Keep Exploring

Ask A Therapist: I Think I'm Gay, but I Don't Know How To Talk About It. What Should I Do?

Ask a Therapist, LGBTQIA+
7 min read

Dear Therapist: I’m in high school, and I think I might be gay. I’ve never really been interested in girls like my friends have been, but I thought maybe I was a late bloomer and it would happen eventually. Recently I kinda realized that I have a crush on this guy in my history class. I’m not sure if I’m gay, but I’m starting to think I might be. I always pictured gay people as being really different from me, so it’s weird to think I might be…. This is all so weird and I want to tell someone, but I’m scared that if I talk to any of my friends about it, it’ll freak them out, and I have no idea how my parents will handle it.

What should I do? I don’t want anyone to see me or treat me any differently.

Frame Therapist Nicholas Berry weighs in...  Hi there!  I think anyone who remembers high school can say that they had some of the best and worst times of their life.  High school is a time where we get to try new things, meet new people, test limits, and really gain a better understanding of ourselves.  From what you shared, I can only imagine what your experience must be like.  In my experience working with teenagers who struggle with any sort of mental illness, difficulty managing their feelings, and struggling with identify, high school only magnifies these issues due to the ability of other high schoolers to have such a huge influence in how they view themselves.   

First off, great job for reaching out for help and feedback!  A lot of people in your position wouldn’t even think to reach out anonymously to ask for help and try to do their best to stuff down those feelings.  As you may know, or may have witnessed, some even resort to drugs, alcohol, or other risky behaviors in order to push away those feelings.  Your feelings that seem weird are completely valid.  Not having a strong sense of who you are, as well as feeling as though you aren’t where everyone else is, can create a lot of stress and negative beliefs about yourself.  

As teenagers, one of our puzzles to solve is how to be our own person, while still keeping in mind the need to be part of our family, as well as part of our peer group.  If there is anything that gets in the way of one’s ability to do this, a lot can happen.  From what you have shared, it sounds like you not only feel weird, but may also be asking yourself “what’s wrong with me?”  I would invite you to really sit with those thoughts and feelings.  If any of that self-talk is running through your mind, I’d like you to remind yourself that there is nothing wrong with you.  You are a teenager living through an already difficult period in your life, but you are doing so as someone who is going through something that a lot of people still don’t fully understand.   Many people who experience similar issues are now living life in their 20s, 30s, and even later in life and STILL don’t have a firm understanding of themselves.  

When I read “I’m not sure if I’m gay, but I’m starting to think I might be,” I wonder if there is any sort of negative image of what people who identify as gay are perceived as in your family or community.  A lot of times, people who either do not understand or are not exposed to something may hold a negative belief about that person, thing, or idea.  Safety is always the top concern when evaluating whether to explore or start asking questions about these new feelings you are experiencing.  If you know for sure that there may be violence that happens to those who are or are suspected to be gay in your community, it might be best to discuss your experience with someone who is certain to keep your thoughts and feelings confidential.  A guidance counselor or a school-based therapist would be a great person to approach, as they are required to keep very sensitive information confidential, unless it pertains to someone’s safety.  

I can assure you, you are most likely not alone amongst your peers.   It is reported that 8% of teenagers self-report being gay, which indicates that there are probably more adolescents who identify as gay, but are likely to share your experience and do not self-disclose due to fear or confusion.   Fear and confusion is only being escalated in recent years due to political beliefs and laws that are being put in place that prevent many from getting the help they need in order to feel comfortable living their authentic selves.  

Like most of my clients who are fearful of something either happening or not happening, I encourage them to ask different questions in order to challenge their beliefs. An example might look like the following: 

Q: Am I the only one going through this?

Reframe: What if I’m not the only one going through this?  Can I start by asking friends “Do you ever feel like nobody gets you?  Like you’re the only one going through something that feels so weird?!”

Q: If people find out, what if they don’t like me anymore?

Reframe: Do people think I’m closed-off or standoffish?  If they had a better understanding of what I’m going through, that even I don’t understand, will that actually bring us closer?

One last thing I’d like to suggest to you, I encourage you to really evaluate your close friendships and ask yourself “is there one person in my friend group who I know for a fact is fully accepting of me already?  Does that person ever express any negative statements of others?”  If so, maybe try broaching a conversation about their thoughts and feelings related to those who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community.  Try to gauge their expressions.  A lot of times, media exaggerates scenarios where a friend finally gains the courage to tell their best friend they are gay, and what happens next?  The friend freaks out and tells everyone at school.   If this person is your true friend, maybe try sharing with them with a counselor or therapist.   This may help you feel like you have at least one person to whom you can share what you are going through with. 

I hope this helps, and if you would like to discuss further, any therapist on Frame who is LGBTQIA+ affirming and is accepting new clients would be happy to help you explore further and maybe discuss ways that you can navigate these difficult conversations. 

Remember, you are amazing as you are and you have taken a huge step in gaining a deeper understanding of yourself.  

--- 

About the author: Nick Berry (M.S., Licensed Psychotherapist) is a member of the LGBTQIA+ community and is based in Los Angeles.  He works primarily with individuals and couples who want to explore the underlying issues that contribute to persistent dysfunction in interpersonal relationships, inability to thrive, and are ready for change.  Explore Nick's Therapist profile and reach out directly to schedule a free intro call. 


Welcome to our weekly content series "Ask a Therapist" featuring real user-submitted questions, and the follow-up answers from Frame Therapists.  Have a question you'd like to "Ask a Therapist"? Submit Your Question Here

** This blog series is not suited for people who are in immediate crisis. If you are in crisis, please call National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or contact Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.