Cass’s Model of Sexual Orientation Formation

Brief Overview

Cass’s model is known by many as the first model to treat gay people as “normal” in hetero-sexist society. It is important to note that these stages can be revisited at different stages in life.


About the Author

Vivienne Cass developed the Cass identity model in 1979.  She has over thirty years of experience serving as a clinical psychologist and sex therapist.

For more information on Dr. Cass, please visit the link below:

Printable Summary (PDF)

Previous cohorts of FSU students have developed these printable summaries and used them to prepare for test and papers.  We hope they’ll be of help to you too.

Stages, Levels, Phases, and Components of the Theory

Stages, Levels, Phases, and Components of the Theory:  Six Stages of Development

  • Pre-stage 1: An individual identifies with the dominant heterosexual culture and understands that is the approved identification
  • Stage 1: Identity Confusion – An individual is cognoscente homosexual feelings or thoughts, becomes curious and/or anxious
  • Stage 2: Identity Comparison – An individual accepts the feelings and thoughts as homosexual, begins to deal with the society, peer group, and family member’s reactions
  • Stage 3: Identity Tolerance – An individual surrounds themselves with others who identify as homosexuals and begin to form a peer group for support and knowledge
  • Stage 4: Identity Acceptance – An individual outwardly acknowledges his or her homosexual but internally struggles, looks for cues from social group to determine the proper way to present him or her self to the public
  • Stage 5: Identity Pride – An individual deepens themselves in homosexual culture, often minimizing heterosexual peers; feelings of anger and strong political advocacy for gay rights and a less heterosexist society
  • Stage 6: Identity Synthesis – An individual integrates their sexual identity as part of their holistic identity, assimilates into dominant culture with a secure and positive self-concept
Application of Theory to Practice

This section is designed to provide student affairs professionals, staff, and faculty members with tips and tools to apply theory to practice.

Annotations of Associated Literature
Original Citation

Cass, V. C. (1979). Homosexuality identity formation: A theoretical model. Journal of homosexuality4(3), 219-235.

Additional Resources

This page was written and created by Marc Wollenschleger. The webpage is maintained by Amanda Peerce and Jesse Ford.  For information on the page, please contact Amanda Peerce at or Jesse Ford at