Welcome to ReachOut.com’s Ask the Expert service
Through this service the ReachOut.com team will be working with a group of professionals and experts with detailed and specialist knowledge of youth mental health issues such as anxiety and depression to answer your questions and address your concerns. The issues covered will be the same as those covered throughout ReachOut.com but through this service we will be able to provide valuable insight into more specific and personal concerns that you may have.
Questions and answers
Each month we will concentrate on one particular mental health area and work, mainly, with one specific collaborator. Michael Barron from BeLonGTo is our featured expert for the month of November taking your questions about sexuality, coming out and his work with BeLonGTo.
We won’t have all the answers to every question – but we do have access to the best available information, so let us know what’s on your mind by submitting a question here.
Your question and an answer from Michael will be published here at the beginning of each week in November, so you may wait up to a week for an answer.
The advice provided through this service is not intended to replace face-to-face professional advice or any on-going support that a person may be receiving. If you or someone you know is in crisis now you should go to emergency support information.
I found out a friend of mine is gay from someone in school but i don’t know what to do now. I don’t know what to think or how to act round him, I mean do I ignore it or talk to him about it?
Hearing second hand information about a friend is tricky and confusing. If your friend happens to be gay and has told people about this, then that means he decided to come out to people he trusts and the time was right for him. He still may want the time to be right to tell others, including yourself.
It is also tricky as this could just be a rumour. Maybe you could meet your friend, explain to him what you have heard and let him know that either way you are still his friend. It’s important that you recognise that coming out is a big step for most gay people to take, especially if you don’t know how they will react. Regardless of what you have heard is true or false, he may need your support either way.
If he is, and you are a true friend, then his sexuality shouldn’t make a difference. He is still the same person that you new before, only now you know more about him BeLonG To does a campaign every year called Stand Up! that gives students in schools tips on how to best support their lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans friends and you can find out more info on this here. If he isn’t, then encourage people to stop the rumours.
Either way, it is important to stand up for your friend.
The BeLonG To team
I know I need to talk to someone, to tell them i’m gay but I can’t
I imagine that this is a very difficult time for you having to keep who you are and your feelings to yourself. Coming out (telling people that you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans) can be one of the most difficult decisions to make for a lot of people. That said, keeping this a secret can be equally difficult. You may have initial fears as to how people will react and what they may think of you when you do this. It is very important that you tell someone you trust and that the timing is right for you.
There is no right and wrong way to come out to someone, nor is there a one size fits all. What’s important is that you do it in a way that suits you. The following tips might be useful if you decide you’re ready to tell others.
Some people find it easier to first come out to a close friend or to somebody they respect and who accepts them for who they are. This could be a teacher, a youth worker. Others feel it’s important to come out to family members before anyone else. Regardless of who you choose to come out to (or not), it is important that you are happy for them to know. Ask yourself “Will they tell anyone else?”, “How might they react?” and “Am I happy with other people knowing right now?” Remember, you do not need to come out to everyone.
Consider doing it when you and the other person are relaxed and not pushed for time. Give yourself the space to discuss your coming out and for them to ask questions. Will they have your full attention? If you or the other person is preoccupied with something else, perhaps it would be best to wait for a better opportunity to come up. Sometimes you will need to be the person to create that good time as it is not something that will always present itself.
Choose a place that will give you privacy and where you are not likely to get interrupted.
Talking to other young LGBT people about their experiences of coming out can be very reassuring that you are not alone in feeling the way you do. You might have some fears before coming out that you might want to put to rest. Joining one of the many LGBT youth groups around Ireland is a great way to get support, make new friends and learn from other people’s experiences.
We in BeLonG To can also be contacted if you want to talk things over before you make a decision on coming out. You can find our phone no. and e-mail address on our website (www.belongto.org) if you want to talk to someone confidentially, or indeed you are welcome to come in and talk to a youth worker directly.
The team at BeLonG To
I’m pretty sure I’m asexual. I’m also beginning to worry that I don’t have a gender because I would relate to guys and girls equally but not feel like I belong to either one. My brother also seems to think the same. He teases me about not being girly or a tomboy I’m just nothing – a freak. Physiologically I am very much a girl but I never fancy fellas or girls even though I’m 19. It’s like I don’t belong anywhere and it’s not as if there’s anyone I know that I can talk to and it’s really knocking my self-esteem.
Not knowing where we fit in can be a really difficult thing to handle. It knocks our confidence, can make us question our own self-worth and at worst make us see ourselves as something abnormal.
The truth is, all of us, at some point question where we belong, and the answer to this can be difficult if you don’t know where to start. For you, you have made a great decision to take a step forward and ask, and for this you should commend yourself.
To start with, peoples gender identity (seeing yourself as a man, woman, etc.) does not always match our sex (being male, female or intersex). Some, may feel that their body is the opposite to what their sex is (e.g. being born female but seeing yourself as a man). Others may feel that they don’t have a gender identity that is exclusively that of a man or a woman, but somewhere in between (people use various labels to describe this including gender queer, gender fluid, gender neutral, etc.) and then there are those who don’t feel that they do not have a gender identity (again, different terms are used by different people, and include agendered, nongendered, etc.).
All of these are as valid and ‘normal’ as being cisgendered (having a gender identity that matches your sex) and there are many other people in Ireland that feel the same as you.
If you are living in Dublin, there is a youth group for young transgender people and those who are questioning their gender identity run by BeLonG To Youth Services called IndividualiTy. They meet in their offices located at 13 Parliament Street, Dublin 2 every Wednesday from 5:30 – 7:30.
If you have and questions about the group, and what they do call their office on 01 670 6223.
