I’m Not Sure…Am I Gay? – Coming Out Q & A

Burst down those closet doors once and for all, and stand up and start to fight.

– Harvey Milk

“I’m not sure…am I gay?”

Young men and boys commonly ask this question during the coming out process. They might say it differently, and they may not have begun the process yet. If the question “Am I gay?” is pressing on someone’s heart, he’s probably going through the process.

Shorthand for “coming out of the closet,” coming out could mean, more accurately, coming out of confusion.” This connotation removes possible stigma or blame.

 “Be fearless / be honest / be generous / be brave /

be poetic / be open / be free / be yourself / be in love /

be happy / be inspiration.”  –

– Beyonce, writing words for Frank Ocean

“So am I gay, or what?” If this question remains or someone asks you to “evaluate them” with this question, there’s no definitive, easy answer. Just breathe, take a step back, and think about—or pass along—some of these ideas:

1) Empower Him to Find His Own Answers. – Possible feedback: “I can’t answer that for you. This is a question only you can answer. I can support you in your stages of learning, discovery, research, and even play (try to refrain from saying things like ‘experimentation.’ He is not a science project.). But this is your hero’s journey.”

2) You Don’t Have to Lose your Religion. You aren’t coming out to God or your Higher Power. Spirit already knows you. There are several gay-inclusive churches and organizations happy to support and encourage you.

3) Discourage Binary Thinking. Free him up from binary thought. Kids grow up in an overpoweringly heterosexual-defined world, yet heterosexuality is as much of a social construct as the next idea. The best kept open secret in the world is that heterosexual-identified people are also fluid, as sexuality Is fluid (see: Kinsey Reports). Make sure he knows that.

4) Respect Boundaries. Keep it real: if you find yourself attracted to someone who’s newly queer or questioning, first consider his age. If there’s a huge imbalance and/or he’s a minor, please do both of yourselves a favor: don’t take advantage of his twice-vulnerable state (one due to age/inexperience, two due to his sexual uncertainty). The mentor / mentee sex narrative is a common coming of age story—that doesn’t mean it’s appropriate. He needs friends and support, not just sex. If you find you have conflicted interests and he’s not of age, telling him you’re into him also further confuses matters. Even if the attraction is mutual, be smart and be fair.

5) “I’m A Trans Guy Who Likes Girls, Period.” Of especial note, questioning sexuality is often a second or third lap around questions that come up for transgender guys who may become fascinated by images of men as they’re creating the life they want to lead. They’re looking for affirming images, like-minded peers, role models and allies, and checking out pictures of men for medical [surgery, anatomy], social [presenting as “male”], empowering and of course arousal reasons [how to please self and others, for pleasure’s sake, curiosity]).

If he says he’s attracted to women, he thinks he is, or he flip-flop, that’s his prerogative and right. Keep snarky “Yeah right whatever, you’re gay” comments and feelings to yourself. You might encourage him to talk to or discover more about other trans guys (depending, some guys might fixate on cis-gender guys only during this time).  If you’re really a true friend or ally, don’t get into the eye-rolling. That helps no one.

6) He May Realize He’s Straight. You may crack jokes about straight folks. Try to tone those down around him, especially if he’s just a kid. What if it turns out he’s “coming out straight,” or he’s just not ready? There are many people who’ve never been in doubt about their sexuality, or heterosexuality. If he’s not in that “majority,” or he’s a bit more passive with girls or women, that doesn’t make him automatically gay. This could take him a while to realize.

7) “Have You Ever Thought About Getting Help?” Even if you’re helping him, guys can be notorious for refusing help, asking for it in a roundabout ways, or not seeking out support or counseling. Share resources and if necessary, walk with him as he researches, explores, visits LGBT centers, picks up “coming out newbie” brochures, etc.

8) For Teenagers, For Young Boys Puberty can really suck. Boys are still figuring out how hormones make them feel, bodies change, crushes unfold. Peer “pressure” and bullying is a minefield that’s so difficult to get through. His anti-gay friends, family or elders might see you as trying to “recruit or convert him” rather than as a sounding board. This makes finding professional allies, especially if he’s underage, extra important. You might need some backup.

9) Keeping Secrets You can keep his journey between the two of you without making him think coming out is a dirty little secret. Help him understand the difference between confidentiality or privacy and shame-filled secrecy.

10) “Are You Using?” He might feel insulted: however, if in the context of “because I really care,” check in to see if he’s using/abusing drugs, if he’s having risky or unsafe sex (with men and/or women), or if he’s acting out in other erratic ways. Help him find support around balancing out all aspects of his life, including but not limited to sexual and other gratification.

