Uncle Charlie’s Checklist

Okay.  So you think you’re lesbian, gay, or bi and are scared or unsure of what to do about it.  Or maybe you are sure about it and you’re cool with that, but now someone else has found out and the excrement has struck the rotary air impeller and you wonder what to do about it.  Believe it or not, your story happens to someone every day.  Here are some things to think about and suggestions for where you might go from here: 

Don’t Panic.  You aren’t the only person who has ever been in this situation, and you don’t have to face it alone. 

There’s Nothing Wrong With You!  Perhaps the most important thing to do is to know that you are OK just the way you are.  God doesn’t hate you (there are lots of gay-friendly religious resources out there) and you aren’t sick.  No matter how alone you may feel right now, there are lots of us who have stood exactly where you are now and lived to tell the tale.  And even if you can’t see us, we know you and many others like you are out there, and you are in our thoughts and prayers. 

Take Stock.  There are resources available to you, even though you may not know what they are right now.  Start by making a list of people you know who are aware of your situation and are supportive, or who may not know the story, but whom you think are likely to be supportive.  Most large cities have community organizations that can help you and your family.  There are even youth groups in quite a few places.  If you haven’t a clue about what’s out there, you can visit these Web sites: 

Put in your telephone area code or ZIP code, your gender and age, and it will generate a list of the resources closest to you. 
Resources in Canada.
Queer Resources Directory (QRD)
A giant list of lots and lots of information and links.
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)
They have chapters all over, and it’s not just for parents.  You always have a home in PFLAG.
Charlie’s Gay Resources Page
Click above or at the top or bottom of this page to return to the les/bi/gay resources section of this site. 

Here are some other places to look for resources: 

Usenet news
The soc.support.youth.gay-lesbian-bi newsgroup is a good place to connect with others like yourself. 
e-mail lists
There are lots of e-mail lists you can subscribe to.  People send messages to one central address, and the message gets copied to everyone who is a subscriber.  Check out QueerNet for one set of lists.  The QRD also has a List of Lists that’s worth a look.  My favorite list is called PFLAG-Talk (where you can get the support you might find at a PFLAG meeting).  Several Youth Lists are run by and for queer youth from 13-17, 17-21, and 21-25 years old and for straight youth up to age 25.  There is an additional list for youth living with HIV/AIDS.  These are strictly for youth only and nobody over 25 is allowed.

If you are worried about someone else reading your e-mail, there are free, Web-based mail services where you can get a private e-mail box that is not connected with the username and password you use to log on to the Internet.  Hotmail and OperaMail are two of these.
Phone Book
Look under “Gay” in the Yellow Pages, and “Gay”, “Lesbian”, “Bisexual” or “Lambda” in the White Pages.  If you are in a small town and don’t find anything in your own book, go to the library and look in the directory for the nearest large city.  You can search national white and yellow pages on the Web at Switchboard.  Under “Find a Business,” choose “Search by Category.”  In “Business Category” enter “Gay and Lesbian Organizations” and enter your town and state.  If yours is a small town and nothing comes up, try searching “near” your town or the nearest large city—or try it with just your state and no city.
Public Library
Unless you live in a very small town with a gossipy librarian, you should be able to find some information here.  Many libraries now have public Internet terminals where you can surf the Web and visit the resources listed above.  Hint: Some libraries’ catalog terminals can use a text-based program called Lynx (links, get it?) to surf the Web.  You can’t see graphics, but you can read information.  The librarian at the Reference desk is the person to see when you need information you can’t find by yourself.  Hard to get to your library?  The Internet Public Library is always open.  (Look under “Subject Collections—Social Science—Gender & Sexuality.”)  And like any library, they’ve got a Reference Desk.  So go ahead.  Ask the reference librarian.  It’s what they live for! 

Make a Plan  After you have rooted out all the information you can find and you know what’s available to you, talk to people you trust—these might include your family, your friends and your e-mail pen pals—and decide what you want to do next.  You might not need to do anything right now, especially if you are young and living at home, or otherwise dependent on someone else for financial support or a place to live.  If you aren’t being threatened with the loss of house and home as it stands now, you might be better off just to take things slowly and plan for the future instead of acting immediately. 

Even if you are threatened in some immediate way, you still need to be in control of your situation as much as possible.  Let others you trust know what that situation is and seek their advice.  Arm yourself with information.  Then see whether that information can be helpful to anyone else involved.  Parents, especially, may need only to learn that they aren’t alone either.  Through PFLAG and the QRD you can find books and information that will be helpful to those who may have trouble with what you have to tell them. 

Make Friends Like Yourself.  It is possible to meet other people without going to bars or clubs.  Some suggestions that have worked for me include volunteering and church.  It sounds stereotypical, I know, but volunteering for an AIDS charity or for an arts organization can be a good way to meet other les/bi/gay folk.  And not all churches teach that gay = sin.  Unitarian Universalist churches, United Church of Christ, and the Metropolitan Community Church are gay-friendly as a matter of denominational policy (they ordain gay ministers and do gay weddings).  Many congregations (especially in large cities) of some other denominations (Lutheran, Methodist) are also welcoming (call them and ask—you don’t have to give your name).  There are a number of gay-friendly Reform Jewish congregations as well, and if you look in the QRD, you’ll find even more spiritual options.  Getting involved at a congregation that welcomes les/bi/gay folk is another great way to meet nice people. 

The Internet can also provide opportunities, but you need to be a good bit more cautious.  There are not-nice people out there, those who pretend to be someone very different from who they actually are, those who have “only one thing” on their minds, and those who will try to find out who you are so they can “save” you (i.e. religious crusaders).  There are also tons of really cool folks you’d be glad to know.  Just be slow in giving out your real name, phone number, or anything more than your e-mail address until you really feel that you know someone.  And be sure that if they ask for information about you, that they are just as forthcoming about themselves.  If you ever do decide to meet somebody in person whom you first met on line, make the first meeting in a public place, bring a friend, and be sure someone who isn’t going with you knows whom you’re meeting and where, and what time you’ll be back home. 

With what’s listed above and on my Web pages, you ought to be able to find the help you need by yourself.  But if something doesn’t seem to be working, or you just want to ask me something, feel free to contact me and I’ll try to get you an answer. 

Copyright © 1997, 2007 by Charles E. Galvin Jr.  All rights reserved.

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