Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 29, Issue 6, pp 549-565

First online:

The Subtlety of Sex-Atypicality

  • Michael P. DunneAffiliated withSchool of Public Health, Queensland University of Technology
  • , J. Michael BaileyAffiliated withPsychology Department, Northwestern University
  • , Katherine M. KirkAffiliated withQueensland Institute of Medical Research
  • , Nicholas G. MartinAffiliated withQueensland Institute of Medical Research

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


Memories of sex-atypical behavior and interests in childhood usually differ between homosexual and heterosexual people. However, variation within these broad groups has not previously been explored in detail, especially among women. We utilized data from a postal survey of a nationwide sample of Australian adult twins (n = 4,901, age range: 19–52 years). Among men, 15.2% reported homosexual behavior (ever), 11.5% said they had been sexually attracted to the same sex, and 6.4% said they were not heterosexual; the corresponding figures for women were 7.9, 10.6, and 3.5%. A continuous measure of childhood gender nonconformity (CGN) was sensitive to slight variations in homosexual attraction and behavior. In particular, among both men and women who identified as heterosexual, there were significant differences between “complete” heterosexuals and those who admitted to only one or a few same-sex behaviors but no homosexual attraction. Among men, CGN scores distinguished between heterosexuals who admitted to same-sex behavior only and those who admitted to some homosexual attraction. The sexual subgroups also differed on a measure of gender atypicality in adulthood. Implications for developmental theories of sexuality are discussed.

sexual orientation attraction childhood gender nonconformity