Savage Love

Father Figures

Comments

1
First?
2
Meanwhile, Harvey Fierstein's like "Heeeey...wait a minute."

p.s. I love that the dad is so on it and sensitive and just ready for whatever. obv. now's not perfect but seems a lot better than that kid and dad circa 1963 or whatever.

viva you, dan!

jill
http://www.inbedwithmarriedwomen.com
3
Just to be a little bit contrarian about the first letter, adolescent boys have been having circle jerks and similar adolescent sex play with their friends pretty much as long as there have been adolescent boys. Somehow it doesn't seem fair to say that it's okay and normal for boys we think will grow up to live straight lives to do this, but that it's not okay when we think a boy will grow up to lead a gay life instead.
4
If he wants to make sure that he can have a sex talk with his son that has a lot of the gay sex areas covered, but without trying to out his son before he's ready, he could just frame them in straight contexts. The good practices that apply to anal sex with a man are the same as with a woman, etc. Or he could just make it as gender neutral as possible, and only use the word "partner," and try to leave "he" and "she" out of it as much as possible.
5
@3- Good thoughts, but.... gay teens get emotionally involved with said circle jerks, unlike straight boys. So the thing that's no big deal to a straight kid can be a minefield for a gay kid. Let's just hope that son and Gomer have a good understanding between them.
Best to keep dad in the loop, if at all possible. No easy trick unless the kid's already out to himself. Good advice.
6
I commend the father for knowing the limits of his knowledge and actively searching for answers he doesn't have. It's a minefield- physically, emotionally, or both- being an adolescent, especially a queer one. The LW's boy is lucky to have a father determined not to be damaging to him.
P.S. The gay porn thing, while not a slam-dunk in the queer-kid sweepstakes, does make for a particularly strong case. Just stay away from the accusatory "Are you?" and try the more disarming "I know". Regardless, you have to update the sex talk, no way around it. "Wear a condom or your dick might fall off" is pretty much universally true. Good luck.
7
Dan, I remember reading something you wrote to the parents of a just out teen...something about teenage boys being teenage boys, and that fact doubling the amount of testosterone in a relationship. Perhaps when dad gets over this step, he should read that.
8
The answer to the second letter was all right as far as it went, but omitted that gay men do not have the counterbalancing message that every schlub deserves a supermodel.
9
For DUD, if he can find an Our Whole Lives sex ed program in his area, it is comprehensive and inclusive. It provides accurate sex ed for straight and gay kids, as well as trans kids. It is created by the UCC and UUA, but the program is primarily secular. It can be taught in either a religious or non religious setting, and the curriculum is the same.
10
As for the first letter, I can give the LW the benefit of the doubt about his selection of the moniker "Gomer".

Moving on: [I've had the (straight) sex talk with my son, and he knows that I don't want him to be sexually active yet.]

The LW omits "with girls" from the end of the sentence. Possibly telling.

But now, I ask everyone who would like to BE an ally and mot just be considered one, to take this seriously:

[And if he's not gay, I worry I could seriously damage our relationship and hurt his pride by suggesting he is.]

The LW sees nothing wrong with having given "the" straight sex talk to a child who'd showed no signs of heterosexuality and has not worried at all now that he thinks it likely he gave the "wrong" (or at least an incomplete) talk about having damaged the relationship but thinks that a reasonable and likely response to an erroneous suggestion would be hurt PRIDE? Even if we decline to make the case that straight males whose pride would be hurt by a suggestion of their being gay are probably the ones most in need of just that experience, this is big enough to make me doubt the LW's claim to "support full equality" for SS couples and I think rules out the possibility that he could "support him fully" that concludes the first paragraph. L.M.B. Probably not an LMB delivered in the tone in which, in The Mirror Crack'd, Kim Novak belts out the line, "S**** Scotland Yard!!!" at the end of Lola Brewster's interview with Dermot Craddock, but still a serious LMB.
11
@10, I assumed the 'Gomer' was in honor of Jim Nabors' recent wedding to his male partner of many years.
12
@10, Dad acknowledges his internalized stereotype ("gay = effeminate"), and that his son being gay would require substantial adjusting to. Isn't it possible that he can have a bit of internalized prejudice AND support full equality?

I'm guessing that lots of progressive folks - myself included - might harbor conscious and unconscious prejudices and stereotypes of one sort or another. We can recognize these as flaws that require work -- and while we work on them they needn't get in the way of desiring and working for fair treatment for all.
13
@11 - So did I; I just didn't recall Mr G. Pyle as being the sort of character one would wish a loved one to emulate, although, if memory serves, Mr Nabors himself possessed quite a good singing voice at one time.
14
@Mr. Vennominon: I see your point, but I think we should cut this dad a bit of slack here. He seems to genuinely want to support his son, regardless of said son's sexual orientation, doesn't want to be seen as giving the green light to the son's having sex as a 14-year-old, and doesn't want to risk alienating the son. Maybe the kid assumes that his father already knows he's gay, but maybe he thinks he's hiding it and he isn't ready to come out yet.

This is a forced outing, and the only reason it would happen is all wrapped up with his father's distrust of what's going on in that bedroom. Maybe the son is gay but Gomer is straight, and nothing sexual is happening. Maybe the son is gay and Gomer is straight, and sexual things are happening. As others are pointing out, two straight boys could still be experimenting sexually, and it's likely that they're covered, excused from scrutiny or suspicion of sex by their presumed straightness. And of course, maybe Gomer and the son are both gay. Even if that is the case, they could be rather cold-bloodedly experimenting with sex, or they could be in the throes of 14-year-old Romance, and someone is probably going to wind up with a broken heart.

I think the father needs to examine his own responses to a variety of scenarios, and then address them. He should address the issue that his son is most probably gay completely independently of whether or not the son's having sex. He can start by bringing up the browser history ("hey, buddy, I saw you've been looking at a lot of gay porn and I want you to know that I still love you exactly the same whether you're gay or straight. But I want to know you and who you are"). This should lead gently into the Sex Talk for Gay Kids. I imagine that were I to be the straight single father of a gay boy the talk would focus most on self-protection, both physical and emotional.

Then, in a different conversation (perhaps separated by a few days, perhaps by a few weeks), he can bring up how he feels about Gomer's being alone with the son in the bedroom with the door closed and set some ground rules for having friends over that he (the dad) feels comfortable with. If the son protests that nothing's happening, or that Gomer's straight, the dad can just say that these are the rules.

But in any case, I'd advise some tolerance for the dad: he's in what for him are uncharted waters and he's scared of doing the wrong thing. I don't get the sense that he's a homophobe, just not very experienced in dealing with issues pertaining to his kid's sexuality--no matter what that sexuality is, and needs a little guidance.
15
@12 - Oh, it's possible. I'm inclined to give him half a point for the instances you cite. After all, I just said that his blunder made me doubt that part of the particular sentence in question. I could have said a good deal more about, "I have no problem with gay people," and am quite prepared to believe that he wrote that phrase in all sincerity, but that's often the problem. And I'm far more concerned, really, with his claim that he would support his son fully, which I think the gaffe definitely disqualifies without a good deal of work.

Obviously, "supporting full equality" is such a vague phrase and can entail so little actual action that on one level one almost can't argue with it. I can think of several things I "support" where the practical extent of that support just amounts to voicing a favourable opinion when the subject comes up in conversation. I may be doubting the "full" by suspecting that his concept of full equality is flawed enough that what he's actually supporting and what he thinks he's supporting aren't the same thing.

I do take your point that on many important causes we must all acknowledge and own our faults as we strive for progress. But I'd suggest that the people who do that really well tend not to call something "PROBABLY an unfair stereotype". (That word just hit me.)
16
Another angle to consider: When I was a teenage faggot, me and my best friend used to hang out in my bedroom with the door closed. We weren't fucking (he was straight) we were getting gloriously high and destroying our eardrums with the sort of loud, terrible music that only teenagers and idiots love.
17
vennominon, the father acknowledges his personal discomfort with homosexuality, but wants to help and support his son, and expresses a desire for a fair and just world. Cut him a break.

DUD, I think your son is gay. I don't know if he's having sex with Gomer. If he is, he is unlikely to stop. But Gomer is "a nice kid" and about the same age as your son. As Dan points out, neither will get the other pregnant. If they are only messing around with each other, they won't catch anything, either.

Rather than trying to prevent your son from having sex, I think you should focus on keeping your son healthy -- both physically and emotionally. He should know about STIs. (I recall Dan saying that "straights worry about birth control, gays worry about death control." You should keep him away from creepy or manipulative older men. I'm not sure you have to keep him away from Gomer.

