Hi. I've been feeling really weird lately. I used to find boys and girls attractive but now it's only boys. I've been feeling really scared because I think I'm gay. Plus I'm really scared because the other day my family started to make jokes about gay people, and my friends as well and for moments I think it would be better if I kill myself before telling them that I like boys and before they get mad at me or before they felt ashamed . I'm even scared to get out of my room. What should I do?
First of all, what a cool name you have! It reminds us of Ulysses and other names that derive from the Greek hero Odysses. Have you heard his story? He was a greek warrior, who, according to mythic legend, went on a multi-year journey filled with epic adventure. It's a fitting name as you write in this letter because, often times, coming to understand our feelings for members of the oppoisite sex and same sex is more a multi-year journey than it is something that simply happens overnight. We appreciate that you reached out to us and have brought "Trevor" along for the journey!
Every year, many thousands of teenagers throughout the United States and, in fact, the entire world, feel the same way you do. Many of us adults who work and volunteer at the Trevor Project have also felt as you do now. To put it another way, it is completley normal to go from feeling attracted to both boys and girls to only feeling attracted to boys. From here, you might later feel only attracted to boys, or to boys and girls again, or you may even later realize that you really only like girls after all. All of these are normal paths that some young men such as yourself experience before coming to a permanent understanding of what their sexual orientation might be.
It is okay if you don't "know" yet whether or not you are "gay" as you wonder if you might be. But know this: if you are gay, it is entirely ok, and it is possible to lead a wonderful and fulling happy life if that is what you finally conclude. Many of the people who work with The Trevor Project, perhaps unsurpringly, are members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgendered communities. Some of these people are single. Some of them are happily dating. Some are married. Some have children, both biological and adopted. Some are young and some are old. Some are rich, some are middle class, and some are poor. Some are not religious. Some participate in religious communities every week. They work in many different fields - politics, healthcare, the arts, business, education, really anything that their individual hearts desired. In other words, you can be gay and still be almost any of the other things you want to be in life.
One thing to keep in mind, Ulissis, is that you are just 18, and your adult life has only just begun. You do not need to feel pressured to rush and tell your family or friends about the feelings you have for boys, especially if you currently live with your parents and depend on them and fear they may react negatively. You can take several years to think more about your feelings before sharing them with others - that is because this is YOUR journey.
One way that many teenagers explore their feelings of sexual identity is to talk to other questioning youth like themselves. Here at The Trevor Project, we offer an online community for people your age called Trevor Space (http://www.trevorspace.org/) which is a completley safe online community, akin to Facebook, just for sharing messages and chatting with teens who identify as LGBT or questioning. Talking with others your age can be a great way to explore what your feelings are, and to learn directly from others your age how they have responded to such feelings. If you are by any chance attending a college this year or next year, that college may also have a student group dedicated to the LGBT students and their straight allies. Reaching out to such a group does not automatically mean you are "gay" and can be a useful way for you to find people you can talk with.
It is understanable that thinking that you might be gay is scary. You no doubt recognize that some aspects of life are still harder for gay people than for straight people. These include the fact that civil rights for gay pepole are still being debated in our politics and elections. It includes the reality that some religions are more accepting of LGBT people than others. It also includes the fact that sometimes it can be hard to get friends and family to accept the unexpected reality that someone in their life might be gay.
One of the reasons you might be scared is the reaction you think your family might have if you are gay, which you suggested since you have overheard them making fun of gay people. That is another experience that many LGBT adults have gone through. Often times this happens simply because it is still socially acceptable in many circles to make fun of gay people, although that is changing. When a person doesn't think they have any friends or family who are gay, it is easy to do what is the "norm" in a particular community, and make fun of gay people. Later, when these people learn that their friend, or son, or brother is gay, it forces these people to truly think about whether they really believe the jokes they have made about gay people before. There is no guarantee that all such people will change - but it may make you feel somewhat better to consider the optimistic look that, if you did decide "I am gay" your family will come to accept that and will stop making jokes about gay people as well, and be a supporter of your life.
If you do eventually decide that you want to talk to your family about your feelings of same-sex attraction, we are very fortuante here in the US to have an organization called PFLAG (Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays) which consists primarily of the parents of young people with same sex attractions. These parents have a lot of experience with dealing with children who come out, and can help your parents too, if they need that support. You can email the Salt Lake City chapter of PFLAG at this address (firstname.lastname@example.org). We would simply add, that since so many people in Salt Lake City are part of the LDS community, we should note that the PFLAG chapter in Salt Lake City will include parents from the LDS community whose children have come out, and who came to accept those children. If you are a member of the LDS community, you might want to talk with some parents from that group.
Writing to us was a good step Ulissis in figuring out your identity. In short, try to find some other young people like yourself who you can talk to. You don't need to tell your friends and family about your feelings, especially if you are still not sure what they are, and there are groups out there who can help you and your family if you eventually choose to "come out" as gay, bisexual, or otherwise.
Keep good spirits Ulissis, and write to us again when you reach the next step in your journey, or call us any time at 1-866-4-U-TREVOR and we can brainstorm was to address whatever it is you are dealing with.
The Trevor Project