Gay & Confused Teens
By Donnie McKinney c 2006
It disturbs me that the suicide rate is highest among gay teens. It disturbs me that many of the emails I get asking for help come from teens who are confused and sometimes even depressed by their sexual feelings, mostly because of what they have “learned” from those around them.
The small percentage of teens who are gay usually know it. That doesn't make it any easier for them in today's society, however, and some of the following information may be helpful to them in dealing with other people. However, the vast majority of teens are more "confused" than gay. They think they might be gay, but don't know for sure. Many are depressed by the thought that they might be gay. This discussion is primarily for the latter group.
I've been trying to figure out what I think about the "gay" thing for a while. It seems to me that one of the biggest problems for a teen with questions is that there is no accurate information available to them. All they ever see are the extremists on one hand, who are the "gay pride" bunch marching in parades in weird costumes or few clothes trying to legalize gay marriage, etc. On the other hand they see "religious" people getting red faced and screaming about homosexuals being an “abomination.” There are no "normal" gay people for him to see. There are many people, lawyers and doctors and other "normal" folk, who don't parade around with signs, but are in fact gay and living “normal” lives. They just don't get out in public and talk about it.
That lack of credible information causes most teens with questions to feel alone and “different.” There is no one to talk to. They can’t risk letting anyone know they even had a “gay” thought. They’ve seen the Matthew Shepperd news stories. They’ve seen fellow students harassed and ostracized after saying they are gay. They’ve heard comments from their own friends about “fags” and “queers.” They usually don’t even know if they’re gay, so they definitely aren’t going to say anything to someone else. That seems to be the most prevalent situation.
That knowledge void seems to cause most teens that have sexual thoughts about the same sex to experience a lot of confusion and often even depression. The thought of being “gay” tends to scare him to death. One thought about someone of the same sex tends to make him to try to slap a label on his forehead and jump over some imaginary line. No one has ever told them that most people have a thought about someone of the same sex at some point in their lives. Teenage boys seem to have the most problem with this. Teenage boys think about sex on average about once every six seconds. It doesn’t take much exercise in logic to realize that those thoughts are going to run the gamut.
Because of this, I think it’s vitally important to help teens understand that they're not alone. I get emails regularly from teens who are confused about their sexual thoughts. Emails I get asking for help on this subject are predominately male. Girls don’t seem to get as confused for some reason, or at least don’t ask for help as often. I get a lot more emails from girls than guys, but I get most of the sexual confusion questions from guys. Most studies I have researched indicate that the number of males who "think" they are gay is about double the number of females, but my own experience with teens indicates that the confusion is more of a male phenomenon. For that reason, most of my comments will relate to confused teenage guys.
I am close to concluding that a predominately heterosexual society is, perhaps unknowingly, responsible for pushing teens towards homosexuality. Without any real knowledge about how the human mind works, especially teenage boys’ minds, teens are left to jump to conclusions based on the inaccurate information they have received. They have been led to believe that thinking a sexual thought about another guy means they are “gay,” when in fact it often means nothing of the sort.
I'm pretty much convinced that about 88-92% of all people think about someone of the same sex at some time or another. The well-known Kinsey study showed that about 4-6% have never had a thought about anyone of the opposite sex and about the same percentage have never had a thought about anyone of the same sex. Everybody else falls somewhere between those two extremes. Kinsey’s study, outlined in his book Sexual Behavior in the Human Male published in 1953, has been praised by some and vilified by others. However, my personal observations indicate that at least his 0-7 scale used to illustrate this particular point isn’t far off the mark.
All that is simply say that many normal teens are becoming confused by something that is actually normal, but is scary and confusing to them because of their lack of knowledge. If they aren’t “gay” then they don't need to jump over some imaginary line based on faulty information. Although I certainly do not portray my own observations as an accurate statistical sample, I have observed that almost all teenage boys have a sexual thought about another guy at some time or another. Among the teens I have talked with personally about this, not a single one has failed to confirm that this is true. The same is true of most all of the teens contacting me by email.
I think it's important to understand that all the “rhetoric” on both sides of this issue is probably misguided. If that is the case, then it is important for teens to stop beating themselves up over their thoughts. It doesn't make them "bad" or "weird" or any other thing. It's just their thoughts. Everybody has thoughts about things that they think they're the only ones who think. They're not the only ones.
The jury is still out on whether there would even be a homosexual discussion if religion wasn’t involved. As a Christian I have attempted to look at this subject from an objective standpoint, and not be influenced by what I have been told all my life. There are several areas that concern me.