And I don't know if you have to tell him that you know he is gay. He may not have come out to himself, yet. I think it would be pretty weird to learn that from your father. [Although I do know a gay man who sort of learned that from his mother, and he survived that. :) ] My advice is to make sure he really knows about safe sex, and to make sure he knows that you are there for him. And good luck.
18
When I was growing up, I knew I was gay, but just wasn't able to handle it yet. All of my friends in high school were straight-- I didn't even know any other gay kids in my school! (Turned out there were several, but everyone was closeted). I'd hang out with my straight male friends without much supervision all the time. I can't imagine how mortified I would have been if my parents had figured out that I'm gay and told me that I couldn't hang out with my friends without supervision! Man, that would have been an utter disaster for me (and high school was rough enough as it was)
19
I have a possible suggestion that I'd like to run by the Savage Love commentariat to see whether it might be a good idea:

DUD might consider taking on some volunteer work through a local LGBT group/center/etc., pushing for equality, and tell his quite-possibly-gay son that equality is something he values strongly. Yes, the archetypal "PFLAG parent" can be a bit of an embarrassment to the archetypal queer teen -- but it's a embarrassment that combines the obligatory teen attitude towards parents with an undercurrent of genuine pride and acceptance. Getting involved with a pro-LGBT campaign would be an education that DUD may need if he wants to keep on being a better-than-most parent, a sign to the gay son he might have that it's OK to come out, and an indication to the straight son he might have that homophobia is not OK, etc. It's a win for all parties involved.
20
By disaster, I mean that if my straight male friends had found out that I couldn't hang out with them at their places, and found out why... that would have been very, very bad for me as a teenager. Most of them would have been fine with it, but one loose tongue and the whole school would have known-- and there were plenty of bullies at my school. I would have had to change schools. No joke!
21
Ms Cute - I'll acknowledge that he's a vast improvement over my own parents. But excessive hand-wringing does less harm than premature or unjustified self-congratulation, which could lead the LW into becoming another Miss Brodie.

I suppose the degree of fault to be assigned to anyone who gives a Sex Talk that doesn't include at least bisexuality as a possibility is one of those topics for quasi-theological discussion in this set, a sort of sideways equivalent of angels dancing on pinheads.

My only real interest in what this LW should actually do concerns whether he provides the boy with access to resources from his own kind. It's the parents who think they can go it alone and not have to involve Those People who do far more damage. And at least this LW did have the good judgment to consult Mr Savage.

As for his having a (big) problem with gay people? Big whoop. Find me a straight parent who doesn't. Okay, there are some, but even wanting a medal for it is a sort of disqualifier.

That Hurt Pride sentence comes off as increasingly desperate with every reading. Talk about building straw men at which to grasp...

In conclusion, though, I suspect that you would get me to LIKE a straight person who thought hurt pride a reasonable and appropriate response to the suggestion of homosexuality about as often as I would get you to like somebody who sincerely believed that women never used more than half their understanding. Fortunately, I don't have to like the LW. I wish him well for his son's sake. If he makes substantial progress in dealing with his own issues, I am open to changing my mind.
22
Wait, what is this about straight teenagers sexually experimenting with each other? Circle jerks are what gay frat boys do.

As for the first letter, dad should mandate that the door to the bedroom stay open, and if he wants to make that rule without confronting his son's sexuality, he can start by saying it's just to help his son not be tempted to do anything he's not supposed to do, and if his son calls him on what that might be, the dad can go with using drugs.
23
@21: I am a straight parent. I don't have a problem, big or small, with gay people. But I don't think I deserve a medal for it. I don't see this father as self-congratulatory, either. And as far as your thinking that the letter writer, or any other straight parent of a gay child thinks he "can go it alone and not have to involve Those People," well, I don't quite know what to say. There's literally nothing in the letter to suggest that this dad isn't willing to learn from gay people. You have hinted at a truly terrible experience with parents who forced you to try to change who you are. That's wrong, and I feel very badly for you. But not all straight parents are your parents. You seem unwilling to accept that not all straights are homophobic bigots. Whereas I believe that not all men are misogynists.
24
What's the read on Gomer's parents? Are they as open minded as DUD? Will all hell break loose if they find out the boys have been snogging under DUD's roof?
25
Sorry, this comment is long.

I have a lot of friends who are parents, and who come to me (their gay friend) with variations on "I think my teenage son is gay, but I'm not sure, he hasn't said anything to me, but I'd be totally okay with it if he was gay, and I think he knows that, but I'm *only concerned* because [dot dot dot]."

Here is what I tell them:

When I was 17, my parents told me "we know you're gay," and also "we know you're in a relationship with Fred" (not his real name), and also "we want you to be careful".

I am now 42, and I haven't gotten over it. I mean, on the one hand, it was a relief, because they didn't blow up or throw me out of the house. But on the other hand, I had spent *years* trying to have them NOT know I was gay, and furthermore they were wrong, I *wasn't* in a relationship with Fred, I was madly in love with Fred and it wasn't working out and I felt horrible, and I *was* being careful, really fucking careful, all the fucking time, because I had to be fucking careful all the time because that's what being a gay kid IS, and I really needed my parents to tell me not "be careful" but to just be me and it would be okay and they would love me and they'd have my back, and what's more, somebody else, not Fred, but forget Fred, somebody else would love me, someday, and it would be awesome, and my parents would be there for me enjoying my happiness and joy, not just my "carefulness."

But no, they just wanted to make sure I didn't do anything "stupid" or "dangerous". Which, basically, I internalized as "we think it's risky that you're gay." Maybe they imagined they would have behaved exactly the same way if I were spending a lot of time with a girl -- but I had no way of knowing that. And I feel confident that if I had been in a relationship with a girl, I could have counted on them to act like it sort of mattered, not just because of whatever fluids might have been being exchanged.

My point is, don't come crashing into your son's most intimate personal life with your "knowledge" and your "concern" blazing. You *don't* know what he's going through, and your chances of being 100% correct are much smaller than your chances of getting something important wrong.

His sex life, if he has one, may well be your "business", you being his dad, but it's still his *life*. And he needs to know that you care about him, and love him, and support him, but also that you want him to have a full and complete life, which means a life not always under the watchful eye of Dad. (I mean, what if he and Gomer are just making out? Is that okay with you? If not, why not? Are you sure you know how you feel about this? Do you think you can communicate your feelings which you admit "require a bit of mental adjustment" to him in a way that doesn't make him feel like "Dad doesn't approve of the fact that I have a boyfriend... which is sort of the same thing as him not approving of me being gay...")

Contrary to popular belief, there are other things going on in teenage boys' lives besides hormones and erections. They also have emotions and (in the case of gay boys) unbelievably difficult emotional challenges coming at them every day. PARENTS ARE ONE OF THOSE CHALLENGES. Your son doesn't know what will happen if you find out he's gay. Will you beat him up? Will you ridicule or belittle him? Will you prevent him from ever being alone with his boyfriend again? You may think it's obvious that the answer to all those questions is no, but you're wrong. Believe me, gay kids have a strong survival instinct, and they know they've got to be ready for *anything*, and you are one of the most powerful corners out of which *anything* could come.

Before you even remotely approach the question of him being gay, let him know that you are the kind of person, and the kind of dad, who would *never* do any of those things.

(How, you ask? Well, talk to him about some other kid who you heard was gay, and how great you think that is, and how you really admire that kid for his bravery, and how well you think that kid's parents are doing at supporting him, and how you see them as a model for how you'd like to behave if you were ever in that situation... and yeah, let your son think that maybe you're talking about him but let your son be the one to make the decision that he wants to turn the conversation that way.)

I know a dad who has a teenage son, named Al (not), who "might be gay". But Al and his dad haven't talked about it. And Al's dad tells me he's okay with the idea of Al being gay. But when Al bought his teenage friend Jim (not) a $30 ring for Valentine's Day, Al's dad told Al "$30 is too expensive."

Study questions: How's that make Al feel, you think? Do you think Al hears that as a remark about economics? What might Al conclude his dad thinks about Al's might-be-gay-ness?

You have incredible power over this kid's life. He NEEDS you to show him you're going to use that power to make his life as a gay kid better, not worse. He needs to see you DO that. Now. Because otherwise he's going to think your "concerns" are just euphemisms for "I accept your homosexuality, as long as it doesn't actually occur."

So do it. Make his life as a gay kid better. Now. Tell him what you would do if someone harassed a gay kid at his school. Tell him what you think of homophobic assholes in the media. Tell him you're glad being gay is easier now than it used to be and you're looking forward to it getting even easier. Don't tell him you "have gay friends" -- invite your gay friends over for dinner.

You can do this. It's what you want to do. It's what you would want to do even if your kid turned out to be actually *not* gay. So do it.

*Then* you can talk about your concerns. If you still have them.
26
Great column, Dan, again!

