We're reposting a few questions from readers this week. If you have a question, leave a comment or send us an e-mail. Anonymous questions allowed and encouraged.
Question from a reader (October 2010):
I am 16 years old, soon to be 17. I live in Michigan. I am writing this because I am not like many other 16 year olds. I say this because I don't have many friends and the friends that I do have are mainly girls. I go to an all-guy school. At school, all the guys talk about girls and what they want to do to them, and I have to fake something every time it comes to me. I am not like many of them there; I do not like to hang out with them because I find it very hard to talk to guys and hang out with them. When I am out with a girl, it just comes natural to me. I am constantly thinking about guys, I cannot help it no matter what I do about it. When a girl walks down the sidewalk, I don't even think to look at her. I am thinking about whether I am gay or straight on a daily basis, and it is making me miserable. I am not going out and having fun, my parents push me to, but I never do. I have thought about what to do or who to tell. I have never gone through with it. Every time I think about it I am disgusted about it. Also I do not know how my family and friends would act about it. I say to myself that I want to have a family and that makes me go back to thinking and wanting to be straight. Please help me and give me advice on what I should do?!!!!GAY GUY RESPONDS:
I wish I could be with you in person, because your questions are eating away at your self confidence. You would benefit from talking with a trusted adult friend, someone who will understand your feelings and keep your confidence. I think you'd feel better if you get your thoughts out of your head and share them out loud. My worries sound different, and usually not so burdensome, when I say them out loud. I understand this is hard to do when you are 16 going on 17. Is there a teacher or counselor at your school who you can trust? You won't be the first guy to bring them tough questions.
I didn't have many guy friends in high school either. Now I have a lot of guy friends -- both gay and straight, as this blog proves. Guys at 16 can be pretty gross: they have limited social skills, aren't all that mature or expressive, and are focused on finding their place in and navigating the competitive pecking order that guys live in.
Friendships are to be treasured and celebrated. Sounds like you are relegating your friendships to second-class status because the world keeps telling you that you should be hanging with guys. Everyone needs friendships that make us feel seen, heard and appreciated. If your female friends help you feel good about yourself, then my advice is to go with it.
Can you take some initiative here? Straight Guy and I often hit basketball games together. I pay attention to some of the game, but spend a fair amount of time people-watching instead. What I value is spending time with a great friend, not necessarily the activity. Could you try "faking" it for an hour or two at school events just to see if the investment of time could pay off in you feeling more comfortable?
You think about guys all the time. The heart wants what the heart wants. You cannot "want" yourself into being straight or gay. I don't know how your romantic future will shake out, but I absolutely know that you will find people who will love you for who you are. I promise. And, lots of gay men, whether as couples or singles, adopt or find other ways to have families, so you don't have to give up that idea.
For now, my advice is to focus on building your self-esteem. Don't make yourself miserable. You are not alone, not even in that all-guy school of yours. You don't have to do anything or know everything right now; you might need to go off to college, get away from home, and meet a new and more mature group of friends to get some perspective on who you really are.
So, keep the faith, stop punishing yourself, feel good about all the special things that you are, keep breathing, try a few new things to see how they fit, stay in touch, and trust that you will be loved for you are.
STRAIGHT GUY RESPONDS:
You're comfortable with girls but don't fantasize about them. You fantasize about guys, but can't connect with your straight friends. The facts end there. You're gay and you know it. Please stop wondering and wishing it could be different. That's torture. If you're in a spot where you can't act on it, just wait, like GG suggests. There will be many chapters in your life. You CAN have a family and a wide network of folks who "get" and support you as your authentic self.
Good news is you found us, so you have access to the internet. There are many resources out there that will let you know that (1) you are not alone, and (2) that your situation will improve. In fact, there's a massive campaign right now called "It Gets Better" (links below) where you can hear stories -- some from fabulous and famous people! -- about how hard it was when they were your age. You might feel tormented by your thoughts, or bullied by your friends, or trapped by your circumstances... but you CAN just wait it out. In a year, you'll be in a new place and might start to see more possibilities for yourself.
I know, it's hard NOW. But eventually, you will connect with folks. Folks who will like you and love you and enjoy your company... and you'll just be able to be yourself. I'm happy in my life, but Gay Guy has many more friends than I do. Dinner friends, party friends, book club friends, brunch friends, movie friends, work friends, volunteer friends, theater friends. It's crazy what he packs into a weekend, sometimes. Once in a while, he even includes me.
So, think long term. If you ever get to the point where you get desperate and feel like you can't take it anymore, please know that there are people who want to help you. The Trevor Project has an anonymous hotline set up to help gay teens deal with depression. They want to help. If you need some, let them try.
Good luck. Here are some "It Gets Better" links:
homepage • facebook page • YouTube Channel
Here are some "It Gets Better" testimonials:
Sassy Gay Friend, Tim Gunn, Neil Patrick Harris, and a Texas councilman (believe it or not) Joel Burns