The first problem I have with Christians “condemning” homosexuals is that it simply isn’t our place to judge anyone. That’s God’s job. James 4:12 explains very clearly, “There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?” Romans 14:4 says, "Who are you to judge another’s servant?" The Bible is pretty clear on this point.
There are a number of solid biblical reasons we should be totally nonjudgmental toward other human beings, and the following link illustrates many of them. On Being Totally Nonjudgmental This is true regardless of whether one decides that the bible says homosexuality is a “sin.” My own, hopefully “objective,” study of the biblical references used to condemn homosexuality brings up some question marks about that.
Studying human conditioning for thirty years has taught me that almost everything we think about ourselves, our thought patterns, learned responses, emotions, etc., is mostly fictitious and erroneous. We “absorb” ideas and thought patterns from other people and events in our lives, and file them away in our subconscious minds based on our own interpretations and reactions to them. We don’t normally think. We simply react. We develop learned responses. I think this applies to the subject of homosexuality very clearly. Once one looks at it objectively in a biblical light, there is no other explanation for the vehemence with which many Christians condemn homosexuality. The vehemence is a learned reaction.
The most frequent automatic response I hear from most Christians is that “it is an abomination,” even though many don’t even know where that statement is found in the Bible. What exactly is an abomination? I have to admit that I have no idea what the writer of Leviticus meant when he said “abomination.” However, nearby verses might give us a clue. Lev. 11:10 says, “But all in the seas or in the rivers that do not have fins and scales, all that move in the water or any living thing which is in the water, they are an abomination to you.” Catfish don’t have any scales. Neither do shrimp, lobster, crab, or scallops. Hmmm.
That one short biblical verse presents several questions if one decides to “think” objectively instead of “react” based on human conditioning:
1. To Whom was Leviticus written and why? The book was written to the Jewish people after they had been taken out of Egypt and before they went into the Promised Land. The Jews had no idea about how to worship. All they had seen was the endless number of gods in Egypt. The place they were going was no better. Leviticus was written to the Levites, who were the priests, in an effort to teach them how to worship God. People “worshiped” with ceremonies that included sexual orgies, men and women all mixed together. Was Leviticus even talking about homosexual orientation? Or, was it talking about how “not” to worship?
2. Are we bound by the “law"? Leviticus is all about Jewish law. While He was on earth in the form of a human being, God said, “All the law can be summed up in one word. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.” I think He was telling us what He’s all about. Unconditional love. Unconditional love means being totally nonjudgmental. Jesus (God) never said one word about someone loving another person of the same sex. He never once mentioned the “abomination” that Leviticus talks about. He did, however, have a lot to say about the “religious” people, the Pharisees, who were judging everybody else and thinking they were superior.
Instead, He made a new covenant. The new covenant didn’t relate to the “law” that the Jewish people thought they had to be perfect under to get to heaven. God knows we aren’t perfect. He created us humans.
3. Why do we pick and choose parts to obey? How can people quote the verse saying that it is an “abomination” for a man to lie with a man, even if it isn’t taken out of context, and ignore the other “laws” spelled out in the same book of the Bible? Good question. I don’t have the answer. I do think it is a bit inconsistent.
4. What would Jesus do? I think Jesus would say what He did while He was on earth. He would tell us to accept Him for who He is and love other people unconditionally. That’s it. I’ve read every recorded word God said while He was on earth. I think Jesus would be appalled by His Church making a whole group of people feel afraid to come into a church to worship Him.
That’s just one of a dozen or so verses normally pulled out of the Bible to condemn homosexuality. Without going into all of them in detail, I just want to note that I’ve studied all of them and their context. I think one could make a case either for or against homosexuality being a “sin” by using some logic. The problem is that most people have already decided what they believe before they read these verses.
One of the verses is a statement by Paul, in Romans 14, which lists a number of “sins” that differentiate between people who know God and those who don’t. He’s not talking about Christians. He’s talking about non-Christians. What he actually said depends on how one translates the original text. The word “homosexual” found in some translations wasn’t even a word until about a hundred years ago. The first Bible translation the word homosexul appeared in was the RSV about fifty years ago, two thousand years after Paul wrote the book of Romans.
