Last updated on: 7/19/2011 | Author:

Is There an Age by Which People Realize Their Sexual Orientation?

PRO (yes)


The American Psychological Association, in the “Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality” section of its website (accessed July 18, 2011), stated:

“For most people, sexual orientation emerges in early adolescence without any prior sexual experience.”

July 18, 2011 - American Psychological Association


Gilbert Herdt, PhD, Executive Director of the National Centers on Sexuality at San Francisco State University, and Martha K. McClintock, PhD, David Lee Shillinglaw Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology at the University of Chicago, stated in their study “The Magical Age of 10,” published in the Dec. 2000 issue of Archives of Sexual Behavior:

“Accumulating studies from the United States over the past decade suggest that the development of sexual attraction may commence in middle childhood and achieve individual subjective recognition sometime around the age of 10. As these studies have shown, first same-sex attraction for males and females typically occurs at the mean age of 9.6 for boys and between the ages of 10 and 10.5 for girls.”

Dec. 2000 - Martha K. McClintock, PhD Gilbert Herdt, PhD


The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), in the report titled “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth Issues” on its website (accessed Dec. 15, 2004), stated:

“During adolescence, young people tend to experience their first adult erotic feelings, experiment with sexual behaviors, and develop a strong sense of their own gender identity and sexual orientation…

A national survey of 1,752 college students found:

  • 48% of self-identified gay and bisexual college students became aware of their sexual preference in high school while 26% found their true sexuality in college


  • 20% of self-identified gay and bisexual men knew that they were gay or bisexual in junior high school, and 17% said they knew in grade school


  • 6% of self-identified gay or bisexual women knew that they were gay or bisexual in junior high school, and 11% knew in grade school.”
Dec. 15, 2004 - Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS)


David Satcher, MD, PhD, former US Surgeon General, in his July 9, 2001 report titled “The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Sexual Health and Responsible Sexual Behavior,” wrote:

“Sexual orientation is usually determined by adolescence, if not earlier, and there is no valid scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be changed.”

July 9, 2001 - David Satcher, MD, PhD

CON (no)


Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) stated on its website (accessed July 18, 2011):

“Some people say that they have ‘felt different’ or knew they were attracted to people of the same sex from the time they were very young…

Others do not figure out their sexual orientation or gender identity until they are adolescents or adults.

Often it can take a while for people to put a label to their feelings, or people’s feelings may change over time. Understanding our sexuality and gender can be a life-long process, and people shouldn’t worry about labeling themselves right away…

The short answer is that you’ll know when you know.”

July 18, 2011 - Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)


The Trevor Project, a suicide-prevention organization serving lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth, stated in reply to a “Dear Trevor” letter from “Elanor, 13, Long Beach CA,” posted on its website (accessed July 18, 2011):

“[M]any people question when they should know for sure what their sexual orientation is. There is no one specific age that everyone knows. Some people are sure as children, others as teenagers while others are not sure until they are adults. Trying to figure this out can be exciting, scary, challenging and confusing… It also might help to remember that sexual orientation involves emotional, romantic as well as physical feelings and attraction for people of the same gender (gay or lesbian), both genders (bisexual) or the opposite gender (straight).”

July 18, 2011 - Trevor Project


The Traditional Values Coalition (TVC) stated in the “Homosexual Urban Legends” section of its website (accessed Dec. 15, 2004):

“One of the most persistent and culturally damaging Homosexual Urban Legends is the erroneous claim by homosexual activists that they are ‘born gay’ or that their sexual orientation emerges in early adolescence and is fixed and unchangeable.”

Dec. 15, 2004 - Traditional Values Coalition (TVC)


The McGill University Student Health Service stated on its webpage (accessed July 31, 2006):

“Realizing that you are gay, lesbian, or bisexual is a not a singular event. It is a process of becoming more aware of your sexual orientation and of accepting it. There is no right age to discover that you are attracted to people of your own sex. Some people understand at a very young age while others do not consider it until much later on in life.”

July 31, 2006 - McGill University Student Health Service