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Aftermath of coming out to my parents, and struggle with identity

Question:

Hi there,

I came out to my parents two weeks ago as “not being very interested in men” (I avoided a label), and also told them I have been in a 3 year relationship with my best friend from college (who my parents have met before on numerous occasions). I thought that I would feel more solid after coming out, and while I feel a weight has been lifted, I still think I struggle with confidence. I feel like there are a lot of layers of confusion for me!

While I have been physical with men before (I am still a gold star, and fibbed to my parents about that), it never felt comfortable for me (but I still do find some men attractive). When my girlfriend and I started dating it was the first time I felt sexually comfortable, and it just clicked. However, I have always struggled with identifying with the LGBTQ community, which I believe mainly comes from the fact that I have always sought approval from others and was just plain scared to tell people that I had a girlfriend out of fear they wouldn’t like me anymore. When I did start telling friends (and eventually my sister) that I had a girlfriend, I definitely felt that a weight had been lifted and I liked that I was being more honest with people. Still, though, on some level I felt like I didn’t understand what my identity was…or maybe I just wasn’t comfortable with it.

When I came out to my parents it did not go well, and since then we have had some conversations about moving forward and being honest with one another. They feel like I’ve lived a double life–which is partially true. After college my girlfriend and I started doing long distance, and I would continually lie and fib about weekend plans and secretly visit her (my parents live close to me, and the proximity definitely caused anxiety when I was leaving town). During our last conversation my Mom told me that she worries that I haven’t figured out who I am–whether that be with a guy or with a girl. I’m unsure if I believe her when she says she would ask me the same question if I had been dating a guy for 3 years…but she is continually telling me that I have not given myself the opportunity to date both men and women. To add, she also has repeatedly told me that she does not like my girlfriend (and she told me this when I was just friends with my girlfriend too). Since coming out my Mom has expressed little to no interest in given my girlfriend another chance, which I asked of her.

I feel like I am in an even more confusing place. I love my girlfriend very much. I think we have an awesome connection, and, most of all, I do not want to loose her. I feel like my Mom’s words are hitting me close to home because at times I do question who I am and feel like I don’t know myself. I struggle with knowing whether you can grow as a person while still being in a relationship. My girlfriend knows that I struggle with these issues, but I feel like if I were to ever express to her that I need time to figure out who I am she would never have anything to do with me again (we frequently talk about the future and when we will live in the same city). I can see a future with her, but I think I am also thinking (what a lot of people go through, I think) that I am only 24 and feel like I haven’t lived independently (and long-distance exacerbates those feelings because your heart is always in another place!)

I have always been influenced by my parents, and because they are not approving of this right away (I can already tell it will take years since my Mom is refusing to tell my brother, who is 17…) I think I may be pushing myself to take my Mom’s advice. While I have had similar thoughts about not really knowing who I am, I do not want to give up on a relationship that is going well. I do not think my girlfriend would ever forgive me for “taking a break.” In a way I feel like what I should be feeling is a stronger connection with her. Really, I am feeling more confused (which I feel has a lot to do with my parents). I was hoping that after I told my parents my life would start more with my girlfriend. I haven’t spent time with her family, and I plan on spending Thanksgiving with them this year (which I haven’t disclosed to my parents yet). I think that would be incredibly awesome and fun, but that is just another thing I am nervous to tell me parents about! I also feel like if I am having identity issues, maybe I should come clean with my girlfriend. OR, should I give myself a break and realize that I JUST came out two weeks ago and need to give myself time to figure things out?

Thanks for your help!

Letter submitted by:

Answer:

Thank you for writing in to Ask Trevor. First I want to thank you for showing the courage to write in to Ask Trevor with your concerns and I’m proud of you for coming out. It sounds like you are struggling with your sexual identity and that your family and girlfriend are both very important to you. During this time be patient and allow yourself the freedom to do whatever it is that you need to do, to feel more confident in the skin that you are in. Allow yourself to make mistakes. Allow yourself to not have all the answers. Allow yourself to be alone, if you need to be alone. Allow yourself to be with family, friends, girlfriend, etc, if you need to be surrounded by others. Allow yourself to make sure that your safety and well-being is of the upmost importance. But most importantly take your last statement as advice and give yourself a break and realize that you just came out two weeks ago and give yourself time to figure things out.

In trying to understand your sexuality, it might be helpful to remember that sexual orientation involves emotional, romantic as well as physical feelings and attraction for both genders (bisexual), people of the same gender (lesbian and gay), and people of the opposite gender (heterosexual or straight). There is also the umbrella terms like genderqueer and queer that are all encompassing. It can also help to think about whom you have crushes on and who you fantasize about being with girls, boys or both. Keeping an open mind and educating yourself by asking questions like what you are doing now is the way to go!!! This will help improve self-esteem and build confidence.

Remember that questioning sexual orientation/gender identity is a normal part of life. The great thing in exploring sexual orientation/gender identity is that there is no rush in making decisions. It’s important to allow yourself freedom and grace in this exploration.

Feeling alone can be really hard. Finding others to relate too can be difficult for anyone. As you go through this difficult time, it can be helpful and would be important to get the support you need. I want to suggest another wonderful resource available to you, it is called TrevorSpace at www.trevorspace.org. It’s the Trevor Project’s safe, online social networking site for LGBTQ young people 13-24 their friends and allies. It’s a great supportive community where you can connect with others who might have had the same questions that you may have. You said that you struggle with identifying with the LGBTQ community, this may be a great way to speak to those within the LGBTQ community in a safe and discreet way. I would also encourage you to do a google search for “LGBTQ organizations and resources” in your local area. Sometimes doing a broader search and searching within the state rather that city or small town for “LGBTQ organizations and resources” may give you better results.

The following are LGBTQ friendly website links that may be of use to you:

Thank you again for taking the time to write in to Ask Trevor. Please feel free to continue to stay in touch with us here at The Trevor Project, including TrevorChat, TrevorSpace, Ask Trevor, and The Trevor Lifeline at 866-4-U-TREVOR. We’re always available for you, and care about what’s going on in your life.

Sincerely,

Trevor Staff