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SENSE ABOUT SEX

12-year-old struggles with his attraction to boys

Dear Beth:

I'm 12 and have three younger brothers. My parents don't think I'm old enough to baby-sit yet, but that's only one problem.

My other problem is that the boy who baby-sits us is very attractive. He is 16 but I think he likes me, too. I think I'm gay. When all the other boys at my school talk about girls, I'm not interested. I am also attracted to other boys. Is what I'm feeling OK? Is there any way I can switch back?
ANONYMOUS

What you are feeling is completely OK. In fact, it's great you are honestly thinking and wondering about this. Many teens who have strong same-sex feelings respond to the anger and prejudice they feel from some parts of society by trying to deny their feelings.

Many people feel attracted to both genders. It can be very confusing especially to young people as they are experiencing stronger sexual feelings and want to figure them out. You are normal and OK.

While it is true that people who are predominantly homosexual can change their behavior -- by not relating sexually to the same sex -- they can't change their basic feelings, or which gender they feel attracted to.

Rather than trying to figure out whether you are gay or can ''switch," continue to accept your feelings -- all of them. As for your immediate situation, I think you are too young to become sexually involved with anyone.

You may continue to have questions. If there is no one you feel comfortable talking to in your family or community, call the Gay & Lesbian National Hotline at 888-843-4564 (www.glnh.org). It's toll-free and you can talk confidentially with a trained volunteer about resources in your area.

Beth can be reached at askbeth@globe.com.

Send letters to Ask Beth, The Boston Globe, PO Box 55819, Boston MA 02205-5819. Questions can be answered only through this column. Ask Beth is a registered trademark of Globe Newspaper Co.

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