality being predominantly non-relational, in erotic self-focus (e.g.,
Fertel, 2015), which is ubiquitous for women, far greater than it is for men, and with large effect
sizes. This is the internalisation of oneself as the object of desire: a woman is in substantial part
her own erotic subject, as she focuses on her own desirability without consideration for the
experience or even the attributes of the partner (Symons, 1990; Zurbriggen & Yost, 2004; Bogaert,
Visser & Pozzebon, 2015; Lehmiller, 2018). With such deep narcissism and irrelevance of partner,
then it should not be too surprising that indifference as to partner might to a degree extend even
to the partner’s sex.
Chivers (2017) explores the complexity of female sexual orientation, presenting and discussing
several hypotheses, but finds no basis of choosing between them. Diamond (2021) cuts through the
impasse in concluding that heterosexual women’s genital arousal pattern is uniquely fluid. However,
this is unlikely to reflect hypersexuality and a positive widening of sexual orientation, but instead mere
relative laxity (compared to the case for males) through sexual orientation not being imperative as it is
for the male. After all, compared to males there is less of an evolutionary biological imperative for
females to be canalised in sexual behaviour and cognition specifically regarding the opposite-sex,
considering it is the male who is the agentic sex, seeking out the female (the limiting factor in
reproduction) and being the penetrative party. As the party receptive to sexual penetration and in
general the one actively sought after rather than seeking, the female need be no more than passive,
then allowing selective sexual access to her from a range of suitors. However, there is scope for a
positive basis to such laxity: a factor atop binary sexual orientation.
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This is plasticity in the nature of female same-sex friendship, that Kanazawa (2017) proposes
is adaptive in diffusing the strong tension and conflict between co-wives in polygynous pair-
bonding. The severity of this tension and conflict is very well-attested (e.g., Essien, 2018;
Jankowiak, Sudakov & Wilreker, 2005), characterised by Madhavan (2002) in the paper’s title, Best
of friends and worst of enemies: competition and collaboration in polygyny. More fundamentally,
there is a cross-species major problem in social groups of female intra-sexual conflict, that cannot
be addressed by group fission, given the need for increased group size in the face of predation
risk. It’s long been known that low level agonistic interactions between female gorillas increase
dramatically in frequency with the number of females, and not with group size (males and
females both) per se (Watts, 1985); likewise in the case of baboons (Hill, Lycett & Dunbar, 2000),
causing elevated stress levels. The stress caused by female coalitions attacking other females
results in reproductive suppression -- more cycles before conception and longer inter-birth
intervals (Wasser & Starling, 1988). Lone males interpolated between small sub-groups of females
in order to reduce female-female fractiousness is the basis of the social pattern in the gorilla,
according to Dunbar (2020): “Conflicts between neighbouring harems are usually initiated by one,
occasionally two, females; if the conflict escalates, more females will become involved, until
eventually the harem males are drawn into the dispute and force the separation of the two groups
of females (Dunbar 1983b, 2018)”. Indeed, this is thought to be the basis of the harem in the first
place, and pair-bonding in many species (Gowaty, 1996). Given this female fractiousness being
such a fundamental problem, and requiring solutions that are foundational to social structure,
then it surely must have been adaptive for females to have evolved modes of same-sex
amelioration of tension that co-opted intimacy-promoting features of their sexual repertoire to
bolster non-sexual affiliation. As is the case generally with co-option in evolution, mechanism is
re-dedicated to a different function: the original function is not retained in the co-option. For
example, aspects of male dominance display in courtship clearly is in no way itself dominance
behaviour (towards the female being courted). It’s symbolic of male mate value, which is rank
(dominance relative to other males). Drawing on aspects of the sexual repertoire for an
adaptation concerning friendship is not some weak form of bisexuality.
