More adults’ advice on growing up gay

Jun 22, 2005 at 12:00 am
What I wish I had known at 15 that I know now is that there are ways of approaching bondage and kink that could be loving, nurturing and healthy — a matter of trust and affection. It took me many years to find that the things (bondage, SM) which attracted me so much back then, and which I explored in solitude, fear, obsession, and terrible, crushing guilt, could be approached with a different attitude of opening myself up to trusting another man to be in control, in a firm but loving way. That completely changed my life.

I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a "leather community" in those days, and in the process of becoming part of that, I became part of the gay community as well, and finally came out at the ripe old age of 29.

Thank God for your column, Dan, because it lets so many people know that they’re not alone. If I’d read it back then I don’t know how things might have been different for me. —David in D.C.

I was an out 15-year-old gay boy five years ago, and boy do I have some advice for today’s 15 year-old gay boys!

1. Score all the curious "straight" boys you can because it gets harder to do so as you age, and it is super hot (sad but true).

2. Gay porn on your parents’ computer will be found.

3. After feeling so unloved for so long while in the closet, don’t "fall" for any guy who gives you the time of day.

4. In a few more years, half the boys you have crushes on will be out of the closet. Have some patience; masturbate often.

5. Condoms. Always.

6. Stop dreaming about getting into gay bars and work on becoming interesting, learned and in shape. Gay bars suck, and you will learn this soon enough.

7. Do not experiment on your fag hag because she is in love with you and sexual intimacy will fuck shit up.

And, drum roll …

9. Did I mention the condoms? Always. —Sage Twentysomething Fag Ivan In Canada

"All those football/track/baseball players you fooled around with in high school really aren’t gay (most of them). So in the following years, show a little class and don’t blithely mention "Oh, me and the quarterback used to suck each other off." And for God’s sake don’t bring it up at a reunion to their wives. They really weren’t gay. They were 15-year-old males. —Dave M.

My advice for gay boys …

1. Youth is status: Cute is status. Enjoy them while you’ve got ’em, but build some structure to your life so you’re not sitting around some bar at 40 badly wearing A&F and a face-lift, pretending you’re still young and cute.

2. A nice way to say no is to say "… but the chemistry’s just not there for me …." It’s blameless and usually true.

3. Get over rejection. Many gays are specific about the types of guys/fetishes they like: athletes/bears/leather. If you’re not what they’re looking for it’s pointless to feel rejected: It’s nothing to do with you.

4. You can’t say the wrong thing to the right person and you can’t say the right thing to the wrong person (really!), so say something to them and get it over with.

5. Before having unprotected sex, go ask some people who have AIDS what they would have done differently — (gay) life doesn’t end at 30, and it’s better enjoyed healthy.

6. Friends are the gay man’s family: Get good ones and treat ’em well —Steve

I am not a gay man, but I am a fag hag, and I was one through high school and college. For young gay teens, especially those new out of the closet and new on the scene: Older, gorgeous, successful gay men are not the answer to your woes. Do not fall prey to the folly of meeting someone 10,15 or 20 years older than you, hooking up with him and thinking he will lovingly usher you into gaydom. He won’t; he’ll make you feel "special," but he’s predatory, and he’ll fuck you and use you until he finds his next young hot piece of ass. So many of my gay male friends have been emotionally destroyed by this, even infected. Your best bet is to find someone close to your age, going through the same issues as you, and fumble through it together. If the gay clubs in your area let in underage kids, chances are good that there will be some other bewildered kid standing in the corner hoping someone will talk to him. Let it be you instead of some creepy old perv. —Wise Hag

Despite what some fools say, God loves you. He made you in his image, saw that you were good, and he has no desire to see you tear yourself apart trying to make yourself straight. —Mike H.

On smoking: Just remember, no one will ever not smooch you because you don’t smoke, but someone might not smooch you if you do. —RMD

I am a 24-year-old, femme black lesbian. I have been a practicing lesbian since I was around 15. My advice for teen lesbians looking for love is…

1. It’s all in the eyes. The girl that stares at you all the time, she’s gay too. If you aren’t attracted to her, make her your friend. If nothing else, you can be gay together. It sucks to be gay by yourself.

2. Pay attention to the girls in the locker room who stare at ceiling tiles, walls, or sneakers while everyone else gets dressed. Refer to No. 1 as needed.

3. If she utters the phrase "I am not gay, I just like you," head for the hills. Unless you like emotional trauma, then I say have a ball. Weekend lesbos are not cool.

4. Young lesbians are bibliophiles. Pay attention to a girl’s reading list. Fem-lit or titles like The Well of Loneliness can give you a clue to whether she is gay or not.

5. Short, clean fingernails for obvious reasons. I can’t stress this enough.

6. Be yourself. The very things that make you different are sexy. How can some one be interested in you if you aren’t interested in you? Take care of your mind, body, and spirit.

7. It is a terrible stereotype and I am almost ashamed to say it but … team sports are, well, you know. The tall, strong girl on the rugby/basketball/soccer team that you can’t keep your eyes off? Let’s just say she probably knows exactly how many ceiling tiles there are in the locker room.

8. Sex is fun and natural if a person is ready to enjoy it, but don’t rush into anything. —Black Femme Goddess

I spent the majority of my formative queer years as an overweight, moderately depressed homo who labored under the belief that all gay men were the vain, image-obsessed bitches that parade nightly through the streets of West Hollywood. Little did I know that most men don’t look like that, and if they do they certainly don’t stay looking like that for long. Men get guts, men lose the hair on their heads and grow more everywhere else.

