Advice to a young person who thinks he/she might be gay

The worst thing, of course, is to think about it so much. But I guess you wouldn't have made it into college if you didn't think about things too much. So where do you go from there? First, you have to be honest with yourself. Sexuality is hard enough to understand when you let it flow freely, let alone when you block it out from fear. Forget about your parents and your friends and your religion and your career and all that for a little bit and just figure out how you feel inside.

Okay, so now you have your insides all worked out. Then what? By now you are probably starting to feel lots of pressure because your insides don't match your outsides, sort of like a balloon trapped underwater afraid that the slightest leak will let all the air out. That's when the "I'm the only one" syndrome tends to hit. You know gay people exist, but they can't be nice people, not university students, not people back home, not Christians. You're wrong about that. So the next step is information. The internet is dramatically changing the way that young gay people explore gay issues. There is an incredible amount of information online that you can read anonymously. There are also live chat rooms for gay youth that operate 24 hours a day. These can be found on AOL (look for private chats that contain "m4m" or "f4f" in their names), IRC and various web pages.

A good general resource for online information, including how to participate in online chat rooms, is the Youth Resource Page. For University of Arizona specific information, try the Pride Alliance links page. You should also check out the web page for Wingspan, Tucson's bisexual, gay, lesbian and transgender community center.

So now you've gotten lots of information and have chatted anonymously with some people. You feel so much better because you never knew other people felt just like you do. So now what? Now you need to find a gay friend. You thought I was going to say "gay lover," didn't you? Well, lovers are good to find also, but confidants are much more important to your mental well-being and they tend to last longer.

Before you can find a friend, though, you are going to have to fight a certain battle inside yourself. You will find it hard to trust gay people. You've kept this secret to yourself for so long that you will find it hard to give it up. "I may be gay," you'll think to yourself, "but at least I'm the only one who knows. If I tell others, I will no longer be in control." Many gay people take the secret to their graves by committing suicide because they can't bear the thought of letting the secret out.

You can waste a lifetime worrying about what's going to happen if you tell someone, or you can face the challenge and take a chance. Once you do take the chance, you will be pleasantly surprised to find that you don't have to be openly gay if you don't want to be. Many gay people keep a "low profile," telling their sensitive friends and family and letting the others live with their illusions. You will find that there are gay people in ROTC, in fraternities, on athletic teams, in the Republican Party, and all sorts of other situations where you never thought a gay person could survive. Some of us choose to accept the battle of being open, but we respect personal choice. So learn to trust us. We know exactly what you're going through, so we're not going to pressure you into calling yourself gay or telling people that you are gay.

Okay, so you've battled your worst fears and are now ready to trust gay people. How do you find that first friend? There is no single way. You can choose a specific person to approach (e.g., someone you have found through the internet who seems to have a lot in common in with you). Or you can participate in the campus group known as the Pride Alliance. Call the alliance at 621-7585 to chat with one of their volunteers about how you might get involved. You might choose something as low-key as showing up at their office for lunch some day. Or if you prefer to do something off-campus, contact Wingspan. They sponsor weekly youth group meetings and many other events. You can call Wingspan at 624-1779.

So that's my advice. The rest is up to you.

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last updated 01/01/2020