What does it mean to be gay?
Men who call themselves gay are sexually attracted to and fall in love with other men.
Their sexual feelings toward men are normal and natural for them. These feelings emerge
when they are boys and the feelings continue into adulthood. Although some gay men
may also be attracted to women, they usually say that their feelings for men are stronger
and more important to them.
It is said that one out of ten people is gay or lesbian. This means that in any large group
of people, there are usually several gay people present. However, you cannot tell if
someone is gay unless he or she wants you to know. Although gay, lesbian, bisexual, and
transgender people blend in with the crowd, they often feel different from other people.
Gay teenagers may not be able to specify just why they feel different. All of the guys they
know seem to be attracted to girls, so they don't know where they fit in. And, they may
not feel comfortable talking with an adult about their feelings.
How do I know if I'm gay?
You may not know what to call your sexual feelings. You don't have to decide how to
label yourself right now. Our sexual identities develop over time. Most adolescent boys
are intensely sexual during the years around puberty (usually between 11 and 15), when
their bodies start changing and their hormones are flowing in new ways.
Your sexual feelings may be so strong that they are not directed toward particular persons
or situations, but seem to emerge without cause. As you get older you will figure out who
you are and to whom you are attracted.
Boys and men who are gay find that over time their attraction to boys and men becomes
more clearly focused. You may find yourself falling in love with a classmate or
developing a crush on a particular man. You may find these experiences pleasurable,
troubling, or a mix of the two. By age 16 or 17, many gay, lesbian, bi, and trans young
people start thinking about what to call themselves, while others prefer to wait.
If you are ready to learn more, start by reading. Please know that not all books about gay
people are supportive. You may also call or email the NU LGBT Resource Center where
you can talk about your feelings anonymously and where you will receive information
about organizations and people who can help.
Am I normal?
Yes, you are normal. It's perfectly natural for people to be attracted to members of their
own sex. But it's not something that's encouraged in our society. Many people push away
these feelings because of prejudice against gay, lesbian and bisexual people. Most
scientific experts agree that a person's sexual orientation is determined at a very young
age, maybe even at birth. It's normal and healthy to be yourself, whether you're gay or
straight. What's really important is that we learn to like ourselves.
What is it like to be gay?
There's no right way or wrong way to be gay. Because of society's stereotypes about gay
and bisexual men, you might think you have to be a certain way if you're gay. But gay
and bi men come in all shapes and sizes, from all occupations, and with all levels of
Because of homophobia and prejudice, some people don't accept lesbian, gay, bisexual,
or transgender people. We sometimes suffer from discrimination and violence. That's
why there are many gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender organizations that work for
our civil rights.
Who should I tell?
Coming out is the process of accepting yourself as a gay or bi man and figuring out how
open you want to be about your sexual orientation. Unfortunately not everyone you know
will think that being gay is so terrific. It's hard to know who can handle the information
and give you support. Some friends may accept you. Some may turn away from you or
tell other people without your permission. Telling family can be very difficult. Some
families are very supportive. But some lesbian and gay youth have been kicked out of
their homes when their parents found out.
It's important to have someone to talk to because it's not normal or healthy for young
people to have to keep secret such an important part of their lives.
What about sex?
Naturally, you think about finding an outlet for your sexual feelings. Becoming a healthy
sexual person is part of the coming out process. You may be scared at the prospect of
having sex. This is normal for everyone. No one should start having sex until they are
ready. Until then, you may choose to masturbate or fantasize.
Sex should only happen between mature individuals who care about each other. You will
know when the time is right.
We all choose to have sex in different ways, whether we are gay or straight. Gay men
choose from a wide range of sexual practices, including masturbation (either alone or
with another person), oral sex, anal intercourse, kissing, hugging, massage, wrestling,
holding hands, cuddling or anything else that appeals to both partners. You are in
complete control over what you do sexually and with whom.
What about AIDS?
All sexually active people need to be aware of AIDS as well as other sexually transmitted
diseases. Being gay does not give you AIDS, but certain sexual practices and certain drug
use behaviors can put you at risk for catching the virus that causes AIDS. AIDS is
incurable, but is preventable.
Here's how to reduce your risk of getting AIDS:
• Do not shoot up drugs. Sharing needles is the most dangerous behavior in terms of
• Avoid anal intercourse or other direct anal contact. Anal intercourse transmits the virus
very efficiently. If you do engage in anal sex, use a condom every time.
• Use condoms whenever you engage in anal or oral sex (or vaginal sex if you have sex
with women). You should choose latex condoms that are fresh and undamaged. Store
them away from heat (your wallet is not a good place to keep them). Use a condom only
once. Try to choose condoms with "reservoir tips", and be sure to squeeze out the air
from the tip as you put it on. Hold on to the condom as you remove your penis;
sometimes they slip off after sex.
• Choose sexual activities that do not involve intercourse: hugging, kissing, talking,
massaging, wrestling or masturbating (on unbroken skin).
How do I learn to like myself?
We are all valuable human beings. Developing self-esteem is very important. It's hard for
gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender young people to feel good about ourselves
because all around us are people who believe that we're sick or perverted or destined to
live unhappy lives. When we think we have to hide who we really are, we may feel
isolated, fearful, and depressed, especially if we've had no one to talk to about our sexual
More and more, we as young gay and bi men are learning to like who we are. It helps to
read good books about gay people - books that have accurate information and are written
about gay and bi men who are leading fulfilling lives. The NU LGBT Resource Center
has a lending library of many helpful books. It also helps to meet other men like us
because then we find out that gay and bisexual men are as diverse as any other group of
It can help to say to yourself, "I'm gay and I'm okay. Remember: it's normal and natural
to be gay, just like it is normal and natural for some people to be heterosexual.
From the UCLA LGBT Campus Resource Center (www.lgbt.ucla.edu)
The information on this page was adapted from a brochure written by Kevin Cranston
and Cooper Thompson, with help from members of BAGLY, Boston Area Gay and
Lesbian Youth. Produced and distributed by The Campaign to End Homophobia.
Additional information on this page was adapted from a brochure written by members of
OUTRIGHT, the Portland, Maine, Alliance of Lesbian and Gay Youth. Produced and
distributed by The Campaign to End Homophobia.