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Both boys and girls with CAH can experience early puberty and infertility, and boys can develop benign testicular tumors. In girls, however, CAH can make their genitalia look confused, neither clearly female nor male.

In addition, a few small studies suggest that CAH girls are more likely to play “like boys,” be more aggressive and career-oriented than other girls, and be less interested in getting married and having babies.

An unknown portion of CAH females grow up to identify as bisexual or lesbian. However, most CAH girls grow up to be heterosexual and very few seek a sex change, wrote Dr. Phyllis W. Speiser, pediatrics professor and chief of pediatric endocrinology at Schneider Children’s Hospital in New York.

For 20 years, doctors, including Dr. New, have sometimes prescribed dex for CAH-carrier woman as soon as they know they are pregnant. This is because using dex throughout pregnancy “has been shown to decrease or even prevent” a masculinization of genitalia in CAH-affected girls, Dr. Speiser wrote in a 2008 article for Endocrine News.

But Ms. Dreger and her colleagues point to the prenatal dex-CAH issue as evidence that if homosexuality and lesbianism were found to be inborn, it “could very well lead to new means of pathologization and prevention.”

“Perhaps it is because so many people are fascinated by the idea of a ‘gay gene’ that prenatal ‘lesbian hormones’ have slipped past public scrutiny,” they warned.