Savage Love Letter of the Day: Stray Text Message Outs Wrong Parent

Comments

1
If we're in the business of covering up the marital arrangement (which you guys seem to be), is it patently unreasonable to tell your son that your text message was meant for your husband/his father? So his dad "has" a foot fetish, lots of dudes do. It doesn't out him as gay or, in 2018, as even unusual. I'm picking up a vibe that if you had texted "look at these tits can't wait for you to worship them" you guys would be simply mortified rather than panicked. Foot fetish, fem-dommes, that's basically mainstream these days.

I think, at the end of the day, you still should fall on the side of "not outing someone against their will" at this point. It's been 21 years and it seems like the only danger here is that you accidentally slipped up with your text; not that you've been carrying this secret burden for so long. To the extent that the secret is a burden to you, I think that's a fair topic for conversation and you may in fact convince your husband to come out to the family; just as Dan's mother did with him.
2
I'm generally behind the idea that you shouldn't out someone against their will (unless they're a hypocrite politician or priest, etc.), but fuck this guy. You've been covering for him for 20+ years. He can't even muster up the courage to come out to his own children? Two of whom are gay themselves?

I say give him an ultimatum: he has 1 month to come out to his kids. If he doesn't, you will. He doesn't have to come out to the whole world. But at least come out to his own fucking kids.
3
I love it when you talk about your Mom, Dan. Your love shines through in every word. It's been, what, a decade? Still sorry for your loss. She was clearly an amazing woman.
4
Is there any way these kids don't know their dad is gay already? They know it's genetic, they've lived in that house, they know the guy.... C'mon.
5
Ditto @2
6
Don't out people who aren't malicious, anti-gay-legislating GOP representatives; endangering others; or **have dragged you into their closet**.

Hubbie can tell or not tell his story. LW can tell some or all of her story. Part of her story is being the long-suffering wife of a gay guy. If hubbie didn't want a wife to ever share his stupid, now-a-nothingburger secret he could (1) very easily have not married a straight woman (2) not so easily been a perfect actor for decades with an enthusiastic smile and a hard dick whenever she's around, or (3) become a priest.

P.S. I strongly suggest (1).
7
@ David

Exactly. That was basically the point of Dan's story I think. While it's fine to not want to out someone else, if someone who is intimately connected to you stays in the closet, it pulls you in too, thus restricting how you experience your own life and tell your own story. Back in the day when the closeted person faced a greater risk to their life by coming out, this was a burden that loved ones probably accepted with less resentment. But now, especially in an LGBT friendly family, it probably burdens/restricts the wife more than her gay husband.

8
Just want to point out that the cold embrace of sweet, sweet death is closer now than ever. After you die, you don't exist. There's no god, or afterlife. Whatever anyone thinks about you means nothing to you. Whatever you felt bad about right before you died you don't feel at all anymore. All gone!

And whatever annoyance this old, old man is causing everyone now will come to a clattering halt with his last rattling breath. Bury your gay dad, or what you think is your straight dad, as the case may be, and what's done is done.

So if you don't want to have any awkward conversations or recriminations, like the gay sons being all like "you could have been there for me, teaching me how to be a gay man!" you can just fixate on his imminent death and leave it all unresolved until then.

Actually, I think the two boys maybe won't feel like they missed out on any guidance, if this was what dad considered well lived gay life. Probably have killed themselves if they'd thought this closeted sham marriage was all they had to look forward to. Which would have been tragic, except... death! Which is an utter void, where nothing matters any more. So there's that.
9
Mother has to talk to her straight son and tell him the truth. Her "mistake" wasn't a mistake at all but a scream from her unconscious to get out of this lie. This man is being an idiot, he's got two gay children, doesn't he think they might have all noticed something funny going on, for years.
10
I remember this letter, and I think at the time I suggested she send a follow-up text just saying "Oops, that message wasn't meant for you." He probably will assume it was meant for his dad. Either way he's probably already been at the brain bleach. Mom's and Dad's sexual orientations may be kids' business, but their fetishes aren't. Now I'm wondering whether poor Straight Son has been able to put this image out of his mind, and if so, whether this re-run has triggered the trauma.