@23 nocutename: Well said! I'm not a parent, bit I couldn't have expressed my feelings any better than yours regarding DUD's letter to Dan, and @21's response.
27
Stupid !@#%^& keyboard!! And there's nothing spilled on it, either!

re: @26: I meant: "....I'm not a parent, but I couldn't...."
28
@25: I don't know your parents, and forgive me for making assumptions, but I think you could cut them some slack for telling you to be careful, especially given the number of gay men who were dying in the eighties. You say that being very careful was just part of being a gay kid, but a lot of gay kids, just like straight kids, aren't careful. Kids usually aren't. Again I'm probably projecting and making assumptions, but given the stakes (seroconversion)and the homophobic culture they were likely raised in, it sounds like your parents did the best they could. I guess what I'm trying to say in my overly long message is that your parents weren't trying to be insensitive, they were trying to be supportive, and all the time they were probably fucking terrified for you.
29
@28: You're right, of course. My long-ass comment (like this one, sorry) isn't meant to be read as a definitive smackdown of my parents, who were and are in lots of ways really great parents (just as Al's dad is in lots of ways a really great dad). Yes, they were scared ("fucking terrified" is probably a pretty good way of putting it), as I'm sure all parents get scared sometimes. I can't and don't blame them for that.

But, look, with that experience, which may have been an innocent misstep on the part of my parents but which nonetheless *was* a really bad experience for me, under my belt, I am who I am. So now if a well-meaning-parent with a maybe-gay kid and a possibly-legitimate-concern asks me for advice, I'll maintain that if that parent really wants to help that kid, the parent needs to get his/her own "fucking terror" of what may happen to the kid under control *before* talking to the kid!

It's about your kid, not your fear, and your kid doesn't need you to add your fears to his/her problems. Do you want your kid to have to conquer *your* fears as well as his/her own? Your kid's problems are not only big enough as it is -- they're also a lot more tangible than your fears, and some of them, being tangible, may actually have solutions.

Showing your maybe-gay kids, by example, that there's nothing to be afraid of, and that even the things which *are* potentially scary can be defeated/avoided, is one of the best things you can do for them. Showing them, by example, that the world is full of incomprehensible and terrifying horrors which you can't help with because you're paralyzed with fear? Not so much.

Or another way of saying that is: Come on parents, if you want your gay kid to rise above all the scary stuff that comes with being gay (which you do, right?), you've gotta be able to do it too. Which you can, right?
30
I skipped a whole bunch of the comments so this may be repeat advice, but DUD--as a lesbian whose mom once tried to do the "compassionate premature outing" thing when I was thirteen and sent me scuttling in tears to the very back of the closet in fear, here is my advice:

Address the porn.

Not whether it's gay, not whether it's straight. Not whether it's moral, not whether it's kinky or vanilla or stereotypical or WHAT-THE-FUCK-EVER. Just the fact that there is porn, and it is on his computer:

"Hey, bud, I want to borrow your ear for five minutes. I've noticed some adult sites on your laptop. [Give him a second here to offer up whatever protest it is he wants to give you, from "I clicked it by accident" to "I didn't know it was porn".] Okay, that's fine--I just want to make sure you know free adult sites have a tendency to come with a metric asston of viruses attached, so if you do decide you want to browse--I'd rather have you looking at porn than having sex--make sure your firewall is turned on and don't bypass it just because something looks tempting, okay? There's more than enough out there and it's not worth risking your computer. [Give him time to agree.] One more thing. I want you to read this. It's by a columnist who actually gives pretty damn good advice." Then give him a printout of Dan's column on getting your twenty-year-old self laid. It'll embarrass the hell out of him (especially the part about masturbation), but it'll embarrass--and mortify--him far less than actually hearing this stuff from YOU. You sound like a good dad, DUD, but the last thing teenagers want is to hear their parents talking to them about how to have sex. I should know--my mom tried to take the open-and-honest approach and I was a terrified prude until I left her house.

That's it. Address the porn. Especially if he's been visiting sites where the address makes it blatantly obvious what's there. And do so NATURALLY. Don't "avoid" mentioning that it's gay porn--just don't mention it because in the context of what you're saying, it doesn't matter. Your kid is exploring. Let him explore and tell him to do it safely. If you let him see that it's not such of a much--that your first priority is his health and safety--he will be more willing to come out, especially because you've already made it not a big deal between you. (Feel free to freak out to a friend who can keep his or her mouth shut WELL OUT OF THE HEARING RANGE of your son, though--my mom did when I finally came out. It was the "out of my hearing range" part she failed at. The telephone does not count. Get out of the house, AWAY from the kid and talk there. You needing to adjust does not make you a bad ally or a bad dad. You having a big sad in front of your son would not be a gold star, however.)

And if he goes "uh, dad . . . about that . . . . " when you give him the two-minutes-or-less porn chat, be ready to NOT GIVE ADVICE, and say the following: "Yeah, I gathered. I love you." Nothing about "I still love you" or "I love you anyway." Don't make it out to be an "in spite of that fault . . . " thing. Just LOVE HIM.

Don't overwhelm him with PFLAG information. Don't offer to call the school and demand a GSA. Let HIM tell YOU what he needs. He will know best. Then make sure you follow through--that your door is always open.
31
Wait, what is this about straight teenagers sexually experimenting with each other? Circle jerks are what gay frat boys do.

As for the first letter, dad should mandate that the door to the bedroom stay open, and if he wants to make that rule without confronting his son's sexuality, he can start by saying it's just to help his son not be tempted to do anything he's not supposed to do, and if his son calls him on what that might be, the dad can go with using drugs.
32
I think it's worth asking, that if it's NOT okay to tell a teenager you think he might be gay, why is it okay to tell him not to have gay sex in his room?

Do you see what I mean? It's like, "I'd like to allow my kid a little privacy around his sex life, so I'm not going to force him to tell me what gender he prefers, but I'd really like to forbid him from sex with that gender so I need to ask what it is."

I know lots and lots of parents "forbid" their kids from having sex, so mine might be a fringe opinion. I just generally think grown ups should butt out a little more.
33
@32 I tend to agree. Parents do not own their offspring's genitals. Give them info, keep them safe from predators, but after a certain age you've got to MYOB about what they do alone or with their peers.
34
Oh, and of course provide them with access to condoms and drive them to any doctor they feel like visiting.
35
I'd probably advise DUD to make sure to have a fuller STI talk with his son, maybe emphasizing that there are studies talking about how STIs tend to migrate in high schools a lot more than among 20s-and-up adults.* And then maybe segueing the conversation from there to "and this applies to gay or straight kids, whatever you wind up being into." and seeing where the conversation goes from there.

But after that, as people have pointed out, Gomer is not likely to knock up DUD's son. And as has been pointed out, forbidding him from spending time alone with Gomer at home simply means they're going to go somewhere else and risk getting in trouble. I say at that point, if he's going to experiment, just suggest he keep the noise down and pretend to not notice -- same as if he was masturbating in his room.

*-- For those who haven't heard, it's been found that once you're older than college age, you tend to stick to certain social circles for partners. Whereas in high school, the sexual relationships are like chains -- Abe is dating Barbara who's dating Chris who's dating Dana... etc and a disease that Zeke has might wind up passing all the way down to Abe.
36
@9: That is a terrific resource. Thank you so much for sharing it. I've been wondering how to handle this when my kid is older, and it's a godsend to find a program that matches my values. Phew!
37
In Love Actually the father asks his son, "Aren't you too young to be in love?" and the son answers, "No."

Is there anybody on here who looks back on his first time and says, "I was chronologically too young"?

I think a parent's job is help his baby bird learn to fly and safely leave the nest, not confine him to the nest. If the bird can fly, it should fly. It's ridiculous to say to your son, "You're too young to jerk off. Don't touch your willie until you are 18." Or 21? Or 30? Or 65?

The son needs lots of good information about not getting an STD and lots of loving information about treating people in a loving way, not using them.
38
In Love Actually the father asks his son, "Aren't you too young to be in love?" and the son answers, "No."

Is there anybody on here who looks back on his first time and says, "I was chronologically too young"?

I think a parent's job is help his baby bird learn to fly and safely leave the nest, not confine him to the nest. If the bird can fly, it should fly. It's ridiculous to say to your son, "You're too young to jerk off. Don't touch your willie until you are 18." Or 21? Or 30? Or 65?

The son needs lots of good information about not getting an STD and lots of loving information about treating people in a loving way, not using them.
39
Great response to NAA.
40
@23 Thank you for what you wrote. I couldn't have expressed it better myself. I'm a straight woman who has a three-year-old son with my bisexual, genderqueer husband. I will always love and support my son without condition, just as I do my husband. And no, I don't deserve a medal for this, either. I call it being a decent person.

