The Cool Page For Queer Teens

Am I really gay or lesbian? If so, should I come out?

You'll have to decide, of course, but the brochures at Outproud might help.

Your life will be immeasurably improved once you're settled as to whether you are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered. It will help you in planning your coming out, should you decide to do so, and your future education and career choices. It's very important that you give this careful consideration, because the consequences are very meaningful to your life. Once you know who you are, it is much easier for you to accept yourself and be proud!

Be Yourself, published by Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians & Gays (PFLAG) is a great pamphlet to help you understand the situation. It helps put all these problems in perspective.

In the U.S., there is a toll-free hot-line for gay, lesbian, transgendered and 'questioning' youth to call. It's at 1-800-347-TEEN. Click on the link for hours of operation. It's staffed by gay youth who know what you're going through. It won't show up on a phone bill.

What does it mean to be gay?

You might want to read Justin's Letter to a Friend. It has some really powerful thoughts about what it means to be gay, and some great ideas for what to tell your friends.

If you want to know what gay life is like, the Internet is the place to be! Here in cyberspace there are thousands of queers, many your age who would love to help you out.

One of the best places on the Internet to learn about the meaning of being a gay youth is the soc.support.youth.gay-lesbian-bi newsgroup. There are tons of teens on there who are just like you. They share their stories, help each other, offer advice and sympathy. Great place to hang out. The best part is that no one knows you are reading a newsgroup. It's totally anonymous if you just read it, and totally safe. It has a web page worth checking out.

Two webzines are now serving gay youth: Oasis, Elight. If you haven't checked out Ask Alice, it's a great place to get expert advice on all kinds of things.

The Lavender Wolves have put together a youth page that among other things, has some home pages of some cool gay teens!

The Youth page in the Queer Resources Directory has some really great stuff. If you live in Canada, there is the Canadian Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Resource Directory. Search using the keyword "youth" to get a list of resources, both online and local, for Canadian youth.

Should I come out? How do I go about it?

If you plan your coming out carefully, you stand the best chance of things working out the way you'd like. Don't attempt to come out until you have really accepted your sexual identity. You really need to feel sure of who you are; otherwise, if things go wrong, as they often do, you'll end up confused and afraid. Take your time. Remember, you want to be happy with who you are -- and you deserve to be. To achieve that goal, you need to be an authority about yourself so you can educate the people you tell. If you don't understand and accept things as they are, you won't be very good at helping the people you love, and need to feel loved by, to accept and understand.

Read, Read, Read! There are many really great books on coming to terms with yourself and coming out.

Books you should consider reading:

  • "Is It A Choice?", by Eric Marcus

  • "Outing Yourself", by Michaelangelo Signorile. A step-by-step approach that's really good to know before you actually do it.

    Pamphlets

  • Be Yourself, published by Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians & Gays (PFLAG).

  • It might be useful to discuss your situation with some of the queer youth on the soc.support.youth.gay-lesbian-bi newsgroup. There are tons of teens on there who are just like you. They share their stories, help each other, offer advice and sympathy. Best place on the net to get advice. The best part, is that no one knows you are reading a newsgroup. It's totally anonymous if you just read it, and totally safe. It has a web page worth checking out.

    What to do if you've been outed unexpectedly

    Don't panic. It may change your whole life, but your life may actually be better for it! As much as a crisis this is, it can be an opportunity to help actually improve your life!

    First, assess the situation. What are your parents' reactions? Friends? Schoolmates and acquaintances? How will their behavior change because of knowing? Try to appraise realistically where you are, as unemotionally and objectively as you know how. It will help you plan for what lies ahead.

    Second, put together a plan to respond. Beware of trying to hit back; that doesn't do anyone any good, and it will just anger the people whose cooperation you need. Try instead to duck the blows and turn the situation to your advantage. Ask your parents to attend PFLAG (it's an organization for people just like them). Don't tell them to go, or suggest they need it. That will only put them on the defensive, and is likely to make them dig in their heels. Ask them to attend for you. Volunteer to go with them if you think it will help get them there. Here's a list of local PFLAG chapters.

    If your parents are threatening to throw you out, you can call the National Network of Runaway and Youth Services at 202-783-7949 or the National Runaway Switchboard at 1-800-621-4000 (or 1-800-621-0394 TDD for the hearing impaired). The 800 numbers are toll free and won't show up on a phone bill. You can call them from anywhere. They're anonymous, too. If you live in Canada, you can call the Canadian Kid's Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868. They have just a few lines, so if it's busy, keep trying. You'll eventually get through!

    Third, plan your future. Your life will undoubtedly be different, because you won't be lying about who you are. So figure out how you can make your life exciting based on your having the freedom to be yourself. If you're planning to attend college, look for a GBLT-friendly school where you can meet lots of people like yourself and have a really great time getting your education. There are whole industries that are known to be relatively gay-friendly, and you can look for a career in one of those. You can also check out prospective employers for ones that have non-discrimination policies prior to applying. You can even check out where you will eventually want to live, based on opportunities to be an active part of the gay community.