11) Gender Expression: “Is There Something Wrong With Me?” He doesn’t have to present as butch, or he might feel so in his heart. He doesn’t have to present as fem, he might be genderqueer, and so on. If he’s trans, there’s nothing wrong with the desire to be stealth (presenting in a certain gender-centric way without immediately telling people he’s trans). Remind him he’s free to explore these ideas. Ask him about preferred terms (he may prefer to call himself “same gender loving” rather than “queer or gay,” etc.).

“Is There Something Wrong With Me?”

“We have to show ’em there’s nothing to be afraid of. If we don’t get over our fears, they never will.”

– Lisi Harrison, from Monster High

12) Undeclared. This life can be like having an undeclared major in school: he never has to come to any conclusions about himself. Remove all expectations: love and accept him for the person he is. It will make such a positive difference in his life and in yours.

13) Re-frame “Normal.” Nature has always made room for gay and lesbian or variant gender expression in all species, of which we are but one.  We may not all understand why this way of being exists, but according to “Gaia,” nature considers a multiplicity of sexual and gender expressions to be normal.

To that end, watch out for so-called “normal” language like “That’s so gay, gaylord, butt-hurt, calling lesbians Klondikes, saying tranny or freak,” etc. Whatever side you’re on surrounding such humor, things are different when you’re learning how to walk before you run. This kind of language is common, but isn’t necessarily normal. He might not see reclaiming the word “fag” as empowering.

14) “How do I know for sure?” The answer “You just know” isn’t entirely correct. It would be more accurate to answer, “Whatever way of sexual expression and identity gives you the most pleasure (sexually and otherwise), whatever predominates,” these are good indicators. If comfortable enough, you can use your own experience as an example.

15) Pride In the Name of Love Share with him what “pride” means to you. Parades aren’t required for all gays to attend, or he may not be able to attend one for logistics reasons, but explain to him why we celebrate Pride, and how activism has influenced and affected gay culture over time.

16) Gay Role Models Help him learn about LGBTQIA role models—and gay role models in particular. If he’s also a person of color, help him to discover role models that mirror his nationality, ethnicity, background, etc. Share with him stories of people who’ve come out later in life (different age, same process!). Sexual orientation and gender haven’t stood in the way of well-known kings and queens, artists, designers, athletes, philosophers, scientists, writers entertainers and others throughout history. It shouldn’t stand in the way of his progress either. Coming out and thriving-as-out stories are important—and these shouldn’t all be rich and famous people’s narratives. That adds the extra pressure of having to be famous or wealthy in order to get “special treatment,” which is a myth.

 “‘Faggot, faggot…’ Do you hate him ’cause he’s pieces of you?”

                                    – Jewel

17) Outing, Safety Issues Outing is not the same as coming out. Being outed in inopportune ways can cause safety, social or financial challenges. Best and worst case scenarios are important to discuss. Don’t push him out, as the most important person he needs to come out to is himself. Depending on where he lives and his age, coming out might be physically unsafe for him at present, but you can help him to prepare. Unfortunately, there is also the possibility of someone outing him without permission, or falsely accusing him of something he hasn’t even stated or realized yet. Help him to have plans and solutions prepared as much as you can, realistically.

18) “I’m Not the Right Person to Ask.” Sharing these words honestly is also helpful. You can still direct him to many other people or resources who can support him with his questions and concerns. Let him know you respect him and it’s got nothing to do with him (sharing helpful resources reinforces this truth for you.)

19) “How Long Have You Been Gay?” And Other Leading Questions. In short, don’t ask things like that. Don’t try not to lead the conversation. This is his deal, not yours.

 “Being gay is not living any type of lifestyle (at least not for me).

It simply pertains to my sexual orientation.

I am sexually attracted to guys. That’s it. It’s life, not a lifestyle!”

– Scott Penziner

20) “Things Are So Much Easier These Days.” No, they’re not. Don’t belittle his experience by equating your pain with his. Everyone needs a support net, almost everyone has a rejection and/or bullying story, and this life is his to live. Be present with him rather than disowning him or silencing his voice.

21) Celebrate! Debutantes have coming out parties, why can’t we? Remember to praise him for his courage and self-love. He’s brave enough to ask these questions and cares enough to make this his quest. You don’t have to whip out the glow sticks or anything (unless you want to?), but remember, this is all about finding joy and holding onto it.

You can find some starter resources below.

