Finding a gay teen community in your area

18 Jan

Being a teenager isn’t easy and being a gay teen is even more difficult. It is often harder than being a straight teen because of the stigma many still attach to being gay as well as the teen often having a feeling of being alone, not knowing where to turn for support, and the social issues surrounding being gay. Puberty and the years following are riddled with questions, doubts, fears, and a general feeling of awkwardness for everyone going through this period of life gay or straight. As gay teens are a small minority of the population it can be difficult for them to find friends who are gay as well that understand the unique issues they face when trying to deal with and understand these concerns. As having a normal social life with ones peers is essential to healthy development what is a gay teen to do?

Ideally teens should have an eclectic blend of friends from all walks of life, but gay teens in particular have certain unique needs that can only be filled by networking within the gay teen community. Often times it is difficult to talk to friends, parents, teachers, or anyone in general about certain concerns if they are not gay. They want to feel comfortable discussing issues of dating and sexuality as well as having the input of people that have “Been there/Done that” when it comes to these topics.

For many kids the Internet is a popular resource for networking especially considering it allows the ability to be out and discuss issues with their peers with the feeling of relative safety and anonymity. It isn’t unusual for kids these days to be out “Virtually” (On line but not to their personal acquaintances) before coming out to friends and family. This is a great resource if the venue that is being used is chosen wisely as it allows for some form of social contact and can provide answers to questions and concerns from other gay teens. It can also keep them apprised of area events that allow for the opportunity to meet other local gay teens. The downside is the potential for predators posing as teens to lure youth into unsafe situations (The same is true in the heterosexual community I must point out) or that sometimes the group is made of of people too far away for a teen to actually meet.

One of the best places to connect locally is through Gay Straight Alliance groups (GSA) or organizations like PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) or any number of slowly growing school based organizations now appearing in many high schools which offer a safe regulated environment to socialize with peers in the gay community. These are particularly good venues as there is supervision and a strong sense of community which engenders a level of trust for teens to make new friends and address their concerns. GSA’s are great because they are made up of the teens peers, often from there own school, and it allows gay teens to develop a readily available local social network.

PFLAG has long been known as tremendous in it’s support of gay teens by not only providing them a safe and informative social environment, but because they also have been known to help families adjust with the coming out process by helping provide education and reassurance to the families of gay teens. This is not only good for the teen, but their family and friends as they can connect with people that are or have gone through the same process. PFLAG is represented in every State in the U.S. and boasts a membership of somewhere in the area of two hundred and ten thousand people. Most larger states have multiple chapters and meetings are held regularly and open to all who wish to attend.

For older teens particularly, local Pride Festival events which are held annually in each state are a wonderful opportunity to meet other gay teens. Contrary to popular belief Pride Festivals are more than a parade, but usually a dozen or so events held over a two week period which may include activities like art gallery viewings, lectures, and movies. What is nice about this is that a person can put them self in the position to not just meet another gay teen, but one that shares a common interests. Most Pride organizing committees now try to schedule at least one event specifically geared towards teens to further provide them a sense of community.

In a likewise manner there are usually places within the local community which offer safe havens for gay teens to meet and socialize. There is a club in my area which caters to the gay community which each Saturday afternoon opens up it’s outdoor patio to allow teens to meet, play and listen to music, read poetry, or just hang out and socialize. Not to worry, no alcohol is served and the kids are moved on well before the establishment opens to the adult crowd. Not all clubs do this by any stretch of the imagination, but there are some scattered about that realize the gay teen population needs a venue to meet and make efforts to provide them a safe place to do so. It really isn’t that unusual anymore to be able to go to the newspapers weekly events calendar and find an activity aimed at the gay teen community anymore. In less populated areas it is not as regular as in cities, but it is always worth checking.

Networking in the teen gay community really is not that difficult today as compared to twenty years ago when minds were a bit more narrow, still it is not the mainstream. However, for any teen that desires, schools and local support groups can provide anyone that wants to be a part of the community the opportunity to do so, and more importantly do so safely. The important thing for a gay teen looking to find the local teen gay community is to remember they are not alone and there are many potential friends out there to be made by just going to any one event as mentioned above. As the saying goes, one door leads to another, and before long you will be a part of the local gay community.

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