Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 29, Issue 6, pp 607-627

First online:

Sexual Identity Trajectories Among Sexual-Minority Youths: Gender Comparisons

  • Ritch C. Savin-WilliamsAffiliated withDepartment of Human Development, Cornell University
  • , Lisa M. DiamondAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Utah

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The present investigation explored gender differences in sexual identity development—first same-sex attractions, self-labeling, same-sex sexual contact, and disclosure—among 164 sexual-minority young adults. Based on interviews, results indicated the value of assessing gender differences in the context, timing, spacing, and sequencing of sexual identity milestones. Adolescent males had an earlier onset of all milestones except disclosure. The context for sexual identity milestones were likely to be emotionally oriented for young women and sexually oriented for young men. The gap from first same-sex attractions (8–9 years of age) to first disclosure (around 18 years) averaged 10 years for both sexes. Young women followed label-first developmental trajectories; men were more likely to pursue sex before identifying themselves as gay. In terms of achieving sexual identity milestones, gender mattered, but it was not everything.

sexual-minority youth sex differences sexual identity coming out developmental milestones