June 13, 2013

LGBT Americans in changing times: Tell us your story

coming out experienceOur first survey of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community examines their attitudes, experiences and values in today’s changing times.

The survey found 92% of LGBT adults saw a society that had become more accepting of them in the last decade. But about half said they still experienced discrimination.

These are some of the experiences of the LGBT adults in our survey:

  • “There were two friends from my high school days who I lost after coming out to them. That was painful. They had always said they believed in everyone being their own person and living their own life, so this was a surprise when they trotted out the “see a shrink” line and wouldn’t talk to me anymore.”
    –Lesbian, age 58, first told someone at age 17
  • “In the beginning, it was difficult, but always ended up positive. Nowadays, there really is no decision. I simply have a sexual orientation the same as anyone else, and talk about my partner, etc., the same way anyone mentions their opposite-sex spouse, and there’s no “event” associated with it.”
    –Gay man, age 57, first told someone at age 21
  • “Learning how to live with discrimination and fight it makes me a stronger person.” –Lesbian, age 25
  • “I’ve lost a lot of friends, family, and jobs because of misunderstandings, stereotypes, and whatnot. But that’s not even the real stress. Nope. The real stress [is] living every moment scared of what’s going to happen today, or tomorrow, because if you lose anything else it would destroy you. My gender identity is something negative in my life today because people react badly and ignorantly.” –Transgender person, age 26
  • “When I was younger, I grew up in an extremely conservative religion. I had suicidal thoughts ever since I can remember until I left the religion and accepted who I am. Coming out to my family was very difficult because of their religion. Fortunately, my family loves me still.” -Gay man, age 34

Explore more LGBT voices describing the experience and milestones of the coming out process.

Are you lesbian, bisexual, gay or transgender? Is your son or daughter, brother or sister, cousin or friend LGBT? Join the conversation and tell us your stories in the comments section below.

Topics: Gay Marriage and Homosexuality

  1. Photo of Bruce Drake

    is a senior editor at Pew Research Center.


  1. Robert Moore4 years ago

    I knew I was different from the other boys early on. At 12 years old, I was more interested in boys than girls. I spent much of my high school and my early twenties living a gay lifestyle. i hate writing “lifestyle” but you know what I mean. Then I met my soon to be wife. We have been married now for 29 years and it wasn’t until I was 47 that I came out to my wife and kids that I was bisexual. What a relief. It felt as if the weight of the entire world was lifted off of my chest. We are a family who is supportive and caring. I waited too long to be true to myself.

  2. George Deeming4 years ago

    I didn’t come out formally until I had been dismissed from the U.S. Navy with a dishonorable discharge. I had been pulled from my ship (U.S.S Dahlgren DLG-12) just after a 45 day stay on station off of the Northern most coast of Vietnam just off the mouth of Hanoi Harbor where we were on a SAR (sea and air rescue mission) pulling pilots shot down or those who were able to fly their damaged planes close to us from the water where we treated them and helicoptered them back to their bases or carriers. We had been receiving automatic weapon, machine gun and missile fire from land on some of these station exercises. This all took place in June of 1967 and finally after months of investigation, surveillance and quite a lot of degrading treatment I was discharged and sent home. I had served 3 years and 7 months of service and had even re-enlisted on my ship on the way to Vietnam. The last week prior to receiving discharge papers was a total humiliation and un-human in the extreme. I asked my step-father if he wanted me to ‘come home’ in the circumstance and he telegraphed that I was still loved and would I please come back. Some relatives treated me as a leper and even today some 45 years later I feel not only isolated but not quite an equal member of the family

    1. Robert Moore4 years ago

      So you were discharged for being gay? So was I. It really makes me angry every time I see my DD214. I will see the day that my discharge is changed.

  3. Rick Hoyt4 years ago

    I was 13 when I realized I was gay, in 1976. I probably would have guessed earlier had I known that there was such a thing as homosexuality. It’s hard to believe how different the culture was back then. I knew I was different than other boys but I put that in terms of artistic and bookish and “sweet-natured” not sexuality. When I did recognize my orientation I knew without a doubt, because men filled my fantasies, and I told a friend immediately. I hoped he was gay, too, which he wasn’t, but we did stay friends. I told other friends also, in junior high and senior high. But I didn’t tell my family until my early 20s when I had my first boyfriend.