Hormones and Lesbians: What We Still Don’t Know

by Catherine Meads

With all the talk of love drugs and sex hormones influencing how people feel and behave, or even who they love or feel that they are (for example, in cross-sex hormone trans debates), we thought it would be worthwhile re-examining the evidence on differences of sex hormones in female sexual orientation. Our systematic review looked at all studies comparing sex hormone levels in lesbians and bisexual women to straight women over the last 50 years.

We only found 14 small studies of mixed designs, of which 12 were in women without known ovarian problems. Hormones were measured in plasma (n = 9), saliva (n = 4), and urine (n = 2) and included androstenedione, luteinizing hormone, oestradiol, progesterone, testosterone, and several other hormones. The only difference found in all-sample meta-analysis was a slight increase in testosterone in lesbians and bisexual women (n = 9; standardized-mean-differences = 0.90; 95% Confidence interval (CI) 0.22 – 1.57, I2 = 84%) which we caution against over-interpreting.

Shockingly, there’s been disappointingly little research and no recent progress compared with 40 years ago. It would only take a primary study with around 170 participants to sort this out and determine the accuracy of the findings. No wonder lesbians feel ‘invisibilised’.  


Read more here: Sex hormone levels in lesbian, bisexual, and heterosexual women: systematic review and exploratory meta-analysis by Alexandra Harris, Susan Bewley, and Catherine Meads was published in Archives of Sexual Behaviour

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