    If you know someone living on the streets

    If you know someone like you who has been thrown out and is living on the streets, call for them. Out Youth Austin offers a number of services for runaways from their toll free number at 1-800-969-6884. They can help arrange family mediation, suicide and other counseling, referrals for housing and medical services for runaways. They will also help exchange messages between runaways and their families..You may save a life! The 800-number is toll-free, anonymous, can be called from anywhere, and won't show up on a phone bill. Out Youth Austin's number operates from 6:30 PM to 10:30 PM Eastern (that's 5:30 - 9:30 Central, 4:30 - 8:30 Mountain and 3:30 to 7:30 Pacific) If you don't want to call for them, at least give them these numbers! Here's your chance to be a hero!

    Our Section "T"

    Being transgendered carries with it its own special problems. Parents in some PFLAG chapters have established the TGS-PFLAG email list which reaches out to provide family support for transgendered people. They have a publication for your parents and an online-helpline if you or your parents prefer writing privately rather than posting to the list. A visit to the pflag-talk/tgs-pflag website is a must, and return often because it's a large site, evolving all the time.

    Problems at home and parental understanding

    If your parents are conservative Christians, ask them to read Prayers for Bobby, a book written by a parent just like them.

    There are some really great books that talk about the subject of homosexuality and the Bible. You won't win an argument; all you can do is show them that other interpretations of scripture are possible, and it's possible they have been misled all this time...

    If your parents are looking for some objective information about homsexuality from an unbiased source, have them read this brochure from the American Psychological Association. It should put a lot of their fears to rest.

    There are lots of great books that can help, too. Some have been written just for helping with this problem. Be sure to check out the book and magazine section of this page! It has ideas for obtaining some of these books, too.

    There is now a web page specifically for the parents of queer teens who have come out recently. Set a bookmark and show it to 'em!

    About PFLAG

    PFLAG, which stands for Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, is there to help your family understand and help you. Here's a database of local PFLAG chapters with email links and web page links where available.

    Serious parent and family problems

    Sexual abuse by can make life hard for you for years to come. If you've been through it, learn what you can do about it from the Sexual Abuse Information Page. There's a special section there on the needs of youth. If you need immediate help, call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453. It's anonymous and free, and won't show up on a phone bill. Don't be afraid to ask for help. It's easier than going through what you are going through!

    If your parents are threatening to throw you out, you can call the National Network of Runaway and Youth Services at 202-783-7949 or the National Runaway Switchboard at 1-800-621-4000 (or 1-800-621-0394 TDD for the hearing impaired). The 800 numbers are toll free and won't show up on a phone bill. You can call them from anywhere. They're anonymous, too.

    If you live in Canada, you can call the Canadian Kid's Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868. They have just a few lines, so if it's busy, keep trying. You'll eventually get through!

    Harrassment and discrimination at school

    If you are being harrassed at school either by schoolmates or teachers, or feel you are being discriminated against, you should know that there are organizations working to solve the problem. You have rights that you should claim for your own. Stand up and be counted!

    The P.E.R.S.O.N. Project page has lots of resources aimed at making school a safer and more comfortable place.

    Another great page is the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. Their site has tons of information about building safe schools.

    Fighting back

    Starting a Gay/Lesbian/Straight Alliance in your school is the best way to fight the problem: Lots of teens both straight and gay are getting together to make the schools a better place for everybody, not just queer youth. The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Teachers' Alliance has said "If kids want to start a club to make their schools places where all people are respected, we'll do everything in our power to help them." Call 212-727-0135 or e-mail GLSTNJohn@aol.com for a copy of the guide [for starting a GLSA club in your school]".

    If you have an immediate problem, get in touch with the National Institute for GLBT Concerns In Education at clmurray@lynx.neu.edu. They have a consulting service that may be able to help.

    The National Education Association, Gay and Lesbian Caucus (NEA/GLC) can be helpful too. They are at bonniec@umd5.umd.edu for the babes and JTesterman@aol.com for the dudes.

    If some Christians are making life difficult for you at school by attempting to impose their doctrines and values through the authority of the school, check with the American Civil Liberties Union at infoaclu@aclu.org or research their gopher site at aclu.org.port 6601. This organization exists for the purpose of maintaining separation of church and state (read: public schools) among other things.

    The American Friends Service Committee has an excellent GBLT youth project called Bridges. They can be reached at Bridgespro@aol.com

    Need someone to talk to?

    There is a Youth Talkline opening in San Francisco that takes calls from anywhere (though they are focused on the S.F. bay area). Their number is: (415) 863-3636, or (800) 246-PRIDE in the San Francisco Bay area, or (415) 431-8812 for TDD access for the deaf. Their hours are Mon-Sat from 6:30-9 and Tues. from 4-9 Pacific Time. Keep an eye on their web page (linked above), as their hours are subject to change.

    There is a toll-free hot-line for gay, lesbian, transgendered and 'questioning' youth to call. It's at 1-800-347-TEEN. Click on the link for hours of operation. It's staffed by gay youth who know what you're going through.

