Straight Talk Advice

Gay teen fearful about coming out

Jun 23, 2015

Teen accepts being gay but fears bullying and rejection

Dear Straight Talk: I like your “Am I Gay or Straight?” test [Jun 2]. I’m gay and there has never been any confusion; I’ve liked boys starting before puberty. I accept myself but I worry about others accepting me. Whenever I think about telling someone I get scared. My school is supposedly open-minded but there are lots of cruel jokes and bullying for gays. My older brother does not even know and we share a room. My parents aren’t super religious but I still think it will be a shock. What do you recommend? —16 and in the closet

Karlee 18, Bentleyville, Pennsylvania Ask me a question

My best friend is gay. She says to begin by talking about things like gay marriage, gay pride events, etc., and see how people react. This is just to get you warmed up. A positive reaction doesn't mean they’ll accept you, a negative one doesn't mean they won't. Eventually, you just have to tell them. It’s something every gay kid has to go through. Your parents may not be accepting at first, or they’ll wholeheartedly accept you. When my friend came out at school it opened the door for others to come out.

Icis 17, Lehigh Acres, Florida Ask me a question

Are you close with your brother? Siblings are usually more understanding than those who created you. This is a huge brave step. For your parents, use self-assured language: “What I’m about to tell you may affect your judgement and that’s okay. I have come to terms with who I am and hope you will, too.”

Nick 18, Corte Madera, California Ask me a question

I know a few gays who’ve come out. It’s usually a several-month process. Most start by telling friends and building a support system. Family is usually the hardest. Don’t be in a rush, though. Wait until you feel confident. Watching YouTube coming-out videos will help. You’ll find people more accepting and proud of you than you think. For friends who don't get it, let them go. If your family doesn't get it, they’ll learn to, because if they love you, they have to.

Samantha 23, Toledo, Ohio Ask me a question

I have several gay cousins and friends and an open accepting family. How would you describe yours? Do you believe, deep down, that they love and accept you for who you are now? If so, they'll probably continue that.

Meghan 21, State College, Pennsylvania Ask me a question

My challenge was telling my parents I was agnostic. We’d gone to church almost every weekend growing up. I waited till I’d gathered a sense of their views and felt I could defend my position. Start by bringing up news about gay marriage and notice their reaction. Once you’re ready, you can either tell them outright or casually comment that you're seeing someone. The quote I used: “Expect the best, plan for the worst.”

Elle 19, Mifflintown, Pennsylvania Ask me a question

Kids can definitely be cruel in high school. Since your family’s reaction is also unclear, it may be wise to wait until you're self-supporting.

Dear 16: Coming out is one of the scariest challenges a person can face and I support you. Being openly gay is more accepted each day, yet most high schools are still cruel places for gays. And some parents still reject their offspring. I hope the panel was helpful — and knowing the negative effects of trauma and economic hardship, I worry about timing. Not everyone is cut out to be a pacesetter in high school. Bullying is almost nonexistent if you wait till after high school. And if you wait till after college (or until self-supporting) to tell parents, you aren’t potentially cut off without a college degree or marketable skills during difficult economic times. Sometimes the quickest way to freedom is to wait for the ideal conditions, which aren’t far off.

Editor's Note: I commend any gay, bi, or asexual person seeking the freedom to be openly themselves, of which their sexual orientation is an important piece. And, as in anything we seek that is challenging, timing and strategy are important. You want to further yourself and have MORE freedom, not set yourself back. In the same way that less extroverted, popular, or confident teenagers in a less-then-tolerant high school can be better to suited to wait till after graduation before revealing this information, others who are applying for jobs may decide to wait until after they are hired to reveal it. This is all totally legitimate and you are not denying yourself, you are simply choosing to acknowledge that the world is not completely evolved and you are working within its limits to make the best of things for yourself. You DO reveal yourself, you just choose when. Usually you don't have to wait long. Some gays tell me they would rather be judged for who they are APART from their sexual orientation anyway, just like straight people are, which often means waiting a bit and letting the information emerge in bits and pieces or in the right setting. However you do it, bravo to all of you! You have my support. 

For those who have confusion about your orientation and haven't taken our "Am I Gay or Straight" test from June 2, you can find it here. Will all the sexual triggers and suggestions in media and pornography, and the roughly 40,000 hours of screen time a kid has absorbed by age 18, there is a lot of confusion. The test will help you. —Lauren

 

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  1. By Mandy, age 17, from Fountain Valley, California on 06/23/2015

    I found that coming out wasn’t nearly as bad as I feared, and all the anxiety I went through about it was worse than the actual coming out was.  My family was accepting and my mom and sister said they already suspected it anyway and it made no difference to them.  My sister and I have always been close, and it really would have hurt if she had rejected me because of this.  I was worried about the gay “undressing” issue that has been written so much about so much in Straight Talk since we share a room, but she just laughted when I asked her if it was going to be a problem.  We continue to be just as comfortable about undressing and nudity as ever and just like any other sisters.  My friends were also accepting and they also have no problem with the undressing issue at sleepovers and slumber parties and in the locker room.  I’ve had some cruel comments, but they’ve been by people who don’t really even know me, not my real friends, so I don’t worry about it.

