Coming Out Information and Advice

I Think I Might Be Gay.... 
Now What Do I Do?

Information for Young Men

Information for gay youth and young men questioning their sexuality.

What does it mean to be gay?

Men who call themselves gay are sexually attracted to and fall in love 
with other men. Their sexual feelings toward men are normal and 
natural for them. These feelings emerge when they are boys and the 
feelings continue into adulthood. Although some gay men may also be
attracted to women, they usually say that their feelings for men are
stronger and more important to them. We know that about one out of ten
people in the world is gay or lesbian (lesbians are women who are 
attracted to other women). This means that in any large group of people,
there are usually several gay people present. 
However, you cannot tell if someone is gay or not unless he or she wants 
you to know. Gay people blend right in with other people. 
But they often feel different from other people.

Gay teenagers may not be able to specify just why they feel different. 
All of the guys they know seem to be attracted to girls, so they don't 
know where they fit in. And, they may not feel comfortable talking 
with an adult about their feelings.

How do I know if I'm gay?

"I don't remember exactly when I first knew I was gay, but I do
remember that the thought of sex with men always excited me"--Alan.

"I never had any real attraction towards women, but I really knew that
I was gay when puberty began. I felt an attraction toward the other boys
and I was curious to find out what they were like"--James.

"One day I was flipping through a magazine, there was a cute guy, 
and bam! I knew"--Antonio.

You may not know what to call your sexual feelings. You don't have to
rush and decide how to label yourself right now. Our sexual identities
develop over time. Most adolescent boys are intensely sexual during 
the years around puberty (usually between 11 and 15 years old), when
their bodies start changing and their hormones are flowing in new ways.
Your sexual feelings may be so strong that they are not directed toward
particular persons or situations, but seem to emerge without cause. 
As you get older you will figure out who you are really attracted to.
Boys with truly gay feelings find that, over time, their attractions to boys
and men get more and more clearly focused. You may find yourself
falling in love with your classmates or maybe developing a crush on a
particular adult man. You may find these experiences pleasurable, 
troubling, or a mix of the two. By age 16 or 17 many gay kids start 
thinking about what to call themselves, while others prefer to wait.

If you think you might be gay, ask yourself:

When I dream or fantasize sexually, is it about boys or girls? 
Have I ever had a crush or been in love with a boy or a man? 

Do I feel different than other guys? 
Are my feelings for boys and men true and clear? 
If you cannot answer these questions now, don't worry. 
You will be more sure in time. 
You and only you know how to label yourself correctly.

Making contact

So, you may be ready to find out more. Start by reading. If you feel
comfortable, ask the librarian in the "Young Adult" section of your
public library. Librarians are usually glad to help. If your library does
not have much on sexuality you may want to check out the "GAY" 
section of a large bookstore, or possibly order books and other material
through the mail. Please note that not all books about gay people are
supportive. Try calling a gay hotline. Most major cities have one. 
You may want to call from a phone booth for privacy. They will let you
talk about your feelings and will direct you to organizations that help 
gay people. There may even be a gay youth group in your area. 
Some helpful resources are listed on the back of this brochure, 
including a toll-free national hotline.

Remember, gay people are out there, wherever you are. 
Trust your instincts. Sooner or later you will meet someone 
who feels some of the same things you do.

"When I first met another gay person, I felt excited, anxious, nervous and
happy. There was an indescribable relief to know that I was not alone, 
that there was someone else like me. It was also intimidating, not 
knowing what to expect, but I quickly loosened up and felt relaxed" 
-- Nathan.

"When I first made contact with another gay man, I felt a tremendous
 relief. I couldn't believe I had made a connection. I felt happy but also
 scared. I felt that I could do or say anything and not worry about it"

"When I first met another gay person, it was incredible, refreshing,
reassuring, touching, awesome, and wonderful"--James.

Will I ever have sex?

Naturally, you think about finding an outlet for your sexual feelings. 
Becoming a healthy sexual person is part of the coming out process. 
You may be scared at the prospect of having sex. This is normal for 
everyone. No one should start having sex until they are ready. Until then,
you may choose to masturbate or fantasize. Sex should only happen 
between mature individuals who care about each other. 
You will know when the time is right.

We all choose to have sex in different ways, whether we are gay or 
straight. Gay men choose from a wide range of sexual practices, including masturbation (either alone or with another person), oral sex, anal 
intercourse, kissing, hugging, massage, wrestling, holding hands, 
cuddling or anything else that appeals to both partners. 
You are in complete control over what you do sexually and with whom.

What about AIDS?

