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What should I expect if I’m going to hook up with someone I meet online?

The internet has become a revolutionary tool for gay youth to get information and to meet people from the comfort and safety from their own home, even from in the closet. Information and connection anonymously, it’s perfect for so many people. The problem with anonymity is that it makes it difficult to move beyond that step where you are talking online into the step where you are meeting face to face. So, it might finally come down to meeting up with someone you know online.

We recommend the following steps:

1. Talk online for a few months if this is your first experience before moving on to meeting up.
2. When you meet up, plan and agree to meet in a public space like in a coffeeshop.
3. Tell someone what you are up to. If you can’t tell any friends ‘cuz you are in the closet, then tell some friends online, set up a time to contact them and if you haven’t shown up within an hour of that contact time, then they should call ur folks. Set up what you think would work best.
4. Realize you are taking a risk, and that what you expect will probably not be what happens.
5. Have your story for your next step figured out. A back-up plan if you meet the person and realize it’s not going to work and you need to get out of it. Say you have to meet your mom or something important.
6. No means no. If it’s not working out, get up and leave.
7. Beware of hitting it off too well. We recommend meeting for a bit and then meeting again some other time. Don’t get in a car. Don’t go in a house. Keep it in a public space. Your gut instinct will tell you what is best. Err on the side of caution, but don’t forget to live your life as well.
8. Don’t give the person information that will allow him/her to pester you or even blackmail you. Don’t give him your address or phone number ‘til you really trust him. If you are in the closet, don’t tell him you are in the closet unless you really seem to trust him.
9. If you want to talk to the person on the phone but it’s long distance, you can buy pre-paid calling cards. That way you can talk withoutyour parents knowing.

YGA: What are the feelings you have about being in the closet?

DARREN: I hate it! I know I’m gay, I’m attracted to guys at school, but it terrifies me to even cosider coming out. It has also put a severe strain on me. I live in rural Alabama, and at my school (I’m 15 and in the 10th grade) there are a lot of unaccepting people. Heck, it’s mostly rednecks. I’m afraid if I come out, I’ll end up near dead or dead.

YGA: Do you feel like you are living a lie?

DARREN: I KNOW I’m living a lie. Whenever sexual orientation comes up in conversations at school, I usually keep my mouth shut. But if I’m ever asked why I never have a girlfriend, I always say that the girls at school aren’t my type or some other lame excuse like that. I even “pretended” I was gay one day (on a dare from a friend), but everyone thought I was just acting stupid.

YGA: What about your friends?

DARREN: I would only consider telling one of my two best friends (I’ll call them Jessie and J.C.) I think that maybe Jessie would be accepting, because we’ve been friends since the 1st grade and she’s a girl. J.C., however, has made it very clear he won’t tolerate homosexuals. I brought up the subject one day and he told me very plainly that if I knew someone who was gay, he would not come near me if that person was there. J.C. is my best friend, and I would really hate to lose him over this.

YGA: What are you afraid of most?

DARREN: I’m most afraid of how my family will respond. My mom puts homosexuals in the same category as neo-Nazis and child molesters. I think my brother suspects that I’m gay, but he has never brought it up. My first cousin is a bisexual female, and when she came out, it was not that big of a deal. However, everyone seems to think men being together is so much worse than women being together. I’m also afraid of people at school. I’m pretty sure that when I do come out, I’ll experience a lot of abuse, and not just verbally, from kids and teachers at school.

YGA: What do you wish for more than anything else?

DARREN: That people could accept that everyone’s different (especially in the South) and, despite what some people say, you don’t choose to be gay. When I first realized I was gay, the thing I wished for more than anything else was that I would “turn straight”. But now, I realize that being gay isn’t the end of the world.

YGA: Do you have anyone you can talk to about coming out?

DARREN: Well, I might be able to talk to that bisexual cousin I mentioned, but she lives in Florida, and I never see her. There is certainly no gay support group in my town of 3,000 people.

YGA: What do you think coming out of the closet will bring you?

DARREN: Freedom! I could finally be able to check out guys and have boyfriends without worrying that someone will notice me staring at a guy. I could also be a lot happier!

YGA: How has the Internet helped you find out about yourself and start the process of coming out?

DARREN: Well, this is the 2nd week I’ve had the internet, so not much.

YGA: Any other things you want to say?

DARREN: I would just like to say, Thank you YGA! I feel better now that I’m written my feelings down. This is the first time I’ve ever talked about being gay.

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