"Let me guess," I said, leaning forward. "One day you were doing something you always do, and suddenly you started to pay attention to yourself in a different way. As you focused on yourself, the thought suddenly came into your head, "Maybe this means I'm gay. How do I really know I'm not?" I kept on, "Since then, you keep checking yourself, you know, like looking at guys or girls and trying to see who you're attracted to. Maybe you watch the way you talk, or walk, or move your hands, to see if you do these things the way a gay or straight person would. How am I doing so far, Mike?" He stared at me and answered, "I feel creeped out, like you're reading my mind."
I went on to explain that I definitely didn't have ESP (as far as I knew), but that he was suffering from a very common form of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (also known by the abbreviation OCD); one that doesn't get talked about very much, and certainly not a lot by people his age. Many people with obsessive sexual identity thoughts shared the particular symptoms I had outlined, so they weren't very hard to guess at. I related to him that at one time, a few years ago, I actually found myself treating six different people at once for this type of OCD, and that we had even held a support group meeting just for this group. I added that these thoughts weren't confined to heterosexual people, and that I had even treated a gay patient who was troubled by obsessive thoughts that he might be straight.
Michael went on to confirm that his doubtful thoughts of being gay came on suddenly one day when he was looking through one of his bodybuilding magazines. He remembered looking at one picture in particular and thinking, "I wonder if I find this guy attractive?" With that, he suddenly became very anxious and horrified that he could have such a thought. He also found that in the days following, he couldn't get the thought out of his head. What made things worse, was that the other guys in school had a habit of teasing each other about being gay, a not unusual occurrence. Remarks that he used to shrug off now became very frightening. "What if they really can tell?" he remembered asking himself. He found himself avoiding his usual crowd. He threw away the bodybuilding magazines. He stopped going to school. Nothing helped. It seemed like the harder he worked to avoid thinking about whether or not he was gay, the more he would think about it. "But I'm not gay," he emphasized, "I'm not attracted to guys, so why am I thinking this? I've never been attracted to guys!" He paused for a moment. "But the thoughts seem so real."OK, it may not be very common, but it's possible that the Safe Schools program leads to this in some teenagers.
[Not sure about any teenager with bodybuilding magazines, though. I can't get my head around that as an interest...]