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Sexual orientation of course does not entail any issue about which sex the individual
considers him/herself to be. The question of sexual identification arises, supposedly, with the
notion of trans-sexuality, that an individual can be in the process of or may actually achieve
change from one sex to the other. [The term has generally changed to trans-gender, which is to
obfuscate when what is meant is a biological sex change, and gender anyway is a confusing,
ideologically-derived term that should not have a place in science.] Trans is a misnomer, as there
is no transition towards anything. Any wish or effort is to maintain sexual identification, and any
desired change to the body, ostensibly to try to match it to the sexual identification, is impossible,
as no individual can ever change the type of gametes he/she produces, so no individual can be in
the process of such a change. Any so-called sex change can be nothing more than very superficial.
Not only does a sex-change operation not lead to gamete production, but the crude remodelling
of genitalia cannot render them functional, notably in respect of orgasm. No sex-specific
physiology of any kind is changed: for example, stress response mechanism, which is almost
entirely sex-dichotomous. [For a review, see Moxon, 2015.] As is now popularly appreciated from
the controversy in sports over those dubbed male-to-female trans-sexuals, foetal sex hormones lay
down gross body changes that no post-natal administering of opposite-sex sex hormones can
Underpinning the misnomer of trans-sexuality is the medically acknowledged condition of
gender dysphoria, that was almost unheard of, and in surveys vanishingly rare prior to its recent
politicisation. Nevertheless, that at least a minuscule minority experience some sort of significant
discomfort is a real phenomenon that should not be dismissed. [Note, again, that with gender a
confusing, ideologically-derived term, henceforth I will substitute sex dysphoria.] However, it too
a misnomer, to the extent of there being no evidence of the notion of a female brain within an
otherwise male body, or vice-versa. Indeed, it’s contradicted by findings of no anticipated
anomalies in the very parts of the brain that exhibit sex dimorphism (Savic & Arver, 2011). It’s
theoretically possible for rare sex dysphoria to result from an aberration in one of the surges of
organising hormones at different points during foetal development (as suggested by Holmes at al,
2021). Given that an early testosterone surge governs the development of genitalia and only later,
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after aromatisation to estradiol, does testosterone masculinise the brain (e.g., Panksepp, 1988),
then if something goes awry in one of these, it may be possible that some sort of disjunction
occurs that is experienced or is interpreted as sex dysphoria. Yet as there is no evidence of such a
phenomenon, the notion of a female brain in a male body is a caricature of sex dysphoria: a
widespread (mis-)apprehension that is understandable in arising as a simple and not too
implausible way to describe sex dysphoria, to try to establish it as a profound and immutable
phenomenon akin to homosexuality.
A more likely aetiology and characterisation is a compounding by other mental disorders of
a simple, weak conceptualisation of sex dysphoria as the disconcerting body and brain changes of
puberty quite rapidly turning the child into a sexually mature adult, that might be misconstrued
as an instability in sexual identity. As Evans (2021) points out: “The experience of being dislocated
from one's body, which is changing rapidly in many ways, is not uncommon in adolescence.”
While adolescent bodily changes are unlikely to be problematic for the vast majority, it would be
anticipated for a small minority at the extreme of normal distribution this is not so, and that very
rarely this presents as a clinical psychological condition, especially or perhaps necessarily if in
conjunction with one or more other mental disorders, notably autism, which is a well-known
major co-morbidity of sex dysphoria (Kallitsounaki, Williams & Lind, 2021; Dutton & Madison,
An account at length of this topic is the book by the sexologist, Debra Soh: The End of
Gender: Debunking the Myths About Sex and Identity in our Society. Soh’s outline is in terms of
typology by seasoned sexologists Blanchard (Blanchard, 2005) and Bailey & Blanchard (2017), as
endorsed by others. As this is the only scientific account available, and there has been no cogent
scientific challenge to their position (only non-cogent, ideologically driven critique), then this
typology is the scientific position, and what is briefly summarised in what follows.
