People Who Recall Being Gender Nonconforming in Childhood May Be at Greater Risk of Adult Sexual Dysfunction

People Who Recall Being Gender Nonconforming in Childhood May Be at Greater Risk of Adult Sexual Dysfunction

Nationally representative surveys across Denmark, Germany, and the United Kingdom have revealed that a significant portion of the population faces sexual dysfunction, and it impacts people of all gender identities and sexual orientations.

The term “gender nonconformity” refers to gender expressions that do not conform to societal expectations of one’s sex assigned at birth. Until now, childhood gender nonconformity has not been examined in relation to sexual dysfunction.

However, new research has investigated the potential association between childhood gender nonconformity and adult sexual difficulties in a large, nationally representative sample, considering factors like age, sexual identity, and health-related issues.

Data for the Danish study (Project SEXUS) was collected from a large sample using online questionnaires. Participants aged 18 or older, engaged in sexual activities within the past year, and responding to questions about childhood gender nonconformity were included in the present study.

The researchers used one question on the survey to assess the participants’ recalled childhood gender nonconformity: “How well, or how poorly, does the following statement fit you: As a child or young person, I had difficulties living up to other people’s perception of ‘a real girl’/‘a real boy.’ The statement fits . . .” (very wellwellneither well nor poorlypoorlyvery poorlyI do not know).

Questions about potential sexual difficulties were included in the questionnaire, as well as the Female Sexual Function Index to assess sexual functioning in women, and the International Index of Erectile Function to assess sexual functioning in men. Statistical analyses, including logistic regression, were conducted, adjusting for demographic factors.

The researchers found that individuals who recalled being gender nonconforming in childhood or adolescence, especially women, faced higher odds of experiencing sexual dysfunctions. Among women, those who did not conform to traditional gender norms had higher chances of experiencing issues with lubrication, orgasm, vaginal cramps, and genital pain.

Similar trends were observed in men, with individuals with gender-nonconforming childhoods having increased odds of premature ejaculation, orgasmic dysfunction, genital pain, and erectile dysfunction.

These associations persisted even after adjusting for factors like age, education, and health. This suggests a link between childhood gender nonconformity and later sexual difficulties, emphasizing the need for understanding diverse experiences in sexual health.

The robust, nationally representative data set of this study offered insights into the link between childhood gender nonconformity and adult sexual dysfunctions. However, the study also had limitations, such as the fact that childhood gender nonconformity was assessed retrospectively with a single item, potentially missing its full complexity. What’s more, recall bias may have influenced results, and self-reported data may not actually meet the medical criteria for sexual dysfunctions.

Nevertheless, these findings suggest that children and young people who are gender nonconforming may benefit from additional support for their future sexual well-being.


Koops, T. U., Andresen, J. B., Graugaard, C., Briken, P., Bahnsen, M. K., Andersson, M., & Frisch, M. (2023). Associations between recalled childhood gender nonconformity and adult sexual dysfunction in Denmark: baseline assessment in the Project SEXUS cohort study. The Journal of Sexual Medicine20(12), 1451-1458.


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