    The Peer Listening Line, run by the Fenway Community Health Center in Boston is staffed by gay, lesbian and bisexual youth who'd love to provide you with support, referrals and information. The number is 1-800-399-7337, and is open Mondays and Fridays from 7-10 PM Eastern time (6-9 Central, 5-8 Mountain and 4-7 Pacific), and Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 4-10 PM eastern (3-9 central, 2-8 mountain and 1-7 pacific) The toll-free number can be called up from anywhere, is totally anonymous and won't show up on a phone bill.

    Out Youth Austin has a hotline you can call at 1-800-969-6884. It is available everyday from 5:30 to 9:30 PM Central time (6:30 - 10:30 Eastern, 4:30 - 8:30 Mountain, or 3:30 - 7:30 Pacific). They'll deliver messages between runaways and their families. This is also an anomymous, toll free line that won't show up on a phone bill.

    Need an adult to talk to?

    Most PFLAG moms and dads would love to help you out. Check with your local PFLAG chapter to find someone who can help.

    If you can't find a local chapter, consider the Internet's "virtual chapter" which takes the form of an email list. There are lots of really sympathetic adults, both moms and dads, on that list that you can talk to, and who can help you out with your problems.

    Safer sex, AIDS and you!

    Safer sex information

    Yeah, yeah, you've heard it all before, but...
    Let's face it. You can get AIDS as easy as anyone. This is a dangerous time to be fooling around. I'd sure prefer you didn't. But if you're going to anyway, at least know what you're doing.

    The best place I've found on the net for safer sex information is The Safer Sex Page. It has lots of information on do's and don'ts to help you play it safe.

    A safer sex page is available in Spanish if that is easier for you to read. I really hate to sound like a whiney adult, but there isn't any such thing as absolutely safe sex involving another person. So if you are determined you're going to anyway, at least know the risks of what you're doing and how to minimize them!

    If you want to ask someone some questions, there are some teens trained to answer your questions at the Teens TAP hotline, at 1-800-234-8336. It is open from 5 to 9 PM Eastern time (4 - 8 Central, 3 - 7 Mountain and 2 - 6 Pacific). This is an anonymous line, and is toll free and can be called from anywhere. Since it won't show up on a phone bill, your parents need not know you called.

    If you have HIV/AIDS

    There's an organization just for young people with HIV/AIDS. Called Children with AIDS, it's terrific -- don't let the name put you off! There's a really sweet group of moms who have put together a hotline for anyone with HIV/AIDS in the U.S. who needs a mother to talk to. They're at 1-800-828-3280. They can be reached between 2 and 6 PM, New York time (that's 1 - 5 Central, 12 - 4 Mountain and 11 - 3 Pacific).

    The best place on the net for current, accurate information on HIV, AIDS and treatment options is at the Critical Path Project. Lots of information. It'll keep you reading for hours!

    The second best place I've found on the net for information on HIV/AIDS is the Virtual Library AIDS Page. It has dozens of links!

    Read all about it!

    Here are a number of helpful books you might want to check out. This list of books can help with a wide range of problems.

    A really great list of books for explaining things to your brothers and sisters in ways they can understand is a list called Bridging the Gap with Books on Sensitive Subjects. It has a lot of storybooks that explain things in a way they can relate to.

    The only magazine I know of that is oriented towards gay and lesbian youth is InsideOUT.. Worth checking out!

    If you are trying to figure out how to acquire some of these books, here are some ideas.

    Libraries. First, do what your mom has probably told you to do a thousand times. Go to the library. You'd be surprised at how many libraries have many of these books. They may not be on the open shelves and you may have to ask the librarian -- don't be shy, it's their job, and they've heard stranger requests a thousand times before from countless folks before you. Most librarians are a fairly 'liberal' lot, and won't feel the worse of you for the request. But if they don't have it, or for one reason or another you don't feel comfortable with the idea. This is a cheap idea, too. Doesn't cost anything but your time.

    Gay Bookstores. If you've got the cash, go spend it at your local friendly gay/lesbian bookstore. They're the most likely to have in stock what you want. Here's the plug... This place is a part of your community, a resource for you, and for it to be there, it has to be supported by members of our community. So spend your money where it helps build resources for you!

    Mail Order. It's possible to get books by mail if you can figure out where to have them mailed that won't be 'discovered.' A trusted friend, perhaps, or relative could serve as a 'mail drop.' The two big gay/lesbian mail order bookstores are Lambda Rising and Different Light Books. Both can send books by either parcel post or UPS. If you want them to ship to an address other than your own, be sure to ask them to "drop ship" to the other address. You may or may not want them to add you to their mailing list; if not be sure to tell them so.

    Chain Bookstores: Barnes & Noble, B. Dalton and other large bookstore chains in the mall or elsewhere, usually have these books, too. If you can't afford to buy them, just stand in an aisle like you are browsing and read them. You don't have to read the entire book in one visit. Take your time.

    GBLT Community Centers. Another good place to get books is at a local Lesbian & Gay Community Center. Most have their own resource libraries. And the people there really want to help you. Here is a list of United States LGBT Centers. Many have services just for LGBT teens.

    Write to Scott Copyright © 1997 by Scott Bidstrup.

    Revised 12/29/97