If I weren't sure about how to support my husband and/or son when it came to sexual orientation and/or gender identity, I'd try seeking Dan's advice as DUD did. I think DUD is doing the best he can by his son and am glad he wrote to Dan on such an important topic.
41
What if this was a heterosexual 14 yr old boy? Would people be ok with them being in the bedrooom with the door closed, possibly having sex? Just tell him, there are house rules, no closed bedroom doors. When the son asks why, you tell him, you are gay, no boyfriends in your room with your door closed. If he says, I'm not gay, you say, oh I assumed because of the porn. If he gets insulted, you say, why are you insulted, there is nothing wrong with being gay. So what, they will sneak and do it elsewhere. That's usually what teens who are sexually active do. No special treatment. And of course have a few same sex, safe sex brochures on hand
42
Ms Cute - I do not have a low bar to earn the title of Homophobic Bigot. I accept your objection - Those People is too much (equivalent: Fleur changing, "It's affected her beautifully," in Warrender Chase to, "It's affected her very well," and alas, I cannot even claim to have been reading too much Henry James).

Here is an inner monologue of the mindset I did not succeed in describing:

"My son is showing stereotypical signs of homosexuality. I want to be okay with that and have no problems with it. I want to have no problems with gay people, even though I feel that they are very Other from me. Luckily, I can't recognize any problem I may have with gay people. That must mean I don't have a problem. What a relief! If I knew I did, I'd feel honour bound to see to it that he got help from gay people who could give him something he needn't that I couldn't because of my hypothetical problem. But luckily, because I don't have a problem, I can handle all the gay issues myself rather than having to let him spend time with gay people who, whether they mean to or not, will make him feel more like People Like Them than the People Like Us like which I want him to feel."

Now this LW is already well ahead of that particular mindset - he is, after all, consulting a gay person for assistance. (I really ought to go to bed when it's well past time and not try to reply to people just because my idea is still fresh.) But recall, if you will, Fanny Price's assessment of Miss Crawford's soul - "darkened yet fancying itself light" if memory serves (not exactly thoroughly enlightened, but I'll not follow that path this time). That is the impression the LW gave me.

I'll accept this comparison as a little dramatic, but gay teens with straight parents make me think of the film version of Mary MacGregor. We are, to some extent, alone in the world, or at least the family. Our needs are great (not that a straight teen's aren't, but again, different conversation). What scares me about a potential outcome for straight parents of gay teens is very similar to the portion of the climactic confrontation that mentions Mary. Miss Brodie asserts that she was devoted to Mary, and I'm willing to accept that she thinks so. Sandy points out that she was only attracted to Mary (because Mary proved such an excellent blank canvas). How easy it was to send Mary off to Spain to fight for the wrong army - and how apt Sandy's thought that Miss Brodie always called Mary by both names because she had such a hard time remembering who she was. (I omit Sandy's listing of Miss Brodie's priorities being first that she had been betrayed and second who was to be her proxy in Teddy Lloyd's bed.)

For clarification, at least at this moment, in the matter of Otherness, seeing somewhat more than really exists strikes me as on the whole a little less dangerous than seeing somewhat less. The Assimilationists have won more of a victory than that for which we were prepared, and the dismantling of gay culture and community, although much to the rejoicing of Mr Savage's dear friend Mr Sullivan, is proceeding too quickly, without concern to leave a permanent infrastructure for the support and benefit of future generations.

My main point is that one LMB does not equal a cry of YHB! that I recognize might be attributed to someone disinclined to throw in a bit of soft soap to a POGT. Plenty of time for soft soap later. Had I wanted to cry YHB! I'd have come down hard on a couple of points:

I touched on "the" (Exclusively) straight Sex Talk but could have been much more severe about such a talk, even with a child who had already given ample sign of OS attraction, omitting at least the bisexual possibility as being a grave fault. I chose not to ride this one because it struck me as being probably comparable to people not observing posted speed limits - too ubiquitous, and people skate far too great a majority of the time, for serious firepower.

I also chose not to comment about their being no evidence of an already existing gay influence in the boy's life. For one thing, it would seem a bit much if one were to have to befriend a representative of every group whose causes one happened to support. For another, I can acknowledge that on this one we have no clear consensus on any way a straight LW can win. Exactly what is the "correct" thing to say about the presence of gay people in one's straight life? It's similar to what I was saying to Ms Crinoline about LWs acknowledging their own faults in a relationship; whatever they say, they're likely to be second-guessed.

The only thing about which I particular care is that the boy turn out a happy, healthy, reasonably adjusted (presumably same-sex-oriented) adult, prefereably one without a lot of problematic internalized attitudes that might be traced back to formative influence from a source that thought itself more enlightened than it was. If that happens, I can even live with the LW getting a good deal more credit for it than he deserves, however much that might actually be. I actually give him a good deal of credit already, but choose to emphasize the flip side in part because the time for sympathy is later and in part because I was quite sure that there would be a flood of comments reassuring him that he's 100% on the right track. I am also willing to appear not to be watching him eagle-eyed for any error or failing, such watchfulness being counterproductive.
43
You forgot George Takei. Good-looking man, but not chiseled.
44
Ms Canada - I salute you. Give yourself credit, though; you seem well ahead of DUD. I cannot imagine your ever penning the Hurt Pride sentence.

I'm perfectly willing to grant that DUD is doing as well as he can. The danger to the kid lies in what happens if DUD is led to think that he's doing a good deal better than he is.
45
Want to see non stereotype gay men without chiseled, tan bodies? Look on any dating site. Woof.
46
Probably better off leaving gay-son alone with his bud to do whatever they are doing together unless there are other signs that things are not going well, (hard drugs, emotional abuse, etc.). Dan does bring up a good point in that playing with a bud is one the few perks of gay closet teenage life, so I really don't see the harm in letting them experiment and figure things out on their own. Since the two boys are the same age, (and Gomer doesn't sound like a jerk), DUD is actually in a good situation. It would be a real, scary problem if gay-son was hooking up with adults on Craig's. The suggestions of working at centers, bringing up gay news issues, etc., are going to come across as being ham-fisted and clumsy no matter what. It sounds like gay-son is progressing along at a good pace anyway so he will probably make the jump before too long.
47
@Mr. Ven.
First of all, I need help with your abbreviations. You once explained LMB, so I've got that one, but YHB and POGT are mysteries. Additionally, you use OS in a way that mystifies me. I would think that OS meant "opposite sex," but here you say "I touched on "the" (Exclusively) straight Sex Talk but could have been much more severe about such a talk, even with a child who had already given ample sign of OS attraction, omitting at least the bisexual possibility as being a grave fault." Could OS mean "Other" Sex? But that still has the connotation of "different," or "opposite." SS could be "same sex," but also "straight sex." Oh dear: maybe abbreviations are hindering more than helping.

The reality is that most gay teens will have straight parents. These parents, no matter how enlightened and non-judgmental they may be in general, may get confused and tripped up when sexual issues arise in their kids's lives. It might not be unlike the way a parent who wants to be very sex positive stumbles, in a well-meaning way, into the category of TMI or "Here, dear, is a vibrator for you to use." It's a bumble, but one that comes from a well-meant impulse.

The issue of whether you set hard-and-fast rules about doors closed or try to control your 14-year-old's sexuality--gay or straight--is a giant, writhing can of worms. You can forbid sex, but teens who want to have sex will find a way to have sex. You can try to be pragmatic, and this might be interpreted as encouraging sexual behavior. You can try to examine why you really object to your 14-year-old having sex and come to the conclusion that if there is no pregnancy risk, and the chance of either very young teen being infected with an STI is incredibly low, it's probably not as big a deal, but you still don't want to be seen as condoning sex for 14-year-olds. Then you also have to think about the fact that you are enforcing a double standard: allowing more sexual freedom for your gay son than you would for your straight son or daughter. This in turn might be interpreted by said teen as your being so uncomfortable with his sexuality that you aren't willing to parent in the same way you would or do his straight siblings, or it might be interpreted as a signal that you don't ever want your teen to come out to you because you can't handle the reality of who he is. You can feel trapped between the knife and the wall.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, it's tricky. And apparently, from what I'm reading @25, even the most well-intentioned parents make mistakes which leave children traumatized for life. I like the way # 30's script goes, but in the moment, it's sometimes hard to stick to a script, and now I'm left worrying that if I say "I still love you," or "I love you anyway," in a moment of clumsiness or an attempt to reassure my kid that my love isn't conditional, I've suggested that there's something wrong with being gay.

I don't believe you're a parent, but parenting is often very hard work, and the stakes are pretty darn high. I think that those of us who came of age in a homophobic society, who THINK we have no issues with homosexuality (though, of course, you're right; we probably have some unexplored issues) are trying to do the best we can. We don't pat ourselves on the back, don't expect medals, but it's apparent that we're walking through minefields without detectors, and rather than offer support, we're getting told that simply by virtue of being straight ourselves, we can do no right.

