I don't really know where to start, so I suppose I might as well be blunt. I'm kinda gay and stuff.
I've been "struggling" with homosexuality for a while--like, pretty much since for as long as I can remember--but I've stayed closeted because I figured that it would eventually just pass and everything would be dandy and that I'd find a nice girl and settle down and raise little straight kids and have a jolly life. Unfortunately, at this point I'm willing to say with some degree of certainty that if these feelings haven't passed in the last 18 years, they probably won't be passing in the next 18 years either.
The problem comes from the fact that my family, my friends, my religion, and essentially the majority of my entire state (good ol' Utah) considers homosexuality a huge no-no. I've come out to three friends who were previously pretty close to me (but have distanced themselves since aforementioned coming out), my parents, and my ecclesiastical leader and they've all said essentially the same thing: "I don't know how to help you. I've never experienced this before. All I know is that it's a sin." All of this is exacerbated by the fact that my first year of college starts in about two weeks.
What do I do? I don't want to separate myself from my family, but I promise they wouldn't approve of me bringing a boyfriend home for Christmas. I don't want to alienate myself from the friends I have left or limit my potential for making friends in the future. I don't want to live my life in a homosexual way and spend every day thinking that I'm going to go to Hell for my actions. I see only three possibilities: be celibate forever, embrace my homosexuality and accept that everyone I know will execrate me for it, or pretend nothing's wrong and eventually marry a girl, thereby stripping her of her right to have a husband that wholly loves her the way she deserves.
So... um... help please?
Okay, first things first, Sparkler: You're not really considering as an option the unfathomable cruelty of pretending you're straight, getting hitched, and condemning an innocent woman to the absolute hell of being married to a man who will never truly want her. No, you're not. I mean, even if you believed that being gay was wrong, it couldn't possibly be more wrong than, say, ruining someone else's chances at happiness just because you couldn't be honest about who you are.
So let's just toss that steaming turd of a plan in the Bad Ideas File and see what's left, shall we? Namely, options one and two: living your life in a "homosexual way," or being celibate... um, also in a homosexual way.
Because darling, you're gay. You can deprive yourself of love and sex and human companionship all your life, and you'll still be gay. It's something you are, not something you chose. And yes, I think you should embrace your homosexuality... in the same way that you embrace having legs, a spleen, and skin that freckles in the sun.
I know it won't be easy. I realize that this means rejecting what your church has taught you about same-sex relationships, and maybe being rejected by the community you've always called home. I realize it means a giant revamp of every assumption you've ever made about what your future holds. But is it really better to spare yourself all that, knowing that the price is loneliness and lies? Life is awfully long; how do you think you'll feel after five years of faking it, and faking it, and never, ever making it? After ten years? Twenty? Fifty?
Meanwhile, the non-response of your family and religious leaders ("I can't help you, I just know it's bad!") sends a powerful message: they don't know what you're going through. They have nothing to offer you. In short, they're practically begging you to seek a second opinion.
So, for starters, here's mine: I (and many other people) do not believe that a loving creator—or an indifferent universe—would go to the trouble of making people gay, and mercilessly stack the deck against them by giving the the same powerful longing for love and connection as anyone else, and then demand that they spend their lives dissatisfied, lonely, and hating themselves for who they are. That is not the life you're meant to have. And while certain members of your community might reject you for accepting yourself, please realize: you haven't changed. You're exactly who you've always been. You're free to keep on loving your family, your friends, and your faith, just as you always have—only better, because you'll be doing it honestly. (Note: Though you haven't said explicitly what your faith is, there are enough clues in your letter for me to point you in the direction of Affirmation, a group in which your religion and your orientation need not be mutually exclusive. Check it out.)
It's okay to feel scared and unsure. It would be stranger if you didn't. You're on the verge of adulthood, college, the point in life when everyone, gay or straight, has to set aside the expectations of family and community and figure out what's right for them. You were always going to use this moment to spread your wings, to explore, to question, to find your path and walk it with purpose.
And for you, that path begins with the realization that living, and loving, out of the closet presents much richer and more varied opportunities than the go-directly-to-Hell dogma you've been brought up with. Outside the narrow confines of your community, being gay isn't a limitation; step beyond its boundaries, and you'll find a whole world of proof that your sexual orientation doesn't define you, doesn't get in your way, and doesn't have even the tiniest effect on to your ability to live, to work, to meet people, or to make friends. (Well, okay: it does limit your potential to make friends with buttheaded bigots who don't like gay people, but no big loss there.) That world is your next stop, if only so you can see that it's there.
Because you deserve to see it. You deserve all the joy that being human has to offer. You deserve to be loved for everything you are. And you owe it to yourself to recognize the first glimmering thread of self-acceptance in your letter, to grab hold of it, and to see where it leads.
I promise you, it'll be somewhere great.
Got something supportive to say to our Sparkler? Leave it in the comments! (And we do mean supportive, y'all; this is not the place for fire-and-brimstone threats, mmkay?) And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.