I don’t know what I am. I have been cutting for the past 3 months. I also don’t know if I’m gay or bi or straight. I have very strong feelings for this girl but at the same time, I feel attracted to guys. I don’t have anyone to turn to or to ask questions. My parents hate bisexuals and gays so I guess that’s why I’m so afraid of becoming one. Please help Trevor.
I understand that this must be a confusing and stressful time for you, and I am sorry that you are feeling such anxiety and stress. But I am glad that you reached out to Dear Trevor for help especially when you don't have anyone to turn to or to ask questions of. Even more, I want to applaud you for the insight and resourcefulness you show in writing to Dear Trevor for help regarding understanding your cutting and your sexuality. You demonstrate strength and courage in your honest and open letter about cutting and your sexual orientation (to whom you’re attracted). It is wonderful that you are seeking to better understand yourself; and, that in your quest, you are not hiding your feelings from yourself. Hopefully, you can be proud of that.
It’s really concerning that you’ve been cutting yourself. Some people cut as a way of dealing with or managing difficult, painful, overwhelming emotions, intense pressure or stress. For some, cutting relieves the stress or tension they're experiencing or they find that the physical pain of cutting is a distraction from the emotional pain. Some people are angry at someone in their life and take the anger out on themselves by cutting. Others feel that the cutting gives them a feeling of control when things in the life or their emotions feel out of control. Other people feel numb or “dead” inside and cutting helps them to feel alive. With your confusion about your sexual orientation and your fear of being bisexual or gay because of your parent's hatred of bisexual and gay people, you may be experiencing some or all of these things. Cutting may help you to feel better briefly but the longer it goes on, the more dangerous it can become as it can cause permanent scars, infections and serious, and sometimes life threatening medical problems especially if you cut a major blood vessel. It can also cause you to feel shame, guilt, depressed and out of control. If you feel like cutting, there are lots of ways to help yourself feel better without putting yourself at risk. Think about how you feel before and after you cut yourself. If cutting helps to release anger, you might try getting the anger out in another way like hitting a pillow, stomping around in heavy shoes, ripping up an old newspaper or flattening aluminum cans. If cutting helps you when you’re sad, do whatever makes you feel taken care of and comforted. That may be listening to certain songs, calling a good friend or eating a favorite food. Sometimes, writing in a journal or drawing/painting helps a person to feel better. For some people, doing something physical like running outdoors or yoga can help relieve stress. If the cutting helps you to feel less numb, do something that creates a sharp physical feeling like putting your hand in ice water or stamp your feet on the ground. There are websites available including www.safe-alternatives.com and http://www.helpguide.org/mental/self_injury.htm that can help you learn about cutting as well as additional things you can do when you have the urge to cut. You will also find a lot of information at http://self-injury.net/information-recovery/recovery/talking-about-self-injury-others which covers many topics including the initial difficulties around the subject of telling someone you trust about the cutting. As you’ve experienced, it can be very difficult to stop cutting and it would be important for you to work with a mental health professional such as a social worker, psychologist or psychiatrist to find safer and healthier ways to deal with the hard things you’re going through and to help you stop cutting. You could ask a trusted adult such as a parent, relative, doctor, teacher or school counselor for help in finding such a person. If there's no one you feel comfortable talking with, you can always call 1-800-DON’T-CUT for help in finding a mental health professional for you to work with. When you have the urge to cut, you can always call the Trevor lifeline at 1-866-4-U-Trevor (1-866-488-7386) and talk with a Trevor counselor about what you’re feeling and experiencing as well as your urge to cut which can help to delay or stop the urge to cut. They can also work with you to find a therapist to help you.
