February 2001

When I thought about what to write for the February issue of Oasis, I started wondering what different kinds of readers there are. I think there are actually just two large groups - those who are out and proud, and those who are still closeted and probably read this secretly.

That reminded me of the first time I visited the website of a large gay online community - www.planetout.com . When I had finally summoned up enough courage to join, I was incredibly excited when I checked the little box for 'lesbian' under the category "Sexual Orientation". Whenever I visited the website from that day on, I was very careful so that the link could not be found anywhere on my computer - although it was mine, and no one else used it.

On the website, I read about books and movies with gay content and every week I was looking forward to reading the new column where solutions for your problems were offered. It took me two years until I wrote one myself, but still, reading about other people with similar problems made me feel much more confident. I found links to other websites that offered a lot of support, and were of great help to me. All in all, I got the feeling that I wasn't alone and found friends with whom I could talk openly, which still felt like something forbidden. Some of them in the same situation as me - others who had been out for years and were able to give valuable advice.

I live in a fairly large city, with a lovely support group for gay people. The teenager group meets every other week. But still, the anonymity of the Internet makes everything easier. I wouldn't have been courageous enough to visit the group a few years ago, when I really needed it. The words "I am gay" are probably more easily typed than said.

So, thinking about what a vital part the Internet had played for my own development, I thought of a friend, who lives in a very rural area - without any support group or anything similar. Gay/Straight Alliances are a very American thing. I've never heard of anything similar in Europe (I could be wrong of course). I do not even know another gay student at my school! For her, the Internet was the only way to meet someone who felt the way she did. It was the only thing that kept her from despair.

Thinking about how valuable the Internet is for anyone who's gay/questioning, I started wondering what people did without this kind of resource. I asked an older lesbian what she did when she was my age - she said she got married and had a daughter - and that was only twenty years ago. That in mind, I asked myself whether or not I would have come out to my friends and family if I hadn't had any support like my online friends, and the answer was - probably not. At least not now. Maybe later, after leaving my parents' home, but on the other hand, by that time I could have found some man and could have convinced myself that it was just a phase I had gone through. And how about you?

Realizing how much the Internet had helped me, I thought of all the other questioning or simply lost people out there, who are now in the same situation I used to be in. Maybe you are one of those who are still afraid of being discovered or you are one of the others, who already made it. In any case, you should try to find one of the "other side". If you are questioning or closeted, find yourself someone who's out and who you can talk to and ask questions. And if you're out, find someone you can help. Even if you're not good at giving advice, just talking about what happened to you could be interesting for the other person. Message Boards are a great place to start.

If you feel like talking or want to let me know what your opinion on this topic is, e-mail me, I'll respond gladly.



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