There is a typological distinction between early- and late-onset sex dysphoria. The former,
in both sexes, arises in childhood, long before puberty, with individuals exhibiting gender non-
conforming -- opposite-sex-typical -- behaviour from a very early age, and exhibiting an
exclusively homosexual orientation already by puberty. It’s latent homosexuality. Thus, the male
version of this early-onset form is known as androphilic sex dysphoria, or simply the gay sub-type.
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This explains why the vast majority of children who voice the desire to be the opposite sex will
eventually change their minds, growing up to be gay and comfortable in the body they were
given” (Soh, 2020, p164). Singh (2021) concurs. Four decades of research is summed up by Soh:
“across all eleven long-term studies ever done of gender dysphoric children, between 60% and
90% desist by puberty (Davenport 1986; Drummon, Bailey, Bedali-Peterson & Zucker, 2008; Green
1987; Kosky 1987, Lebovitz 1972; Money & Russo 1979; Singh 2012; Steensma, McGuire, Kreukels,
Beckman, Cohen-Ketennis 2013; Wallien & Cohen-Ketennis 2008; Zuger 1978; & Zuger 1984).
Regardless of whether you look at older or newer studies, no matter how large or small the sample
size, or where in the world and which research team conducted it, the data are irrefutable” (p141)
“… even when you remove kids who are less severe from the study analysis, the rate of
desistance is still over 80 percent” (p144) “Even after removing the number of children lost to
study attrition from analysis, the desistance rate was still more than 50 percent” (p146). And these
statistics don’t include those who desisted after puberty. With these cases added, the total
amounts to the “vast majority”, Soh claims.
The late-onset form (not arising until puberty at the very earliest) is also not what it may
seem, being a sexual self-orientation: that is, it’s inwardly directed. Erotic-target identity inversion,
as it is labelled by Hsu & Bailey (2021) and Brown, Barker & Rahman (2020), is not an actual
changed identification or orientation, but a narcissistic intensification combining existing sexual
identification and orientation. In males this is an heterosexual fantasy of being oneself female;
that is, imagining oneself as the object of one’s own sexual desire, but remaining heterosexual.
This is termed autogynephilic sex dysphoria, which typology by Blanchard and Bailey is endorsed
by other researchers, notably Lawrence (2017), who pointedly rejects what are minor or non-
cogent critiques by Serano (2010) and Moser (2010b).
Presumably, adding an extra dimension to a male sense of knowing and being inside the
female further eroticises the male sexual role; the male thereby achieves a fuller male sexual
expression and experience. What has been missed (or at least not spelt out) is an interesting
paradox here, in that although the male fantasises about being the female object of his desire, he
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cannot actually become the female, as it’s a fantasy from the vantage of the male, in whom, of
course, is vested all the eroticism here. Consequently, albeit the male indeed wants to become the
female in the fantasy, he hardly can want actually to become female. To do so would remove the
very basis of the fantasy, and hardly would create any satisfaction. The reality is revealed in what
Bailey & Blanchard (2017) say about the female equivalent of this type of sex dysphoria (see
below), that “becoming … appears to be the primary goal or very close to it”. Very close -- In other
words not quite -- is the operative aspect of the phenomenon here. It seems, then, that
autogynephilic sex dysphoria is an elaboration on top of male identity & male heterosexual
orientation, and not some change in either. Any feeling that an actual sex change is required
would be a case of ideation running away with itself, as it were, through the recruitment of
various cognitive resources in the considerable effort of upholding the fantasy, in the likely
service of unmet psychological needs evident in co-occurring mental illness.
The corresponding (though possibly subtly different) female form is autohomoerotic sex
dysphoria, which is an heterosexual fantasy of engaging in male homosexual sexual activity.