48
FWIW, I've always told my kids that I will love them "no matter what." The "no matter what" usually refers to behavior. ("Would you love me if I killed someone?" "I would be very upset if you killed someone, and I wouldn't like that you had killed someone, but yes, even if you killed someone, I would love you. I always love you, will always love you, no matter what.") But a kid could extrapolate from that there is no reason for me to stop loving her.

There's a thought that straight people can't model for gay people, that gay teens need, as Mr. Ven put it, someone of their own kind. But I think that that straight people can and should and do model whether their own kids are gay or straight. We do it not to pat ourselves on the back. We do it because it's the right thing to do.
I put my money where my mouth is. The first political campaign I ever worked on was the "No on Prop. 8" campaign here in California. I've gotten my kids fired up to see same-sex marriage as a civil right since the oldest one was 5: kids have a very strong sense of inherent unfairness and injustice. I have a huge number of gay friends and acquaintances and my kids know them. Our neighbors are gay, some of my kids' friends' parents are gay, and their two much-loved cousins are a couple that has been together for close to 40 years.

I try to show compassion for everyone and make it a goal to treat all people with decency and humanity, and I don't consider myself to be beyond learning. I think a gay teen of straight parents does need a few adult gay role models. And they can be found through the parents or by the teen himself, but I believe that the unconditional love and support of parents goes a long way.
49
The Gay Adonis letter made me think of Grandpa Simpson's rant: "Dear television producers, I am DISGUSTED with the way old people are portrayed on television these days. We are NOT all vibrant, fun-loving sex maniacs! Many of us are BITTER, RESENTFUL individuals, who remember the good old days, when entertainment was bland and inoffensive!"
50
48 year old suburban mom of two straight (as far as I know) teens. Parents want the best for their kids, and that includes an easy life – and being a gay teen is just not easy. Doesn’t mean disappointment, doesn’t mean being gay isn’t “the best” even - just means, for many parents, an adjustment of thinking, and often a fumbling of how to express that. I don’t think most parents imagine they are damaging their kids when they attempt to say or do the right thing when presented with a scenario they perhaps were not expecting – saying I love you no matter what or saying be careful are not intentionally hurtful and I have a hard time believing most teens would take it that way. I’ve only met 6 or 8 gay/lesibans in my life (that I was aware of, that is, who were living their lives out and open), but have no gay friends, my kids don’t seem to know of anyone in their 5000 person school who is publically out, nor are any of their friends’ parents gay (no one seems to have two moms or dads). I just found out a casual friend’s child is transgendered – and let me tell you, when she said so many of us who were there were consumed w/questions we didn’t feel comfortable asking (but we did discuss among ourselves later) – as this was our first encounter w/anything like that. All that said, I think addressing the porn issue is a good way to start (didn’t I read somewhere that it is not uncommon for teen males to look at gay porn for curiosity, as well as comparison of physical aspects, etc.) – as in, 14 is a bit young to be looking – and if you are looking, make sure you understand most of it is made up exaggeration, etc.

@25: Parents do their best – sometimes they fumble, sometimes they are spot on. And as for your friend’s gay son buying a $30 ring for a friend and the dad felt it was too $$ – my son bought a $30 necklace for his girlfriend for Hanukkah – and I said it was too $$ and made him wait a few more months before giving it to her. Not sure what you think Dad saying “No” implied.

P.S. seriously, boys really do the circle jerk thing? I always thought that was an urban myth – even asked boys when I was in college (and later my hubby) and they all looked so horrified at the idea of whipping it out in front of another guy!
51
@8 I don't see that message as a counterbalance - just the opposite in fact.
52
YHB = You Homophobic Bigot! (that one strikes me as potentially useful; it may be seen again, only I don't often call people that)

POGT = Parent of Gay Teen

OS I've used often enough as Opposite Sex; that post was so long I wanted to shorten as much as I could.

I shall agree with you about the minefield and the Closed Door Policy. Whatever the policy is, it seems possible for any parent in question to be clubbed over the head about it. It reminds me of an article I read recently about how hating Fashion Week is sexist because, when it comes to fashion, women can't win. (I had a bit of a hunch that the point could be expanded so that Women Can't Win could be used as a club by any woman who disliked any man's reaction to Fashion Week, whatsoever it might be, but told myself that the important point was that I didn't disagree with any of the points in the article, and that there was still work to be done.)

Your conclusion has some justice, which is why I do want to avoid the appearance of being in permanent scold mode. I might suggest an adjustment to, while allowing for the best of intentions and execution, There Are Some Things You Just Can't Do "Right", but certain Others can.

It's hard to pin down a "Right Line" to recommend, but treating the situation as if one were raising a child from another culture comes nearer the mark than the Cheerleaderesque attitude I'll sum up in a jingle:

"So what the H* is in a name
Trans-gay-bi-straight, it's all the same!"
53
@50: I never experienced a circle jerk (HS, college, post). Unless I was intimately involved with someone (or was going to be), I can't imagine doing that. (I have never had sex while another couple was screwing in the same room at the same time but my friends who are a bit younger have described that as the norm in the college/just post college era for them)

My parents always allowed me to keep my door closed. My wife - whom I first dated in HS - talks about us being in my room and my dad would do one knock and say good night. Sometimes we were just talking, sometimes screwing around. (I had discussed w/my dad when I was 16 how my then-girlfriend and I were going to go to planned parenthood to discuss birth control - I think he's still traumatized by that conversation some 30 years later but his response still resonates: "well, I can't agree with you doing that (meaning having sex) and for a few minutes of pleasure you might change your life but I appreciate you being responsible"; I think after that conversation, he did not want to lay any ground rules and my mom always trusted me). As the parent of a HS student (and some others to follow), I am not sure what I'd do - probably no closed doors at all and not because of the sex but because of drugs and doing shit on the computer that will infect it (my HS student also has the burden of being the oldest; I don't want his younger siblings having to deal with imagery that they cannot possibly get).

We live in an area with a great mix of people and families. There is no shortage of same sex couples, mix-race couples, interfaith couples, kids with married parents and kids with unmarried parents. And other than the fact that I know it would be a much harder road for a child who is gay (even in this very progressive community - how many have LGTB clubs at the MIDDLE SCHOOL? Woo hoo!) (@50 is right - we want an EASY way for our kids in many respects), I can't imagine it changing my reaction. I am tough on my kids - honesty, respect, effort, etc. - but am effusive with my love of them. I believe they know from my words and actions that this straight guy would support their gay selves if that is who they are. It would not be because I tell him I think he's gay or because of my reaction if he were to come out but because I call out homophobia when I see it (and, boy, if any of you have teens who are on FB, watch their posts - and those of their friends - you may cringe at what they write as they don't always see how their posts/likes/comments can be seen as sexist/racist/homophobic/hostile to anyone who might be different than they) and explain to them WHY it is an example of homophobia and WHY all people - gay and straight - should take offense.

I think the LW seems like a concerned dad who wants to be supportive of who his son is. The "pride" comment is not because he (the dad) thinks his son's pride SHOULD be hurt but because some kids might take offense. If my son did, I would make the effort to explain that it is not an insult for me to have asked - I did it because of the porn - because there is nothing wrong with being gay. I'd say something like, "it looks like your pride has been hurt. Let's leave that at the door, shall we? If someone asks me if I'm gay, I say 'no' but I am not bothered. It is a question like any other about who I am, what I'm about. There is nothing wrong with those questions. You are not less a young man because of the question. A gay man is a man. Just as I am." Based on DUD's letter, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt that he would go deeper with his son if his son were to take offense.
54
Agree with your answer to NAA, but a correction: Ian McKellen was a babe when he was young. (And not bad for a man his age now!) And this is coming from a straight guy.
55
Mr Major - I should have perhaps specified counterbalance to what. Take the opening two sentences of the second paragraph. The level of perfection required to be deemed worthy of Getting Some in messages aimed at gay men makes me rather wonder, much as Elizabeth Bennet thinks it unlikely that Mr Darcy knows six whole women who have cleared his extremely high bar for being deemed "Accomplished", that there are more than six gay men in North America having sex on any given night. But any straight schlub wanting reassurance can easily find support for the point of view that he deserves a supermodel.
56
@10,21 Mr. Vennominon, it has been my experience that, at 14 one can have one's pride hurt and other negative emotions surrounding being labeled as a member of any group which one has not fully and purposefully identified oneself, without any need for a qualitative or other judgment against that group.

Adolescence is also a time of self discovery and identification and these labels and groupings are considered of deathly import.

