Gays, Lesbians, and Bisexuals Are Coming out Earlier in Life

By McKay, Alexander | The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, Spring 2006 | Go to article overview

Gays, Lesbians, and Bisexuals Are Coming out Earlier in Life


McKay, Alexander, The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality


"Coming out" is commonly defined as the process in which gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals recognize and adopt their sexual identity as well as disclose their sexual orientation to others. Studies conducted in the 1970s and 1980s suggested that in Western culture awareness of sexual desire for same sex individuals occurred at an average age of 13 for males and between 14 and 16 for females. Studies done in the same period found an average age of sexual debut with a member of the same sex of 15 for males and 20 for females. However, since the 1980s, there has been relatively little research investigating these and other aspects of the coming out process.

Grov, Bimbi, Nanin, and Parsons (2006) investigated various factors impacting upon the coming out process by surveying men and women attending gay/lesbian/ bisexual (GLB) community events in New York and Los Angeles. With respect to age, Grov et al. hypothesized that,

   With increased visibility of the GLB community
   as a result of gay liberation movements and the
   emergence of HIV in the early 1980s, it is
   possible that the ages people experience
   milestones such as coming out to oneself,
   coming out to others, and same-gender sexual
   debut (i.e., first sexual behavior with someone
   of the same gender) have changed (p. 115).

In addition, the authors examined the role played by race and ethnicity in affecting the timing of the coming out process.

Grov et al. (2006) used a cross-sectional street-intercept method to administer the "Sex and Love Survey, Version 2.0" to 2,733 participants at GLB community events between the fall of 2003 and the spring of 2004. In addition to the collection of demographic data, participants were asked to indicate the age they admitted to themselves they were GLB, the age at which they first told another person, the age they had sex with a same gender partner, and if their parents (or persons who raised them) were aware of their sexual activity with same gendered partners.

On average, males came out to themselves at a significantly younger age than females (17.5 versus 19.6) and males were also significantly younger on average than females when having their first same gender sexual experience (17.9 versus 19.8). However, Grov et al. (2006) report that there were no significant differences in the ages males and females came out to others or whether they had come out to parents. For example, among those aged 18 to 24, 75. …

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Gays, Lesbians, and Bisexuals Are Coming out Earlier in Life
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