The 89th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2020)

Sexual Orientation Disparities in Adult Male Stature Are Not Due to Prenatal Androgen Exposure: Evidence from the Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey


1Anthropology, University of Toronto, 2Anthropology, Northwestern University, 3Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University

April 16, 2020 , Platinum Ballroom Add to calendar

A growing body of research suggests that sexual minority men (SMM) are shorter than heterosexual men (HSM) due to differences in prenatal androgen exposure. However, studies examining sexual orientation disparities in adult stature have not used longitudinal data to examine the growth process underlying these differences. Using anthropometric data from the Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey, we assess the physical growth of 608 Filipino males of diverse sexual orientations in order to understand the pathways influencing sexual orientation disparities in adult stature. Mean stature for SMM was 60 mm less than the HSM mean in this sample and exhibited elevated measures of relative body mass index and perceived stress. SMM and HSM did not exhibit any significant differences in digit ratio, a putative marker of prenatal androgen exposure. The difference in stature between each group did not exist during infancy, and only emerged when the men were about 11 years of age, correlating with decreased triceps skinfold measures—an indicator of adiposity and available energetic resources. This study is the first to investigate sexual orientation differences in growth among males. Our findings suggest that shorter stature for SMM emerges during late childhood and early adolescence, rather than being present from birth. The lack of significant differences between the two groups is informative as it contradicts the prevailing scientific evidence. Our findings suggest that postnatal conditions such as socioeconomic status, nutrition, and psychosocial stress may have a greater influence on the adult stature for SMM than exposure to prenatal androgens.