It is possible for homosexuality to be the bee's knees and still have a 14 year old mortified to be labeled gay, correctly or not, until they self-identify as such.
57
@ 36. You're welcome. I am trained to be a facilitator for the Jr Hi and High School programs. They are awesome. The program teaches about sex ed, but also communication, self value, self responsibility and it helps them make decisions for themselves about what is right for them, and when they are ready for more.
58
How do you know, Dan, that Bayard Rustin, Barney Frank, Harvey Fierstein, Harvey Milk, Daniel Hernandez Jr., Ian McKellen, Evan Wolfson, Jinkx Monsoon, Jared Polis, Bruce Vilanch, Alan Turing and George Kalogridis have never aspired to be an underwear models?
59
@52, "as if one were raising a child from another culture"

I agree with you, but I think that, to a lesser degree, all parents are raising a child from another culture.
60
I am kind of torn about how to respond to DUD. Not just because I think there isn't necessarily a one, right approach to how he should address his concerns, but also because I don't want to necessarily dismiss the experiences that others have shared.

But to share my own, and give my take only, I think that despite a few people feeling traumatized by being confronted by their parents, I don't see it as such a big deal.

Certainly it's best if a kid can be left to come out on their own, and I won't deny that being confronted on your sexuality can be a bit mortifying, but I think the benefits in the long run are far greater.

Although I came out on my own to my parents when I was 17, and I fully admit I would have been momentarily mortified by my parents asking me when I was younger, all I can think is "so what"?

Because lord knows my parents, like most people's parents, have caused moments of mortification in many other instances, and I survived fine.

Would my parent's saying they knew I was gay be any worse than the birds and the bees talk my father had with me? I doubt it.

But once the embarrassment wore off it probably would have had a much greater benefit. If they knew and expressed that they were at least somewhat OK with it I wouldn't have had to live with the years of stress worrying that if they found out they would kick me out, or freak out, or become tyrants trying to control my every move.

I could have redirected all that energy I used to keep them from finding out into something healthier and more productive.

So not to discount the experiences of those who didn't have a good experience with being confronted on their sexuality, but I don't think that is how it is destined to go down with everyone.

As for the closed door thing, I am kind of conflicted.

On the one hand I think it is almost sweet that Dad wants to treat his (assumed) gay son the same as he would a straight son.

However, even despite that I think that at a certain point even keeping straight kids from having sex is pointless and counterproductive, and that I hate to have to lay out a double standard, straight kids and gay kids simply aren't the same.

Not only for the reasons that Dan already pointed out, that Gomer isn't going to knock the son up which is the real main concern that most parent really have concerning teenaged sex, there is different dynamic I think between straight and gay kids. Or I should say FOR gay and straight kids.

Because gay kids also are more likely to have people of the gender they are attracted to who are just friends. And teenagers need privacy with their friends to discuss the crap they are going through that they don't feel they can share with their parents.

Forget the gay stuff. I would have been very stressed if I had to sneak and find times and places away from home just so I could speak with my friends openly and honestly about things that were bothering me or confusing me.

Also I think that sex can play a different role in the lives of gay kids.

I had sex for the first time at 14. Most would say that was too young, but looking back I have no regrets. In fact it was probably the best thing that happened to me at that age because it helped me more than anything to clarify in my own head what was going on with me.

He eventually turned out to be straight. I am not sure if what we did (which he actually initiated the first time) was just experimenting for him, or just to get off, or if he too was trying to figure things out. But he eventually started seeing a girl and it stopped between us, and that was fine. He ended up straight, and although we never mentioned it again, we also never felt weird about it or treated each other funny.

I didn't fall for him and have my heart crushed. Our friendship didn't fall apart. We are still in contact even though we live on opposite sides of the country now. We get along as well now as we always have. He knows I am gay and never seemed put off that after we had sex I realized I was gay any more than I was put off that afterwards he realized (or perhaps just reaffirmed) he was straight.

But whatever it was to him, to me it was a gift that I will be forever thankful to him for. It ended all the confusion and worry about what I was, and what I had in store for me. Basically I ended up knowing I was gay and knowing that I could do these "gay" things. Not just that I could physically have sex with another guy, but that I would have opportunity to. It greatly eased my mind.

And there was no danger for us. We were both virgins at the time. There was no risk of disease or pregnancy. We were basically the same build and size, and both being guys there wasn't any real risk of force or coercion. It was just two horny teenaged boys figuring stuff out together.

And since we didn't always have a private place to fool around at either of our homes (although sometimes we did) we fooled around where we could. Often in the woods behind my house. A place where we could have been caught. And there is the other difference. A couple of straight teens get caught fooling around in public they may end up with their parents being told and getting mad, but most other people, including the cops, are just going to shrug it off as kids, and most of the other kids at school would at worst be indifferent.

A couple of gay kids getting caught are going to most likely have bigger legal problems on top of not only their parents finding out they were having sex but basically being outed by the incident, and most likely everyone at school finding out and possibly making their lives hell from then on.

While I think that parents would do better by letting all their kids have a safe environment to have sex in private, even if they aren't thrilled with the idea, it is far more important for gay kids to have that safe place because the repercussions for them if they get caught can be far worse.

Also I know that when I fooled around with my friend I was ready. I wasn't hurt. It was a good experience that really helped me. If I had been straight I probably wouldn't have been ready at that time for the possible repercussions of sex with a girl.

And as far as having crushes and getting my heart broken, yes, that happened several times in high school. But it didn't have anything to do with sex. It had to do with not feeling able to be out to any but my closest friends and having to have crushes from afar.

But at least I had friends I could talk to about it, in my room, with my door shut.

61
Mr South - Yes, but you've been walking the walk, and could be set up as a role model DUD could have followed to advantage. You provide an admirable answer to the question of how to cope with a possible HP reaction, but it might not be possible for DUD to pull off such a reply, as he has not put in the years of ground work that you have.

I can almost allow that he might just be a worrywart - but he expresses no worry about the harm he's likely already done via the Straight-Exclusive Sex Talk.

I have some sympathy for him in that it appears he hasn't been any worse than the vast majority of parents who have skated on their mistakes in this area. He's like the one driver among a hundred who happens to get the speeding ticket.
62
Mr Fortuante - An interesting history. I had no sex during my minority, but I did have vast quantities of much-needed privacy. I don't feel sufficiently in the loop as to how the overall decrease in privacy and what changes may be occurring to the concept affects teens at present to comment on that aspect of a Closed Door.
63
@43: you're obviously not a Star Trek fan. Takei certainly used to be pretty ripped. http://i557.photobucket.com/albums/ss17/…

It's true 14-year-olds are relatively unlikely to be carrying STIs, but (a) there's no guarantee neither of them has had unsafe contact with anyone else, and (b) surely condom use is something that should be taken as a given these days? And there's way more to safe sex than that -- a lot of it's plain hygiene, for which 14-year-old boys are not noted.

I'd recommend Heather Corinna's book http://www.amazon.com/S-E-X-All-You-Need…
64
@vennominon: Do you have kids? I'm guessing not.

LW's parental obligation is to maintain a loving and trusting relationship with his 14 year old son. If LW thinks his 1son would be uncomfortable being mistaken for gay, LW should be sensitive to that. From what I've seen, parents who bulldozer their kids' perspectives and needs with rigid political belief systems, right or left, generally suck as parents.

Moreover, you realize there's a huge difference between actually being gay and being mistaken for gay, don't you? Personally, I think I'd be happier and more satisfied as a gay man. Alas, I'm straight, so being mistaken for gay doesn't exactly help my beleaguered yet determined efforts to find happiness with women.
65
@60: Thank you, Fortunate, for that very interesting and valuable perspective.
And @53(from the south [as in CA]), your response to the "pride" issue was excellent.

I think if we really stopped and thought about it, the biggest objection a lot of parents have to their teens having sex is the worry of teen pregnancy. But for many, it's still a big step to seem to condone your teens (especially young teens, like 14) having sex.
66
25, 28-- Parents say "be careful" wishing to convey love. It's saying "you're precious to us."

Teenagers hear "be careful" as conveying fear. It's saying "the world is a horrible place, and we don't trust you."

The middle ground is "be careful" as nonsense syllables, like the "la la la" in a song chorus, just something people say along when someone leaves the house.

That's all independent of whether or not the teen in question really isn't trustworthy or even whether the parents in question actually want what's best for the kid.
67
The son could be bi as well. LW#1 should not conclude is son is gay because he looks at gay porn.
68
@64 "Moreover, you realize there's a huge difference between actually being gay and being mistaken for gay, don't you? "

This. I went to an all girl private high school that was down the street from an all boy private high school. The majority of my friends were gay males from our sister school, and as such, I spent quite a bit of time at out local GLCC. While I didn't care so much what the closeminded people around us thought (I did get to experiment during those years to confirm that I am straight) when I found out that one of my closer friends thought I was a lesbian, I was hurt. Not because there would have been anything wrong with me if I was, but because my identity was in question. I know it was very difficult for my gay friends to be perceived as straight, even if at the time it was "safest". The assumption that I was a lesbian gave me a small taste of that.

