Dear Bearded Confidant,

I have always admired the advice you give out and was wondering if you can  help me. I am 19 and have known that I was gay ever since I could remember.  I am deeply confused at this point in my life. Absolutely nobody knows that I am gay, not my parents, not my friends, not even my cousins who I tell almost everything to. I feel like I am living a lie by not being true to  myself and to my loved ones. I want to "come out" but am disgustingly scared out of my wits to do so. I am afraid that they will not accept me and the  truth doing more harm than good. I don't want to lose the people who are so  important to me. Some of my friends are homophobic and my parents are very traditional parents. I have been thinking of telling my cousins first  because I am very close to them and they seem to be the ones who will support me most. Do you have any suggestions at all?

Dear Deeply Confused,

If your friends, cousins, or parents cannot accept you for being gay, then your current relationship with them isn't worth very much. Do they love you for who you are, or only for who they *want* you to be? I recommend that you be true yourself around others, and if they can't handle it then it's better for you to know that now than later. If they truly love you, they'll accept you no matter what. Having said that, here's a good observation from a friend who says that our sexuality is a private issue and shouldn't be discussed unless someone else brings it up first: "I believe that every man should stand tall as he is, never offering excuses or explanations for his private activities. Whenever cyber-buddies ask me for advice on coming out, here's what I say: Walk softly and speak as in a whisper, for great tales are not told through loud microphones on loud stages but in the whisperings of ears, in the understandings of hearts, and in the recognition of the sparkle of the eyes, one man to another. Our society is very private when it comes to sexuality, but I believe that sexuality should be mostly private. Sometimes I think people should not label themselves so much. There is really no such thing as a gay man or a straight man. All are equally men. There are only gay and straight ACTIVITIES. Sometimes a straight man participates in gay activities, and sometimes a gay man participates in straight activities. Sometimes all men participate in solo activities or group activities. When a straight man jerks off alone, he is making love to a penis and gets turned on by his own body, so is that a gay activity? It's all very complicated, because in the end there are only plain men who act on their desires in different ways. So perhaps it is not so important for you to come out in your society, because whose business is it where you put your penis?! I came out on the internet so that men with similar interests could find my website and enjoy my galleries, but in my daily life I do not announce to friends and co-workers what I like to do with my penis because I feel that it is private business. If the subject happens to come up, I try to be honest and not feel ashamed, but I also try not to make a big deal of it. I only make an issue of it if a person is displaying ignorant prejudice against homosexuality. A cyber-buddy shared the following with me: 'I have always looked at coming out as coming to terms with one's individuality, not his sexuality. Sexuality plays a very small role in our lives, and I don't like being labeled by a sexual preference. I am an individual who happens to be a homosexual, and that is part of my individuality.'"