With regard to your sexual orientation, again this is just as valid as any other. BeLonG To Youth Services also works with people who are asexual and again, if you would like further information on this, call their office.
All the best
In a way I’m very lucky and shouldn’t really be complaining. I was raised in a very gay friendly environment with both my parents emphatically telling me there was nothing wrong if I was gay. I know if I came out tomorrow there wouldn’t really be much of an issue with anyone in my family. The only problem is I have no idea what I am, or what I’d be coming out as.
Sometimes I think I’m gay, sometimes I think I’m bi (I am fairly confident I’m not straight). Sometimes I might even think I’m a mild form of transgender.
I would have come out much much sooner (and would probably be much much happier) if I knew exactly what I was. Instead I lead this double life, with most people assuming I’m straight and my gay friends assuming I’m gay (I’ve never actually lied about my sexuality, I’ve just never challenged these assumptions). Bisexuality seems to be such a rare thing that I don’t really feel comfortable broaching the subject with anyone. One day recently my Mum hinted that she had issues with people who claim to be bisexual, though she has no problem with gay people.
I guess my question is: what do I do? I’m fed up of hiding who I am but I’m also afraid of coming out as the “wrong” label. I’ve been waiting so long to see if I settled on an identity, but that doesn’t show any sign of happening any time soon.
I understand that you feel you are living a double life, if both your gay and straight friends are assuming your sexuality. We all question were we belong at some stage within our life, you are showing great courage and strength by posting this question on line.
The demand society puts on oneself to fit under certain label and fit into one sexual orientation can make life quite difficult for some bisexual people to accept their sexual orientation. At BeLonG To Youth Service we have many young people who access our service who identify as bisexual, equally we have young people access our service questioning what sexual orientation they identify as. BeLonG To provides a safe space where young people can question their sexual orientation.
Remember identifying as bisexual is as valid orientation as gay or heterosexual.
If you would like to discuss this further or would like more information please do not hesitate to contact BeLonG To Youth Service at Ph 01 6706223 or by email email@example.com.
All the best
It was like last week I think? I was staying over night in my best friends house and we were goin’ to sleep but ofcourse, we just ended up talking, as ya do. So I started talkin about my sexuality and I was talking about how I kind of liked girls (And of course she was cool with it, she’d accept me no matter what) but then I was talking about how I liked guys aswell.
I mean, it’s like if I walked into the street, I wouldn’t be looking at pretty girls first thing. I’d be looking at ‘hot’ guys.
I’ve tried telling myself that it’s just a phase or I can like boys but if I found a girl I liked then I should go for it. But, it’s as if I don’t feel confident, like I really need to know what I am. I’ve got loads of bisexual friends and I think they’re cool but I don’t want to classify myself as ‘bi’ like, I wouldn’t mind having sex with a girl, but I feel as though I could only have a proper relationship or get married with a man.
I’m pretty sure I like men more. But I’m not too sure. Advice?
First of all, I think it’s great that you felt able to talk to your friend about this and she sounds like a wonderful friend who supports you. Well done to both of you. Figuring out who you are and accepting yourself is the first step for anyone thinking about coming out. This first stage of discovering and exploring your sexuality can be a confusing time. If you are unsure of your sexual orientation, you may feel that you are attracted to the same sex, a different sex or both.
It’s OK to take as much time as you need to figure out whether you are attracted to women, women and men or just men – only you can decide what feels right for you. Regardless of what the answer is, it’s perfectly fine to be gay, lesbian, bisexual etc , not to define yourself by any of these labels or to be straight. It’s your sexual orientation and you have to take the time that you need – it’s not about labelling yourself for the sake of others.
If you need support around your sexual orientation then more information can be found on BeLonGTo‘s website about our youth groups and other supports. We are a professional youth service that provides safe, fun spaces and programs for those aged 14-23.
Good luck and I hope that helps!
All the best
I was wondering if you are aware of any mental health supports for gay men in Dublin. I’m 28 and have suffered on and off with anxiety and depression for years. I originally had a nervous breakdown when I was 18 after the guilt and shame of having a number of anonymous sexual encounters, but was probably susceptible before that. I had a lot of disturbing thoughts at that time and couldn’t understand what was going on in my head. I put myself through “Pray away the gay” counselling for some time after that which left me with some pretty messed up ideas about things. I’ve never really dealt with all that stuff properly since (probably because I don’t know of anyone else in Ireland who put themselves through that – it sounds more like the crazy kind of stuff that happens in America!). When I hit a low point, like I’m in at the moment, I just get sucked back into it all, and feel I haven’t made any progress at all. Essentially I’m wondering if you know of any suitable support groups or specialist counselling that might be beneficial. Great website, great to see this type of support around now. Many thanks
Thanks for getting in touch – I think it’s really great that you’re asking for help on this. It takes real guts to reach out about mental health issues and shows great strength of character, especially considering all your struggles with the issue before. I’m sorry that you felt so unhappy about your identity in the past, but I hope you’re starting to realise it’s perfectly ok to be Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender and that there are supports available that can help you come to terms with your sexual orientation and make friends who accept you for who you are.
In Dublin, the Gay Men’s Health Service (GMHS) would be a good port of call. They have a counselling service as well as personal development courses, and are based in Outhouse which runs a number of different social groups for gay men – these are incredibly important for forming friendships and supports for when you feel down or when you feel isolated. The GMHS can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’d like to read more about LGBT issues and mental health, there is a great booklet produced by BeLonG To, GLEN and the National Office for Suicide Prevention that gives some great information as well as more contact details for supports.
Good luck and I hope this helps!