Awareness of being different
A common bond between all lesbians and gay men no matter what background is the development of personal awareness that you are 'different' to those around you. This can happen at almost any age from childhood through adolescence into adult or late adult life! It may or may not be directly linked to sexual awareness and could be to do with not being comfortable conforming with contemporary norms about dress, toys, sports, role models or general behaviour. It may be socially, or very emotionally led. For others, the sexual feelings predominate.
Self-awareness is the first step in the 'coming out' process. Self-acceptance may not happen for many years after this first recognition. There may be a period of confusion, suppression or denial. Others are more self-accepting and ease into the identity of lesbian and gay quite easily. It is possible to see patterns depending on the era, the background, race, religion etc. The next step after coming out to oneself, is coming out to those around you, for the first time, and then at times of transition throughout life.
For some, particularly women in the 70s, the process of recognising sexual attraction to other women was catalysed by political analysis and choosing not to be in relationships with men, then seen very much as the cause of women's inequalities in many areas of life.