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Four Stages of Coming Out

Stage One: “I Feel Different From Other Kids . . .”

In retrospect, many gay and lesbian teens say they sensed something “different” about themselves early in life, sometimes as far back as age five. A boy may have been inclined to play house instead of sports, and vice-versa for a girl. Patterns of social isolation from peers frequently start here.

Stage Two: “I Think I Might Be Gay, But I’m Not Sure. and If I Am, I’m Not Sure That I Want To Be . . .”

Puberty is when many homosexual youngsters first realize that they are attracted to members of their own sex. A common response is to try to bury those feelings. “Young gay people often go through a stage where they label themselves bisexual,” says Dr. Donna Futterman, “as a way to give themselves more options.”

Relatively few gay adolescents declare their homosexuality, or come out, during this stage of identity confusion. They may isolate themselves from other teens for fear of being exposed, or “outed.” Loneliness is frequently a way of life, especially if they live in a community that doesn’t have an active gay-youth subculture. Imagine growing up unable to confide in your own parents or to truly be yourself when among friends.

Stage Three: “I Accept The Fact That I’m Gay, But What’s My Family going To Say?”

Studies of homosexual men and women found that most did not come to accept their sexual orientation until they were in their late teens or their twenties. As societal prejudice against gays and lesbians abates, albeit slowly, a youngster may arrive at this point somewhat earlier.

Stage Four: “I Finally Told My Parents I’m Gay.”

In a study, there was an on-line survey of nearly two thousand gay and bisexual young people aged twenty-five or under. On average, the respondents were sixteen the first time they revealed their sexuality to anyone. Homosexual teens often don’t begin to date in earnest until they’re out of high school and on their own—possibly in a city with a sizable gay population. Feeling free to explore their sexuality for perhaps the first time, they may become romantically involved with a number of partners. You could almost say they’re going through a delayed adolescence, having experiences that straight kids may encounter earlier in their sexual development.

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Caring for Your Teenager (Copyright © 2003 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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