For lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people, realising their sexual orientation or gender identity and sharing that information with family and friends is often a gradual process that can unfold over a series of years.
Lesbian, gay and bisexual survey respondents were asked how old they were when they first felt they might be something other than straight or heterosexual. The median age across all LGB adults is 12, although there are some differences across groups. Gay men report, on average, thinking around age 10 that they might not be straight. For both lesbians and bisexuals, the median age is 13.
Among gay men, about four-in-ten (38%) say they were younger than 10 when they first felt they were not heterosexual. By comparison 23% of lesbians and 18% of bisexuals say they were younger than 10 when they first started to question their sexuality.
The vast majority of lesbians, gay men and bisexuals say they were in their teens or younger when they first started to feel they might not be straight. Only 7% were in their twenties, and 4% were 30 or older. Gay men are the least likely to report first having these feelings in their twenties or beyond: 3% say they were 20 or older, compared with 14% of lesbians and 15% of bisexuals.
After these initial feelings, it took some time for most LGBT adults to be sure of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Among LGBT adults who say they know for sure that they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (92%), 17 is the median age at which they say they knew.
Relatively few LGBT adults (5%) say they were sure about their sexual orientation or gender identity before they were age 10. A majority (59%) say they knew between the ages of 10 and 19. One-in-five say they knew for sure they were lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender when they were in their twenties, and 8% say it wasn’t until they were 30 or older. Some 6% say they still aren’t entirely sure.
Again, gay men reached this milestone, on average, sooner than lesbians and bisexuals. The median age at which gay men say they were sure they were gay is 15. For lesbians, the median age when they were certain about their sexual orientation was 18, and for bisexuals it was 17.