More than anything else, the teens who write to me want to know if they're normal. Here's a letter I received this past week from a teenaged girl:
I've here recently came out to my mom about being gay. the reason i didn't come two years ago was that i may have been sexually confused. i was just curious if it's posible to be sexually confused?
As I usually do in response to such letters, I did my best to be reassuring. Here's what I wrote:
It is so totally normal to be sexually confused. We live in a society that has put our sexual feelings into well-defined categories when our sexuality is in fact a very complicated and often fluid thing. The more I've read over the years the more I think we do a terrible injustice to young people by saying that you can be straight, gay, bi, etc. and then expect everyone to declare. Your experience is completely normal. All best, Eric
What these teens are looking for beyond reassurance is to meet other kids like themselves and to hear about the experiences of other young people. Despite how much progress we've made, so many of these kids are isolated. They're all alone in their own heads.
This is why I'm really pleased that one of my favorite non-profits, Youth Communication, in New York City, has issued a new edition of Out With It: Gay and Straight Teens Write About Homosexuality
(I like the book so much that when I was asked by Youth Communication's Executive Director to write a new introduction, I didn't hesitate.)
There are so few places where teens can read about the experiences of other teens. And in this case, the essays are written by minority urban teens, a group of young people that we almost never hear from. The essays are heart-warming, inspiring, and just plain normal.