A young teenager recently sent me an email saying that he or she was gay. Since I’m not sure of his or her gender, I’m going to go with “he” just to make writing this easier. He said he had known he was gay ever since he could remember. He said he lived in a socially conservative environment. He said he wasn’t comfortable sharing his sexual identity with anyone, and he thought I would be a good person to ask, “What do I do in this situation?”
Instead of replying to the email, I had enough sense to direct this young person back to icanhasgrace. As a parent, I wouldn’t want an unknown forty-five-year-old man giving advice of any kind to my thirteen-year-old son or daughter through an email reply. However, this is my blog, and here I can say what I want. If the teenager visits again and finds words that help, then hecanhasgrace–thanks be to God.
The first thing I want to say to this young person is, you are light years ahead of where I was at your age. Did I know I was gay when I was thirteen? Yes, I did. I’ve recently written privately about memories from that time in my life, and even earlier. As I relive those memories through writing, it’s obvious that I knew I was gay. But it took me years to admit the truth of it to myself. I repressed it, hid it, denied it well into my thirties. I’ve said before, there’s no telling how those years of denial affected my personality. I just bet I’m still paying the price for lying to myself for as long as I did. So young man (or woman), congratulations for being honest with yourself. That is something that many people, including myself, have found it hard to do.
Second, give yourself a break. You aren’t under any pressure from anyone but yourself to figure any of this any time soon. Give it time.
Third, stay away from pornography. The Internet is full of it. What you find there isn’t real. Looking at it will give you a warped sense of reality. Relationships are more important than what we see physically. All porn has to offer is the physical, and even that isn’t real.
Fourth, do not, under any circumstances, have unprotected sex with anyone, male or female. Use a condom. If you can’t get a condom, then you must wait until you can. The chances are fifty-fifty that you will be infected with a sexually transmitted disease such as gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, genital warts (or human papillomavirus [HPV]) if you have unprotected sex. In 2008, 352 people were infected with the HIV virus in Middle Tennessee. That’s almost one person each day of that year. Using protection if you engage in sexual activity is absolutely essential whether you are straight, bisexual, or gay.
Fifth, find someone to talk to. Do you have a friend you can confide in? Is there a teacher or a counselor at school who you feel comfortable talking with? Are you sure you can’t talk to one or both of your parents? I have found that most of the people I have come out to were far more comfortable about having that conversation than I was. Don’t get me wrong: it’s a hard conversation to have. No one needs to pressure you into saying anything you don’t want to say. But you don’t need to be alone. I just bet there are people in your life who love you, period.
Sixth, here’s a good place on the web to look for support and ideas about coming out: GLBT Teens at About.com (GLBT stands for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender). In the Nashville area, there’s an organization called “One-In-Teen.” They have a working phone number, which is (615) 321-7288, but their web site is down.
Seventh, know that you are a gift from God, and that your sexuality is a gift from God. Do not be ashamed of who you are. Always remember that God loves you.