Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 47, Issue 4, pp 1209–1219 | Cite as

Sexual Trajectories of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Adults in the Netherlands

  • Hanneke de GraafEmail author
  • Charles Picavet
Original Paper


Studies on sexual trajectories of lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) people generally focus on the first same-sex attraction and sexual experience, and their relation to self-identification and coming out as LGB. Relational and opposite-sex experiences are generally not taken into account. The aim of this study was to provide a more comprehensive overview of LGBs’ sexual trajectories and to distinguish subsamples with different trajectories. A sample of same-sex attracted members of an online research panel (N = 3054) completed a sexual health questionnaire, including items about the timing of sexual and relational milestones. Results showed that the majority of gay men and lesbian women had same-sex sexual and relational experiences, whereas most bisexual men and women had had experiences with the opposite sex. Among gay men and lesbian women, two trajectories emerged, differing mainly on whether people had been sexually or romantically involved with opposite-sex partners, and on age of first same-sex attraction. Among those who were not exclusively attracted to the same sex, six patterns emerged, which differed especially with regard to the nature and comprehensiveness of their same-sex experiences. Within the exclusively same-sex attracted group, the trajectory with no heterosexual experiences related to higher levels of psychological adjustment. For non-exclusive sexually attracted people, trajectories including experience of same-sex relationships seem to be most beneficial. In conclusion, both relational and opposite-sex experiences proved to be important elements of LGB men and women’s sexual trajectories.


Sexual trajectories Sexual milestones Sexual orientation Psychological adjustment 



This study was funded by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), on behalf of the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports (Grant Number 1090/355-3).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

The Medical Ethical Review Committee of University Medical Center Utrecht (UMC) confirmed that the Medical Research Involving Human Subjects Act (WMO) did not apply to our study and that the study protocol thus was exempt from formal medical–ethical approval under Dutch law (reference number WAG/om13/059550). All procedures performed in the study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments and the Dutch code of conduct for scientific practice. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.RutgersUtrechtThe Netherlands
  2. 2.AllthatChas Research and ConsultancyAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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