Sociology, Department of



Trenton M. Haltom

Date of this Version



Haltom, Trenton M., and Shawn M. Ratcliff. 2020. "Effects of Sex, Race, and Education on the Timing of Coming Out among Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Adults in the U.S.." Archives of Sexual Behavior


US government work.


Sexual identity formation or “coming out” as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) involves a complex process including both private realization and public disclosure. Private realization refers to the process through which an individual becomes aware of their LGB identity, whereas public disclosure reflects when an individual discloses their identity to another person. Sex, race, and class affect the timing of these processes across the life course. While extant research has identified the bivariate nature of these processes, we took a multivariate approach to understand the timing of these sexual identity milestones from a life-course perspective. Using data from the Pew Research Center’s 2013 Survey of LGBT Adults (n = 1136), we considered how the timing of private realization and public disclosure of LGB identity is a sexed, racialized, and classed experience. The sample consisted of lesbians (n = 270), gay males (n = 396), bisexual females (n = 342), and bisexual males (n = 127). Results indicated that females uniformly realized and disclosed their identities at later stages in the life course, whereas individuals with at least some college education came out during their prime college-age years. We also found variation in timing between private realization and public disclosure for Black respondents, but not other racial groups. These findings provide insight into how organizations can develop specific programs that allow LGB individuals to safely explore their sexuality and provide support over the life course.