Stage 1:  Sensitization

Occurs:  Before Puberty

Characterized By:  Feeling different “for some reason” from peers.

Results:  Individual begins to make adjustments and view self in an atypical manner.

Movement to Next Stage:  If individual is unable to maintain or reclaim a congruent identity at this stage, movement to the next stage occurs.


- Feelings of differentness are usually associated with “gender” rather than “sex” at this age.

- Children usually experience teasing or negative labeling for cross-gender traits (“sissies” or “tomboys”, etc.)


Stage 2:  Identity Confusion

Occurs:  In adolescence as individuals begin to label some behaviors as Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual.

Characterized By:  Feelings of differentness becoming more associated with sexuality.

Results:  Stagnation as a closeted individual or movement towards acceptance of self.

Movement to Next Stage:  If individual is unable to maintain or reclaim a congruent identity at this stage, movement to the next stage occurs.


- Individuals begin to feel that there may not be an identity category for them.

- Feelings of sexuality are difficult to accept as they may be dissimilar to those felt by majority of peers.

- Teasing and harassment may continue.

- Strategy to cope with confusion may take one or more of four different forms:

o       DENIAL – Simply deny feelings and impulses.

o       AVOIDANCE – Staying away situations and people where these feeling may come up.

o       REPAIR – Active work to try and appear Straight to self and others.

o       COMPARTMENTALIZATION – Maintaining level that it is only my sexuality.

o       ACCEPTANCE – Integrate feelings and impulses as being part of the self.



Stage 3:  Identity Assumption

Occurs:  Early Adulthood

Characterized By:  Less feelings of social and personal isolation.

Results:  Greater integration of the self with sexual identity.

Movement to Next Stage:  Need for even more congruence and a feeling of wholeness.


- Stability in family and friends is important in this stage as individuals begin to experiment in Being Out.

- Typical problems at this stage are isolation and rejection and abandonment from family/friends.

- AIDS has had the effect of delaying identity integration because of the irrational fear associated between AIDS and being Gay, Lesbian or Bisexual.

- Management of stigma is important at this stage and may be accomplished in one or more of three ways:

  • CAPITULATION – Believes negative stereotypes, but still claims membership of the community.

  • PASSING – Selective concealment of one’s identity.

  • ALIGNMENT – Immersion of the self in the Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual communities.

Stage 4: Commitment & Integration

Occurs:  Anytime in life after the first three stages have been experienced.

Characterized By:  Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual becoming a way of being rather than only a description of one’s sexual behavior.

Results:  Intimate love commitment and ability to identity oneself as Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual to other individuals.

Movement to Next Stage:  New situations, people, or stress due to trauma.


- Individuals experience a feeling of greater happiness and self-satisfaction.

- Management of stigma not handled through passing but by greater integration of one’s sexuality with one’s identity.

         These Stages are crossed and re-crossed many times throughout one’s life.

-         Movement, experiences, and age of onset in these stages can differ depending on whether one is Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual.

-         There is a growing transgender movement that this model does not necessarily encompass.

-         This is a continual and cyclical model.


From: Troiden, R.R (1989).  The formation of homosexual identities.  Journal of Homosexuality, 17, (1/2), 43-73).

(The original text is not inclusive of people who are Bisexual and has been adapted for the current text.)

Compiled by:

Barry A. Schreier, Ph. D.