Specifically this would be receiving penetration from a male homosexual, facilitated by an
imagined morphing from a female to a male homosexual ‘bottom’ (a male homosexual with a
receiving anal sexual role), the object of desire for a male homosexual ‘top’ (a male homosexual
with an insertive anal sexual role). So the female receptive sexual role is maintained, and as with
autogynephilic sex dysphoria it looks like an intensified eroticisation of one’s own sex. As
mentioned above, Bailey & Blanchard (2017) write that “becoming a gay man appears to be the
primary goal or very close to it”. Again, that this is not quite is revealing. The desire hardly can be
to become an homosexual male, given this would destroy the perspective of the female who is the
author of the fantasising in the first place. As with autogynephilic sex dysphoria, in getting ‘inside’
the object of the fantasy -- here, the male homosexual ‘bottom’ perspective -- the female achieves
fuller (female) sexual expression and experience. It seems, then, that just as with the male (near)
equivalent, it’s an elaboration on top of female identity & female heterosexual orientation, and
not some change in either.
A further form, rather than sex dysphoria per se is a phenomenon of merely assumed
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hitherto hidden sex dysphoria, as a means of simply accounting for if not pathologising
experienced problems. The individual believes she/he has a sex dysphoria she/he does not have.
Unlike other forms, its onset is not gradual but sudden and rapid, with no prior sex dysphoria,
and is designated rapid onset gender dysphoria. [As before, I will reject the term gender and
substitute sex: rapid onset sex dysphoria.] This form is overwhelmingly female and may be female-
specific, though a very small proportion of diagnoses are of males. As established by Littman
(2018, and, in trivial correction after non-cogent critique, 2019), whose findings are endorsed by
clinicians (e.g., Hutchinson, Midgen & Spiliadis, 2019; Zucker, 2019), it’s a classic social contagion.
Susceptibility is linked to psychological disorder: most of these children having at least one, such
as autism, and, according to Soh (2020), citing the sex dysphoria expert, Susan Bradley, many
having a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, or a history of obsessional behaviour.
There is a remarkable similarity in all key characteristics to the supposed recovered memory
and multiple personality disorder epidemic in the 1990s of alleged child sex abuse (and even ritual
satanic sex abuse) in imaginary adult recollection as a simple way to account for, pathologise and
gain sympathy for individual experienced problems. Despite there being no scientific basis to
either recovered memory or multiple personality disorder, only when they were exposed as fictions
(notably by Ofshe & Watters, in their 1995 book, Making Monsters: False Memories,
Psychotherapy & Sexual Hysteria) did the nonsense even of ritual satanic child sex abuse cease to
be taken seriously. The whole protracted, very well-publicised mania is today as if it never had
existed, such is its loss to popular memory. Indeed, it is currently recapitulated as long-after-the-
event putative recall of early-adult or peri-adult sex abuse in the #metoo bandwagon of
exaggerating often flimsy complaint not made at the time. Albeit less implausible than recovered
memory and multiple personality disorder, it’s no more scientific, with reliance on putative
accurate recall after several decades -- despite voluminous scientific evidence this is impossible
and almost guaranteed to produce false memory. Likewise unsupported by any scientific research,
and counter to all experience, is the supposed invariable, irrevocable harm (post-traumatic stress
disorder) taken to result from even the most trivial sexual assault (or mere poor communication
within a sexual encounter).
