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Report: Very Feminine Boys Likely to Become Homosexual Adults

January 18, 1995 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ Boys who persistently play with girls’ dolls, dress like girls and display other stereotypically feminine traits will probably grow up to be gay men, researchers say.

Playing with dolls does not cause homosexuality, but it’s a possible early sign, said researcher J. Michael Bailey.

``If you have a very feminine boy, one so feminine that he’s constantly wanting to dress up as a girl and wants to be a girl, chances are he’s going to be a gay man,″ said Bailey, a psychologist at Northwestern University.

The chance is probably about 75 percent for these boys, who also generally prefer playing with girls and taking the female role in games like ``house,″ he said.

For a very masculine girl, Bailey guessed the chance of becoming a lesbian adult is perhaps 10 percent. He said that compares with a general chance for a girl of 1 percent or less, though others give higher estimates for the incidence of lesbianism.

Bailey said he doubts parents can do anything to change a child’s chance of becoming a homosexual adult.

Very feminine boys are probably rare, Bailey said. While they run the highest chance of becoming gay men, less feminine boys can also have a higher chance than a masculine boy does, he said.

But that doesn’t apply to a boy who ``plays with female dolls every now and then, but who enjoys boys as playmates or who doesn’t say he’s unhappy about being a boy,″ said co-author Kenneth Zucker, a psychologist at the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry in Toronto.

Bailey and Zucker reported their findings in this month’s issue of the journal Developmental Psychology. The report is a review of prior research.

Brian Gladue, a University of Cincinnati psychologist who has studied homosexuality since 1980, said very feminine behavior in boys is widely accepted by researchers as a strong sign the boys will probably become gay men.

Dr. Margery Sved, president of the Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists, called the work a ``very fair″ description of existing research.

While the studies say very feminine boys are likely to become gay men, most gay men were probably not so extremely feminine as boys, she said.

The report reviewed two kinds of research. One kind began with very feminine boys and studied them again in adulthood. Bailey said that this approach produced his 75 percent estimate, and that no such studies have been done for girls.

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The other kind of research had adults recall their childhoods. The new analysis included 41 of these studies done in the United States, Canada and Australia. All but two were published after 1960.

Overall, the results indicated 89 percent of the gay men in the studies had been more feminine as boys than the typical heterosexual men had been. Similarly, 81 percent of the lesbians had been more masculine as girls than the typical heterosexual women had been.

Sved cautioned that such studies may overstate the differences in childhood behavior because gays and heterosexuals may recall those years differently. Still, she said she believes such differences really did occur for many homosexuals.

Signs of masculinity were defined to include such things as enjoying rough play, liking sports and being interested in traditionally male careers like being an airplane pilot. Definitions of feminine traits included such things as wanting to be a dress designer or nurse, preferring to play with girls and wanting to wear dresses, jewelry and makeup.

Some of those definitions may seem outdated. But psychologist Gregory Herek, co-editor of an annual series of reviews of research into homosexual psychology, said the studies relied on persisting patterns of behavior. These patterns were good indicators of how closely a child fit the behavior and attitudes of the opposite sex, he said.