Stage Three: Identity Tolerance

In stage three, Identity Tolerance, people begin to have a greater level of commitment to a new identity (“I probably am gay/lesbian.”). These feelings increase the sense of alienation and isolation. In response, people seek out gay and lesbian individuals and try to connect with the gay community and culture. If a lesbian or gay man is in treatment at this point, the counselor can help by suggesting attendance at gay- or lesbian-affiliated AA or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings. If people remain open to this growth process, their self-image may change and they can say, “I am gay” or “I am lesbian”—an assertion that marks the beginning of the next stage.

Some people identify themselves as bisexual before they identify themselves as gay or lesbian. This stance may be easier because they believe others may be more accepting of them as bisexual than as gay or lesbian. Because the transition from identity tolerance to identity acceptance is a highly individual process, it is important that counselors not force clients into declaring they are gay or lesbian but respect and support individuals in their process. Although some individuals may see themselves as bisexual as part of their coming out process, other individuals are clearly bisexual and need to be accepted as such.