Gabriel, I’m sorry that you are experiencing such worry and stress in trying to figure out your sexual orientation and that your fear about your parent’s reaction, which is understandable given their feelings about gay and bisexual people, is making that stress worse. It may help you to know that you are absolutely not alone in feeling confused about your sexuality and that all the feelings and attractions you have are a very normal, healthy part of development. Teens often feel pressure to define themselves and please know that just because you have questions does not imply that you must now or ever label yourself. Sexuality is quite fluid, and it develops over time so it may make you feel less anxious if you can try to give yourself some time and, you will eventually figure out who you are and if/how you want to define your sexuality. Please know that despite what your parents say about bisexual and gay people, all sexual orientations including lesbian, gay, bisexual and straight are natural and normal. You said that you have strong feelings for a girl but are also attracted to guys. This may mean you’re bisexual but you also may be gay or straight. It’s something you’ll know with time. In trying to understand your different feelings, it might help to remember that sexual orientation involves emotional, romantic as well as physical feelings and attraction for people of both genders (bisexual), people of the same gender (gay and lesbian), and people of the opposite gender (heterosexual or straight). It can also help to think about who you have crushes on and who you fantasize about being with boys, girls or both. On http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=726&Itemid=336 you'll find the brochure "I Think I Might Be Gay...Now What Do I Do?" which can help you understand your feelings and questions about your sexuality. On www.bisexual.org you'll find a lot of helpful information on bisexuality. If you click on resources, then bisexuality-general information, then "Bisexuality 101 from PFLAG" you can find information that may help. On www.youthresource.com/living/bi/brochure.htm you'll find the online brochure "I Think I Might Be Bisexual . . . Now What Do I Do?" Some bisexual people have equal feelings for guys and girls, some have greater feelings for guys while others have stronger feelings for girls. Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) is a great organization, made up mostly of parents, which supports LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning) people and works to help parents and others to become more supportive and accepting of their loved one's sexual orientation. On their website at www.pflag.org click on "Get Support" then click on "For Family & Friends" where you'll find the pamphlet “Frequently Asked Questions about GLBT People,” which may help you to understand you feelings and attractions. PFLAG’s “Be Yourself: Questions for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth” at http://www.pflag.org/fileadmin/user_upload/Be_Yourself_TT.pdf can be of further help as you try to understand your sexual orientation. Remember that there's no rush to figure this out. Try to take the pressure off of you and give yourself the time to go through your different experiences and feeling with different people. You'll know when you're ready.
As you try to understand your sexuality it can be helpful to talk with people you trust and feel comfortable with such as a friend, relative, teacher or school counselor. In addition, it can be helpful to connect with LGBTQ young people to get support and learn what helped them understand their sexuality and deal with their feelings and attractions. If your school has a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), you might attend some meetings. You could join 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. It's a great supportive community where you can connect with others who might have had or are having the same questions as you. You could also call the GLBT National Youth Talkline at 1-800-246-7743 for additional peer to peer support. You might check out I’mfromdriftwod.com and read some stories written by other LGTBQ youth as they try and understand their sexual orientation. Youth Resource at www.amplifyyourvoice.org/youthresource is a site maintained by and for young people within the LGBTQ community that can be of additional support.
Unfortunately some people, like your parents, have negative attitudes towards bisexual and gay people because their perception of sexual orientation has been influenced by homophobic lessons they have accepted from society and because of misinformation or a lack of information. The most important thing, Gabriel, is that you feel safe and protected. It seems that your parents might not be supportive of your sexual orientation so, if you do not feel comfortable or safe, you do not need to ever discuss your sexuality with anyone, including your parents. Some people wait until they’re living on their own and are financially independent before talking with their parents about their sexual orientation. If you don't feel that now is the right time to tell your parents about your sexuality, that’s absolutely fine. What's most important is that you're comfortable and safe. Some people, like your parents, who may have negative feelings about LGBT people or initially have a negative reaction to learning that a loved one is lesbian, can with help, move to a more accepting place. On their website at www.pflag.org click on "Get Support" then click on "For Family & Friends" where you'll find the pamphlets "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 parents to help them become more understanding and accepting of your sexuality. PFLAG also runs support groups where parents and others can discuss questions and concerns they have about a loved one's sexual orientation and where LGBTQ people can discuss issues they're having with people in their life. On their website, you can search for a chapter near you. If no chapter is near you or if your parents won't attend, you could still contact the nearest chapter and get support and learn ways to help them become more understanding. Other resources you might share 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 may help.
To talk more about your questions about your sexuality, you can always call the TREVOR Lifeline at 1-866-4-U-TREVOR 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our understanding counselors would be happy to talk with you about your questions. Please know that you don’t have to go through this alone and that we’re always here for you at The Trevor Project.