Variations in Sexual Identity Milestones Among Lesbians, Gay Men, and Bisexuals

Abstract

Despite a large body of literature covering sexual identity development milestones, we know little about differences or similarities in patterns of identity development among subgroups of the lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) population. For this study, we assessed identity milestones for 396 LGB New Yorkers, ages 18–59. Sexual identity and disclosure milestones were measured across gender, sexual identity, race/ethnicity, and age cohort subgroups of the LGB sample. Men experienced most sexual identity milestones earlier than women, but they tended to take more time between milestones. LGBs in younger age cohorts experienced sexual identity milestones and disclosure milestones earlier than the older cohorts. Bisexual people experienced sexual identity and disclosure milestones later than gay and lesbian people. Timing of coming out milestones did not differ by race/ethnicity. By comparing differences within subpopulations, the results of this study help build understanding of the varied identity development experiences of people who are often referred to collectively as “the LGB community.” LGB people face unique health and social challenges; a more complete understanding of variations among LGB people allows health professionals and social service providers to provide services that better fit the needs of LGB communities.

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Acknowledgments

The authors wish to thank Dr. Laura Durso, PhD, for comments on an early version of this manuscript. This research was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health grant R01-MH066058 to Dr. Ilan H. Meyer.

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The authors report no conflicts of interest.

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Correspondence to Alexander J. Martos.

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Martos, A.J., Nezhad, S. & Meyer, I.H. Variations in Sexual Identity Milestones Among Lesbians, Gay Men, and Bisexuals. Sex Res Soc Policy 12, 24–33 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13178-014-0167-4

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Keywords

  • Sexual minorities
  • Developmental models
  • Gay/lesbian/bisexual
  • Ethnic/minority issues
  • Gender differences