Lava, I'm with you: the kids already know Dad is gay.
11
No@4-- I don't think I'm nitpicking here. I'm going for scientifically accurate terms. Homosexuality does not appear at this time to be genetic. Geneticists have been searching for a long time for strings of dna that always signal homosexuality. They've found none. It does seem to be intrinsic or from birth just like heterosexuality. It's still not known what causes sexual orientation, maybe something to do with hormones that wash over the fetus. If that's it, it's considered environmental-- which is different from nurture in the old nature/nurture debate.
12
The gay father, the gay children, the foot fetish, the femdom, the horror stories about post-menopausal women losing interest in sex (really? horror for losing interest in sex you had no reason to engage in in the first place?), they're all red herrings. These could be straight parents in an open marriage for entirely different reasons. The only thing that needs to be explained to the son is that MOM is very sorry for the misdirected text, that everything is fine with her marriage to his father, and then not bring it up again.
13
Trying to think what I would have done if I got that message from my mom,,,I think I would have said, "Wow! Mom's waaaay more kinky than I thought!" and left it at that (probably after showing it to my two gay brothers..."Whoa! Look what mom sent me!" followed by, "When do you think the old man is gonna get off his ass and come out of the fucking closet?" We have a nephew in his twenties who is so obviously gay he might as well have it tattooed on his forehead, he lives with his "friend", travels with his "friend", brings his "friend" to family events but he still has a "beard" girlfriend for the occasional sham situation – though come to think of it, no one has ever seen her. It would be funny if it wasn't so sad. His whole family knows, he has a couple gay cousins who are married and totally accepted by everyone - this is a very liberal family. Why he just doesn't come out is a mystery. My bet is dad's not fooling anyone but himself.
14
This isn't a question of 'outing.' There's no public involved, just family members who've been lied to for almost three decades.