    From what I can see, however, guys who are gay have it much worse when they come out.  Guys at my school who are gay really get hassled by the guys who think they’re “macho” and I really feel sorry for them.  Even guys who aren’t gay but aren’t “macho” and aren’t good at sports get labeled gay by the jocks and are cruelly teased and hassled, so I don’t know what to tell “16 and In the Closet.”  But if I were a guy and was gay, I would be really hesitant to come out while going to my school. 

    I don’t know why there’s such a difference between guys and girls who are gay and I don’t know if it’s true everywhere, but it certainly is that way at my school.

    Mandy

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    1. By Lindy, age 16, from Sacramento, CA on 06/24/2015

      It’s similar at my school.  I’m openly gay and the other gay girls and I don’t have a big problem.  Yes, we get some insensitive comments and a few girls act uncomfortable changing in the locker room and taking showers with us, but for the most part we are allowed to be who we are.  However, the few guys who have had the courage to come out as openly gay are constantly bullied and I feel really bad for them as a fellow gay.  Yes, the school has an anti-bullying policy that’s supposed to protect gays and everyone else, but it does little good.  In fact, I think it does more harm than good as the principal proudly cites it and thinks that solves the problem.  NOT!

      I was more concerned about coming out to my family than with the kids at school.  I wasn’t worried about my sister since she has a gay friend who has spent the night in our room and she had no problem undressing and being naked in front of her, so she obviously wouldn’t have a problem with me, her own sister. So I went to her first since we’re very close and she helped support me in going to our parents together to tell them.  After they got over the initial shock, they were able to accept it and it hasn’t changed their love for me, although I still have the feeling that they would rather that I be straight.  It made no difference at all to my sister and we’re both still more comfortable with each other when it comes to undressing and nudity than we are with anyone else.

      16 And In The Closet might try going first to his brother if he is close and supportive, but I obviously don’t know what kind of relationship they have.  I’m just glad that I have a sister who was so supportive.

      Lindy

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  2. By T., age 16, from California on 06/24/2015

    I am gay and will definitely stay in the closet at least until I finish high school for the reasons stated by Mandy and Lindy.  The very few guys who are openly gay at my school are bullied terribly despite the anti-bullying policy the school district is so proud of but which is in fact meaningless.  Guys who are straight are not even safe. If 2 guys hang out together too much and don’t have girlfriends, the jocks start labeling them gay and they also get bullied and their lives are ruined while they’re in high school.  Therefore, I’m staying in the closet at least until I go to college.  However, the girls who are openly gay don’t seem to have a big problem from what I can see.

    My older brother has always been a good big brother to me, but I don’t know how he’d react if he knew I was gay.  He and his friends like to make cruel gay jokes which they think are hysterically funny, so I don’t know how he’d react if he knew he was sharing a room with and being naked every day in front of someone who is gay.  (I have absolutely no sexual interest in him.)

    I don’t think it would be a problem with my sisters, as they have a gay friend who has spent the night in their room.  I don’t know what goes on in their room with the door closed, but I assume that they all must undress in front of each other and see each other naked and it’s not a problem.  Unlike some sisters I’ve read about in Straight Talk, they stick to their room with the door closed when they’re undressed and don’t walk around naked or in their thongs.  This is fine with me.  Even though I’m gay, it would still make me very uncomfortable to see them this way. 

    I’m not sure about my mom as she never says anything about gay issues, but she doesn’t have any problem with my sisters’ friend staying in the same room with them, so I don’t think she’d have a problem if she knew I was gay.  However, based on what I’ve seen at school, I see no choice but to stay in the closet for now.

    T.
    Staying In The Closet

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    1. By LAUREN, from StraightTalkAdvice.org on 07/01/2015

      T.—I don’t blame you. I think it’s smart to be self-preserving. You won’t have to wait long. Before you know it, high school is over and from what I hear, there is almost no bullying in college for gays. And for those who go on into jobs or travel post high school, it’s the same. The immaturity of high school is thankfully left behind by most.

      I’m grateful for your letter and the ones from Mandy and Lindy. I did not realize there was such a big difference in experience between girls and boys on this issue.  So sorry that it is unsafe to come out.

      If you want to be proactive about this without coming out, you could ask your school to start the Safe Schools Ambassador program (http://www.community-matters.org). This is the only anti-bullying program that I know of that really works—and the only one that uses this “inside out” approach. It’s in over 1500 schools and makes a huge difference for gays—or anyone who is different and prone to bullying or exclusion. Here’s the link to a column we did on it: http://www.straighttalkadvice.org/teen-advice/entry/a_bullying_solution_that_really_works

      I wish every school had it and if you rallied enough parents to insist on it, it could happen. They have a lot of ways to get the schools funding.

      Hang in there and thanks for writing!  Love, Lauren

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