Sexual Orientation Identity Formation among Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Youths: Multiple Patterns of Milestone Experiences



This study examined variations in “coming out” for gay, lesbian, and bisexual youths (N= 72), ages 16 to 27. To indicate the timing and sequence of developmental stages, the respondents reported the ages at which they had completed 10 milestone events involving self-awareness, sexual experiences, and disclosure to others, and also reported on current immersion in gay/lesbian/bisexual social networks. Cluster analysis identified five patterns of experiences. Three groups had generally early trajectories, two of which had specific delays in either sexual activity or disclosure. Two other clusters had relatively late trajectories, one of which also reported the lowest levels of gay/lesbian/bisexual social immersion. Comfort with sexual orientation was greatest in persons with early patterns and lowest within the group with late trajectories and limited gay/lesbian/bisexual social immersion.