Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Fear of Coming Out Causes Man to Withdraw From Life

DEAR ABBY: I am a 23-year-old male. Ever since I was in middle school, I have been dealing with the possibility that I might be a homosexual. Today I no longer think it's a "possibility." I know it's a fact.

For years, not a day has gone by that I have not had homosexual thoughts and urges. I have dated a few females to try to "change," but those attempts have been unsuccessful.

I am depressed, confused and angry with myself. I am becoming reclusive. I have withdrawn from most of my classes in college, and I don't want to socialize with people. Sometimes I think my life is over before it ever began.

I come from a religious family in south Georgia who believe that homosexuality is a sin and God will punish gays. In my part of the country, homophobia is everywhere. If I ever told anyone what I am feeling, I could never show my face around here again.

I keep asking myself whether or not my life would be better if I told people that I am a homosexual. I am beginning to believe that if I come out, my life would be better. I'd do it now, but I couldn't stand that my family would be disappointed with me -- and I don't want to lose what friends I have left. I also can't bear the thought that my religious community would condemn me. What would you do if you were in my situation? -- CONFUSED IN GEORGIA

DEAR CONFUSED: If I were you, I'd accept that my life wasn't working and I'd probably come out. However, I am NOT you. If you come out to your family and friends, it's important that you understand that you will change. It will be better, but it will also be different. How close can any of these people really be to you if they don't know who you are?

Before making up your mind, I urge you to go online to � HYPERLINK "" ��� and locate some gay and lesbian centers where you can get counseling. (Atlanta might be a good place to start.) You can't hide forever. With emotional support, taking such a big step will be easier.

P.S. Eventually it might be better if you move to a more diverse community to complete your education and begin your new life.