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Publication Date


Document Type



School for Social Work


Coming out (Sexual orientation)-History, Coming out, Sexual orientation, Gay and lesbian, Cohort study, LGB youth


This mixed methods study examined changes in the coming out process for same-sex attracted people through three interrelated research questions. An internet survey was used to recruit 1131 participants (ages 19 to 85) who self-identified as members of the lesbian, gay and bisexual community. Participants provided demographic information, ages that they achieved significant milestones in the coming out process, responded to five open questions about their coming out experience, and completed the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Identity Scale (LGBIS) (Mohr and Fassinger 2000). In research question one, significant differences were found between participants born before 1989 and all other participants on several demographic variables and scores on the LGBIS. In general, 19 to 22 year olds in this study rated more difficulty in the coming out process than older cohorts on this measure. Findings for research question two were a qualitative thematic analysis of a stratified random sample (n = 30) of the larger data set. Major themes that emerged from this analysis included two paths to coming out and the importance of supportive relationships as facilitative of the coming out process. The final research question involved analysis of variance of significant milestones in the coming out process between men and women sorted over five historic age cohorts. Findings included significant differences between men and women. Differences in the order of achieving milestones were observed between cohorts and genders. Finally, that the coming out process has moved from a largely adult process to an adolescent one was confirmed and explored in these findings.




vii, 172 p. Dissertation (Ph.D.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2012. Includes bibliographical references (p. 101-112)