Adolescent Differences in the Relationship among Same-Sex Sexual Activity, Attraction, and Non-Heterosexual Identity, and the Stability of Sexuality over Time

Hua-Yu Sebastian Cherng, University of Pennsylvania

Recently, research on sexual minorities has flourished. Yet there is no agreement on the best way to identify and define gay and lesbian populations, particularly in large-scale surveys, and little attention has been paid to the implications of these different definitions. It is also unclear if individuals maintain identities over time. This paper focuses on how survey researchers have defined gay and lesbian populations based on sexual activity, relationships and co-residency, attraction and identification; whether using these definitions produces similar estimates of demographic compositions and health risk factors, and whether definitions change over time. Results show that different definitions result in different populations, a significant proportion of the population changes their sexuality over time, and different definitions impact estimates of common demographic and public health indicators. Using different theoretical perspectives, the paper concludes with recommendations of how gay and lesbian populations should be conceptualized in future research using large-scale surveys.

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Presented in Session 153: Mate Selection in Sexual and Romantic Relationships