Genetic Study of Female Sexual Orientation



Join Us in Our Research

Genetic Study of Female Sexual Orientation

Principal Investigator

Alan R. Sanders, M.D.

Director, Behavior Genetics Unit, NorthShore University HealthSystem

Clinical Associate Professor, University of Chicago

The staff of the Behavior Genetics Unit invites individuals to join our study on the genetics of female sexual orientation – we are seeking participants who are:
  • cisgender (i.e., women assigned at birth as female)
  • women (at least 18 years old)
  • regardless of sexual orientation (e.g., lesbian, bisexual, straight)


Why Study Sexual Orientation?

Sexual orientation is a fundamental trait of great scientific interest. Understanding the origins of sexual orientation will enable us to learn a great deal about sexual motivation, sexual identity, gender identity and sex differences. Our primary goals are scientific, but we also are hopeful for greater societal understanding.

Why Study Women?

Previous studies have already shown that genes contribute to female sexual orientation, even though our environment is also important. However, women have not been studied nearly as widely as men, and much is still unknown. Our study will therefore look for genes that may influence some women in ways that they become lesbian, bisexual, straight, queer, etc.

Thus, the goal of this study is to uncover genetic underpinnings of female sexual orientation, and to ultimately increase our knowledge of biological mechanisms underlying sexual orientation. The study will achieve this goal by collecting DNA and analyzing information from a large number of women, in order to search for genetic markers associated with variation in female sexual orientation. This type of study is called a genome-wide association study (GWAS).

We invite cisgender (i.e., women assigned at birth as female) women, aged 18 years or older, regardless of sexual orientation (e.g., lesbian, bisexual, straight), to participate in this scientific study, which will include up to 10,000 participants, all of whom will be enrolled by NorthShore University HealthSystem (NorthShore).


All information obtained by the Genetic Study of Female Sexual Orientation will be kept confidential, and will not become part of any medical records. No names or other identifying information will appear in published findings or research.

What Does Participation Involve?

Individuals who consent to assist in the study will be asked to complete the study questionnaire and provide a DNA sample (saliva) for genetic research.


The questionnaire takes approximately 30 minutes to complete. The questionnaire collects information on the following main areas: contact information, demographics, ancestry, sexual orientation, number of sexual partners, gender-related behaviors, romantic relationships, family relationships, personality characteristics, stress, mental health, height and weight, handedness (left, right, both), onset of puberty, and when applicable: number of children, age when giving birth the first time, and menopause.

DNA Sample

Participants are asked to provide a DNA sample (a few milliliters of saliva), which we can obtain directly (if at a festival) or through the mail (if completing the questionnaire online). The DNA sample will be used to search for genes that might influence female sexual orientation. Participants will receive a Starbucks $10 gift card for completing the questionnaire and providing a DNA sample.

How Can I Participate?

If you are viewing this online, click on “Enroll” to be taken to our consent form and questionnaire (if you have a hard copy brochure, go to the study website at to get to the “Enroll” link). For more information write to us at the email (or postal mail) below, and/or call toll-free at the number below. If you leave a message or write to us, please provide your name, and preferred contact information (email or postal mailing address and phone number with area code), and one of the researchers will contact you directly.
866-364-7571 (toll-free)
Postal Address:

Dr. Alan R. Sanders

  Behavior Genetics Unit
  NorthShore University HealthSystem
  1001 University Place
  Evanston, IL 60201-3137 USA

Financial Support for This Study

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Grant R01HD100180
Principal Investigator: Alan R. Sanders, M.D.
Primary Site: NorthShore University HealthSystem
Statistical analyses at University of Miami led by Eden R. Martin, Ph.D.