Help! My Only Friends Are Homophobic and Don’t Know I’m Gay

I am a 24-year-old male college student. I am quiet and shy and introverted, and I don't make friends easily. In fact, I really only have two, which I know is pathetic. But because I only have two friends, I think I value my friendships more than most people. The problem in my case is that both of my friends say homophobic things all the time, kind of as playful putdowns of each other. I play along to fit in, but it pains me that I am not being my authentic self. What they don't realize is that I am gay. I haven't told them because I know where they stand on gay people; they think gay marriage is an abomination, and they think being gay is a choice as opposed to something you're born as. I fear that if I tell them I'm gay, they will distance themselves from me and I'll end up being totally friendless in this world. So I guess I don't have a question so much as I am looking for some support, since I won't get it from them. Any thoughts appreciated. —A Friend in Need
Dear Friend in Need,

Real friends are supportive of one another. You may think that the buddies you hang out with are the ones you need, but I think they are just the ones that are around—friends of convenience more than friends of the heart. Even if they really are good friends in many ways, I hope you’ll be able to find friends you can be real with, as they can be with you.

These two are not enough for you; you’re not satisfied, nor should you be. It might behoove you to step around a bit, gently challenge your tendency to be alone, reach out, and try to connect with other people. One or two more people to hang with might make a big difference, especially if they are genuine and expect you to simply be yourself. That might sound difficult, and for many introverted people, it is indeed difficult. It sounds like you could really benefit from connection, though, and connection does take some effort and perhaps even discomfort. That discomfort is not unique to you; many people struggle with finding people they can click with. There are websites, of course, that try to assist with this, and to minimize any angst involved.

In any case, one or two close friends can be enough if the relationships are honest, deep, and true, but 100 friends who are not authentic are not enough because the relationships are essentially empty; they aren’t nourishing and supportive, as they should be. You’re looking for real friends who are capable of deep and honest feelings.

In any case, one or two close friends can be enough if the relationships are honest, deep, and true, but 100 friends who are not authentic are not enough because the relationships are essentially empty; they aren’t nourishing and supportive, as they should be. You’re looking for real friends who are capable of deep and honest feelings.

How can you find real friends? You say you are shy and introverted and that making friends is difficult; I can feel what that’s like, and it gets lonely sometimes. (On the other hand, the ability to enjoy being alone and introspective can be a gift.) What can you do, though, when you want to hang out with somebody? Some people find a place or a person or a situation where help is needed and then they provide it. They might join an organization devoted to feeding the homeless, for example, and volunteer their services. Or they might join the service society in their school. If you need help, give help, as you’ll probably wind up getting help.

If you’re with people who have a purpose that’s directed outward, and your attention is directed outward too, it is a bit easier to be friendly because you have a common goal, which gives you all something to talk about. Another benefit of a common goal is that it can take everybody’s attention away from themselves and turn the focus instead to an activity that will help them arrive at the goal. This makes many people feel more comfortable, as the situation expands to include much outside of themselves. The idea is to find something that is bigger than yourself, which helps you feel less self-conscious, eventually, and gives you something that bonds you together with others.

Finding a group that bonds around a common interest can help, too. This interest could be anything—music, chess, old movies, basketball. Look around and you’ll find a place for yourself, or you’ll make a place for yourself and find that others may join you. After all, you’re not the only person feeling shy and introverted; others feel that way, too.

What you give can be what you get, so my recommendation is to find somebody who needs a friend and be one for that person.

Best wishes,
Lynn

Lynn Somerstein
Lynn Somerstein, PhD, NCPsyA, C-IAYT is a Manhattan-based, licensed psychotherapist with more than 30 years in private practice. She is also a yoga teacher and student of Ayuveda—the Indian science of wellness. Her main interest is in helping people find healthy ways of living, loving, and working in the particular combination that works best for them, connecting to their deepest energic source so their full range of abilities can be expressed. Lynn's specialty is understanding and alleviating anxiety and depression.
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  • Janeen

    Janeen

    October 23rd, 2015 at 10:46 AM

    You at this point do not need this kind of negativity in your life.
    There are some great people out there waiting to become your friend, you just haven’t met them yet.

  • Tolly

    Tolly

    October 23rd, 2015 at 3:06 PM

    If you don’t think that there is any way that you could ever live as your true self with these people, then do you honestly believe that they are worth remaining a part of your life? I very strongly believe that if someone loves you then they love you no matter what, and if that means that you are gay or straight or whatever they will still care for you. You should never have to hide what is on the inside.

  • James

    James

    October 24th, 2015 at 12:03 PM

    Not really your friends then if you ask me… just my opinion

  • Cas

    Cas

    October 24th, 2015 at 8:21 PM

    Have you thought about how the region in which you live comes into play with your “predicament”? I only ask because of your age. You seem to be close to a turning point. Maybe consider relocating when you are job hunting after you graduate. For now, try small meetups that interest you.

  • J20oyd

    J20oyd

    October 25th, 2015 at 7:08 PM

    Firstly, have u been friendly with these 2 for long?
    My advice to u is to say to the 2 about the things they are saying aren’t very nice and they need to go and get educated. They are no good to u with such pathetic attitudes. Please try to consider coming out………. u may not get the response u may be dreading. My son told me he was gay when he was 17…. over 2 years ago. I told him I had known that since he was 2 yrs old. I saw the frustration building inside him in the week prior to telling me. I was considering bringing up the subject and spoke to my other kids about it……. but then he just came out with it himself……. and he was so relieved when myself nor any of his friends flinched at all. Everyone loves him for who he is….. not WHAT he is.!!
    He never lost 1 friend and we are all very proud and totally supportive of him. Which in turn boosts his confidence….. not that he was shy by any means. I truly hope everything works out for u, but please do not continue to live ur life pretending to be someone or something u are not…..This will only lead to being more miserable and will make it even harder to come out in long run…….. I am sure u want to be content and live happily every day being the real u……
    Surely at college it would be much easier to move in different circles to build up ur Confidence and shake these 2 off…… let them live as homophones!!!

  • dora

    dora

    October 26th, 2015 at 9:03 AM

    This is never going to be a situation that you need to impact you with energy and positivity. This is only going to cloud how you view yourself and others. I am concerned that being around people like this will begin to make you second guess yourself and I would much rather see you be strong and confident in who you are.

  • Garrison

    Garrison

    October 28th, 2015 at 10:18 AM

    I don’t believe that in any way is this going to be positive or healthy for you. I believe that if these are people that you choose to hang around long enough then they are going to start making you question who and what you are. I understand that we all go thru times where we question ourselves and who we are, but I would hope that my friends would be the ones to lift me up and help me believe in myself. There are enough things out there to tear us down, we don’t need even more people in our lives adding even more to that!

  • jack

    jack

    October 29th, 2015 at 2:53 PM

    doesn’t it ever feel strange or odd to you that you feel like you have to hide who you really are from people who profess to be friends?

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