To give you a bit more of an idea of how someone learns they are gay, I wanted to share with you a brief breakdown of the stages a gay person will go through in discovering themselves.
Identity Confusion: ”Could I be gay?” The person’s first realizes gay thoughts, feelings, and attractions. The person may feel confused and starts to ask “Who am I?”
- If same-sex attraction occurred, the person may make excuses for the behavior (“I was drunk” “It was a mistake” ect)
- Person may think that being gay is wrong and undesirable, correct but not okay for the individual or correct and okay for the individual.
Identity comparison: The person accepts the possibility that they may be gay and weighs the consequences of the information. This person will often engage in same gender romantic behaviors but will reject the label of gayness.
- May experience isolation and alienation from others
- Developing identity as a gay rather than straight
- May still choose to “pass as straight”
- May tell themselves “this is just an experiment”, “Its only this one person”, “one day I’ll marry someone of the opposite gender”
Identity Tolerance: The person begins to accept the probability that they are gay and starts to seek out LGBT social connections. 3
- Experiences some relief because they are addressing emotional needs
- Getting more support from others
- Realizes being gay does not mean they cannot have a “normal” life
- Greater self-esteem
Identity Acceptance: The person realizes they are gay and begins to accept their identity in a positive way. The person will have increased contact with the gay community. In this stage the person will become more comfortable with being scene in LGBT social settings.
- Begins to view being gay as “normal”
- Choosing to “pass as gay”
- May choose to selectively disclose identity
Identity Pride: The person now wants to disclose their identity and “who they are” to the world. The person is immersed in the gay community and tends to divide their social interactions into “Gay” and “Not Gay”.
- Preferring being gay
- Anger and frustration with homophobic and heteronormative attitudes
- Disclosing identity is more common
Identity Synthesis: the person incorporates their sexual identity with all other aspects of self. Their sexual identity becomes one factor of the “Who am I?” question rather then the entire identity. The person begins to integrates more relationships with straight people into their lives and recognizes other identities.
- Stops viewing the world as “Us v. Them”
- Become at peace with oneself
If you learn nothing else from this post, learn this one thing…COMING OUT, the idea of sharing one’s status as LGBTQ with family, friends, co-workers and the world, is a life long process that never ends. The process of “Coming out of the Closet” is one of the most significant processes in the lives of LGBTQ people because many LGBTQ people believe this to be the period in time in which they were discovering their true selves. Coming Out is a period of recognition, acceptance, expression and discovery, for ones self, and the people in their world. Due to this importance, some LGBT people view their coming out experience as a very personal and deeply meaningful experience in their life journey.
PS: For the advanced Queer Studies Student you may really like this Article
- Cass, V. (1979). Homosexual identity formation: A theoretical model. Journal of Homosexuality, 4 (3), 219-235.
- Kaufman, Joanne and Johnson, Cathryn (2004) Stigmatized Individuals and the Process of Identity, The Sociological Quarterly, 45 (4), 807-33
Resources: Cass’ Model