Type the words “+gay +youth +help” into an Internet search engine, and you’ll be given a list of 200 choices to explore. The vast majority link to gay-positive youth sites which affirm those who are gay or who think they’re gay. Some link to explicit pornographic sites. Until recently, none offered any alternatives to simply accepting that one was gay.
In 1998, www.freetobe me.com was added to the list, offering hope to young people in despair, alternatives to those who elsewhere had been told they had no choice but to be gay, and clarity to those who wondered if they might be gay. The response we got told us that this site, the first of its kind in the world, was desperately needed.
“Oh wow! I was so relieved to find you guys! Your positive message of hope brought me tears of joy,” wrote Dan, an 18-year-old from California.
Nineteen-year-old Chris from Ontario e-mailed: “It’s so great to read your articles and actually get answers out of them. I’m glad there (are) people out there willing to break down the barriers.”
ome, like this 15-year-old from Texas, are in crisis: “My dad treats homosexuality as if it is a disease … I have thought a lot about running away or committing suicide. I just don’t think I can handle all of this … Please reply soon!”
Currently, emails and our replies to them are posted right on the site. We would like to offer e-mail support for teens, but our small staff makes this impossible. Instead, we refer young people to help in their own area.
The site also provides resources to better equip those who work with these teens. A youth minister from Toronto wrote: “Certainly, handling issues around sexual orientation is a very awkward one initially for anyone in a pastoral role. The guidance and sharing supplied by your organization will be used. I am extremely grateful…” A Nashville, Tenn. youth worker said, “It was very informative, well designed, and most of all, very lovingly presented … thank you for offering me a resource to use in the future that focuses on adolescents.”
Freetobeme.com deals with the very real questions young people have: “Why are some people gay?” “Is it possible for a person who is gay to become straight?” and, “Some people say God hates homosexuals. What do you think?”
The “I think I’m gay” and “I think I’m lesbian” sections address an issue often ignored – some people who think they’re gay, are not. In other words, some young people think they’re gay because of something that someone said or something that happened, even though they do not experience same-sex attraction.
Other teens really do experience same-sex attraction. FreeToBeMe helps and supports young people in either situation, offering a “no-pressure” place where they can get answers for themselves. Its articles are easy to understand, relaxed in tone, and sensitive in use of words. While remaining consistent with biblical beliefs, its style makes it useful in a broad range of contexts. All of these things make this site unique, and an excellent resource.