Mild Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome
April 10, 2012 12:16 PM   Subscribe

Wondering whether I might have mild androgen insensitivity syndrome and that it may play a role in my sexual orientation. I haven't turned much up on this on Google. Does anyone have any expertise on the subject?

I'm a member of the 23andMe community (direct-to-consumer genetic testing). They use surveys to try to puzzled out causation based on correlations between genetic information and responses of participants. Recently, they released a survey on sexual orientation and among the questions, in addition to asking about what kind of medicine your mother might've been on during her pregnancy, etc., they asked about androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS).

I looked up the condition and came across a description of "mild androgen insensitivity syndrome (MAIS)" on Wikipedia (that venerable resource). There was no mention of a possible link to homosexuality on the page. But the presence of AIS as a question in the 23andMe survey and some of the symptoms of MAIS really got me thinking.

I definitely don't have complete or partial AIS, but I have always wondered why I'm, well, not particularly physically manly even in comparison with close male relatives. I resemble the clinical photo they have up for MAIS - very little body/facial hair (again, even in comparison with male relatives) and I'm in my mid-20s.

I've always been wary of the medical discourse surrounding homosexuality, but the idea that this all could be interconnected has been on my mind a lot since I read about it.

I guess my question is, does anyone know anything about this condition? It doesn't seem to be common. Is it something than can be diagnosed? Would it be crazy for me to approach a doctor about it and to see if androgen supplementation would be helpful?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
An endocrinologist could certainly diagnose it, perhaps in consultation with a urologist.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:26 PM on April 10, 2012

As a cisgender female with slightly higher-than-average testosterone levels, I've always wondered whether that has anything to do with my bisexuality. Physically it doesn't show much (broad shoulders and lengthened ring fingers are about the height of it).

I find it interesting, and I'd guess the two may be connected in some way in my case, but if it's 'on your mind' there's a lot you could consider before altering your hormones. I know you're wary of society medicalizing homosexuality, but it seems like you've maybe fallen into a self-esteem trap that is tipping you that way. Would it really be 'helpful' if you stopped being LGBT, or looked more 'manly'?

If the medical implications of AIS worry you (dunno how it plays into fertility for example), certainly get it checked out. But I would pay attention to the instincts that have kept you unconcerned about your sexuality thus far.
posted by pickingupsticks at 12:55 PM on April 10, 2012

On the issue of whether, if it turns out you do have MAIS, treating those issues would alter your sexual orientation/identity, I would be dubious simply because the group of trans* men and men with more complex (than MAIS) endocrinological issues relating to intersex and variants of genetic and hormonal sexual development includes straight men, gay men, bisexual/pansexual men, queer men of all self-identifications, and asexual men, so it seems awfully unlikely a priori that sexual identity is simply or even largely a matter of variations in endocrinology.

While we're on anecdata points, I'm a fairly butch bisexual/pansexual lady who has very low testosterone and androgen levels. Also tall and muscular and broad-shouldered!
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:36 PM on April 10, 2012

PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) in cisgender women includes higher than normal testosterone levels, and has been correlated with higher incidence of bisexuality and lesbianism. I'm a lesbian and I have it, so I thought about this when I was first diagnosed. But didn't get anywhere: lots of women with PCOS are straight, and lots of women without PCOS are gay, so is it really related in me? I don't know. You could go to a doctor and get diagnosed with MAIS, or conversely have it ruled out; either way, your orientation is what it is and you would still not really know why that is.

If you have medical problems related to your hormone levels, you should certainly have those treated, but it is not likely to change your sexual orientation. In my mind, that's a good thing. It might be nice to change the hair on my chin, but I would never want to change who I love.
posted by snorkmaiden at 3:22 PM on April 10, 2012

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