The misdirected message makes it harder, adding potential disclosures that really aren't anyone else's business. LW needs to make some minimal 'oops' statement to the recipient. Dad needs to man the fuck up and be himself, even if only within the confines of the household.
15
I want to know how accidental the mistake really was, and especially if there are highly likely logistical reasons for that child's getting sent the text. If this were my novel, the interesting plot line to try would be that LW subconsciously has become resentful of always having to be so gay-positive and wants a secret Wainthropp alliance forged by sharing secrets with one child that must Never Be Revealed to the siblings.
16
Gonna agree with BiDanFan @10. The kid probably thinks that it was meant for his Dad, or just Does Not Want To Know. If he confronts the Mom about extra-maritals, she can just say "your father and I have an arrangement that works for us - you can ask him if you want." Because at the end of the day, it's not really relevant *why* she's going outside the marriage so long as hubby's ok with it.
17
@11 Fichu you got me, I didn't look it up. But here's the thing about genetics. Things can indeed run in families that if you averaged it out over the population don't appear to be genetic. So it can run in one family, say. Or ten thousand. But that won't show in anyone's stats. That's why if you are doing genetic research you need families, like this one, where the offspring have a far higher percentage of inheritance of a trait than baseline in the population. You go to the Icelandics, Mormons, Amish, Ashkenazi Jews, tribes in the Amazon, in part because inbreeding concentrates recessive traits, but also because they keep lineages (to avoid the inbreeding) and you are looking for patterns that in general population aren't clear. Here we have a family with a very high percentage of gay kids. There are three possible reasons for this - parental genetics, developmental differences in utero (aka mom's genetics acting in an environmental way but not necc the genetics of the child), or nurture, which is almost always a factor even in highly genetic traits (autism is 40% genetic, that is EXTREMELY genetic although a layperson wouldn't think so - it's likely that 60% environment effect is largely in utero or aged sperm/epigenetic). So you can say it's not genetic but that does not appear to be the case in this one family. And since Dad is gay I'm not prepared to say it's a maternal (womb) effect.
18
Fichu, to go further - the way to see if it's genetic or not for sure for sure (until we get the genome really nailed down, which we will fairly soon for most stuff), is to look at an identical twin study. There problem with that is you need a lot of pairs of identical twins in which one or both are gay. A lot. Because it's very possible, given the gradations we see, that there is more than one cause, and certainly more than one gene. If you are born gay, the only factors that can be in play are genetics, epigenetics and uterine environment. We know the second plays a role, that's why there are so many gay Mormons. But the first can't be ruled out. And epigenetics is very tricky because then you get into the realm of the behavior or environment of parents or grandparents or even older generations influencing the sexual orientation of the offspring, and that's hard to parse out. Genetics are tricky too given historical and current closetedness. At this point in the science, we know about a few specific genes that cause a few specific diseases, and some genes that on average have a very low percentage of influence. I'm not sure what we can clearly say at this point other than there is no single gene that we have found. There likely won't be. We've only found one population on Earth that has no gay people. It's a human and mammal normal.
19
And birds! I don't know about lizards but I'd assume.
20
Correction - there are so many gay Mormons because of uterine effects. As far as I know we don't know anything about epigenetics and gayness.
21
Fichu also relevant is that we know what almost no genes do, I mean almost nothing, and when I say that I'm talking about the 2 percent of the genome we actually study. The 98 percent of the genome that is not genes is getting attention but we're even more behind on that. All genetic conclusions you can rely on at this point on the subject would have to be from twin studies.
22
Fichu, here's a nice intro on the subject from Stanford http://genetics.thetech.org/ask-a-geneti…
Here's the link they linked to it you just want numbers https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1845…
This is a very cool little set of conclusions because it shows transness had absolutely no connection to gayness, and because it shows uterine effects are likely on top of the geneticness of the trait (non shared uterus sibs had less than expected chance although still higher than for a non genetic trait, aka it's genetic but weaker if you don't share a uterus but do share a mom. But we knew that cause Mormons).
23
Also relevant is that even identical twins have slight differences in in utero environment. And even slight differences in genetics and epigenetics, as well as random chance in development. So no one is identical identical. Two printouts of the same page have tiny differences.
24
And doesn't it make sense to you that maybe this gay dad learned his survival techniques from his gay dad? Maybe that's why it's so hard for him to shed? Or maybe feeling guilty about having passed this on to his kids is part of why he can't tell them? That it's his "fault" because it came from him?
25
Also also heritability and inheritance aren't the same thing. Heritability means if you're identical twin has a trait you have x percentage likelihood of having it and inheritance means percentage of offspring who get the trait (not the genes necc, since you can have them and not the trait)/ percentage likelihood of you getting it from your trait having parent. Between writing this I've forgotten what the conclusion the Stanford page had - gay dad makes you twice as likely to be gay? So that's inheritance. You have x percentage chance of being gay in average population, but 2x chance if your dad is gay, so your inheritance rate if gay people are 10 percent of general population would be 20 percent. Without a identical twin of same gender, you can't find your heritability which is why it's always averaged out of multiple identical twin pairs and you just kinda hope that what made them gay made you gay so the numbers matter to you personally. Inheritance is gonna matter more than heritance to an individual, for that you just make a family tree and hope no one's lying.
26
Notice that study they cite is about gay men. Lots more funding to study them, lot less done on women (this is true across the board in everything), but also lesbians are mysterious and possibly have mystical powers so perhaps the federal government is merely afraid of their wrath. The inevitable discovery that there are no actual straight women is gonna be a tough one for society to handle.
27
Without an identical twin of the same gender - oh I'm hitting it out of the park today. Your identical twin would have the same genes but may not be the same gender, but since that's irrelevant to gay maleness anyway... I guess in that case your trans sib would be straight while cis you would be gay and I don't know how/if the study addressed that. The data set is maintained but I don't know how hard they had to lean on historical data which, for trans stuff, um.
28
Also when I say nuture I mean environment, not childrearing. Did you have a high fever in infancy? That'll affect your brain. Your immune system killing bacteria by cooking you a little, that's "nurture". Ditto any sort of stressor, physical, emotional, etc.
29
@15; true Mr Venn. I wasn't quite sure what I'd suggest to happen after my suggestion she tell the son the truth. I thought of it more like hot potato, she'd just had enough. The kid could do with the info what he liked. Probably go talk to dad.
30
I’d love to know what the new lingerie and stockings look like, and if and when auditions are being held.
31
No@28-- Let's go with 3 terms for 3 categories:

