Dear Louisa

Q. I'm an 18-year-old girl and I have to accept that I'm gay. I'm fine with people being gay, but I feel desperately unhappy that I am gay myself and for several years I've fought against it. Until recently I was going out with a boy. Then I fell in love with a slightly older woman, but she was in a relationship with a man and made it clear she didn't feel the same about me, which made me hate myself even more. There are a couple of out gay guys – and one girl – in my sixth-form, but I feel I have nothing in common with them and would die if anyone at school knew about me. I dread my family finding out. My mother has always treated me as bit of a disappointment (it's just the two of us at home, and I'll leave for uni this year). I know her views on this, and I think it would be the last straw for us. How will I ever be happy with my life?

A. It's heartbreaking to read about your unhappiness, and it's a reminder that, even though gay marriage is now a prospect and so many gay people are living openly and happily, there's a very long way to go before sexuality ceases to be an issue.

I'm sorry you hate yourself, but I doubt that your sexuality is the only cause of your self-loathing, considering that you have always felt like such a disappointment to your mother.

Despite your differences, you're very close now, and it's natural that you want to please her. But you need to know that, as you grow older, her opinion is going to matter to you less and less. There's no rush to tell her, and in fact, you should perhaps wait until you feel happier about it yourself. When the right time does come, she might surprise you. I know some liberal parents who continue to insist that their gay offspring simply haven't met the right girl/boy yet – and also some total stuffed shirts who've confounded expectations by embarking on a steep learning curve and taking great pride in their gay children.

Why would you feel anything in common with the other gay students at school? The ambassadors of homosexuality have by definition mainly been the out and proud – and thank goodness for them. Without them we might not have civil partnerships and other great leaps forward. But their prominence may have obscured the fact that there are lots of ways to be gay, just as there are myriad ways to be straight. Perhaps one of the benefits of civil partnerships and the gay-marriage debate has been to throw the spotlight on to those people ploughing their own furrows without so much as a Streisand CD or a stash of herbal tea, rubbing along just like any other couples.

If you are severely depressed or have suicidal thoughts, please gather the courage to see your GP, who can arrange some help for you. But at 18, you are still a work in progress. Being gay is only one thing about you. I think and hope that university will be a place where you can spread your wings, and that to meet someone you love, and who loves you in return, will change everything for you.

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