But worse than not knowing that the "image" wasn’t reality was the resulting belief that no one would ever find me attractive since I didn’t look like that. Well I’m here to tell you kids that there’s a lot of men out there (and I mean a lot) that like big guys, hairy guys, down-to-earth guys who don’t shop at Diesel or faux-tan. Men who don’t tweeze, men who don’t have a queer-eye. I don’t need highlights or to lose 50 lbs to have a good time, or to get laid constantly. Bears have saved my queer life, and restored my faith in the diversity of our community. —Sincerely, Grinning and Bearing It

Be hot. Did you hear me? Be hot. Exercise, eat right, take up a sport, be fit, never smoke, always smell good, stay clean and dress well (but keep it classic—a gorgeous body looks best in the simplest clothes while an ugly one doesn’t look good in anything). People will tell you all kinds of shit about being "interesting" and other such nonsense, but trust me guys (and this will be true your whole life): If you’re hot, gay men will find you simply fucking fascinating no matter what you say or do, even if you’re a total vapid blank of a human being. Just look at Ashton Kutcher. Hotness will give you the upper hand forever and you will eventually have more sex and life partners to choose from than you can shake a stick at. People will balk at this because it shouldn’t be true, but trust me guys — please! — it is. A guy can remain hot well into his 40s if he tries and, in rare cases, into his 50s; long before that you will have chosen someone from the throngs at your feet with whom you wouldn’t mind spending a few decades. —Older, Wiser, Hotter

Gay guys with bodies of death and foo-foo hair and expensive wardrobes may look like they have it all, but they often live in terror that their pretty exteriors will crumble and everyone will discover the empty lives inside. Don’t be those guys. You can still have a body of death and foo-foo hair, but have a mind of intelligence and a personality of kindness to go with it—and you will be popular everywhere you go. —Innuendo Is Not An Italian Suppository

What I wish I had known at 15: Get laid. Don’t be shy. Come on strong (reasonably strong, that is). Find the cutest faggy boy in school and follow him around. But don’t, don’t throw yourself at a guy over and over. If a guy rejects you, don’t take it personally — and move on. And never, ever forget: Sex is just sex. It doesn’t mean he loves you. —Still Sorting It Out At 28

You can be the most loyal, devoted intelligent, and dependable friend, but if the dude is straight it’s all for nothing. —A Separate Peace

Here’s the advice I wish I’d heard when I was a slightly effeminate, 15-year-old gay guy: Relax. There is a place for you and a guy for you. I’m now 34 and I’ve been with the most beautiful man in the world for 12 years. We’ve had an incredible romantic life and we’re still totally in love. That rigid insistence on "straight-acting" men you will notice in gays is a kind of neurosis; they will never let their fucking hair down, so just ignore them. Embrace your campy side. And here’s your first tip: Joan Crawford rules.

Hang out with straight people too. Surprisingly, a lot of great people in the world are heterosexual, and they just happened to be born that way. —Ben

Advice for 15-year-old queers: Don’t buy into the stereotype. If you hate sports because you hate them, that’s fine. But if you don’t hate them, play one. Tennis, soccer, baseball. You’ll be amazed at the confidence you gain from learning to play a sport, even if you’re not great at it. Plus, all gay guys have jock fantasies. Finally, understand gay issues and as soon as you’re old enough, vote like your life depends on it. It does. —P.

I’m a twentysomething bisexual girl. What do I wish I’d known at 15? Not to be so terrified of making a move on a girl. I pined away for various female friends for a long time before I finally just asked one of them if she wanted to make out. Not only did we hook up, but she told me she’d been wanting to sleep together for two years! Just go for it. The worst that can happen is that your crush will say no. —Happy Bisexual

You’re not looking at naked pictures of men to compare size. But it’s sometimes easier to tell your parents that. —Joe

Not all lesbians have always thought of themselves as men, and not all gay men have always thought of themselves as women. If either is the case for you, you might be transgender. Realizing this earlier might help you deal with your body and eventually lead to getting more of whatever kind of tail you’re after. —Older Tranny

Here’s some advice that every 15-year-old gay boy (and most of the older ones too) need: Do not, I repeat, do not hit on straight men after they’ve told you that they are straight and not curious. It’s not attractive, it doesn’t work, and it’s incredibly rude. I’m a straight guy who gets hit on all the time by gay boys, and most of the time it isn’t even flattering, it’s just pathetic. —J.Ja

If your parents try to send you to a therapist who says you’re sick or wrong or confused, you don’t have to talk to them. You can sit and stare at the floor or read a magazine for an hour. Just because they’re an adult with a certificate on the wall doesn’t mean they know what the hell they’re talking about. You’re entitled to talk to a counselor who values you for who you are. Find a school counselor, a support group, or look on the web for someone who is gay-friendly and see if you can visit them. Or see if they’ll see you pro bono (for free or very little money). In many states you can consent to your own private mental health treatment well before you leave high school.

Oh, and it gets better. It really does. I promise. —Sheila A.

I realize I’m late in responding to your call for advice to 15-year-old girls, but here’s my letter anyway.

What I wish I’d know when I was 15 years old was the fact that there is such a thing as asexuality and asexual people. I’ve only just connected with a Web site on the subject and the lights went on. Now I understand myself much better and I understand why sex never did anything for me, either with women or men.

In case you’re interested — the Web site is for a group called AVEN — Asexual Visibility and Education Network. The URL is —Finally At Peace With Myself Send letters to