@66 Every time I went out, the words, "Have fun. Be careful." came out of my mothers mouth. And every time I would respond with, "It's one or the other, you know that right?" and we would laugh. She got her point across, I got to remind her that I had to make decisions on my own, and luckily she respected that. It's so hard to get through to a teenager that doesn't want to listen. So throwing out a quick, "Be careful." at least gives you a chance to let them know you care.
69
Dr Sean - LW thinks his son is probably gay. He has made no effort to address any harm he might have done in the Sex Talk by assuming the son to be straight. Unless he turns out to be completely wrong (and I think most of us would acknowledge the odds to be fairly low), there we have a case of ACTUAL harm already done that the LW doesn't even recognize. Instead he is getting his knickers in a twist about the HYPOTHETICAL harm he might do if he has seriously miscalculated AND if his son has a particular negative reaction that could well be considered an indictment of the LW's parenting in the first place. This isn't a sure thing, of course, as some people just turn out far worse or far better than their upbringing for no discernible reason. But, had DUD really raised his son along the lines of Mr South, to use him as an example, he'd be far less likely either to expect such a bad reaction or to regard such a reaction as catastrophic if he got it.

But, in the end, these are all just suggestions. A long round of cross-examination would be in order before I considered any harsh verdict. I just picked up on some problematic statements in the letter. A number of you who are almost certainly better parents than the LW are ascribing to him your own motivations. That's very loyal and very sweet. For the boy's sake, I shall go so far as to hope against reason that you might all be right. I shall not, however, hope that the boy turns out to be straight after. However understandable the "easier life" wish may be, it opens the door for so much prejudice that I cannot approve it. I'd add, into the bargain, that those parents who are sincere in the Easier Life Wish would be well advised not to want a genius child.

I am uncertain whether to raise the question of how to handle bi-identified teens or whether to leave that to those whose proper domain it is.

At least Ms Cute and I have some modicum of agreement about what is likely best to be done at this point, which is more than I expected from this thread.
70
I think if we really stopped and thought about it, the biggest objection a lot of parents have to their teens having sex is the worry of teen pregnancy.

That's certainly true, but I also worry about the impact of early sexual experiences, especially for younger teens, that don't go so well. I mean, relationships of any kind, even friendships, are at their most difficult during the middle school years. Trying to manage an actual sexual relationship at that age seems like far, far too much to expect under ordinary circumstances.

And incidentally, while "teen pregnancy" by definition involves a teenage girl, it very frequently also involves a much older guy (and the younger the girl, the older the guy is likely to be). See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teenage_pre…

It would be nice if we could separate out safe, consensual peer-to-peer sex from the phenomenon of abuse of younger teens, but it's pretty difficult.
71
just to add my two cents... as a parent...
occasionally people say things about or to my kids that assume a particular orientation, and i will always 'add options' or call them on their presumption. or, people will ask me, in front of my kids, what i think about their orientation. i always say, "i have no idea, and it's not really any of my business". i've been doing this since they were toddlers. because people say stupid stuff to kids. i'm pretty sure they know i don't think it's even relevant what sex their partner/s turn out to be.
sex ed: i've been requiring all play to be 'safe, sane & consensual' since they were old enough to be playing with other kids. i figured that those things had to be taught early - and apply to the whole of life's interpersonal interactions. and they've both known what condoms were for since before they knew what sex was.
i feel it's very simple: what do you value more highly? your own sense of propriety/shame, or your child's well-being?
72
Jared Polis can model underwear for me any time he wants! Sexy man.
73
The dad should get his son vaccinated for HPV, pronto, if he has not been vaccinated already.
74
John Schwartz hints at this, but it should be much clearer: Parents need to ask their children what they believe on such topics as same-sex marriage when they come up. First, it allows this father to openly state his opinion and can then (hopefully) agree with his son's opinion. Allowing his son to openly speak on such topics will go a great way to letting his son understand that home is a safe space.

Secondly, it's just a matter of treating children as people, especially when it comes to crafting informed decisions. It's on opportunity to say "What do you think" and "Why do you think that way" and "Why does it matter or not matter." Those are lessons every child must learn. We cannot expect children to think clearly without some direction, and we can't expect it to come naturally as soon as they leave the home. It's rather like looking at porn for safe sex tactics. Watching TV isn't the best way to have them shape opinions that matter.
75
Why do parents discourage sexual activity for early teens (12-15 years old), instead preferring that they wait until their later teens (18-22 years old)? My point of reference is for straight girls. I'm going through the thought process so I can apply it to gay boys as DUD's son.

Pregnancy and STDs (easily avoided with the Pill and/or condoms).

Wanting to protect a young person from being taken advantage of by an older one (avoided if the early teen is dating someone his/her own age).

Societal mores.

Sex hating parent wants to control out-of-control young sexuality. Include other negative emotions like jealousy and fear. (Let's hope DUD isn't in this category. He doesn't sound like it. I had to include it for completeness.)

There's another I've been having trouble putting a finger on. Eirene hints at it in 70 above. For this, I'm left comparing early sexuality with driving a car. Granted, my analogy is absurd, but I can't think of anything better. Sex is powerful stuff. It unleashes powerful emotions. It holds the potential to do damage to the emotions of others. (Not only can you get killed in a car crash, you can kill someone else.) We like to keep young people away from big dangerous machinery until we think they can handle the responsibility.

It doesn't always work. Kids steal the car keys. They figure out other ways to do equal emotional damage. They can get hurt when they're older too. We don't want to raise our children to become callous jerks. We don't want our children to get so hurt that it colors their sexual lives from then on out. We know that they can't become wise in these matters without practice, but we'd prefer they become better decision makers before getting started on sexual matters. The field is just so dangerous! That's emotionally dangerous; I'm not thinking about the STDs.

Granted just telling a young teen to keep the door open when friends visit isn't going to do it, but I do think, when giving The Talk, it ought to be possible to convey the idea that waiting, in as much as practical, is preferable to diving right in. That's what I read in the DUD's letter. How does he tell his son, even though no one is going to get anyone pregnant, that it would be better to wait with a full-on affair until he has a bit more maturity?

76
To this day one of the most traumatizing experiences was when my dad confronted me over very soft gay images(Abercrombie ads, etc) on my computer when i was 13. I denied it, and went deeper into the closet. I would honestly leave him alone and definitely make it known you're a safe person to talk to. And now isn't the time to be setting rules on who can come over, i had dozens of male friends stay the night throughout high school and to my knowledge they were all straight.
77
After reading the other comments -- My thought is to suggest the Dad says to the son: "The closed door makes me uncomfortable, and reminds me that many boys fool around together when they are teens. I want you to know that it is risking your health --even your life -- to trust that someone has no other sexual contacts. In the event you mess around sexually with any person, I would prefer you were older first, but I insist you do nothing unsafe"
It is good not to rob the boy of his right to reveal his sexuality in his own time. The part that is really the Dad's business is the "keep it safe" speech.
78
After reading the other comments -- My thought is to suggest the Dad says to the son: "The closed door makes me uncomfortable, and reminds me that many boys fool around together when they are teens. I want you to know that it is risking your health --even your life -- to trust that someone has no other sexual contacts. In the event you mess around sexually with any person, I would prefer you were older first, but I insist you do nothing unsafe"
It is good not to rob the boy of his right to reveal his sexuality in his own time. The part that is really the Dad's business is the "keep it safe" speech.
79
RE: Adonises:
Then there is the other extreme that TV (yes, especially you, LOGO) loves to portray gay men as effeminate girly men or drag queens. Where are all of the masculine pool playing sports loving fags that I know?

Billy V
Los Angeles (not WeHo)
80
Coming out isn't like turning on a switch. Most times, it's about degrees. You're first out to your close friends, then family, then the world, etc. DUD's son can be out to his Dad, and that doesn't mean he has to be out to everyone else.

And once he's out to his Dad, it will make coming out to the rest of the world all the easier.
81
Then there is the other extreme that TV (yes, especially you, LOGO) loves to portray gay men as effeminate girly men or drag queens. Where are all of the masculine pool playing sports loving fags that I know? Billy V - Los Angeles
82
I don´t know if anybody above has suggested this, but how about DUD tries a roundabout way of telling his son that he knows?

Oddly Normal sounds like a nice book. How about buying it and "casually" leaving it lying around the living room, maybe with a PFLAG leaflet inserted as a bookmark for good measure? This will let DUD's son know his father is A-aware or at least strongly suspects his sexuality and B-is entirely accepting of him. He may still opt to not say anything initially, but it'll be sure to send the message "I'm OK if you're gay" loud and clear.
83
@KateRose: one of my closer friends thought I was a lesbian, I was hurt

A gay friend of mine once told me, after a few drinks, that he was convinced I was attracted to men. I thought that was funny, but it was nevertheless important to me that he believed me when I said I was straight, because I am, and one's orientation is something one's friends should know.

