Monday, July 08, 2019

Subgroups of gay men correspond to different biodevelopmental pathways

Swift-Gallant et al. consider three established biomarkers of sexual orientation and suggest they reflect distinct biodevelopmental pathways influencing same-sex sexual orientation in men. They describe these biomarkers in their introduction:
A well-established biomarker of sexual orientation is familiality of male same-sex sexual orientation. Same-sex sexual orientation clusters in families, twin studies show greater sexual orientation concordance among monozygotic than dizygotic twins, and molecular genetic studies have identified candidate genes associated with sexual orientation.
A second well-studied biomarker of sexual orientation is handedness. Although the biological underpinnings of handedness are not yet clear, increasing evidence suggests that handedness is a marker of cerebral lateralization determined prenatally by genetic, immunological, and endocrine mechanisms and/or by developmental instability... it is estimated that men have 20% greater odds of non−right-handedness than women, and gay men have 34% greater odds of being non−right-handed than heterosexual men.
A third well-established biomarker of sexual orientation is the fraternal birth order effect). Across a diverse range of cultures and sample types, studies have shown that older brothers increase the odds of androphilia in later-born males. The maternal immune hypothesis is the best-developed explanation of the fraternal birth order effect. It argues that male antigens enter maternal circulation during the gestation and birthing of male offspring, promoting an immune response to these male-specific antigens that increases with each successive male fetus gestated; thus, with each successive pregnancy with a male fetus, the odds increase that these maternal antibodies will affect sexual differentiation of the brain and behavior, including sexual preferences.
Their Significance and Abstract statements:  

Studying individual differences in gender and sexual orientation provides insight into how early-life biology shapes brain and behavior. The literature identifies multiple biodevelopmental influences on male sexual orientation, but these influences are generally studied individually, and the potential for association or interaction between them remains largely unexplored. We hypothesized that distinct biodevelopmental pathways correspond to specific subgroups of nonheterosexual men. We present evidence that nonheterosexual men can be categorized into at least four subgroups based on established biomarkers, and these biodevelopmental pathways differentially relate to gender expression and personality traits. These findings indicate individual differences in biodevelopmental pathways of male sexual orientation. They also illustrate the value of latent profile analyses for studying individual differences.
Several biological mechanisms have been proposed to influence male sexual orientation, but the extent to which these mechanisms cooccur is unclear. Putative markers of biological processes are often used to evaluate the biological basis of male sexual orientation, including fraternal birth order, handedness, and familiality of same-sex sexual orientation; these biomarkers are proxies for immunological, endocrine, and genetic mechanisms. Here, we used latent profile analysis (LPA) to assess whether these biomarkers cluster within the same individuals or are present in different subgroups of nonheterosexual men. LPA defined four profiles of men based on these biomarkers: 1) A subgroup who did not have these biomarkers, 2) fraternal birth order, 3) handedness, and 4) familiality. While the majority of both heterosexual and nonheterosexual men were grouped in the profile that did not have any biomarker, the three profiles associated with a biomarker were composed primarily of nonheterosexual men. We then evaluated whether these subgroups differed on measures of gender nonconformity and personality that reliably show male sexual orientation differences. The subgroup without biomarkers was the most gender-conforming whereas the fraternal birth order subgroup was the most female-typical and agreeable, compared with the other profiles. Together, these findings suggest there are multiple distinct biodevelopmental pathways influencing same-sex sexual orientation in men.

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