High school. From “trying too hard” pep rallies to watching fights in the hallways, life after middle school can seem daunting to say the least. You’re fast approaching adulthood and possibly college, and teenage angst is about to reach nuclear levels. As a gay teen, you can safely multiply all of the typical high school teen problems by at least 10, especially if you’re out of the closet. How do you navigate this treacherous place full of social hierarchy, bad choices, and “Homophobia I learned from my parents”? Here’s a few tips:
1. Build Your Support Network
Starting high school is intimidating for everyone at first, even the soon-to-be jocks and popular crowd. These next four years are going to be rough on everyone in some way. Whatever clique you end up in, make sure the people in it are willing to support you as much as possible. And don’t just stop there. Teachers, parents, coaches, and school counselors are just a few more people you should consider adding to your support network. And if there are other out-and-proud gay folks at your school, try to befriend them. There’s strength in numbers!
2. Don’t Back Down
Inevitably, you’ll face a situation where you’ll have to deal with a jerk, whether it’s name-calling or straight up harassment. Don’t back down to a bully. Show them that you will not be pushed around. If things escalate to physical violence, seek an adult as soon as possible. Though it seems a little extreme, enrolling in self-defense classes will certainly help too. Of course, bullying isn’t limited to physical violence or taunting anymore. If someone is spreading rumors about you and harassing you online, they can easily be reported here.
3. Build Tough Skin
If you’re openly gay in high school, expect to be called names. Expect to get dirty looks nearly every day. Expect even teachers and other adults to squirm in your presence. It will happen, but that doesn’t mean you have to let it get to you. Realizing that it’s their problem and not yours will help you find the strength to let their pettiness bounce right off of you. You determine the kind of person you are, not others.
4. Get Help When You Need It
Sometimes, you’re going to get overwhelmed. Perhaps you’ve had a really hard test week, your grades are slipping, that bully just won’t leave you alone, and your support network helping you the way you thought it would. Seeking professional help is not a “psycho sentence”. Many people who experience a great deal of stress seek out professionals to help “re-sort” what’s bothering them to help them move over the bump that’s currently holding them back.
5. Do What Makes You Happy
High school is the chance to delve into many different extracurricular activities such as sports, music, arts, theatre, dance, and cheer-leading. Never let anyone deter you from doing what you truly want to do. Yes, if it’s something like male cheer-leading you’ll have to deal with a lot of flack and name-calling, but don’t let it stop you.
6. Watch Those Boys/Girls
You’re going to have crushes, sugahz. There are going to be boys and girls that catch your attention, and if the chemistry is right, you may start something special. However, be careful of someone who isn’t quite ready to be “out” of the closet yet. While you may be out-and-proud, at some point they may seek to retreat further into the closet for a little while and shut you out in the process, ending the relationship abruptly.
And leave those straight boys and girls alone!
7. Hang In There
It’s going to be tough. You’re going to make a lot of friends and lose a lot of friends. You’re going to face hardships that many people will, quite honestly, never understand no matter how many times you explain it to them. In fact, sometimes you’ll just feel alone. But keep your chin up, remind yourself of how special you are every day, and stay in those books. High school doesn’t last forever, and it’ll be over before you know it. In the meantime, make some memories and have fun! You being yourself will encourage others to do the same. Always remember that.
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