Dear Dr. G.,
You also answer questions by teenagers, yes? Well, I was wondering if you had any advice for me regarding trust—but among friends as well as between child and parent. First,I should probably tell you that I'm a fourteen-year-old female who is not sexually oriented as of yet, but happens to be panromantic. I have not told my parents this, although I'm sure they could guess. (My mother has asked me several times whether I am gay, although not in such explicit terms. She also points out attractive males wherever she sees one, watching me and gauging my reaction, thinking I'm not aware of what she's doing.)
The second thing you should know about me is that I just started high school at a new public school district (I've gone to a same-sex private school my entire life.) It's not that far from my old school—walking distance,actually—so I visit after school on occasion. A few weeks ago, I was working on the computer of a friend of mine. She's not that careful about clearing her browser history, so I saw that one of the top searches was 'coming out.' She's not aware of my own tendencies as far as I know, so I didn't say anything to her. However, that evening she apparently felt the need to come out to me, which I appreciate very much, especially seeing how hard it was for her. And in sixth grade, one of the popular boys in my choir shyly asked me whether I "don't know whether [I'm] something or something else, but [I] know I'm] not something" in the middle of the Pentecost service in Notre Dame (we were touring that summer.) The answer, of course, was yes, and he responded likewise. I learned the other day that the two of us now go to the same school, although he's now a junior and we don't really talk.
Last month, one of my new friends, a highly intelligent, rather effeminate boy, told me firmly that he "believes [he] is a homosexual." After asking about me first, just to be safe. None of these people knew I'm not exactly heterosexual, and all of them came out to me. I don't know any of them very well, and all of them chose me to be the first person they had ever told. Two more people have come out to me personally, and again, neither of them I knew very well (although one became my girlfriend for about a year in middle school...).
Why? Why did they decide to trust me?
Why do you think my mother has such an insistent need to know? And why do you think I'll easily tell you, a person I've never met, along with possibly the rest of the Internet, but not my parents? I have my own suspicions as to this answer, but I'd still like your input, if you'd like. I apologize for this massive wall of text, and if you actually read it, I thank you. If you even just scrolled down this far, I thank you. And if you choose to answer my overly long-winded questions, I thank you even more. Thank you for your time and consideration.
A Confused Teen
Yes, you are right. I answer questions from both teens and parents. I am delighted to have received your letter. Regarding your questions: 1. "Why did my peers decide to trust me with issues of their sexuality?" That is an excellent question and my best guess is that they experience you as nonjudgmental and so they chose you to express their feelings to. My question to you is how you feel about your peers opening up to you. Are you fine with this or does it feel burdensome to be the keeper of their secrets? If it feels burdensome and you feel that your peers would benefit from talking to others then go ahead and gently encourage them to do so.
Your second question is 2. "Why do you think that my mother has such an insistent need to know about my sexuality?" Your mother is obviously wondering about your sexual preferences. I believe that she probably wants to understand you better. Since I don't know her like you do I don't know how she might respond to your truth—that you are not fully sexually oriented yet. She may be judgmental, confused, or even supportive. Consider how your mom might react and then you might want to consider having an open and honest discussion with her. The honesty and authenticity may create a closer bond between the two of you.
And regarding Question 3. "Why do you think that I'll easily tell you a person that I've never met with possibly the rest of the Internet but not my parents?" The answer to this question is that it is much easier to be honest with people who are not part of your emotional life and support network. You are talking about your issues anonymously and therefore there is no fear of repercussions. The opinion and response of people that you don't know and who don't know you is a lot less important to you. If you tell your parents and they judge you negatively then you are in a very vulnerable position and you may become very upset. On the other hand, if you are honest with your parents and they are supportive and accepting, my guess is that you will feel a tremendous sense of relief.
It is not clear to me whether or not you are ready to talk honestly with your parents at this point in time, but it sure sounds like you are struggling with the idea.
I wish you good luck as you make your decision and I sure hope that your parents are supportive.
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