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Estrogen in men?

Published: 21 November 2015 (GMT+10)

Estrogen is commonly known as a ‘female’ hormone. However, men also manufacture estrogen. Does this make men confused about their sexuality? Christopher S. from the United States writes:

iStockphoto arm-wrestle
My Dad recently engaged my Aunt in a discussion on homosexuality. My Aunt said that because men have an X and Y chromosome they are torn in their sexuality and also because men have estrogen. I gave many examples as to why this is wrong, however I wanted a more I informed position. I am extremely sorry to have bothered CMI. I appreciate your work. If there is anything I can do to help CMI, please let me know. God bless and keep your eyes on Jesus.

CMI’s Shaun Doyle responds:

Regarding your aunt’s ‘men having X and Y chromosomes makes them sexually confused’ argument, there are a number of problems with it. First, if having an X and Y chromosome made one confused about one’s sexuality, why wouldn’t all men be sexually confused? Regardless of the definition used, only a very small percentage of men would be ‘confused’ about their homosexuality. As such, your aunt’s statement is empirically false. 

Second, what about biologically ordinary women who have two X chromosomes? There are lesbians, biological women pretending to be men, and women whose self-described sexual identity changes over time. And there would no doubt be women who would be unsure about their sexual identity. Are any of these women less confused than men?

Finally, just because men have an X chromosome does not make them ‘half woman’. Among many other important things, it means they can procreate and produce female offspring. The X chromosome houses a number of genes essential to human survival, and since men are humans, men need the X chromosome.

On her other point, do men produce estrogen? Yes, but it is not because men started off as women (men have, after all, had the male XY sex chromosome condition since fertilization). Rather, estrogen is an important hormone for men to have, and it’s even important for male reproductive function!1 The idea that estrogen is a ‘female hormone’ was refuted 20 years ago.

Furthermore, females produce the ‘male’ sex hormone, testosterone. So, if estrogen in males causes them to be confused about their sexuality, why does not testosterone in females do the same? These notions are devoid of scientific merit.

God created mankind both male and female (Adam and Eve), and He did not design us with a built-in propensity to be confused about whether we are male or female.

For more information, please see Hermaphrodites and homosexuality, Creationism and the problem of homosexual behaviour, and our booklet Gay Marriage: right or wrong? And who decides?

References and notes

  1. Kula, K., Walczak-Jedrzejowska, R., Słowikowska-Hilczer, J., Wranicz, J.K., Kula, P., Oszukowska, E. and Marchlewska, K., Important functions of estrogens in men—breakthrough in contemporary medicine, Przegl Lek. 62(9):908–915, 2005; www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16541728. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

Gay Marriage: right or wrong?
by Gary Bates, Lita Cosner
US $3.50
Soft Cover
Christianity for Skeptics
by Drs Steve Kumar, Jonathan D Sarfati
US $17.00
Soft Cover

Readers’ comments

Kathy W.
Thanks for the great feedback article about gender confusion and the sex steroids
It is of great interest that there isn't a molecule of estrogen on the planet that was not testosterone first. Thus, it is from testosterone that estrogen is derived! Almost like Eve being "derived" from Adam. While estrogen and testosterone are both needed for men and women, the ratios are very different. Indeed, when a person has excess adipose tissue, there is conversion of testosterone to estrogen in that tissue. So, overweight men have higher estrogens. Men in a nursing home were found to have much higher levels of estrogen than their age related female counter parts. When this happens, unhelpful male boobs occur, along with shrunken testicles! This is well known amongst male body builders illegally using testosterone in high doses. Some of it converts into estrogen causing gynaecomastia, or enlarged male breast tissue....and the smaller testicles that can be a concern.
Are men with higher estrogen more womanly? That could be the subject of a good debate.
Tomislav O.
Suppose a person who has female secondary sexual characteristics and a vagina takes a karyotype which results in the discover that said person is genetically male (and thus is diagnosed with pseudohermaphroditism). Is that person morally obligated to disregard the previous gender identity acquired and live life as a man?

It's rare for pseudohermaphroditism to happen, but it's not impossible.
Shaun Doyle
This article of course assumes the normal developmental condition, so it's beyond its scope to speak to moral questions surrounding developmental abnormalities. For information on developmental abnormalities, please see Creationism and the problem of homosexual behaviour, Hermaphrodites and homosexuality, and Are hermaphrodites proof of evolution?

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