All sexually active people need to be aware of AIDS as well as other
sexually transmitted diseases. Being gay does not give you AIDS, but
certain sexual practices and certain drug use behaviors can put you at
risk for catching the virus that causes AIDS. AIDS is incurable, but is
preventable. Here's how to reduce your risk of getting AIDS:

Do not shoot up drugs. Sharing needles is the most dangerous 
in terms of getting AIDS. Avoid anal intercourse or other direct anal 
contact. Anal intercourse transmits the virus very efficiently. If you do
engage in anal sex, use a condom every time. 
Use condoms whenever you engage in anal or oral sex 
(or vaginal sex if you have sex with women). You should choose latex
condoms that are fresh and undamaged. Store them away from heat 
(your wallet is not a good place to keep them). Use a condom only once.
Try to choose condoms with "reservoir tips", and be sure to squeeze out
the air from the tip as you put it on. Hold on to the condom as you
remove your penis; sometimes they slip off after sex. or choose sexual 
activities that do not involve intercourse: hugging, kissing, talking,
 massaging, wrestling or masturbating (on unbroken skin). 

Learning to like yourself

"I had to reject a lot of negative heterosexual and religious programming 
that made me feel lousy about myself as a gay person. I began to like
myself by meeting other gay people and going to a gay support group.
After that I was content with myself"--Bill.

"My aunt is a lesbian, and she made it clear to me, before I even knew
I was gay, that being gay was OK"--Antonio.

"I accepted the facts, which means that I don't deny being gay and I 
don't pretend to be someone I'm not"--Alan.

It's not easy to discover that you are gay. Our society makes it very clear 
what it thinks of gay people. We all hear the terrible jokes, the hurtful
stereotypes and the wrong ideas that circulate about gay people. People
tend to hate or fear what they don't understand. Some people hate 
lesbians and gay men. Many people are uncomfortable being around
lesbians and gay men. It's no wonder that you might choose to hide your
gay feelings from others. 

You might even be tempted to hide them from yourself.

You may wonder if you are normal. Perhaps you worry about people
finding out about you. Maybe you avoid other kids who might be gay
because of what people will think. Working this hard to conceal your 
thoughts and feelings is called being in the closet. It is a painful and 
lonely place to be, even if you stay there in order to survive.

It takes a lot of energy to deny your feelings, and it can be costly. You
may have tried using alcohol or other drugs to numb yourself against
these thoughts. You may have considered suicide. If so, please consult
the phone book for the Samaritans or other hotline. There are
alternatives to denying your very valuable feelings. Check out the
resources listed on the back of this brochure.

Who should I tell?

"I only tell other people that I'm gay if I've known them for a long time
and if they are accepting and tolerant. I think it's important that they 
know about this special part of me"--Bill.

"Since I'm normal, I don't have to hide how I feel. But you should make
 sure that you are comfortable with your preference before you blurt
 it out to just anyone"--Nathan.

"I tell people that I'm gay if I know that they won't reject me, will accept
me for what I am, and won't try to 'straighten' me out. I test them, 
I suppose, then I judge if I want to risk telling them"--James.

More and more gay kids are learning to feel better about themselves. 
As you start to listen to your deepest feelings and learn more about what 
it means to be gay you will begin to be comfortable with your sexuality. 
This is the process called coming out. The first step in coming out is to 
tell yourself that you are gay and say, "That's OK." Later you may want to
tell someone else--someone you trust to be understanding and
sympathetic. You might choose a friend or an adult. You will probably
want to meet other gay kids for friendship or a more intimate
relationship. Some gay kids are able to come out to their families. 
You need to decide whether or not to tell your family, and to choose the
right time. Lots of people, including parents, simply don't understand
gay people and are difficult to come out to. 
In the beginning, be cautious about whom you tell.

But it is crucial to be honest with yourself. Just as self-denial costs you,
coming out pays off. Most kids who accept their sexuality say they feel
calmer, happier and more confident.

"No matter what people say, you are normal. God created you, and you
 were made in this [sic] image. If you are non-religious, you were born
 and you have a purpose, and being gay is only part of it"--Nathan.

"Stand up for what you believe in, and don't listen to what hatemongers
 have to say. Stay proud and confident"--James.


One Teenager in Ten: Writings by Gay and Lesbian Youth, ed. 
Ann Heron, Alyson Publications, 40 Plympton Street, Boston, MA 02118

Young, Gay and Proud, a resource book for gay and lesbian youth,
also published by Alyson Publications.

Beyond Acceptance: Parents of Lesbian and Gay Children Talk About
Their Experiences, McAllister, Wirth and Wirth, Prentice-Hall, 1986.

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