Pew Research Looks At The Realities Of The Coming Out Process


Pew Research has a new, comprehensive survey that looks at the process of coming out – when and how it happens, how difficult it is, and what impact it has on relationships. Pew has also provided an interactive feature where you can filter data based on age, sexual orientation, and how long an individual has been open with their sexuality. 

From Pew:

Pew 3"Among those who have told a friend or family member about their sexual orientation or gender identity, the median age at which they did this was 20. There are modest differences on this measure by age group among gay men and lesbians. The median age at which gay men and lesbians younger than 30 say they first told a close friend or family member is 17. Among those ages 30 to 49, the median age is 20, and for those ages 50 and older, the median age is 21.

These age gaps may be related to the fact that younger adults who may not yet identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (but may in the future) would not qualify to be included in the survey. Therefore, by definition, these younger adults could not have waited until they were age 30 or older to tell someone they were gay or lesbian. Even so, these age gaps may reflect the changes that have taken place in society over the past decade or so. As the public has become more accepting of the LGBT population, it may be that gay men and lesbians feel more comfortable sharing their sexual orientation at an earlier age." 


  1. says

    This study is massive… and ALL Towleroad visitors should read the whole thing. Andy et al, you should run stories all week on various components that are discussed in this study.

    I’m actually *shocked* that only 54% of American LGBT people are out to all the important people in their lives.

    That’s horrifying. We’ve GOT to come out in greater numbers, people. I know some of us are in actual risk for our safety. But far more of us are simply afraid of threats that will not materialize. Whatever we can do to better support one another and give one another courage and strength, we’ve GOT to do it. Or as a community, we’re screwed.

  2. redball says


    It’s not that shocking at all, unless one is viewing the study from the cocoon of upper-middle-class white gay urban male privilege.

    Disappointing, perhaps. Shocking? Meh.

  3. UFFDA says

    GMB – thank you, that was a very earnest and right minded thing to say, suggest, even insist, that we do. But we will only be able to do it to the best of our abilities. Pushing oneself is tricky business and caution is better than abandon. In fact we have generally indulged in way too much abandon.

  4. UFFDA says

    I was a hang dog chereb of four when cupid sunk his arrow into me over a soldier who lived in our boarding house in Oregon. I thought he was beautiful and I yearned for him to touch me.

  5. GregV says

    “I’m actually *shocked* that only 54% of American LGBT people are out to all the important people in their lives.”

    @GMB: the number would be much higher than that (and would undoubtedly be a strong majority who haven’t told their important people) because each time such a survey is done it is only measuring for those who are already out SO FAR.
    The people who still don’t dare come out to anyone (including a survey-taker) won’t even qualify to be included in the total until they come out next month or next year or 20 years in the future (and some never will).
    I suspect that the majority of gay and bi people are not out to anyone, and that the VAST majority are not out to all their “important” people. If everybody came out on the same day, discrimination would probably become a thing of the past pretty quickly.

  6. MajorTom says

    I knew I was different by the time I was 7, but I didn’t know how. My oldest sister (6 years older than me) was having boys her age over for “dates” and I found myself immensely attracted to some of them. Three years later she had a boyfriend on the football team who liked me. He took me with him to the high school locker room a couple of times, and I was practically light headed at being around so many athletic guys–many in various states of undress. I realized then that my attraction to other guys was not shared by any of the other boys I knew.

    When I was 12 (in 1970), the 14 year old boy who lived next door asked if I wanted to camp out in a tent in their back yard. We had done so many times already. My mother was hesitant this time. When I asked her why, she said she thought he might be homosexual. I had never heard the word and didn’t know what it meant. She explained it to me, and I assured her that I didn’t think he was. He had never “tried anything” with me. She gave in and told me to let her know if he ever did. As I went to get my sleeping bag, I thought to myself, ‘so that’s what I am.’

    I finally told one of my best friends when I was 21. He said he didn’t care, but he didn’t want to hear about it and broke off our friendship about a year later saying we didn’t have anything in common. I told another of my best friends a few weeks after the first, and we remain best friends to this day. I was best man at his wedding years later.

  7. jamal49 says

    @redball, that’s a cheap shot and you know it. Being “upper-middle class, gay, white, male” does not guarantee an easy time coming out. Yes, a lot of upper-middle class, gay, white males lives in urban areas, but not all of them are out fully to their families and friends, especially if they come from outside of large urban areas because they wanted escape the bigotry and bias of their origins.