Q: I am a very confused 15-year-old guy. I have a girlfriend, and even though she is cute and a lot of fun, I don’t think I feel attracted to her the way I am supposed to. I don’t know any gay people, and I live in a small, conservative town where homosexuality is frowned on, yet I have to admit I have been feeling desires and urges lately that are not for the opposite sex. I have dated a few girls, and even had some intimate contact — but I have never gone all the way and I don’t think I want to.
Still, I don’t think I can be gay — I mean, I love sports, I am very athletic, and I hate fashion and Broadway shows. Yet I have to confess I find myself more into Brad than Angelina. Late at night, I have even been visiting some pornography sites, and now I am paranoid my parents are going to find my Internet history someday. Sometimes at parties, I even drink and smoke pot so I can feel normal and less awkward when I have to make out with my girlfriend and impress my friends.
Do you think this is a phase I am going through, and is there something I can do to stop it?
A: It sounds like you are going through a tough time right now, and I am glad you decided to reach out to me. I am sure many young men can relate to much of what you are saying in your letter, and to some extent your fear and confusion is a normal part of growing up. Every teen struggles to find his or her own identity, so rest assured your soul-searching is completely healthy and you will be a stronger person someday for it.
That being said, I think I should address some of the misconceptions in your letter. First, don’t assume that being good at sports means you aren’t gay. Nor do all gay men love fashion! Those are just silly stereotypes born out of ignorance and bigotry. The truth is that gay men are as unique and varied as straight men — and for the record, a lot of straight guys hate sports and love fashion!
Second, I hate to hear that you have been suffering and turning to alcohol and drugs for solace. This is a very unhealthy pattern to fall into, and in fact it is one that many gay youth become prey to. LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) teens are 140 percent more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs than heterosexual teens. It’s no surprise considering the bigotry and bullying these teens have to endure. However, it is an awful way to live and it can derail your future — and even cause injury and death. I think you should definitely talk to a counselor or a trusted friend about your drinking and ask for help, especially if you try to stop and find you cannot.
Third, while it is healthy to enjoy erotica (and while it is a wonderful way to explore your sexual desires), make sure you don’t allow pornography to replace real, human connection. It sounds to me like what you need to do is have a real honest heart-to-heart, first with yourself, and then maybe with your parents or a trusted friend. I think deep down you already know the answer to your question — that you are gay and that it is no passing phase. And why should it be? There is absolutely nothing wrong with being gay, and some of the most powerful and intelligent people in the world are gay. It won’t limit you in any way…unless you let it. Good luck!
— Dr. Laura Berman
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