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Rapid onset sex dysphoria has nothing to do with sexual identification. Neither do the forms
of actual sex dysphoria, given that even in the minority of cases where the dysphoria doesn’t
subside and disappear, the individual is either homosexual (having the other binary sexual
orientation) or has simply intensified identification without changing it, combining it with
orientation. That some individuals feel so strongly that they need to (and imagine that it is
feasible to) change sex, and choose to take the drastic step to supposedly transition through so-
called gender reassignment (hormone treatment and, eventually, crude surgical work to produce a
rough superficial facsimile of opposite-sex genitals), is not evidence against the scientific
understanding of sex dysphoria herein outlined, especially as only a minority opt for full transition
(Hall, Mitchell & Sachdeva, 2021). Neither is the relief sometimes attested by those who transition,
given commonly expressed dissatisfaction after transitioning. Many such cases, and those of
detransitioners, have been studied, but, given the major problems following-up cases, there has
been no proper attempt to quantify these cases as proportions of the whole set of those who are
minded to or actually transition. Soh discusses detransitioning at length, showing progressive
attrition of samples at different junctures of large numbers of cases, as would be expected with a
high rate of disatisfaction. The vast bulk of detransitioning is invisible to official data -- not least
because unlike with transitioning there is no requirement to see a doctor -- which are therefore
meaningless. An unknown but a suspected large, very rapidly growing proportion of those who
complete or have embarked on transition have transition regret, and of these many may then
detransition (Donym, 2018; Soh, 2020). Nevertheless, many individuals would be expected to
maintain their belief, given a placebo effect and that focus on what appears to be a solution can be
itself cathartic of co-occurring, likely predisposing mental health conditions; the more so the
more cult-like and ideological is the belief. Furthermore, once embarked upon, jettisoning the
belief would entail abandoning the salving of cognitive dissonance the belief affords, just as the
psychic crutch fades with the dawning reality that it doesn’t thus function, if indeed it isn’t a
The virulent objections of activists to a scientific understanding is to be expected as these
usually are not objections on behalf of those with sex dysphoria (most of whom see this as
hijacking by those who have their own political interests at odds with theirs). It’s instead part of
the relentless perpetration of the extreme ideology of identity politics, which is not the concern
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for minorities it purports to be, but a mode of political revenge against the mass of ordinary
people (Moxon, 2014). Just as homosexuality was hijacked by activists and misrepresented as
being not part of the biological binary nature of sex but instead belonging to a supposedly socially
constructed continuum of sexual orientation / identity, the same has occurred in respect of trans-
sexuality. To this end, just as the prevalence of homosexuality was deliberately inflated to be an
order of magnitude greater than the reality, so too (and far more) has trans-sexuality. All is
manifestation of the exponential growth of a totalitarianism, that as it grows and proliferates,
diversifies and gets bolder, confident that notions ever more distant from reality can be foisted on
the populace, brooking no dissent. The bigger the lie -- the more widespread, all-encompassing
and in-depth it is -- the harder it is to have the perspective from which it is easily refutable.
Just as with ostensible bisexuality and a putative sexuality continuum, there is nothing in
the misnomer trans-sexual(gender) nor in sex(gender)-dysphoria that actually is any change in
sexual identification or sexual orientation, never mind raising any binary versus non-binary issue.
With no challenge to the binary or immutable nature of sex, it is clear that not only is sex per se
binary and immutable, but so too are sexual orientation and identification, notwithstanding they
are but derivative of sex, and therefore might be expected, through confounding by other traits, to
provide a fuzzier, non-binary, mutable picture. That a binary and immutable nature is clear even
in what is sex-derived as well as in sex per se, confirms the profundity of the binary, immutable
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Steve Moxon is an English independent (non-affiliated) cross-disciplinary
researcher/writer of science review papers and books outlining original theory on
the biological roots of human sociality, behaviour and psychology, with a special
interest in the sexessex-difference/dichotomy. Regularly journal-published for
the past decade, his topics include dominance hierarchy (and associated reproductive
suppression), pair-bonding, partner violence, competitiveness, stress response mechanism, the
origin of the sexual divide, and why culture is biology. Throughout is a necessary bottom-up
approach, excluding all ideology: an avowed stance against ‘PC’ (‘identity politics’), especially its
core of feminism; all being non-, indeed anti-science. Steve also researches/writes about
mythologies (ancient and contemporary), these being another window on understanding
humanity; and is a songwriter, singer & guitarist. He resides in the Pennine hills north of
Sheffield, Yorkshire, where he grew up, feels at home, and can walk or cycle through the stunning
countryside of steep-sided wooded valleys and gritstone edges.
