What, Exactly, Does a “Prehomosexual” Look Like?


You know how sometimes you see something, and the only thought you can put together about it is, basically, WTF?!?

I had one such moment when I opened a link sent to us by Sam M., who found a post on a Scientific American blog about “prehomosexuality” and the possibility that you can predict adult sexual orientation from an early age based on gender performance.

I’m not going to bother with the content of the article itself. If you want to read about the “long, now scientifically canonical, list of innate sex differences in the behaviors of young males versus young females. In innumerable studies, scientists have documented that these sex differences are largely impervious to learning and found in every culture examined,” particularly that boys and girls play differently, go ahead. Then check out our recent guest post by Philip Cohen.

No, what made me just stare at my computer screen, thinking, “Are you kidding me?”, is the sole image used to illustrate the post:

Seriously: Are you kidding me?

I shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve written about the “girls who like sports must be lesbians” trope before. In fact, they probably aren’t even girls. Unlike boys, whose lives are ruined if they aren’t good at sports. But still. The idea that an image of a girl in jeans, holding sports equipment, is considered an obviously relevant photo to use in a story suggesting that in fact the old stereotypes are true and gender non-conformity can tell us if a kid is going to be gay, thus reinforcing the stereotype that playing sports is an accurate sign of future sexual orientation, just depresses me beyond reason.

The author of the post provides a bunch of caveats about how of course not everyone who is gender non-conforming will be gay, and that we shouldn’t care anyway. But I suspect what most people will take away is not that most girls who play sports, or act like “tomboys,” aren’t gay, but that those things are signs a girl might be gay. And that means all girls who play sports continue to face the stigma attached to female athletes, driving away many girls and women who worry that liking, or being good at, athletics (or at least, ones other than gymnastics and other female-approved options) is unfeminine and will get them labeled as gay, a label that is still, sadly, viewed by many as inherently undesirable.

This post originally appeared at Sociological Images. Republished with permission.

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