This Is The Average Amount Of Time People Wait To Come Out
In an effort to highlight LGBTQ+ dating trends — a woefully understudied population — Match.com has conducted a widespread survey of queer users to determine everything from how they feel about marriage and family, to how they flirt, to what subcultural identities they align themselves with. The survey, titled "LGBTQ in America," was an extension of the dating platform's annual "Singles in America" survey, which breaks down the dating habits of its users who aren't in committed relationships. Among the study's most staggering finds was how long it took LGBTQ+ users to come out.
"LGBTQ in America" surveyed 1000 single Match users between the ages of 18 and 70, and it found that only a quarter of respondents reported coming out the same year they acknowledged their marginalized gender identity or sexual orientation to themselves. Of those who "realized" it before they were 18, seven years was the average time it took to tell someone else they identified as LGBTQ+. For those who realized it after they turned 18, 2.9 years was the average time it took for them to tell someone else.
Folks who were assigned male at birth took the longest to come out, waiting an average of 1.6 years longer than folks assigned female at birth to come out. Transmen had the shortest coming out process, while transwomen had the longest, clocking in an extra 2.1 years on top of how long it took bisexual and gay men to come out. This isn't hugely surprising, considering male sexual fluidity is more marginalized that female sexual fluidity and transwomen are currently experiencing a homicide rate of historic proportions.
Obviously, coming out is a delicate process that takes time and self-exploration to realize, and since gender and sexuality can develop with fluidity, identities often evolve, requiring multiple "coming outs." It's a daunting process and it can take up a lot of emotional bandwidth, especially for folks who don't have access to adequate support systems. Interestingly, 28 percent of respondents reported a belief that identity was the result of a combination of biology and life experience. Sixty-four percent thought it was solely up to biology, largely thanks to the "born this way" rhetoric mainstream gay rights movements have perpetuated in an effort to fuel acceptance.
But the truth is, the scientific studies that support a "born this way," solely-biological hypothesis have mostly been performed in regard to cisgender gay men. There is far less science examining the biological factors affecting queer women or trans and gender-nonconforming folks, and the "born this way" paradigm often silences the more complex and nuanced lived experiences of fluidity and exploration.
Hopefully, this survey can serve as a wake-up call to straight allies, policymakers, and other people in positions of relative power, signifying that the queer community still suffers huge difficulties in feeling safe enough to come out. The onus for cutting down on that coming out time is not on queer folks to buck up and come out faster — but on the rest of the world to create more space, safety, access, and inclusivity for them to do so.