Contact details:
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Background UK adult gender identity clinics (GICs) are implementing a new streamlined service model. However, there is minimal evidence from these services underpinning this. It is also unknown how many service users subsequently ‘detransition’. Aims To describe service users’ access to care and patterns of service use, specifically, interventions accessed, reasons for discharge and re-referrals; to identify factors associated with access; and to quantify ‘detransitioning’. Method A retrospective case-note review was performed as a service evaluation for 175 service users consecutively discharged by a tertiary National Health Service adult GIC between 1 September 2017 and 31 August 2018. Descriptive statistics were used for rates of accessing interventions sought, reasons for discharge, re-referral and frequency of detransitioning. Using multivariate analysis, we sought associations between several variables and ‘accessing care’ or ‘other outcome’. Results The treatment pathway was completed by 56.1%. All interventions initially sought were accessed by 58%; 94% accessed hormones but only 47.7% accessed gender reassignment surgery; 21.7% disengaged; and 19.4% were re-referred. Multivariate analysis identified coexisting neurodevelopmental disorders (odds ratio [OR] = 5.7, 95% CI = 1.7–19), previous adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) per reported ACE (OR = 1.5, 95% CI = 1.1–1.9), substance misuse during treatment (OR = 4.3, 95% CI = 1.1–17.6) and mental health concerns during treatment (OR = 2.2, 95% CI 1.1–4.4) as independently associated with accessing care. Twelve people (6.9%) met our case definition of detransitioning. Conclusions Service users may have unmet needs. Neurodevelopmental disorders or ACEs suggest complexity requiring consideration during the assessment process. Managing mental ill health and substance misuse during treatment needs optimising. Detransitioning might be more frequent than previously reported.
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According to the neuro-hormonal theory, sexual orientation in humans develops in the womb under the influence of sex hormones. In this article, we review the evidence from basic research on the possible role of neurotransmitters on influencing sexual orientation. We show that pharmacological or genetically induced changes in neurotransmitter systems during development might, by hormone-mediated structural and functional brain changes, result in alterations in sexual preference in animal models. We propose that in humans this mechanism may contribute to the relationship between non-heterosexual orientation and increased prevalence of neuropsychiatric disorders. Data to support this idea are reviewed. We suggest that altered neurotransmitter levels during development will increase the chance for both non-heterosexual differentiation of the brain and neuropsychiatric disorders. This possibility may have clinical implications, because medication given to a pregnant woman may, in this way, alter brain development of the fetus in a permanent way.
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Sexual orientation is conventionally understood as relative attraction to men versus women. It has recently been argued that male sexual orientation in particular can be extended to include other dimensions of sexual attraction besides gender. One such dimension is sexual maturity, or relative attraction to children versus adults. A less familiar dimension is location, or relative attraction to other individuals versus sexual arousal by the fantasy of being one of those individuals. Erotic target identity inversions (ETIIs) refer to some men’s sexual arousal by the fantasy of being the same kinds of individuals to whom they are sexually attracted. Thus, ETIIs reflect the movement from external attraction to internal attraction on the dimension of location. ETIIs can motivate men to change their appearance and behavior to become more like the individuals to whom they are sexually attracted. ETIIs also provide a compelling theoretical explanation for otherwise puzzling phenomena, such as cross-dressing among heterosexual men, desire for limb amputation, and the furry phenomenon. Despite its scientific and clinical value, the concept of ETIIs has been underappreciated and understudied. This chapter reviews the ETIIs that have been previously identified in the literature, addresses important issues related to ETIIs, discusses the causes and development of ETIIs, and proposes future directions for research.KeywordsErotic target identity inversionAutogynephiliaApotemnophiliaAutopedophiliaParaphiliaSexual orientation
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In general, women show physiological sexual arousal to both sexes. However, compared with heterosexual women, homosexual women are more aroused to their preferred sex, a pattern typically found in men. We hypothesized that homosexual women’s male-typical arousal is due to their sex-atypical masculinization during prenatal development. We measured the sexual responses of 199 women (including 67 homosexual women) via their genital arousal and pupil dilation to female and male sexual stimuli. Our main marker of masculinization was the ratio of the index to ring finger, which we expected to be lower (a masculine pattern) in homosexual women due to increased levels of prenatal androgens. We further measured observer- and self-ratings of psychological masculinity–femininity as possible proxies of prenatal androgenization. Homosexual women responded more strongly to female stimuli than male stimuli and therefore had more male-typical sexual responses than heterosexual women. However, they did not have more male-typical digit ratios, even though this difference became stronger if analyses were restricted to white participants. Still, variation in women's digit ratios did not account for the link between their sexual orientation and their male-typical sexual responses. Furthermore, homosexual women reported and displayed more masculinity than heterosexual women, but their masculinity was not associated with their male-typical sexual arousal. Thus, women’s sexual and behavioral traits, and potential anatomical traits, are possibly masculinized at different stages of gestation.
