Watching Out For Yourself In On-Line Relationships

Tips For The Gay Teen

by the National Coalition for Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Youth

We’ve grown increasingly concerned about the welfare of gay teens on electronic services such as AOL and CompuServe due to several
instances where young guys have been taken advantage of (usually sexually) by others (usually older, in-the-closet, gay men) arranging
meetings. In response to this, we’ve put together a brief set of "guidelines" that we believe you should consider protecting yourself from getting hurt.

People Are Not Always What They Say They Are

Electronic services allow people freedoms that the real world does not. Forty-year-old man can become a teenager again. Wedding bands
aren’t at all visible in the on-line world. And everyone’s body tends to become thin and smaller when they log on (well, not all areas get smaller).

And if you’re a gay teen, you’re most likely still in the closet, perhaps just coming to acknowledge and accept your orientation. It can be liberating to find other guys on here just like you. And you can get some badly needed support when you find someone to talk to that understands what you’re facing, and can relate their own experiences.

All of these things combine to make it easy to start trusting someone on-line. Perhaps overtrusting, in some cases. You may decide at some
point to get together with your on-line friend, in the real world. It’s not only cheaper, but it’s also nice just to have someone to talk to and look at them face-to-face.

But remember, just as in the real world, appearances can be deceiving. There are people who log on simply to find sex partners. There’s nothing wrong with that. Consensual sex between adults, and consensual sex between younger people, is fine.

We know many gay teens that are looking primarily for friendship, acceptance and understanding. And many of them are going through trying times, and sometimes don’t think as highly of themselves as they should. That happens a lot due to the homophobia that surrounds us every day. So it can be nice when someone, who knows you’re gay, likes you for the total person you are.

The problem is that some people think that everyone is a potential sex partner, simply because you share the same sexual orientation. And they know that they can manipulate a gay teen, playing on your sense of wanting to be wanted. Or convincing you that certain sexual activities are what being gay is all about.

Sometimes, some guys will try to talk you into doing things you might later feel badly about. So it’s important to remember that your body is yours and yours alone, and you have the right to stop things whenever you feel uncomfortable.

Be Careful If You Meet

If you do decide to get together with an on-line friend at some point in time, then make sure you proceed with caution. Do not go meet someone at their hotel or their house. Meet only in a very safe environment, such as a shopping mall, or a fast-food restaurant. Get to know them in a safe setting first, for a few times, before you ever decide to go to a more private location.

To some extent, you need to spend time building up trust all over again, because things are different in the real world than they are on-line. And turning off your computer can’t simply erase the implications of a mistake.

If you do decide to meet someone, let your family or friend know where you’ll be going (you can do this without telling them who you’re meeting or what you’ll be talking about, if that’s something you want to keep to yourself). Use your own transportation, or make sure you have money reserved to get back, in case things don’t go as you hope and you want to make an earlier exit.

And if you ever do wind up in a private environment, then remember again that your body is yours. You are in control of it. If you don’t want to be touched, make that known. If something starts going farther than you like, past the point where you feel comfortable, then speak up.

If you’re truly with a friend, they’ll appreciate hearing that, and they’ll respect your wishes. Friends are like that. It’s when someone does
something against your will that you know they’re not really your friend. Don’t worry about making them unhappy with you, or be afraid that they’ll like you less. Don’t do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable; after all, you have to wake up with yourself every day.

And if something happens to you that you think is harassment, assault or rape, then you need to take some action. Tell someone you trust. Then get help. You’ll find crisis-intervention and violence assistance lines listed in most telephone books, and you can also call directory assistance (4-1-1). It’s often best to call one of these groups BEFORE you call the police, if you can. (But get yourself out of the problem situation first!)

And remember that it is not your fault. If someone goes too far with you, remember that you did not ask for it, you do not deserve it, and you have a right to respect. If you want to, press charges.

If You Have Sex, Make It Safer Sex

Consensual sex is a very positive thing, though. And you also shouldn’t become bitter or untrusting of everyone around you if you’ve had a bad experience.

Believe it or not, there are lots of gay teens your age. You can find them on-line, or at a local lesbigay community center, or youth group. And community centers and youth groups, by the way, are a great place to make other gay friends, because they usually have a wide range of social activities and support, too.

If you make a friend who is close to your age and start to see them as something more than a friend, it’s natural that you’ll want to date them. As you get to know them better, you may eventually decide to make sex a part of your relationship.

If that’s the case, then you should ALWAYS practice safer sex. Safer sex means always using a condom, every time you have sex. The most
important thing to remember is never to let someone else’s blood, semen or vaginal fluid into your body.

The best condoms are lubricated latex condoms. Always use latex, because lambskin condoms don’t block HIV. And you should get condoms that are coated with Nonoxynol-9, since that has been found to kill the HIV virus and offers some additional protection.

Using lubricant will make things go smoother and give you added protection. But always use a water-based lube (such as K-Y, Wet, Foreplay, or Probe). Oil-based ones (Vaseline, hand creams and lotions) break latex.

Make sure your condoms are fresh; check the expiration date. Throw away condoms that have been very cold or hot or that have been carried around in your wallet or run through the washer. If you think the condom might not be good, get a new one. You’re worth it.

In Closing

This posting is not to make you skeptical of every person you meet on-line. In fact, we view electronic services as a sort of national resource for lesbigay teens, because for many, it’s the first time you’re able to find someone else like you to talk to. And we know of a lot of gay teens that have found people on-line that honestly do care about them, and many of these happen to be gay men in their 20s, 30s, or older, as well. For some, this has literally meant the difference between life and death.

Electronic services like AOL and CompuServe are wonderful places to meet people, and perhaps even make irreplaceable friends. It is a place where you can come to feel safe, in a world where being gay doesn’t always make you feel safe and protected.

But be careful, and take care of yourself. Your life is worth it, and you’ve just begun to live it.

Where To Get More Information

There is a wealth of resources out there for you to take advantage of. Community centers for lesbians, bisexuals and gay men that offer a whole range of social and support activities. Youth groups where you’ll find other guys and girls just like you. Many of them are going through exactly the same things you are, and probably even live pretty close nearby.

It may seem kind of scary at first to think of going to these places, but they’re really one of the best ways to begin enjoying your life as a gay teen, and begin the process of becoming a gay adult who’s happy with themselves, and living a happy life. Community centers and youth groups have helped so many people accept who they are that we think they’re the best place to turn when you want to start meeting people.

It’s easy to find these groups, believe it or not. If you can’t find one in your local phone directory, then all you need to do is send an email to the AOL screen name "NCGLBY Org" for a confidential resource listing. You’ll need to include your city and state, zip code, area code and your age so that we can find the appropriate resources, and the reply will be sent confidentially back to your email address.

This posting is one in a series of public service announcements from the National Coalition for Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Youth. We also thank the Coalition for Positive Sexuality for material used in the discussion on safer sex. Our goal is to help you reach your twenties and live your life as a happy, confident and vital openly gay man. You have our best wishes, as well as our help, in getting there!