Recently I've realized that I'm queer, but I know my family won't accept it and I'm not sure about my friends. What should I do?
Thank you for writing to us. Sometimes it can be very difficult to reach out for help or advice when we are feeling frightened or confused. It was brave of you to decide to write to us and open up about the doubts you have towards the acceptance of loved ones. This is a very personal experience, and I'm so happy you're giving us an opportunity to lend our support for you. It is also commendable that you have become comfortable enough with yourself to be able to say you are queer, and at such a young age too! That is no small feat. Many struggling individuals who write to us are still questioning their sexuality because they don't know whether they are gay or straight, or feel they are in deep denial. It sounds like you understand yourself, so have pride that you have gotten this far!
The most important thing I want to tell you, if you don't already know, is that being queer is perfectly ok! It is a beautiful thing. There is nothing wrong with it, and nothing abnormal about it. Sometimes we are told growing up that its not ok to be queer. Those opinions people have come from a lack of understanding. They stem from ignorance, lies they may have been told by their family, or misunderstandings. However, there are thousands of people and so many communities who would love and accept you for who you are. The town you grow up in, the family you live with, and the school you go to, is a very small piece of the world. The opinions your family or friends may have is only one perspective. When your have the opportunity to branch out into the world, it will amaze you how small your hometown and group of friends really are. There are people waiting to love you for being queer, Jay!
It is very common to fear what loved ones will think once you realize you are queer. Most of us at The Trevor Project have experienced that. It is a journey so many gay and lesbians face, and everybody has a different experience with it. It must be very scary for you, thinking about your family and how they might not accept you. Sometimes it can make us feel furious, or intensely sad. However, sometimes our family can surprise us. Family's may feel a certain way towards gay people, but when someone in their own family is gay, things sometimes change.
The first question you have to ask yourself is- how important is it to you that people know? Some people have a deep yearning to tell close friends and family. Others don't feel the need for others to know and they keep it to themselves until later. Either choice is ok. Don't feel like you have to tell people right away. It is your business. However, you may find that it hurts having people not know about you. It can start to make you feel like people don't know the real you (this was my experience).
If you feel like telling people, make sure you only tell people you feel safe opening up to. Is there a friend, or an adult you know you can trust? Maybe a school counselor or a close best friend? Is there a nice teacher you know that seems like someone you could open up to?
What helped me the most was finding someone I could trust talking to. For me it happened to be a very loving and nurturing pastor of a church. She embraced me and me sexuality and made me feel normal, and safe. Find someone who you can share your inner-turmoils with. Once you find someone you can trust, I think you will feel a lot better.
The second question is- exactly how do you think your friends or family would react if you told them? What would they do? Would your family make you feel worse? Would they disown you? Is there a possibility your friends will treat you badly if you told them? How might they behave? Will they tell others? These are important questions to ask yourself when considering coming out. If you strongly feel that some of your friends will be mean to you, then they don't have to know (and it might be time to find new friends who you know will accept you for who you are). However, sometimes people surprise us. You might be afraid to tell a friend because of how they react, but it might turn out that they are totally okay with you being queer. Go with your gut instinct, but also consider possible consequences, and how you can be prepared for them.
If and when you feel like you want to come out to your family, what might help is coming out to one family member at a time. Is there a sister, or a brother, or an aunt or uncle who you think you can trust, and come out to first? That way, in case one of your family members isn't nice to you about it, you can have another family member who will have your back, and who you can talk to! If you decide to tell people, they should be respectful and keep it a secret if that's what you want. Tell them how important is to you that only they know. You deserve that respect, so make that clear.
If you know your family will react badly, maybe wait until you are financially secure, and have a place of your own before you tell them. That way, you are grounded and not dependent on their reaction for your basic well-being.
If you don't feel like there are family or friends in your life you can trust yet, it might help you to start writing in a journal all your feelings and fears. It can be very therapeutic. Writing out your problems gets them out, so they aren't stuck inside you. Keep a journal, and write out your thoughts. It can be your one place where you can be as emotional as you want.
I would highly recommend going on TrevorSpace, from our main website. There you can find so many people your age who are going through similar problems, and who can give you more advice.
Please also look at the following resources that can help you understand yourself and coming out:
This is also a fantastic website to ask questions and read stories from other people who want to come out, or who have already come out: http://emptyclosets.com/
If you are in crisis, or you are struggling and want to talk to someone right away, please call us at 866-488-7386. There is someone on the other line who is waiting to help you. Also, don't hesitate to write to us again if you need more advice or you are feeling scared.
Remember Jay that you are special and we care about you at The Trevor Project. We want to see you be happy and find the support you need. I know it must be scary to think about people not accepting you, but find people who you know you can trust. Being queer is such a beautiful thing. Someday when you find the shining confidence there is in being queer, which we all eventually find, it won't matter what others think. Much love to you Jay, and happy holidays.
The Trevor Project