I am 19 years old and I am gay. I really want to come out to my friends and my family so much. I have the biggest crush on my tutor and I turn red in the face when I talk to him. I feel that I have to talk to people! If I do not come out, I will be living a lie. I have many complications to complicate matters - I have Asbergers Syndrome (mild case) and have trouble coming to terms with the fact that I must talk and communicate with other people. I want to be in a relationship so much. What can I do to get beyond the point of confusion of how to talk to others (ESPECIALLY OTHER PEOPLE LIKE ME)? PLEASE HELP:) Charlie.
Charlie (Confused in NY!), 19,
I applaud your bravery in being open and honest about your sexual orientation and your Asperger’s Syndrome. Your desire to be open about being gay with your friends and family, to be in a relationship and to deal with your difficulty talking and communicating with other people shows what a strong, confident, admirable person you are. You show true insight and strength in writing to Dear Trevor for help in coming out and learning to better express yourself.
I am sorry that you are experiencing such frustration and stress in wanting to come out while also struggling with overcoming the social anxiety that often comes with Asperger’s Syndrome. From your letter, it appears that you are confident and content in being gay and have made the decision to share your sexual orientation with others. Hopefully you can be proud of yourself for knowing who you are and wanting to fully share that wonderful person with the world.
Coming out is a very natural thing to want to do as it can let people in your life know a very important part of you, help you to feel less alone by opening you up to new friends and also open you up to the possibility of dating. It might help to first empower yourself with knowledge about ways to go about sharing your sexuality with friends and family, preparing yourself for possible reactions from others and ensuring your safety above all else. In helping you to decide how you may want to discuss your sexual orientation, you may want to read these informative guides: Human Rights Campaign’s “Resource Guide to Coming Out” (http://www.hrc.org/documents/resourceguide_co.pdf) and PFLAG’s “Questions to ask yourself before coming out to your parents” (http://www.pflagphoenix.org/support/guides/readbefore.html) . Many LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people go through the same fear that you're going through in considering coming out because it's hard to predict how people will respond-will they be accepting, will they change the way they treat you or will they even reject you? It can be stressful hiding this part of you, always having to be careful about what you say and being afraid that you'll be found out. When you said that if you don't come out, you'll be living a lie, it sounds like you're feeling a desire and possibly pressure to talk with people about your sexuality. It would be important to think about if this is the right time for you to talk with people in your life about you being gay. In thinking about whether or not to come out, it can help to think about a number of things. What does it feel like keeping this part of your life hidden from your family and friends? Is it causing you stress worrying that they'll find out? Do you think if you told them, you’d be unsafe physically or emotionally? If you're living with your parents and you did tell them that you're gay, are you worried that they'd kick you out of the house? If you did decide to tell them and they did kick you out of the house, it would be very important to have a safety plan, meaning a place where you could stay and a way to continue to go to school and support yourself financially. Some people wait until they're out of their parent's house and are financially independent to tell their parents about their sexuality. If you don't feel that now is the right time to tell your family and friends about your sexuality, that's absolutely fine. What's most important is that you're comfortable and safe. When you do decide to tell people, remember that you don't have to tell everyone at once. It can help to start with someone you trust and feel safe with and to tell people at a pace that feels right for you. It’s also important to find a way that’s most comfortable for you. You can tell people how much they mean to you and that you want to share an important part of your life with them. Some people are comfortable telling people directly about their sexuality while others find it more comfortable to start by talking about a gay actor or character in a movie, book or TV show and ease into the discussion.
Just as you're looking for help, the people in your life may need time and help understanding your sexuality. PFLAG (Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians & Gays) is a great organization, made up mostly of parents, that supports LGBTQ people and works to help their families and friends become more understanding of their loved ones’ sexual orientations. On their website at www.pflag.org click on “Get Support” then click on “For Family & Friends” where you will find the brochures entitled “Our Daughters and Sons: Questions and Answers for Parents of Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual People” and “Frequently Asked Questions about GLBT People,” which, if you’re comfortable, you can share with your family and friends to help them become more understanding and supportive of you. PFLAG also runs support groups where parents and others can discuss concerns and questions they're having about a loved one's sexual orientation and where LGBT people can get support and discuss issues they're having with people in their lives. On their website, you can search for a chapter near you. If no chapter is near you or if people in your life won't attend, you could still contact them and get support and learn ways to help your family and friends become more understanding of you. Other resources you might share with your family and friends are the books “Now That You Know-A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Their Gay and Lesbian Children” which addresses many issues and questions that arise for parents of gay and lesbian children and “Straight Parents, Gay Children: Keeping Families Together.” There are no guarantees but they might help.
You said that because of the Asperger's Syndrome, you are having difficulty talking and communicating with others. It might help to know that there is treatment which is geared toward improving communication and social skills. It would therefore be important for you to work with a mental health professional, such as a social worker, psychologist or psychiatrist, who will be able to provide you with a safe environment to help you to work through your thoughts and emotions and to also share tools, guidance and skills for communicating with others. These skills and tools can help you as you work toward coming out to others and pursue dating. You could contact The Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists at www.aglp.org or 215-222-2800 to find a therapist in your area.
As you consider meeting and relating to other gay people, you may also benefit from surrounding yourself with encouraging LGBT youth groups who may be quite diverse and thus more likely to be sensitive to what you’re experiencing. In fact, there are several LGBT community centers throughout the country that have individual support groups for LGBT individuals with Asperger’s and similar social or communication difficulties. You might consider visiting one of the most established of such groups, the Rainbow Support Group, at the New Haven Pride Center in New Haven, CT. The Rainbow Support Group provides support and affirmation to people with developmental disabilities who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender. You can learn more about their program by calling (203) 387-2252 or emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you're unable to get to their center, you could contact them about resources closer to your home. You can also look up LGBT youth and community groups in NY by visiting The Trevor Project’s local resources page at http://www.thetrevorproject.org/resources.aspx and click on the state of NY on the interactive map.
Some people with Asperger’s find that communicating online, at least in the beginning, is easier for them because it allows for the time and space to think through things before communicating. Therefore, it might also help you to know that you can find reassurance and support regarding coming out through joining online LGBT communities such as TrevorSpace at www.trevorspace.org, the Trevor Project’s safe, online social networking site for LGBTQ young people ages 13 to 24, their friends and allies. You could also consider signing up for one of the online community groups hosted by GRASP, the Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership (www.grasp.org ). They also have several in-person support groups throughout NY. They are an educational and advocacy group that also has a teen-centric online discussion group. Other places to meet LGBT young people online and learn more about coming out include Youth Guardian Services email list for LGBT young people ages 17-21 (http://www.youth-guard.org/youth) and Youth Resource (http://www.amplifyyourvoice.org/youthresource).
For additional support, you can call the Trevor helpline 24 hours, 7 days a week at 1-866-4-U-Trevor. Our understanding, caring counselors would be happy to talk with you about everything you’re dealing with. Charlie, you do not have to face these issues alone as we at the Trevor Project are always available to help you.