WATCHING OUT FOR YOURSELF IN ONLINE RELATIONSHIPS Tips for the Lesbigay Teen
The online environment mirrors the real world in many ways, both good and bad. And because it's so easy to create a facade, an imaginary vision of who you are by typing whatever you will into an online profile, it's sometimes difficult to discern the good from the bad. There's the potential to get taken advantage of, including sexually, by others who might arrange meetings with you or make you uncomfortable online.
Surfing the net can be a wonderful thing and open up many new worlds to you, especially if you're a lesbigay teen. There are tremendous resources and sources of information available to you. But, just as it probably wouldn't be a good idea to put a 10 year-old who's never been out of their small town right in the middle of Times Square, it's also not a good idea to begin your online journey until you're sure your adequately prepared.
PEOPLE ARE NOT ALWAYS WHAT THEY SAY THEY ARE
Electronic services allow people freedoms that the real world does not. Forty-year-old men 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 lesbigay 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 and girls 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 online. Perhaps overtrusting, in some cases. You may decide at some point to get together with your online 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. Consentual sex between adults, and consentual sex between younger people, is fine.
We know many lesbigay 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, lesbian or bisexual, 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 lesbian or gay is all about.
Sometimes, some people 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 online 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 online. And the implications of a mistake can't simply be erased by turning off your computer.
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. 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.