Victor Alexander, who translated the Ancient Aramaic texts, Victor Alexander's Website which were preserved by the Church of the East over the centuries without input from theologians, said the words were actually, “those who have intercourse with young boys.” Hmm. That’s a lot different from “homosexual.” I have to admit that I don’t know Greek or Aramaic. I asked Victor, though. He said it is very clear what it says. If that’s true, and I have no reason to think it's not true, then a lot of people might have incorrectly relied on a flawed translation. It doesn't mean what they think it means at all. There are similar problems with other verses quoted by “religious” people. I just think a bit of rationality is in order.
I think it’s possible that "religious” people might be causing more harm than good. It is important to separate someone loving another person of the same sex from the visible lifestyle normally associated with homosexuality today. Nowhere in the Bible does God say anything to condemn love between two people of the same sex.
However, that does not negate the things He did say. Fornication is fornication, no matter who is involved. If the Bible says that the fruit of ones actions is an indication of whether he knows God, then perhaps the Southern Baptist Convention could better do God’s work by introducing people to God, rather than judging people by protesting at Disney World. Oops, am I being judgmental?
I think a lot of this vehemence has to come from the repulsive public displays in some parts of the gay sector. It is scary. Peoples' fear that moral decay will take over the whole country is real. No one wants children exposed to debauchery. However, all gay people aren’t running around with signs and embarrassing parents and spreading aids. “Regular” people who love someone of the same sex aren’t in the public eye as a role model.
In the case of teens, is it possible that all the rhetoric they have heard, especially if they’re Christians, only causes them more confusion and guilt when they have those normal sexual thoughts. If they know God, then they are confused about their own thoughts based on what they’ve heard all their lives in church. If they don’t know God then they simply think Christians are a bunch of religious nuts. Either way, no one is being helped. A little rational knowledge might be more beneficial than knee-jerk reactions.
THE TEEN MIND
I haven’t heard a similar statistic about girls, but studies show that teenage boys think about sex on average about once every six seconds. That’s just the way their minds work. They get aroused over anything and nothing. They exude sexual energy. At the same time, they are for the most part hanging around with other guys during their early teens when they are figuring out who they are. They are curious about whether they are “normal.” They wonder how they “stack up” with other guys. In the midst of all this, most of them will have some kind of sexual thought about another guy at some point. That’s pretty normal. But, it's really confusing when it happens.
All they’ve been told is that they aren’t “supposed” to do that. Confusion sets in. Based on the only input they’ve had, they start wondering whether they are “normal.” They fear being homosexual. Society has instilled that thought into them. They’ve been preached at about it being a “sin” to think such thoughts on the one hand, and they’ve been indoctrinated by the gay influences on the other hand that being gay is caused by a gene and that they have no choice. They are confused. Who wouldn’t be?
The problem is that there is no one to talk to. They can’t possibly tell any of their friends about what they’re thinking because they’re afraid to. They’ve seen how “gay” teens are harassed and ostracized. Often, this thought process weaves its way around to thinking that they have to jump over some imaginary line and be “gay.” That’s hogwash. But, where are they going to hear that most of the other guys they know have had the same thoughts they’ve had? I believe this is the biggest cause of confusion about sexuality in today’s teen society.
It’s difficult to ferret out the truth on this issue because almost every “study” is conducted by people who have already formed an opinion. However, based on my own observations working with confused teens, I think the theory that many gay teens had poor relationships with their fathers is at least worthy of consideration. There are exceptions, but they are rare. Without a decent male role model there does seem to be a tendency to seek out male companionship to fill that void. If teens that have this influence in their lives were aware of what was causing it, then they might be able to decide for themselves what they really want in their lives. They don’t usually recognize this factor, however.
A teen simply doesn’t understand that his father, assuming he's even around, is like he is because of his own conditioning. A father's inability to express love may have no relation to the fact that he does love him. Many men just never learned how to express love. If the teen could reshape his thinking to simply accept his father exactly as he is, then his whole thinking in this area would change. The problem is that teens don’t know that.
Genes? I've never been convinced of the "gene" theory about gayness. I don’t profess to know much about genes. I just haven't personally seen any evidence of it, and I've seen a lot of evidence of other influences. I’ve only talked to one or two teens who said they have never had a single sexual thought about someone of the opposite sex. Without knowing their background in detail, I can only take their statements on face value. Most teens tend to have sexual thoughts about the opposite sex at some point.