Book Recommendations

Now That You Know by Betty Fairchild & Robert Leighton

Beyond Acceptance by Carolyn Welch Griffin, Marina J. Wirth & Arthur G. Wirth


LGBTQ Inclusive Religions http://gaylife.about.com/od/religion/a/gaychurch.htm

Coming Out As Intersex  http://www.advocate.com/commentary/2013/06/12/op-ed-intersex-final-coming-out-frontier

Family of Choice Holiday Support http://www.yourholidaymom.com

Coming Out Bi http://www.biresource.net/comingoutasbi.shtml

Coming Out As A Straight Supporter  http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/straight-guide-to-lgbt-americans

National Coming Out Day http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/national-coming-out-day

Safe Space Network List http://safespacenetwork.tumblr.com/post/23388828318/the-safe-space-network-tumblr-list

PFLAG Coming Out Help http://community.pflag.org/page.aspx?pid=539

Resources for LGBT People of Color http://guides.ucsf.edu/content.php?pid=211162&sid=2009927

HRC / Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Coming Out Resources – http://www.hrc.org/resources/category/coming-out

E. Lynn Harris wrote, “My heart knows who I am and who I’ll turn out to be!”  Isn’t following your heart rule number one in everything?


Gay Teen Suicide Sounds Too Familiar

Even with the gains in lgbt rights and recognized freedoms this year, there are still moments when we realize that there is still more work that needs to be done, for everyone within the community and without.

In an era with such publicized facts about and initiatives against bullying, it claims a lot of lives. Two weeks ago, a New Mexico teenager posted a final letter to his Twitter account before committing suicide after enduring a lifetime of bullying.

Carlos Vigil, 17, was actively involved in anti-bullying measures. Just before his death he was in North Carolina lobbying for an anti-bullying bill in the legislature. He regularly counseled other teens who felt bullied, and was thought of by many of his peers and adults to be quite confident. Overcoming bullying was an important subject to Carlos, who had just recently changed schools to escape harassment from classmates.

“We found out three years ago that he was going through this stuff and we’ve been trying to help him every day since,” his father, Ray Vigil told NBC affiliate KOB-TV. “We realize he’s been going through it every day since he was in third grade—that’s a long time for a child to hold that within himself.”

After finding out about Carlos’ note online, Ray rushed home to try to save his son. Carlos was rushed to the hospital on Saturday, July 13, and was taken off of life support that Tuesday. Dozens of classmates showed up to show support that Monday, and after he had passed Carlos’ family used his Twitter account to show their feelings: “Carlos is finally at peace! Thank you everyone for your support and prayers. Please don’t forget what he wanted STOP THE BULLYING.”

Chez Pazienza wrote a blog post on Huffington Post talking about the tragedy of Carlos and why it is important to remember him. Among many painful things, Pazienza wrote that,

“Carlos was a little boy with a smiley face lunchbox—and that’s why he deserved to be made fun of and abused. Carlos was a chubby, awkward kid with glasses—and that’s why he deserved to be made fun of and abused. Carlos was a teenager with acne—and that’s why he deserved to be made fun of and abused. Carlos was gay—and that’s why he deserved to be made fun of and abused. He wasn’t like everybody else—but in reality he was exactly like everybody else. He had a mother and a father, and friends, and a future, and dreams that could have come true.”

Sadly, Carlos saw himself to blame for his bullying. His heartbreaking note begins with “I’m sorry to those who I offended over the years. I’m blind to see that I, as a human being, suck. I’m an individual who is doing an injustice to the world and it’s time for me to leave.” It’s a terribly sad way for anyone to feel, to have internalized so much of the hate put on them cruelly by others.

An organization he helped found, Warehouse 508, plans to honor Carlos and the positive impact he had in his community while he was alive. Hopefully children and teenagers will get the assistance they need to overcome bullying in this country, because there seem to be far too many suicides, especially within the lgbt community, with ties to severe bullying.


Tyler Clementi’s Parents Demand Apology From National Organization For Marriage

President of Ruth Institute Criticizes Tyler in Iowa State University Speech

Last month, Jennifer Roback Morse, President and founder of the Ruth Institute, a project of the National Organization for Marriage for the promotion of men/women marriage, spoke to a group of Catholic students at Iowa State University.  In that speech, Dr. Morse urged students to influence gay youth, after befriending them,  to use sexual restraint as an alternative “ to the gay influences” in their lives who may pressure them to have sex.

The Offensive Remark

Morse went on to refer to Tyler Clementi as “that kid Tyler Clementi who killed himself – who threw himself off the George Washington Bridge.” She continues, “ I mean, there was a much older man in the picture…And so I think friendship is what you have to offer.  There are a lot of situations where people are doing something sexual that’s probably not the best thing for them and it would be better if they had somebody who’d be friends with them without coming on to them or without judging them.”

What The Clementis Have to Retort

The Clementis denounced Morse’s comments as “ludicrous,” for connecting their son’s suicide to support from other members of the gay community. “To exploit our late son’s name to  advance an anti-equality agenda is offensive and wrong.  By doing so, National Organization for Marriage proves that not only is there no low they will not sink to, to advance their cruel agenda- but that neither they nor Ms. Morse have any grip on reality.  The very idea that Tyler’s tragedy happened because of too much support – instead of not enough – is ludicrous.  Shame on them.”

