Eric Marcus

I Have a Crush!

Filed By Eric Marcus | July 06, 2008 9:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: coming out of the closet, football game, gay teens, GSA

We've all had crushes. But what do you do if you're sixteen and you've got a crush on a high school classmate, a football player no less. And you have no idea whether he's gay. That's the predicament a sixteen-year-old from Houston wrote to me about asking for advice on what to do. On the one hand, I'm encouraged that gay teens are now able to talk about their crushes, but unfortunately dealing with a crush is even more complicated for gay teens than it is for their straight counterparts. My response, which follows the question below, feels a little lame and tentative to me. What do you think?

Dear Eric:
you may think this is a stupid question, but my friends were of no help to me. there is this guy at my school, he is a football player and... i have a huge crush on him. i don't know if he is gay or bicurious or whatnot, but he does look at me a lot and tries to walk close to me in the hallways. What should i do? i mean, how do i find out if he is actually interested in do i find out if he is even gay? --Teen with a Crush

Dear Teen with a Crush--

Your question is not stupid at all! Having a crush in the best of circumstances can be very confusing (in addition to exciting and scary). But when you're gay and the object of your affections may or may not be gay, it can be really tough to deal with.

Because you're in high school and because the person you're talking about is a football player, you have to be really, really cautious. Even if we ignore the gay issue for a moment, it's rare that the person you have a crush on has a crush on you in return. So the odds are he's not interested in you in the way you're interested in him.

Since it's a really bad idea to tell someone you don't know that you have a crush on him, the first thing to do is to get to know him. Do you ever say hello or does he ever say hello to you? If you're already out at school, it might be hard for him to say hello to you or to be your friend. Football players are not generally known to be all that comfortable with the issue of homosexuality and he could be afraid that if he's seen saying hello to you or hanging out with you that people will think he's gay. And that's true whether he's gay or straight.

Something to keep in mind for you is that if you're not out to your classmates and you tell the football player that you have a crush on him you have to be prepared for the likelihood that he will share that information with your classmates. And if your classmates find out that you're gay it could get back to your family. What would it be like at school for you if your classmates know you're gay? What would it be like for you at home if your parents know you're gay?

So this is why you need to be very, very careful. You don't want to do anything that's going to make your life miserable at school or at home. It may be that you have to keep your feelings to yourself and keep your crush a secret--for now. If you're able to talk to your parents about these things, I suggest talking to them. Or, if there's a school counselor or your school has a GSA coordinator, I suggest talking to one of them about your feelings.

I'm sorry I can't be any more encouraging. I wish I could say that you could live your life just like your straight classmates, but as much progress as we've made toward equality, the reality is that for gay teens--more so than for us older folks--it's not yet a level playing field.

Please let me know if you have any additional questions.

All best,


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As someone who at the age of 14 developed a major obsession with a soccer player at school I can sympathise with Teen With A Crush (note: 11 years later I still have that crush, sadly he's straight.. d'oh!).

I would warn him against making any direct moves, as a crush can make you view others actions differently to how they were actually intended. But I agree with Eric's advice... he should be extremely careful but certainly should try to befriend this person. A friendship would allow him to learn more about the footballer and he'd then be able to decide whether he might reciprocate his affections.

Good luck Teen With A Crush!

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | July 6, 2008 9:46 AM

Eric, how can you save him from himself? Obviously he has a network of gay accepting friends, but he could be just being led on by the football player. I think that caution is absolutely correct as openness in this case could easily lead to unfortunate fireworks.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | July 6, 2008 4:22 PM

Eric, I think your advice was right-on!

It sucks, but you're absolutely right that we still don't have a level playing field--and that goes many times over for LGBT teens!

I get variations of this question a lot as I work with so many teens and am active helping with LGBT youth. Caution is correct. The whole getting to know the person better thing is also a good idea. Honestly I start with those two and then help the kid proceed accordning to their environment and personal conditions. When it is a kid that I am working with regularly I do a lot off communication work to help them better understand and manage situations.

Jim Bergstrom | July 6, 2008 10:25 PM

I think that your advice is right on the mark, but I did want to throw in a couple of personal experiences from an ex football player who is gay. Back in the late 80's when I was in high school and on the football team being openly gay was tantamount to having leprosy. Every gay person (and some who weren't but were perceived to be) were at best outcasts and at worst beaten up... I know that even though the repercussions were high, I tried to flirt with guys I thought were handsome and might be gay and I spent COUNTLESS hours coming up with machiavellian scenarios where I could disclose being gay in a way with "plausible deniability" should it back fire. The one thing that worked for me was carefully observing the person of interest (back then there were no facebook pages to glean information from) and stalking was a term people on used in conjuction with celebrities. In any case, I observed his quirks and idiosyncracies with a lot of gusto. He had a particular soda he liked, and so one day I did a "drive-by" in that I took the long way around the lunch courtyard and simply, without words or fuss, set down his favoirite soda (unopened of course) right in front of him. I convinced myself this would result in one of two things: 1) he would think I was giving him a soda I didn't like or 2) if he was interested, as I strongly suspected, it would result in him dissecting it and then hopefully having the courage to come thank me. It resulted in my first and longest gay relationship, 10 years. I know that's a typical, I know that teenagers struggling with this issue should be most concerned with surviving until they can explore this indepedently of other peoples support, but as a teenager logic doesn't tend to rule. The heart wants what the heart wants. So in leui of what's smart, if you pursue this do it wisely, use a course of action, as I did that can be construed as nonthreatening, and accept that if things would develop it would happen because this other person was not only interested, but willing to proceed despite the risks. If he doesn't respond keep in mind you have a lot of life a head of you - optimism is the driving force behind life and growth so keep your chin up, be proud of who you are and always act in ways you would want others to act towards you. I wish you much luck and happiness!

Great advice everyone. Caution. Big time. Can't stress it enough.

Great story Jim. Luckily it worked out so well for you. But then again, you were a football player and not likely to be harassed by the average schmoe.

I don't know whether 'Teen with a Crush' fits into that category, or whether he is, like I was, a small book-wormish sort always on the verge of being pounded for something or other. In my case, if I was wrong, the gift of a soda could have been construed like I was giving flowers to a girl and quickly led to brutal torment for the rest of the school year.

So ... caution. Best advice there is.

Jim, Thanks for your incredibly illuminating and heartfelt post. It reminded me that in college I was on the receiving end of a rugby player's attentions. He was a hyper-masculine, handsome, strapping athlete who always said hello when we crossed paths. His best friend, another athlete, was dating a close friend, so we knew each other casually. But what I couldn't understand was why he liked to throw rocks at me. Not big rocks. Mostly pebbles. And he never threw them hard and generally aimed for my back or mid-torso, so it was clear he wasn't trying to hurt me. Still, I found his behavior annoying and despite the fact I found him attractive and liked him, I generally avoided getting anywhere near him because of the rock throwing.

It was only years after college and shortly after he died (of AIDS) that I learned he was gay and had a crush on me. I remember saying to his best friend that he would have made a lot more headway with me if he had expressed his interest a little more directly, but I understand of course why he resorted to the rock throwing that one would expect more of a boy in elementary school. I wish I hadn't been so clueless and had thought to put myself in his shoes to consider what might have been motivating him.

Rock throwing... Now that one I'd never heard of. We do strange things when we're young. Indeed.