I think it’s even possible that some guys can be "nudged" into thinking more about guys than girls because of other influences. Sometimes it can be something as simple as shyness. Girls scare them. They are insecure talking to them. So, thinking about guys, who are like them and easier to understand, is easier and more comfortable and safe. Keep in mind that a teenage boy thinks about sex on the average about once every six seconds. They are going to think about "something" sexual. If girls are "scary" then guys might fill the void.
THE BIGGER QUESTION
Regardless of the reason, there are a lot of teens who are gay. The bigger question is, ”What now?” I’ve read about people changing. It doesn’t happen very often. Is someone who ends up being “gay” to be separated from society? Does "who" someone loves change everything else in their lives? Other than fear and other emotions that they have picked up through human conditioning, does it really make any difference? I doubt it.
Back to “religion” for a moment, what if someone does make an iron-clad case that homosexuality is a sin? I don’t think that will ever happen, but suppose it did. Didn’t God make it pretty clear that there is no differentiation between “sins”? Sin is sin. Why are religious people so vehement about homosexuality to the point that gay people are afraid to come into a church, when liars, fornicators, adulterers and other “sinners” are welcomed? Isn’t every human being a sinner?
There seems to be a double standard relating to homosexuals. Prostitutes and drug addicts are welcomed, along with all the regular liars and fornicators sitting in the pews each week, to come into the church and meet God. Homosexuals seem to be expected to change their ways before they are welcomed. That doesn’t seem like something Jesus would do. All God said He required is to accept Him for who He is and love others unconditionally. Unconditional love means being totally nonjudgmental. Yet, the church seems judgmental in this area. I think we’re confused.
IF YOU’RE A CONFUSED TEEN, WHAT CAN YOU DO?
If you are gay, the question is more how you are going to live your life. I'm not so sure about the "coming out" thing. In my opinion, as long as you and God are o.k. with whoever you are, it's nobody else's business. I do know it's hard being a gay Christian teen in today's church. But, that's an individual decision. If you are just a "confused" teen, there are some other things to consider.
Based on my experiences working with teens, if you don't want to be "gay," then I suggest doing a few things. First, stop beating yourself up for having a thought about other guys. You need to understand that almost everyone does that to some degree or another. It’s normal. It just hasn’t been discussed in public, so you don’t know it’s normal.
If you want, you can start making a conscious effort to change your dominant thinking. When you find yourself getting carried away in fantasy land, consciously stop and go do something else. Your mind cannot think about but one thing at a time, and as long as you're doing something else you will not be thinking about that. You can change your dominant thinking through habit and effort.
You need to understand that you have a choice whenever you're thinking things that make you scared about who you are. At any given moment you can either continue the thought pattern or consciously chang your thoughts. It's just one moment at a time, but it adds up over time. You become what you think about most of the time.
If you want to have a relationship with a girl, start pursuing girls you find attractive. Are you a bit shy? If so, keep that in mind. Work on it. Take risks. If you hadn't ever been "turned on" by a girl, then it would be different. But, if you have just been rejected in the past, it's an entirely different problem that needs work. You may have just wandered off in the opposite direction for many reasons, most of which you don't even know about. This could be a long process, but if you're motivated to be married and have children, for example, it will be worth the effort
I know from personal experience; as well as observing other people, that people are happier and more fulfilled if they know God. There is a higher power above our own capabilities. A teen who wants to change his life can turn the whole thing over to God and let Him handle it.
I was sitting in church one Sunday thinking, "I wonder if all the Baptists here know that there is a gay guy singing in the choir." It just struck me as funny. Then, at a service a few weeks later, the same guy came down in front of God and everybody and said he had decided he didn't want to be "gay," and he knew that God had changed him. He said he was not going to sleep with men in the future. He actually said all that in front of everybody.
Anyway, it appears that he did have a complete change in his life.
The point is if you know God He can perform miraculous change in your life. Some people who are very religious still have a hard time talking to God about this sort of thing. Keep in mind that He knows you're human. He created you. Nothing surprises Him, because He knows what you’re thinking before you do. Nothing makes Him think less of you. God definitely has unconditional love. He's the only one who is capable of unconditional love. Don’t let guilty feelings keep you away from God. Talk to Him!
The only thing I know for sure about teens worrying about whether they are “gay” is that there is a lot of confusion. No teen needs to slap a label on his head and jump over some imaginary line and think he is “gay’ without some facts and knowledge that he is rarely exposed to. This problem needs to be addressed, but everyone seems so polarized on the issue that it is nearly impossible to even have an intelligent discussion.
Go To Self-Help for Teens Section