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This study reports follow-up data on the largest sample to date of boys clinic-referred for gender dysphoria ( n = 139) with regard to gender identity and sexual orientation. In childhood, the boys were assessed at a mean age of 7.49 years (range, 3.33–12.99) at a mean year of 1989 and followed-up at a mean age of 20.58 years (range, 13.07–39.15) at a mean year of 2002. In childhood, 88 (63.3%) of the boys met the DSM-III, III-R, or IV criteria for gender identity disorder; the remaining 51 (36.7%) boys were subthreshold for the criteria. At follow-up, gender identity/dysphoria was assessed via multiple methods and the participants were classified as either persisters or desisters. Sexual orientation was ascertained for both fantasy and behavior and then dichotomized as either biphilic/androphilic or gynephilic. Of the 139 participants, 17 (12.2%) were classified as persisters and the remaining 122 (87.8%) were classified as desisters. Data on sexual orientation in fantasy were available for 129 participants: 82 (63.6%) were classified as biphilic/androphilic, 43 (33.3%) were classified as gynephilic, and 4 (3.1%) reported no sexual fantasies. For sexual orientation in behavior, data were available for 108 participants: 51 (47.2%) were classified as biphilic/androphilic, 29 (26.9%) were classified as gynephilic, and 28 (25.9%) reported no sexual behaviors. Multinomial logistic regression examined predictors of outcome for the biphilic/androphilic persisters and the gynephilic desisters, with the biphilic/androphilic desisters as the reference group. Compared to the reference group, the biphilic/androphilic persisters tended to be older at the time of the assessment in childhood, were from a lower social class background, and, on a dimensional composite of sex-typed behavior in childhood were more gender-variant. The biphilic/androphilic desisters were more gender-variant compared to the gynephilic desisters. Boys clinic-referred for gender identity concerns in childhood had a high rate of desistance and a high rate of a biphilic/androphilic sexual orientation. The implications of the data for current models of care for the treatment of gender dysphoria in children are discussed.
In laboratory animals, exposure to gonadal steroid hormones before and immediately after birth can exert permanent effects on many behaviors, particularly reproductive behaviors. The extent to which such effects occur in humans remains an open question, but several lines of evidence indicate that perinatal levels of both androgens and estrogens may affect adult human psychology and behavior, including sexual orientation and gender nonconformity. Some putative indicators of prenatal androgen exposure, including the ratio of the length of the index finger to that of the ring finger (2D:4D), have repeatedly indicated that lesbians, on average, were exposed to more prenatal androgens than straight women, suggesting that sufficient fetal androgen exposure predisposes a fetus to gynephilia (attraction to women) at maturity. The digit ratios of gay men do not differ from those of straight men, suggesting that prenatal androgen levels are not responsible for their androphilia (attraction to men). However, evidence that gay men who prefer an insertive anal sex role (ASR) have more masculine digit ratios than those preferring a receptive ASR suggests that early androgens influence some sexual preferences in men. Furthermore, digit ratios among gay men have been found to correlate with recalled childhood gender nonconformity (CGN). People with isolated gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) deficiency (IGD) offer further insight into the effects of perinatal gonadal steroid exposure. In people with IGD, gonadal hormone production is low or absent after the first trimester of gestation. However, because placental gonadotropins drive gonadal hormone secretion during the first trimester when genitalia sexually differentiate, individuals with IGD are unambiguously male or female at birth, consistent with their chromosomal and gonadal sex. Men with IGD report greater CGN, again suggesting that perinatal androgen exposure contributes to male-typical behavioral patterns in humans. Interestingly, women with IGD report less androphilia and more bisexuality than control women, suggesting that perinatal ovarian steroids in females typically augment androphilia in adulthood. Taken together, these findings indicate that the perinatal hormonal milieu influences human sexual orientation and gender conformity.
