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No one knows and It’s destroying me.

Question:

Dear Ask Trevor,

All my life I’ve fit into the mold of a “straight” guy. I played sports in high school, I’m very masculine, most of my friends are straight guys, and everyone always just assumed I was straight too. So I let them. I wish I had been strong enough to tell the world I’m gay a long time ago, because now it feels like I’ll never be confident enough to come out.

I’m not afraid that my friends and family will hate me or disown me if I tell them I’m gay because they won’t. I know they will accept and support me for who I am. What I am afraid of is losing them anyway, losing them because things won’t be the same if they know. I’m scared that I’ll no longer be “one of the guys.” I’m scared that it will put up a barrier in my relationships and no matter how accepting my friends are, I won’t fit in with them anymore.

People choose to interact with others who are similar to them, who like the same things. I couldn’t hold it against my friends for not wanting to have a gay guy hang out with them all the time or sleep over at their houses. Not because they aren’t accepting but because I wouldn’t be like them anymore. I can only imagine the awkwardness it would create. I guess what I am really afraid of is that my current relationships will fall apart if I come out. Not from hate or prejudice, but from the fact that I am different. If I even think about coming out to my friends when I’m with them it feels like the walls start caving in around me and I get so scared I completely shut down.

I love my friends. I don’t want anything to change and I don’t want to lose them but I always feel like I’m pretending to be someone that I’m not. I don’t really have anything to hide as far as the way I act or the things I talk about, none of that would change if I came out. But having to cover up something so innately part of me stops me from feeling comfortable enough to really be myself. I haven’t had a conversation with someone where I’ve been completely myself in years. It is almost impossible for me to let anyone in, knowing I’m trying so hard to keep up this act. It’s not that I’m being disingenuous, most of the time I really am the person I portray myself to be. But I feel like no one can really know me without knowing that I’m gay.

I don’t know when or how I’ll ever be able to come out but I know that I have to. I can’t move forward with my life and pursue my dreams until I am comfortable with who I am. I just am no where near feeling that way.

I have no allies. No one to talk to about it with. No one who understands and accepts and loves every little part of me. I want to be me, all of me. I used to be so much fun and full of life but it’s like keeping this secret is slowly tearing me apart. I’m always so worried that someone will find out or that I’ll say the wrong thing and the cycle of negative thoughts and repression is making me go crazy.

I’m not really sure what I want to hear because I know I just need to be myself and anyone who doesn’t accept me doesn’t need to be a part of my life. But coming out is the scariest thing I could ever imagine and I don’t know if I can do it.

Thanks for listening.

Andy

Letter submitted by: Andy

Answer:

Dear Andy,

To start, I just want to say how brave it is for you to reach out to Ask Trevor about this. The issue of coming out can be a very difficult, complicated, and personal one for many people in the LGBTQ community. The feelings you describe are actually pretty common among LGBTQ youth, so you’re definitely not the only one facing this fear of losing your existing friendships by coming out – in fact, I’d guess that most of us have felt that way at some point in our lives. I’m sure that doesn’t make it any less difficult or scary for you, but it does mean that we do have some advice on how it might be best for you to proceed.

From your letter, it sounds like you’re specifically worried that when you come out to your friends, they’ll begin to slip away and your relationships with them will gradually fall apart because they’ll think of you differently. Though it’s natural (and probably a good thing) to be cautious about taking the step of coming out, it will likely not be as bad as you think it will be. For example, I think it’s important that you reflect on what really matters to your friends. Does it matter more who you are physically or romantically attracted to, or does it matter what your personality is, and what your interests, likes, and dislikes are? You wrote in your letter that, “I don’t really have anything to hide as far as the way I act or the things I talk about, none of that would change if I came out,” and I think that your friends will probably feel the same way. If they love who you are now, they will love who you are after you come out, because your sexuality is only one small part of you.

My suggestion would be to approach this one step at a time. We both know that coming out can be very difficult, but often the hardest part is telling that first person. You should consider talking with your best friend, or the friend you trust most, and seeing how he or she reacts, and what his or her opinion is on coming out to the rest of your friend group. If your friends love you like you love them, then they’ll accept and love you even more when you can be true to yourself and honest with them. Once you get that person’s thoughts, you can consider coming out to the rest of your friends and/or family.

Finally, it’s really important for every young LGBTQ person to have some adult that they can talk to that they trust. This can be a teacher, a family member, or some other adult in your life, but having at least one person to be open with can be a massive step in finding the support and assistance you need to take further steps towards coming out. If you are having a hard time finding someone to talk to in your community, you can always join TrevorSpace to talk with other LGBTQ youth or call the Trevor Lifeline (1-866-4-U-TREVOR) to talk to a Lifeline counselor anytime. Also, check out this great resource for more information on coming out that might be helpful: http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/resource-guide-to-coming-out.  Thanks again for your letter and I genuinely wish you all the best in your coming out process.

Sincerely,

Trevor Staff