Dear Straight Talk: I am 14 and bisexual. I've told only my four closest friends. They love and support me, and one of them is bisexual also. I'm not sure if I should tell my parents, but I think they would be OK with it. My two best guy friends know I've been acting weird lately and I don't know if I should tell them. I feel like they don't know me anymore. Also, my bisexual friend and I are flirting and getting closer than ever. What should I do about all this? -- Sally
Peter, 25: Out of compassion, I'm obliged to pass on some facts. Depression and suicidal thoughts among gay and lesbian teenagers are triple that of the general population. Ditto for substance abuse. I believe this is due mainly to stress from bullying, rejection by peers, friends, family, and society, and to the tendency to find acceptance with at-risk groups. Even higher substance abuse and self-harm rates are experienced by bisexuals. They have the lowest level of social support and emotional wellbeing of any sexual orientation. All that said, if you like girls, guys, or both, bravo. For support, join your school's Gay-Straight Alliance -- or start one. Even better, don't define yourself right now. I just turned 25 and I promise you there's no rush.
Katelyn, 17: Be honest with your parents. They could have better advice than your friends. Keep your flirtation a friendship until you're completely sure of your path.
Sarah, 20: I applaud your bravery. Some people are more accepting of bisexuality than others. However, keeping your orientation a secret and having a dual identity can be emotionally unhealthy. Sharing with friends and parents lets you be true to yourself, which is what really matters. Knowing that some of my friends are bi has only made me respect them more for their honesty. It would be a good idea to come out before you start a relationship, though, to lessen complications.
Nicole, 22: Many people are bi. Where I live, probably 25 percent of women and 7 percent of men under age 27 are bisexual or bi-curious. I can't imagine your parents being uncomfortable. Regarding your bisexual friend, don't hurry when building a relationship. Justin, 24: Your sexual orientation is not the essence of who you are. It has little to do with anything. Unless you are completely confident in yourself (which takes maturity), people will take shots at you. Colin, 18: Your sexual orientation does not define you, so stop acting like it does. There are many things about me that I don't feel the need to announce. Just relax. Not putting people on notice about your sexuality isn't deception.
Dear Sally: While some panelists advise telling parents and friends outside your closest circle, I disagree. Peter's facts are accurate. Bisexuals have the lowest level of acceptance and emotional wellbeing of any sexual orientation. I assure you, many peers and parents will NOT be "OK with it." For this reason, I don't recommend that LGBT teens come out publicly until after high school, when most bullying disappears. I further advise waiting until after college in case parents pull support -- which happens.
I agree with Colin and Justin that it is unnecessary and a disservice to yourself to define yourself by your sexuality. Romantic trial and error is normal for adolescence and there is little value in "declaring oneself" in the middle of a learning process. Regarding the flirtation, a sexual relationship will be emotionally destabilizing at your age. Stick with being friends. -- Lauren
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