Dr. Allison Bingham, Founding Director of Affirmation's Youth Services|
Finding Someone Safe to Talk To
by Allison Bingham
One of the most important things you can do for yourself is to decide to talk to someone when you are confused about your sexuality and feelings. Don't keep holding all this inside or you will burst. This message is about finding a safe adult you can talk to.
Remember, there will always be some adults that you can talk to in a safe setting without feeling scared or confused. Remember you are NOT alone. Thousands of teenagers and young adults across the country are questioning their sexual orientation and don't yet have a firm answer. Sometimes people go well into their 20's and 30's before they really understand this part of themselves. The important thing is that you are asking, and wanting to talk. It might take a little while to find the right person, but DON"T GIVE UP, someone is out there waiting for you to approach them.
Below are some helpful tips in finding safe people to talk to whether its your Bishop, Teacher's Quorum leader, MIA President, parents, some other family member, a teacher, or some other adult that you know and trust. The most important things in looking for someone to talk to include the following:
If THEY AREN'T giving you these things, they CAN'T HEAR YOU, try someone else. (Source: Free Your Mind: The Book for Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Youth - and their Allies, by Ellen Bass and Kate Kaufman, HarperPerennial, New York, 1996)
- Do you feel safe talking to them? You deserve to be heard and treated with respect, who are sensitive, and nonjudgmental.
- Are they good listeners? People you talk to should do a lot of listening at first. People will try to give you advice, but remember, YOU GET TO DECIDE, if its useful for you, use it, if its not. You are not obligated to use it.
- Are they trustworthy with confidentiality? Be clear in advance that you want things kept private. Professional counselors are required to maintain confidentiality except if you are in clear danger.
- Are they free of hidden agendas? No one should be trying to coerce you, convert you, cure you, come on to you sexually, or take control of your life in any way. Understanding and good listening should come with NO strings attached. The only thing they should respect in turn is mutual respect.
- Are they positive, encouraging and affirming? You should leave a conversation feeling positive and good. You should leave feeling good about yourself, and realizing that many young people like you are struggling with the same issues.
Below is an excerpt from an email I sent a young woman that can provide some helpful guidelines. I wrote:
Where can you find someone to talk to who can provide you with the "good listening skills I mentioned above?
A start is thinking about others in your family, your ward, friends, school, that you can approach with the above items in mind. It is important that you know you have plenty of literature/information at your disposal to give them if need be. Much of this can be pulled off the Internet and distributed.
Are there others in your family you can talk to? An older sister, aunt, cousin, uncle, perhaps?
Your bishop, young adult director, MIA teacher, might be places to start.
Another good place is school, a teacher, counselor, youth group leader. Many schools across the country are starting youth after school programs for youth who are questioning their sexuality. I'll give you the national address later to see if there is a club in your area.
You can go to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) to see if there is a club in your area.
Many young people or their parents also seek out a professional counselor to help them sort and talk things out and work together. They too should meet the above "listening" criteria. If need be, we can assist you in finding a good counselor.
So be thinking about other people/adults you might want to approach.
There is a group called Family Fellowship that is run by Mormon parents who have a gay/questioning family member. Some of their stories can be found in this website.
They can also be reached by email and are a GREAT resource for your parents if you choose to talk to them. Go to this site and look under "resources" and they can be found. They have a newsletter and quarterly meetings in the Utah area:
PFLAG is another group of parents and family members. They are active across the U.S. also have a lot of information for parents who have a child that is questioning their sexual orientation. They have chapters all over the country and are very safe places to go. You can also see if there is a chapter in your area.
Many, many young people and their parents attend PFLAG meetings and find alot of positive support.
There are other places that may be available in your community that we can help you find (your own listing of safe places/adults).
"A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere. Before him [before her], I may think aloud."|
Ralph Waldo Emerson