A Boy’s Struggle With Sexual Identity and Orientation

A few years ago, I received the following scribbled note from a very troubled youth. He wrote:

Dear Dr. Dobson:

I've been putting this off for a long time so I'm finally writing you aletter.

I am a thirteen year old boy. I have listened to your tapes [Preparing for Adolescence] but not the complete set. I did listen tothe one on sex though.

Getting to the point, I don't know if I have a serious problem orapassing? (I don't know the word for it).

All through my life (very short) I have acted and look much more like a girl than a boy. When I was little, I would always wear finger nail polish, dresses, and the sort. I also had an older cousin who would take us (little cousins) into his room and show us his genitals.

I'm afraid I have a little sodomy in me. It was very hard for meto write what I just did. I don't want to be homosexual but I'm afraid, very afraid. That was hard to write too. Let me explain further.

Through my higher grades in school (I'm in seventh grade) kids have always called me names (gay, fag etc.), and made fun of me. It's been hard. I have masturbated (I guess) but gone too far. When I was little (not that little) I tried to more than once to suck my own penis (to be frank). That sounds very bad and looks even worse to read it. Ipray that nothing is wrong with me.

Very recently I have done such acts as looking (maybe lusting, Ipray so hard that I wasn't) at my self in skimpy underwear. Whenever I wear it I feel a like sexual sensation.

Yesterday in the bathroom (in front of the mirror), I wiggled my body very rapidly, making my genitals bounce up and down. Iget a little bit of that feeling mentioned above as I write this. AfterIdid this, I immediately asked forgiveness of God, went in theshower but did it again there. I prayed more and felt very bad.

I talked with one of my pastors and told him at that point I probably preferred a man's body over a woman's. Now that was hard to say!

He said he didn't think anything was wrong with me (I don't know how else to say it. He apparently thought it was passing), but Ifeel very badly and want to know why.

The pastor mentioned above is one I go to for advice very often.

About my spiritual life; I came to Christ only about a year ago buthave grown very much. I have also done lot's wrong. I am a Mennonite. What denomination are you? I have been baptized andam well liked in the church (I think).

I'm afraid if I am not straight (that's much easier to write) Iwill go to hell.

I don't want to be not straight.

I don't try to be not straight.

I love God and want to go to heaven. If something is wrong with me, I want to get rid of it.

Please help me.


I was deeply touched by Mark's letter. I know him well even though we have never met. He is representative of many other preteens and teens around the world who have awakened to something terrifying within—something they don't understand—something that creates enormous confusion and doubt. These kids often recognize very early in life that they are "different" from other boys. They may cry easily, be less athletic, have an artistic temperament, and dislike the roughhousing that their friends enjoy. Some of them prefer the company of girls, and they may walk, talk, dress, and even "think" effeminately. This, of course, brings rejection and ridicule from the "real boys," who tease them unmercifully and call them "queer," "fag," and "gay." Even when parents are aware of the situation, they typically have no idea how to help. By the time the adolescent hormones kick in during early adolescence, a full-blown gender identity crisis threatens to overwhelm the teenager. This is what Mark was experiencing when he wrote. And it illustrates why even boys with normal heterosexual tendencies are often terrified that they will somehow "turn gay."

There is an additional dimension of pain for those who have grown up in a strong Christian home. Their sexual thoughts and feelings produce great waves of guilt accompanied by secret fears of divine retribution. They ask themselves, How could God love someone as vile as me? Mark even felt condemned for jumping up and down in the shower and for feeling the excitement it created. (That titillation by the sight of his own body is a classic symptom of narcissism, or a "turning inward" to fulfill his unmet gender-identification needs.) He either had to figure out how to control this monster within or, in his understanding, face an eternity in hell. There is no greater internal turmoil for a Christian boy or girl than this. At the top of Mark's letter he wrote, "I may sound very bad. I hope I'm not that bad."

Poor kid! Mark is in desperate need of professional help, but he is unlikely to get it. His parents apparently don't know about his travail, and the pastor he trusts tells him it will pass. It probably won't! Mark appears to have a condition we might call "prehomosexuality," and unless he and his entire family are guided by someone who knows how to assist, the probabilities are very great that he will go on to experience a homosexual lifestyle.

Book: Bringing Up Boys

By Dr. James Dobson

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