oasis
columns


Chris Kryzan

October 1999

Dear Chris,

I need your help. I am a gay 15 year-old goth, and I want to come out but can't. I could deal with the taunting, and the harassment, and the general disgust of the people around me. I just can't handle the fact that my parents are so anti-gay. They can't stand the thought of anybody being gay. It's not "Christian". I have had a lot of mental problems in the past, due to both the fact that I had no vent on my emo-tions and being generally dumped on by my family. They treat me like dirt already, and since my parents broke up I've had to be the "mom" at both houses. They take me for granted, and I suppose I'm afraid I'm going to find out they really don't love me. I know they will both kick me out, and I have no place to go then. I suppose I could just hide it until I move out. However, I have developed problems in the past because of lesser secrets. I can't live either way, I'm not strong enough. Please, help me figure out what to do.

Ken

******

Dear Ken,

I first have to say that my heart goes out to you. You're in a situation that's harder than most, and one for which there are no easy answers. It's likely to be hard for a couple of years, but I think you will find you can make it through it, hopefully with the help of some others along the way.

It's hard for most teens to come out to their parents (although more and more are doing so, at ever-younger ages each year). We grow up with so many expectations lumped on us, so many different sets of goals, and the ones our parents impose are often the hardest to meet. One big one they often don't even realize is the expecta-tion that we're going to grow up to be heterosexual, get married to someone of the other gender, and give them grandchildren along the way. Being queer usually gets in the way of this, and that's one reason why it can often be hard for them to accept our sexual orientation, and even more so, for us to reveal it to them.

But I have found that the majority of parents are usually fair-minded about gay and lesbian people, and after a bit of education they can come to grips with what it means for their family, and what begins as a grudging tolerance can often turn into celebration. But when your parents are not tolerant, when they can be described as "so anti-gay," it's another story altogether. Where I might often suggest that the greatest fears to face in coming out are simply getting over the ones that are self-imposed, that's probably not the case here, and your chief thought should be to-wards survival.

I'm stating the obvious, I know, but as a teen, you're most likely dependent on your parents for almost every aspect of your life, and until you turn 18, you are without much (if any) legal power, without the rights that come with adulthood (and are, in my opinion, unjustly denied children) and the main thing you're going to need to think about is maintaining a roof over your head, having food, education, etc.

And I understand how hard it can be if they're already treating you like crap, for whatever reasons. Taken all together, I can imagine that this becomes overwhelming at times, and it's times like these when I really, really wish I had some ability to snap my fingers and make it all go away. But this is the real world, and there's no quick fix, so let's think about what you might do...

You can continue to hide -- keep your true sexual orientation a secret that you do not share with your parents. Given that they are anti-gay, this probably is a prudent course to follow. Now, the problem here, as you recognize, is the tremendous stress that this puts you under. So it's important that you find other ways in which you can express yourself as you really are. Now, I may be reaching, but I kind of think that perhaps your "gothness" might be an instance of this -- a way of expressing your need for independence, pushing the line, and seeing how far over it you can go before they blow. (On the other hand, you could just like NIN, the color black, and a lot of metal stuck in you, and that's fine, too).

One important thing you need is a place you can go be yourself, whatever it is that you want that to be. If there is a queer youth group near you, a PFLAG chapter or a queer community center, it would probably do you well to find it and, if possible, start attending meetings. The support you can get just from being around others like you can be immensely liberating, and literally just slough some stress off your shoulders. This might be hard to believe until you step foot in the door at one of these places, but time and time again (and just tonight, again, in fact), I have received letters from teens saying how their lives were changed when they stepped foot in the door at a queer youth group.

The important thing, here, is to find yourself a source of support, and acceptance, outside of the family where you know you will never receive it. We all need these things -- love, acceptance, support -- and if we can't get them at home, then it's es-sential to find them elsewhere. As you know, when you don't, the stress manifests itself in a myriad of horrible ways, whether that be personality disorders, physical deterioration, or more.

I'm disturbed by your statement that you can't live either way -- because given the scenarios you set up, there just aren't a lot of other ways. That's why I think you need to create your own "other way" which results in you finding your own support, a group of friends that accepts and loves you for who you are, and ultimately a family of your own making. Remember that no matter how much of a bitch it might be to get by right now, this is all temporary (although I do know that three years is a hell of a lot more to someone fifteen than it is when you're 40). But it is temporary, and things will change, and hopefully, these changes will be for the better.