Tyler’s parents weren’t the only ones who were offended.  GLAAD (Gay, Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), Equality Matters, and the Human Rights Campaign all demanded an apology as well.  The Southern Poverty Law Center has classified The National Organization for Marriage as an anti-gay group. GLAAD’s President Herndon Graddick said in a statement that “they’re using Tyler’s story to pit young people against their own peers. This is among the more reprehensible tactics we’ve seen seen from NOM.”

How The Clementis Have Honored Tyler’s Name

Two years after their son’s suicide in 2010, the Clementis dedicated a Research Center, Tyler Clementi Research Center at Rutgers University (where Tyler was a Freshman).  The goal of the center is to provide a scholarly support for the work of policymakers, social activists, community leaders and other advocates for vulnerable youth.

On Capitol Hill, local lawmakers are still fighting to get a bill named after him passed.  The proposed Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act would require all universities to have an anti-harassment policy.  


Middle Schooler trying to Start GSA in Florida

Middle Schooler trying to Start GSA in Florida

ACLU Gets Involved

Bayli Silberstein, 14, an openly bisexual, is attempting to form a gay-straight alliance at her Carver Middle School in Leesburg, Florida.  However, rather than letting her do so, the school board is considering eliminating all non-academic clubs from middle and high school campuses.

Parents, Community Members, and Students Protest

On February 18, 2013, dozens of students, community members, and parents attended a meeting of the Lake County School Board on Monday.  In unity with Bayli, they wore read “Standing with Bayli” shirts.  They urged the board to allow the gay-straight alliance according to the newspaper the Orlando Sentinel. A decision from the board is not expected until April.

The American Civil Liberties Union

Bayli said her application was denied last school year.  She reapplied last November, but didn’t hear from the school’s principal about the status of the application. The school board has not denied Silberstein’s second application.  However earlier in February, it drafted a policy that would put an end to any club that is not tied to a specific class. If this policy goes into place, Bayli’s gay-straight alliance club will not form.

The American Civil Liberties Union reported that Silberstein wanted to form the alliance to combat bullying against LGBT students.  Bayli’s application cited instances of physical abuse and name calling.  Citing the federal Equal Access Act, the ACLU has advised the school district that it cannot pick and choose which clubs to allow based on what they think students should or should not discuss.

Those Opposed to GSA

Some think the real issue is bullying and that students would not get the support they need in a gay-straight alliance.  One school board member feels that gay-straight clubs were tantamount to “social engineering.” Just two years ago, a teacher in Lake County told his students that gay men and women should be allowed to openly serve in the military “only if they were sent to the front lines with no weapons.”

Bullying Not ExtraCurricular in Schools

Ads to Help Parents Teach Kids to Speak Up Against Bullying

Starting in October, look for television, print, and web ads aimed at parents to teach their children to get involved when the kids witness bullying in their school. The ad campaign, was created by the Ad Council, a non-profit that distributes public service announcements, and the Free to Be Foundation, that includes entertainers Marlo Thomas, author of Free to Be You and Me,,comedian Mel Brooks, and actor Alan Alda.

An Issue that Obama Administration Consider a National Priority

The ads were first seen in early August at an annual anti-bullying conference. Hosted by the Department of Education, lawmakers, educators and government officials developed a national strategy aimed at ensuring a safe, healthy learning environment for students. Attendees heard keynote speeches by Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Kathleen Sebelius, Health and Human Services Secretary at the summit.

Parents Responsible for Kids’ Safety

Kids hear every day that they are “worthless” and “everybody hates you.” To counteract these negative messages barraging them, these ads will help parents bolster their children’s self-esteem so they can be pro-active rather than passive when bullying occurs.

Bullying Can Lead to Suicide

Because of the high incidence of student suicides due to bullying, Sebelius calls these needless suicides a national wake-up call. “We are responsible for our children’s safety,” Sebelius confirms. “And no one can afford to be a bystander. It’s a systematic situation that threatens the health and well-being of our young people. It’s destructive to our communities and devastating to our future.”

Cyberbullying Becoming a Bigger Problem

With heavy usage of text messaging, Internet among students, cyberbulling has become an escalating problem. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has added bullying to its regular survey of risk behavior in schools.

Anti-Bullying Tactics in School

School districts and states are working hard to combat school bullying. Thirty-six state anti-bullying laws were enacted in 2009 and 2010. GLSEN (Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network) also has programs for K-12 to keep children safe in schools.

Education advocates are particularly concerned about bullying that is directed against students who are perceived as lesbian or gay such as Tyler Clementi, the 18-year-old who killed himself in 2010 after being bullied online by his college roommate.