One of the sites that New Direction hosts is www.freetobeme.com Originally, this site was designed to be a faith neutral site for kids who were asking questions of sexual identity and looking for an alternative to a gay affirming youth site. I’m always amazed that this site far and away gets the most traffic of any of our online connection points. Last year alone there were over 280,000 page views by 66,000 visitors from 181 countries. Just last week I received emails through that site from the U.S., U.K, Lebanon, Iran, and Pakistan. As I think about what is on the site, I know that a lot of the content was developed a good number of years ago. Some of it I like – some of it I’d like to update. I know that some have perceived the site as implying that everyone is just questioning and confused, no one is really gay, and eventually people will end up heterosexual. We know this isn’t the case – and that isn’t the message we intend to imply. But, it’s true that in its current state, the site doesn’t seem to have that much help for the young person who really is persistently attracted to their own gender and may benefit from simply being able to come to terms with this sexual identity.
This sentiment came through in an email I received this morning saying:
“It seems most of your comments steer people away from embracing gay feelings. Perhaps these people looking to you for help are actually gay and you are hurting them with your misdirected advice.”
We always try to listen carefully to our critics – even when we sometimes feel like they’ve made some assumptions about the way we engage with those who contact us. So I thought that since this person didn’t leave a return email address, that in response I’d share another email that came through the site earlier in the week that I had the opportunity to reply to:
“thank god for this website, its incredible and really helpful! thank you!
i’m 16 and i “came out” a few months ago and to be honest i’m more confident, i’ve got more friends and i’m really enjoying life at the moment! everyone i know, family, friends, everyone at school has accepted it really well and i’ve had no bad reaction so far. i’ve had one experience with a guy since but lately i’ve become really confused!
i believe i’ve been attracted or at least looked at men my whole life, in films, in the street, guys at school, but it wasn’t until i “came out” that this has become sexual but then again i think that sexual attraction has died down since my first experience with a guy! i’m not going to deny that i’m strangely attracted to guys and less so with girls but i do really love girls and want to be with them while usually i just want a hug from a guy! i do honestly believe i’m going to end up with a girl although i have these attractions to guys but my problem now is trying to tell everyone that i’m not gay anymore :S! when people ask and i reply by saying “gay” there is this gut feeling that i’m being stupid and lying!?! whatever i guess i’m just going to go with the flow and see what happens… i just wanted to share some of the things that are going on! thanks”
Thanks for writing!
You demonstrate a good level of self-awareness in the midst of some of your confusion. It may be very helpful for you, in your own mind, to be willing to live with some uncertainty for now. Confusion in this area of identity development is very normal for a lot of young people. Despite feeling like you want some kind of resolution – the healthiest option may be for you to simply continue to live out your life, with good healthy self-awareness, and experience how your connection with both guys and girls continues to mature and develop in your life. One way of looking at this is to resist jumping to black and white conclusion too quickly. That’s one of the challenges with the labels we put on ourselves – sometimes they don’t give us a lot of room for the normal fluidity that some people experience – and the label that was meant to be helpful actually becomes restrictive. So even though people expect you to conform to one of the categories of gay or straight …. it might be useful to simply say, “I’m giving myself some space to figure this out – and it might take a while – and I’m ok with that.” Being able to be honest and authentic about some uncertainty takes a lot more guts and maturity than pretending to have it all figured out.
What may be very important for you in this season of discovery – is to be clear about what kind of boundaries you will choose for yourself when it comes to sexual involvement. The more you get involved – the more confused you may feel. We’d encourage you to enjoy your friends and build good peer relationships with both guys and girls. But guard your heart a bit – falling in love is a precious thing – but if we give it away too easily or too often – it can become kind of empty and shallow. So – value yourself enough to protect your own heart. In the right time, when you’re in the right place in your life for a long-term relationship, you’ll know who the right person is to give your heart to.
I really hope that you’ll be able to experience great mentoring from someone who can affirm you and encourage you as you keep growing into the man you were meant to be. Regardless of where you land in your sense of sexuality – this kind of affirmation from a mentor can be such a positive and powerful thing in a person’s life – not only when we’re 16 but as we go through life’s journey.
I wish you all the very best. You’re a bright young man, with a bright future.
“Hello wendy, thank you so much for your lovely, very helpful reply, I really do appreciate it!
I will take your advice and I will try my best to be the best person I can be no matter what happens in the future :]
All the best and thank you again :]”
New Direction seeks to embody an ethos that is humble, generous and collaborative. If you think you’d like to submit some writing (including but not limited to some of your personal stories) to be considered for posting on the freetobeme.com site …. Send me an email with your thoughts and submissions. We want to keep on making this heavily trafficked site useful and encouraging for youth where-ever they’re at in their journey of sorting out their sexuality and identity.