EDITORS NOTE: In the interest of confidentiality, all names have been changed.

You might notice that your day is a little quieter than usual on Wednesday. Some teens will be observing The Day of Silence (DOS) – a project led by students who remain silent to stress the bullying and harassment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.

It’s not uncommon to hear a slur being blurted out – something as simple as condemning something as “gay” or joking calling your best friend a “queer” for fumbling during football practice. Simple, maybe, but isolating for the gay teen who has to censor information about his or her relationships.

The Realization
The time from the first inkling to the full acceptance of one’s sexuality can take a few years or longer. Ryan, a Great Kills resident, first realized he was homosexual when he was in seventh grade. “I know of had a crush on my friend, a little. I finally accepted [my sexuality] like at the beginning of freshman year,” said the Susan Wagner High School student.

Rachel first got the idea that she was attracted to girls in eighth grade but figured it out in sophomore year.

“My main concern or worry was that it was a phase I was going through,” said the 17-year-old Grasmere resident who attends St. Joseph by-the-Sea High School in Huguenot.

Teens may also feel nervous about what to tell their parents and worry about what their friends will think. “There are people who have gone through horrible stuff [like parents throwing them out of the house], but there will be people who will support you for who you are, and that’s just the best feeling in the world,” explained Rachel admitting that initially her mother had a negative reaction. “My mom didn’t want to talk to me for a while, like a whole week,” she said.

Rachel, who found acceptance among her friends and made some new ones, feels strongly that you are better off being out of the closet.

“Though you may get unfavorable reactions, you feel so much lighter and more comfortable in your own skin,” she said.

Since Madonna’s lip-lock on primetime TV with Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, every other show seems to have featured a lesbian kiss. But what is it like in real life to find a girlfriend or boyfriend of the same sex?

“You have to be willing to be really observant. It’s just a matter of being perceptive and more alert to signals,” responded Rachel when questioned about “gaydar.”

Ryan has encountered another challenge. “I really can’t tell anymore because all these random emo people look like it. It just confuses me,” said the 16-year-old who has had boyfriends but never been in a serious relationship.

What happens if he hits on someone who is straight?

“I’d be embarrassed or just act like I was joking,” added Ryan.

Coming to terms with your sexuality doesn’t necessarily mean “experimenting” with both sexes. Rachel has had serious relationships with girls but has never had a boyfriend. “I don’t think it really bothers me, it’s just something that’s never happened and maybe never will. I am kind of curious. Which doesn’t mean I’m a very good lesbian, does it?” she joked.

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