Hey Sparklers, just a reminder that intolerance makes Auntie cry, so keep your comments cool on this one. Not that we doubt you, because you're always so sweet and supportive—just keep on keepin' on!
Dear Auntie SparkNotes,
I am a junior, and let's just say that I am not exactly straight. I have had a crush on one of my guy friends for nearly two years now, and I do not know what to do about it. I would like to ask him out or at least tell him how I feel about him. Sometimes, I do think that he likes me. He once told me that he loved me. He also occasionally pokes me, throws pencils at my head, and stares at me while I stare back at him. But, I might just be misconstruing friendly behavior with flirting. After all, he has had several girlfriends. I'm not really afraid of rejection. I'm afraid that I will ruin our friendship, that he'll avoid me, that other students and teachers will ridicule me for my sexual orientation, that some of my friends will not be my friends anymore, that my parents will kick me out of the house. But, I've liked him for so long (as far as high school crushes go, don't you think?)! So, what do you think that I should do?
To paraphrase the immortal words of Shrek, this problem is like an onion. Not because it would get all nasty and sprout little green hairs if left out in the sun (although wouldn't that be interesting? Let's try it later!), but because it has layers.
Lots of 'em.
Ordinarily, I'd be telling you to check out the flirting guide and take the usual steps toward crush resolution: upping your flirty physical contact, spending more time alone, and coyly bringing up the subject of whether your friend, y'know, likes anyone. But the fact that you're gay and still closeted complicates things. Because as you've said, there's much more at stake here than just confessing your feelings to a longtime crush. Telling your crush how you feel means coming out, at least to one person.
Unfortunately, I can't tell from here whether you'd be admitting your sexual orientation in a supportive environment, or whether coming out might compromise your safety. (Although I can calm your fears on one front: your teachers are not, not, NOT allowed to harass or ridicule you for being gay.) But you can probably determine whether your fears are valid, because the one person you're thinking of coming out to isn't just your crush, but a friend as well. And for your worst fears to come true, your friend would have to be not only straight, but also a complete jerk—one so freaked out by the notion of having a gay friend that he'd betray your confidence and blab about your sexual orientation to everyone else.
So, tell me: Would that happen? Has your friend ever expressed intolerant views toward gays? Do you have any reason to think he'd reject you, spread gossip, or try to hurt you for confiding in him?
If so, it's probably in your best interest to keep quiet (and also, to get a new friend.). But if not, then you're free to peel away your problem with a strategic approach:
Step 1: Broach the subject of homosexuality in general. (Johnny Weir, Neil Patrick Harris, or the legalization of gay marriage are all good jumping off points for this conversation.) If your friend seems open-minded, move on to...
Step 2: Broach the subject of homosexuality as it relates to him. (e.g. “Have you ever known someone who was gay?,” or “Would it freak you out if you knew someone who wasn't straight?”) If he still seems open-minded (or if he tells you that his favorite uncle is gay), move on to...
Step 3: Exit the closet. If you want to admit your feelings, by now you should have a good sense for whether or not you can safely tell your crush the truth about your sexual orientation. So take a deep breath, and tell him that you're gay.
If your friend is also interested in guys, he may well take this opportunity to let you know. (You mention that he's had girlfriends, but so do a lot of gay kids before they come out, so who knows.) But regardless, at this point, you've gotten through all the complicated layers and back to the root of the problem: it's just a crush, plain and simple. And from here on out, it's a matter of flirting, sussing out your friend's interest, and backing off if he doesn't seem to return your feelings.
This may all happen over a period of days or weeks, rather than in one conversation. And if at any point your friend starts to seem freaked out, you can just stop talking without revealing that you're gay. But since you want so badly to tell him how you feel, and since he does seem to be flirting with you, this relationship sounds like as good a place as any to be real about your sexual identity. You'll feel better for telling someone, and if the someone is the person you most want to know, so much the better.
Just be smart, be safe, and be careful.
(And let me know how it goes! We love a good crush drama around here.)