Research on the Dark Triad traits — psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and narcissism — reveals malevolent, transgressive, and self-centered aspects of personality. Little is known about the Dark Triad traits in individuals differing in sexual orientation, with some studies showing that non-heterosexual individuals have Dark Triad profiles resembling those of opposite-sex heterosexual individuals. In a cross-national sample (N = 4063; 1507 men, 2556 women; M age = 24.78, SD age = 7.55; 90.58% heterosexual, 5.74% bisexual, 2.83% homosexual) collected online via student and snowball sampling, we found in sex-aggregated analyses that bisexuals and homosexuals were more Machiavellian than heterosexuals. Bisexuals were more psychopathic and narcissistic than heterosexuals. The only significant findings in within-sex comparisons showed that self-identified bisexual women scored higher on all Dark Triad traits than heterosexual women. The findings support the gender shift hypothesis of same-sex sexual attraction in bisexual women, but not in lesbians nor in men. The finding that bisexuals are the sexual orientation group with the most pronounced Dark Triad profiles is opposite to what would be predicted by the prosociality hypothesis of same-sex sexual attraction. The life history and minority stress implications of these findings are discussed as alternative hypotheses to the gender shift hypothesis.
Gender identity (an individual's perception of being male or female) and sexual orientation (heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality) are programmed into our brain during early development. During the intrauterine period in the second half of pregnancy, a testosterone surge masculinizes the fetal male brain. If such a testosterone surge does not occur, this will result in a feminine brain. As sexual differentiation of the brain takes place at a much later stage in development than sexual differentiation of the genitals, these two processes can be influenced independently of each other and can result in gender dysphoria. Nature produces a great variability for all aspects of sexual differentiation of the brain. Mechanisms involved in sexual differentiation of the brain include hormones, genetics, epigenetics, endocrine disruptors, immune response, and self-organization. Furthermore, structural and functional differences in the hypothalamus relating to gender dysphoria and sexual orientation are described in this review. All the genetic, postmortem, and in vivo scanning observations support the neurobiological theory about the origin of gender dysphoria, i.e., it is the sizes of brain structures, the neuron numbers, the molecular composition, functions, and connectivity of brain structures that determine our gender identity or sexual orientation. There is no evidence that one's postnatal social environment plays a crucial role in the development of gender identity or sexual orientation.
In September of 2019, the largest-ever (N = 477,522) genome-wide-association study of same-gender sexuality was published in Science. The primary finding was that multiple genes are significantly associated with ever engaging in same-gender sexual behavior, accounting for between 8–25% of variance in this outcome. Yet an additional finding of this study, which received less attention, has more potential to transform our current understanding of same-gender sexuality: Specifically, the genes associated with ever engaging in same-gender sexual behavior differed from the genes associated with one’s relative proportion of same-gender to other-gender behavior. I review recent research on sexual orientation and sexual fluidity to illustrate how these findings speak to longstanding questions regarding distinctions among subtypes of same-gender sexuality (such as mostly-heterosexuality, bisexuality, and exclusive same-gender experience). I conclude by outlining directions for future research on the multiple causes and correlates of same-gender expression.