You may also want to get some professional help, if that is at all feasible. If you are truly suffering from other problems and severe stress, then it's essential to get counseling from a trained professional, a therapist or a psychiatrist. Now, I also understand that this may not be possible, either because they cost a lot, or because your parents would want to know why you wanted this help, or they just might not let you go. So in that case, you're going to have to patch together your own therapy.

So what are some concrete things you can do? How about these:

- Find a support group in your area. Go to http://www.queeramerica.com/ for a list of those in your area.

- Start talking to someone. Anyone. If you have a friend that you're close to, who perhaps you haven't come out to, then maybe now is the time, if you think they will react well. There is a load that will be lifted from your shoulders when you do so, at the very least. And perhaps you'll have one more ally to help you make it through all of this. Since you're online, you can easily find others to at least to talk to on the Internet or America Online, as well.

- Get some books. There are some very good ones out there. I suggest starting with "Free Your Mind" by Kate Kauffman and Ellen Bass. It's the best place for any queer teen to start. You can order it online, or pick it up at most chain book-stores, or if you're fortunate enough to be near a queer bookstore, most certainly there. Ellen has also written another wonderful book, called "The Courage to Heal." Although it's intended for women who are the victim of sexual abuse, it's actually a very good book for anyone that's been the victim of abuse -- sexual, physical, mental, emotional -- and wants to embark on the journey of recovery.

- Remember that you matter in all of this. Frankly, if others are going to treat you like crap, screw them. Remember your own worth, and don't give a shit about whether or not you're living up to other people's expectations. Go look in the mirror in the morning and say "Hey, I'm a pretty good person after all and I like what I see." I know this sounds so New Ageish, pop therapy of the weekish, but the fact is that we have to like ourselves first and foremost, because, after all, that's who we're going to wake up with every day.

Ken, you're clearly an intelligent and thoughtful guy. Don't go forgetting that. There are others out there who will see these qualities, and more, in you, and they're going to help you along your way. In the meantime, you have my prayers and good wishes that you have the strength you need to take the first footsteps to reclaiming who you want to be.

Chris

Hi Chris,

I want to know that I really like what you are doing, I have never met a group that actually cares so much, And I want to thank you for taking up for people like us, but now I need your help.

My girlfriend and I, well we used to be so close, but I think we are being dis-tanced for come odd reason. We used to write each other email, now she doesn't answer them. We used to spend hours on the phone, now I am lucky if it is min-utes. We used to go out to places, now we go to school. We used to spend every moment together, now it is like maybe a few minutes here and there.

I love this girl with all my heart, but I don't know what is going on. She asked me to marry her a few months ago, I said yes. But now I don't know if she wants to be with me at all, much less marry me... Can you help?

Trish

******

Dear Trish,

You're going through one of those really crummy times that happens sometimes in a relationship, and probably even more in relationships when you're young -- it's most likely winding down.

Sometimes, when you meet someone, you feel it through and through. Infatuation or love, they're often hard to tell apart, and what does it matter, after all. The pas-sion is there, you want to spend every waking (and sleeping) minute of the day (and night) with them. You share your most intimate of thoughts, and probably wind up getting intimate in other ways, too.

You find yourself on the phone for hours on end, until the sun is coming up again, sometimes. You're amazed at how much you have in common, how you see the world from similar eyes, and in other wonderful ways, just how different you are, too. And you just love that. And them.

And then one day something changes. If you're lucky, it's a big blow-up. That's because it leaves nothing to the imagination. You know you're through and that's that. But, more often than not, it's a subtle moving apart. They don't call as much. They have excuses why they can't get together with you. They're not there when you call on the phone, or you always get their answering machine. And you wonder what's happening, if anything at all.

And usually, the answer is, it's over. But it can take a while to realize that, and even longer to accept it, and then get over it. But you will. And it will happen again, because that's how life goes.

So hopefully, you can walk away without too much hurt, in time. And you'll meet someone else even better, however hard that may be to believe. Someone to whom you'll feel even closer, if you can believe that, too. Just hope that in the meantime, they don't start dating your best friend.

I hope that your true love is just around the corner!

Chris
chris@kryzan.com


About the Author
©1998-1999 Oasis Magazine. All Rights Reserved.