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I live in an extremely conservative part of California. I feel really confused because I thought I was gay but I really feel passionate about close girl friends, not in a sexual way, but like I love them. I feel like that means my romantic orientation, if that is even a thing, is panromantic or something similar, but if I am attracted to genderqueer/trans* individuals does that mean I should identify as pansexual?
I also feel a bit hopeless. My family is religious, and views that they hate the sin, not the sinner. They believe that LGBT people should be treated equally, but think homosexuality is a sin. But after years of hearing my family members compare homosexuality to drug addiction in terms of influencing others and the ability to change, I feel like I can’t trust their new view. As a result of this, I feel really depressed, then overwhelmingly happy. I also get really annoyed when little things go wrong. I started to cut this summer, then stayed clean for almost a month, and I just relapsed a couple of days ago. I hadn’t felt anything but depressed prior to this summer. I talked to them about how mentally unstable I feel, and they said I would go to a doctor, but things went awry and I feel like now they won’t understand anything I say.
Even though I declare myself as non-religious, I still feel guilt for having homosexual thoughts. I also feel like I’m still going to go to hell, even though other times I don’t even believe in it. If there is a God or are Gods, I feel like they have every right to send me to hell. I deserve to be punished.
Then there’s my school. I know two or three out people (not well), but they are several grade levels ahead of me. I constantly have crushes on guys who are way ‘out of my league’, and probably straight. I always seem to be attracted to the guys that seem to be the most homophobic. How can I stop that?
Thanks for your help. Despite how hopeless I feel sometimes, my friends have told me that if I survive high school, things after that will be a breeze, and I’m starting to believe them.
We’re glad you reached out to us about your problems. It sounds like you have a lot of complications that you are dealing with, but it’s normal for a lot of people your age to have such multiple problems. And it’s not easy for any one person to cope with, so it’s good that you have come to us. It no doubt took a lot of courage to lay your life out in a letter, so let’s start with your first paragraph.
You begin by saying that you are really confused as to your sexuality. A lot of people have such issues, as they transition from a child to an adult. After all, you’re having feelings that you never felt before, and don’t know how to classify, let alone handle them. That’s understandable, but your feelings are your own, and are normal and natural for you. They are something that you don’t choose to have, and nobody can tell you what to feel. So it may help to remember that sexual orientation involves emotional, romantic as well as physical feelings and attraction for people of both genders (bisexual), people of the same gender (lesbian and gay), and/or people of the opposite gender (heterosexual or straight). It can also help to think about whom you have crushes on and who you fantasize about being with girls, boys or both. You might want to check out two online brochures. On http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=726&Itemid=336 you’ll find the brochure “I Think I Might Be Gay…Now What Do I Do? If you are having crushes on guys, this may help you to understand yourself better. And on http://www.bisexual.org you’ll find a lot of helpful information on bisexuality. If you click on resources, then bisexuality-general information, then “Bisexuality 101 from PFLAG” you can find information that may help.
It was good that you wanted to have some help for the depression, and it’s unfortunate that things went awry, though you didn’t indicate any details. Do you feel that they won’t understand what you say just because you felt mentally unstable, or because it didn’t work out? Therapy doesn’t guarantee a miracle solution, and sometimes cannot provide the expected results. Would it help that if you explained that, that you would feel they’d understand you better?
You also say that your family is religious, but that you are getting messages that you question and feel you can’t trust. You describe yourself as non-religious, yet still feel guilty about having homosexual thoughts, and that you feel you deserve to be punished. Then you constantly get crushes on the most homophobic, and probably straight, guys, yet you apparently recognize that that is a study in futility, and is potentially dangerous. That’s enough contradictions to confuse, annoy, and depress anyone. Despite what you’ve been taught, there are a number of differing opinions as to how to interpret scripture. There are many people that don’t view a loving gay relationship as being sinful, and feel that all human sexual nature (let alone anything that is other than straight) as being a choice, and therefore doesn’t automatically deserve to be punished. Please know that you can definitely be religious and gay at the same time. It might also help you to know that, although some people, including certain religious leaders, may believe and teach that homosexuality is against their interpretations and that you can’t be religious and be gay, there are many religious leaders and members of religious communities who teach love, acceptance and equality for all of people and are supportive and accepting of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people. To learn about scriptures that teach compassion and support for gay people, you might consider reading through the numerous guides on Soulforce’s “Resources” webpage at www.soulforce.org , and also reading the PFLAG guide “Faith in our Families: Parents, Families and Friends Talk About Religion and Homosexuality” at http://www.pflag.org/fileadmin/user_upload/FaithinourFamilies.pdf” If you’d like to read more about various opinions regarding faith and sexual orientation, there is also a great resource online called The Institute for Welcoming Resources at http://www.welcomingresources.org/. It is the most comprehensive and up to date website devoted to providing religious and faith based resources for the LGBTQ community.”
And please realize that cutting is risky and potentially dangerous. Maybe you cut as a way of dealing with or managing these difficult, painful, overwhelming emotions or stress. Possibly cutting relieves stress or tension or you find that the physical pain of cutting is a distraction from the emotional pain. Or that you feel that the cutting gives you a feeling of control when things in life or with your emotions feel out of control. So cutting becomes a viable option for you. But it’s important for you to know that cutting may help you to feel better briefly…. but the longer it goes on, the more dangerous it can become, as it can cause permanent scars, infections, and serious, and sometimes life threatening medical problems, especially if you cut a major blood vessel. It can also cause you to feel shame, guilt, out of control, and even more depressed.
Know that there are alternatives to cutting. Think about how you feel before and after you cut yourself. If cutting helps you when you’re sad or depressed, do whatever makes you feel taken care of and comforted. That may be listening to certain songs, calling a friend or eating a favorite food. Sometimes, writing in a journal or drawing/painting helps a person to feel better. Maybe doing something physical like running outdoors or yoga can help relieve stress. If the cutting helps you to feel less numb, do something that creates a sharp physical feeling like putting your hand briefly in ice water or stamp your feet on the ground. There are websites available including www.safe-alternatives.com and http://www.helpguide.org/mental/self_injury.htm that can help you learn about cutting, as well as additional things you can do when you have the urge to cut.
Life doesn’t need to be hopeless. What your friends say about things being different after high school is absolutely true. And while life thereafter may not always be a “breeze”, it most often is much better for a gay person. So keep the faith. To help you endure in the mean time, you may want to check out TrevorSpace, our safe, online social networking site for LGBTQ young people ages 13 to 24 their friends and allies. It’s a great supportive community where you can connect with others who might have had or are having the same questions that you’re having about your sexuality. You can access TrevorSpace at http://www.trevorspace.org. Also if you are ever in crisis, you can call us 24/7 on The Trevor Lifeline at 866-4-U-TREVOR. Remember that we are always here for you at the Trevor Project. Do keep us posted as to how you are doing, as we care about you and love hearing from you.
The Trevor Team