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Coming out: Teenage sexual orientation

The age people are choosing to come out is falling despite the fact lesbian and gay people can face homophobic bullying and rejection
By
WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Identifying yourself as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) and telling other people is referred to as 'coming out'. However, coming out is not just a single action, it’s more a process of coming to terms with your sexuality and then disclosing it to others. It can take years and it takes courage.

Coming out earlier than ever before

A lot of LGBT people come out in their teens or early twenties as they begin to become more aware of their sexuality.

According to the International AIDS Charity, Avert, studies have shown that the average age gay and lesbian young people begin the process of coming out is now 16, compared to the 1980's when it was between 19 and 23.

Sue Allen is the current Chair of FFLAG Trustees (Family and Friends of Lesbian, and Gays) and has a lesbian daughter who came out to her when she was 18. She agrees the age people are coming out is lowering: “When I first started doing this work 15 years ago the average age was about 19, 20 but now the average age is 14, 15, 16, but there are still those people who don’t tell their parents and they do wait until they’re older.”

She says many parents ring her organisation and ask how their child can know they’re gay at such a young age, “And I ask them how did you know you weren’t gay and they just say “Well I always knew I was straight” and that answers the question.” GLBT people, she says, also “just know”.

That said, the NHS advises that if you're not sure how you feel about your sexuality or gender identity, there's no hurry to make your mind up or tell people. It says coming out is an individual decision, and it's important to do it in your own way and in your own time.

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