Mistaking someone's orientation can sometimes come with unflattering assumptions. I have a gay friend who I thought was straight for the first 2 years I knew him. He never seemed to get any "trim", so I just figured he was a loser with women. Finding out he was gay turned over the entire sad story I had made up for him.
84
Just a quick comment to tell you that I admire and respect your work, Dan, very much.
85
I hear that the position of Pope (aka Head of the R.C. Church) is coming vacant and any single, adult male of Roman Catholic upbringing is eligible for the job. I immediately thought of you Dan. You meet all the basic requirements and would be a blast as Pope. Please consider yourself nominated. Let the write in campaign begin.
86
@Eirene: Personally, I think I'd give a gay son/lesbian daughter a lot more sexual leeway than my het kids would get.

Pregnancy is by far my biggest fear about teen sex, and that doesn't apply. There are a lot of negative sexual experiences resulting from men/women approaching sex different angles, or just not understanding how the other person's bits work, and those aren't quite as relevant.

Really, my biggest fear would be my gay son getting AIDS, but that's reason in my mind to give him room to experiment at home with partners he knows (and I can meet) rather than with random hookups god knows where.
87
I know of one or two cool parent types who bought a big box of condoms their teenagers would have access to. If DUD did this it would at least give him the opportunity to point out that they are for ANY anal oral or vaginal sex act.

Having condoms around don't cause one to have sex. I was disappointed to learn this as a teen but it's true.
88
Also I think that any teenager should be reading Savage Love.
89
My parents would not allow me to be in my room with the door closed with either boys or girls. I could have the door ajar, but not closed. I think they were afraid of smoking,
90
@83 " one's orientation is something one's friends should know. "

It is? Why?
91
My first boyfriend's mom let me sleep over and gave us all the privacy we wanted. And that was the right decision, because her son was safest when in his own home. She had the least to worry about.

Intruding upon and manipulating your kid's sex life can really make you a creep.

I also had a "sensitive" but straight friend who I would come home with after school to listen to music. His mother kept making him turn the music down (new-age music, can you believe it?) so I would close the door out of consideration. Then she kept bursting in like she expected to catch us in the act. Very creepy. I was nothing but respectful, and nothing ever happened... but bitch banned me from the house. Funny thing was, he later ran away from home and lived with me 2 weeks; nothing ever happened. He later got married, had kids.

DUD should just sit down with his son and say "hey, I just remembered what it was like to be 14. Here's a carton of condoms. You WILL use them if you have intercourse with anyone. Go find a tutorial on the web about the proper way to roll one on. I've seen your web history, so I know you know how to find what you want there. Other than that, you're free to make your own choices. I raised you, and I know that you will make responsible choices. And set a good example for your buds. I want you to know I've got your back, no matter what. Now, are you hanging out with Gomer tonight, or do you have time to go out for a pizza with your old man?". And don't bring it up again unless there seems to be a crisis arising.
92
@88: For the win!!
93
@91: I really like your comment a lot but I will admit that I am not sure I can get behind providing condoms to a 14-year-old as a way to initiate this phase of the sexuality discussion. I think the conversation can happen and the parent can make sure the son sees him as a resource for condoms but that's a big leap from closing the door to assuming intercourse was going on (I started closing the door at about 13 and had a couple of years of good ol' fashioned making out and "heavy petting" before I was having sex just prior to my 16th birthday). At the same time, I see value in providing the condoms before the kid is having sex.

I do talk to my son about sex and sexuality (I reconcile the two as the mechanics (and pregnancy, disease, etc.) and the feelings (joy, love, like, pleasure, etc.)). I have not provided him with condoms (to my knowledge his only experience with girls is virtual) but @91 you may have changed my approach - not sure I will give them to him but I may get some (maybe even when he and I are at the drug store), tell him where I am putting them for him to have unfettered access and then tell him that as much as you might WANT to fuck w/o a condom (sexuality/feelings) you are taking a risk in going through with it w/o protection (mechanics/pregnancy/disease). I am assuming my son is straight (based on his overt interest) but other than the "pregnancy" part, my approach with him will be the same.

And I know there are some who found DUD a bit lacking but I applaud him because I think he loves his son and wants to support him. The use of "pride" may have been regrettable because it puts a spin on the LW that I did not get from the rest of the letter. For those of us who don't know what it's like to be gay or for fathers who don't know what it's like to be a girl or mothers to be a boy, I was able to identify with his struggle to get it right w/o hurting his son. It is a great road map for me - good and bad - as I think about my many daughters who will go through this after my son.
94
@ seandr

"Pregnancy is by far my biggest fear about teen sex, and that doesn't apply"

Really?

Not rape? Not HIV?

At least an unwanted pregnancy can be terminated. You can't cure HIV, and you can't unrape someone.
95
"Dad Under Duress,"

SIR, THERE IS NOTHING YOU CAN DO.

IF YOUR SON AND HIS FRIEND ARE IN HIS BEDROOM WITH THE DOOR CLOSED, THAT SIGNIFIES HE IS QUITE COMFORTABLE WITH HIS SEXUALITY. "Dad ... ," IF YOU SAY SOMETHING, YOUR SON WILL MOVE HIS ACTIVITIES ELSEWHERE.

THE "STAGING" FOR HOMOSEX IS NOT LIKE THE "STAGING" FOR HETEROSEX. IN HETEROSEX, FEMALES WANT TO HAVE SEX IN A SECURE PLACE - WITH A BED - IN ORDER TO FEEL SAFE AND "NON-WHORISH." AND, FEMALES WANT THE "TRAPPINGS" OF ROMANCE TO BE INCLUDED. ON THE OTHER HAND, HOMOSEX HAS A TIME OF DURATION AGREED UPON BY THE PARTICIPANTS. SINCE YOUR SON IS A TEENAGER, "SIMPLE" FELLATIO, OR, ANALINGUS TAKES LITTLE TIME TO PERFORM; "SIMPLE" ANAL SEX CAN TAKE A LITTLE LONGER, BUT, IF YOUR SON HAS A CURFEW, HE CAN BE HOME IN TIME WITHOUT CREATING SUSPICION.

SO, "Dad," SINCE SOME HOMOSEXUALS FEAR CRIME AND LAW ENFORCEMENT WHILE HAVING SEX IN PUBLIC PLACES [BUSHES, DRAINAGE CANALS, ETC.], IT IS BEST TO ALLOW YOUR SON TO HAVE SEX IN HIS BEDROOM - IF INDEED, THAT IS THE CASE.

CHRISTOPHER ALLEN HORTON
96
When I was 14, I had a best friend who was also gay. But we were NOT having sex -- we were "sisters". This is the most likely explanation that I can think of, but no one else here has seemed to have thought of it (I read most but not all of the posts). If this is the case, they're probably comparing notes on the cutest boys in school or guys in the neighborhood -- all perfectly harmless.
97
DUD, you can also couch the safe sex convo in these terms- "I don't trust the schools to give you a comprehensive education on this stuff, so we're going to have an uncomfortable conversation right now but it will be vital to you and your friend's health. And because your friends might not get this same education and might end up having questions or confiding in you one day, I'm going to tell you how both opposite and same sex couples can be safe, so you have the information for yourself and anyone in your life who you want to be safe too."
98
oh please don't get rid of those images of tanned/chiseled gay guys! as a straight female, I love the eye candy.

Agree, there are plenty of images that aren't tanned/chiseled and I don't want any male to get sucked into eating disorders...

but please leave me some eye candy!
99
I am thinking at about this point in the thread that it might be of great value to hear some bi-identified voices. I suppose that the majority of parents who assume that a child showing signs of interest in one gender but not the other (sorry for resorting to the binary) is monosexual are correct, but there are so many possible bi experiences that I'd have to sit up way too late to formulate questions.

Also, as some people have observed, I tend to use opposite-sexer or same-sexer in particular cases without self-identification from the person in question fairly often as opposed to straight or gay because negative evidence is so tricky (I'm about as Kinsey Six as possible, but suspect that a clever cross-examiner might be able to make reasonable doubt) and because it feels bi-inclusive, but I've been starting to wonder if that's potentially unfair to monosexuals. I don't particularly think so, but suspect I could be swayed by a strong case.
100
Why are more people not worried that 14 is really young to be having sex? Dan has even advised young teens to hold off on having sex for a few years in letters before. Gay or Straight there are emotional issues to be considered, not to include the worry about STIs. I feel that homosexual teens get pasted over when it comes to the "sex talk" because the main concern for most parents and society is pregnancy. I would bet that if you polled 100 parents and asked if they would whether their 16 year old came home home with gonorrhea or pregnant most if not all would choose the STI every time. Two 14 years old are not mature enough to be responsible to their sexual health or emotional well being in this matter gay or straight.