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.

Bruce Drake  is a former senior editor at Pew Research Center.