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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2003 Feb;84(2):352-64.

Was it a phase? Young women's relinquishment of lesbian/bisexual identities over a 5-year period.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City 84112-0251, USA.


There have been many anecdotal accounts of individuals who self-identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual only to relinquish these identities later. The current study examines this phenomenon among a sample of young nonheterosexual women who underwent 3 interviews over a 5-year period. Over a quarter of these women relinquished their lesbian/bisexual identities during this period: half reclaimed heterosexual identities and half gave up all identity labels. These women did not differ from those who maintained lesbian/bisexual identities regarding the age at which they underwent sexual identity milestones, the factors that precipitated their sexual questioning, or their recollection of childhood "indicators" of same-sex sexuality. Women who relinquished their identities for heterosexual identities had smaller ratios of same-sex to other-sex attractions across the 5-year assessment period, but their attractions did not significantly change. Only 1 woman described her previous same-sex identification as a phase; the rest emphasized changes in how they interpreted or acted on their attractions.

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