1. Genetics/epigenetics
2. Environment/Uterine environment/chemical environment after birth/food/air/water, etc.
3. Nurture/upbringing/culture/experience

With the understanding that all will affect the others. I'd put the high fever in infancy in the 2nd category rather than the 3rd. I suppose it could go in 4th category all its own, a sort of illness/accident/health&well-being place between environment and nurture.
32
Mom: "Sorry, that text wasn't meant for you. And if you're concerned about any potential... implications... you're welcome to check with your father that we're good and that text is nothing to be concerned about."

Son: "uh... yeah, okay. No thanks on the offer, but... yeah. I'm going to go try to delete this from my memory."
33
Fichu I don't think the distinction is useful when you are talking science. The category of straight is terribly messy, you'd have to rely on plethysmograph studies (genital arousal measurement is useless for women, we react to pictures of nice weather, self reported anything is even worse), and even then can gay even be said to be a biological trait? Animals aren't gay or straight.
34
The reason why the fever went under nurture in quotes is because everything is either nature or nurture/everything is genetics or environment have been conflated which is wrong. Was trying to correct that idea.
35
I don't mean gay or straight aren't biological in nature, I just mean they are meaningless terms when you remove culture.
36
Got a little too much time on your hands, no?
37
I forgot to add earlier that companionate marriages, whatever the gender composition involved, maybe ought not to be closeted to adult children raised in those marriages, if only to let them know not to base any non-companionate relationships or marriages of their own on what they perhaps took to be an example of one. That might have been a reason, if LW subconsciously chose to send the text to that particular child, for her doing so. After all, do we really want to see letters from Mrs Straight Son about how her husband just can't show her affection outside of the bedroom?
38
Mx Wanna - And here I was half-thinking that you and LW were already acquainted...
39
Venn- we're not acquainted just yet, though I've asked Dan to forward my email address to her. She should know that I've got plenty of stuff that I think she's likely to enjoy watching me model for her during the hands on audition (“So you’re an inspiring model, ha? I got plenty connections in the industry. Just do as I tell you, I can help your career…”)

I love it when folks of all ages find an "accidental" kink- whatever that is, even if lingerie is not involved- and aren't afraid to go with it.
40
I wonder whether the father came out to his children.

The LW was catastrophising--my son is going to think I'm cheating on their father with a woman!--because of the unfair bind her husband has put her into. The truth is so much stranger than the most plausible scenarios the son is likely to think--or have forced on his consciousness--that, quite understandably, she presumes that her boy will arrive at a conclusion that will have him questioning her marriage or conduct. The narrow answer is what's already been suggested to her--to apologise for the misdirected email and reassure her son that her marriage to their father is stable and--in its own way--loving.

The wide answer ... well, where does one start? Why is her husband so afraid of being out in his own familial context? Internalised homophobia? Shame at having lived a lie for so long? It wasn't all a lie--they (or perhaps mostly she) raised their children well. I do think he's in some way in dereliction especially with respect to his gay children in not modeling being a decent gay parent, in a relationship characterised by lots of compromises but still a measure of shared purpose and shared commitment. Can he not see this? What is holding him back?
41
Why would MOM's husband want to remain closeted? Habit!

The habit would have gotten started in the late 70s and early 80s when there were good reason for a gay man not to come out. He could be shunned by his family, lose his career, be jeered at on the street, become a target for violence, and let's not forget AIDS. He was likely dealing with (what felt like to him) the awful truth, a back and forth of shame, confusion and misery.

Some years go by and he confides in his wife. They make the best decision they can for themselves at that time. More years go by, and it becomes possible to bring up children in an accepting household. 2 children feel safe enough to come out themselves.

Why not come out at that time? Because lies build up momentum, even lies that got started for good reason. You know the way so many people who comment here can't really understand the internalized shame, confusion, and misery? The way we understand somewhat intellectually and remotely the fear that went into deciding to remain closeted?

MOM's husband has good reason to believe his children wouldn't understand. After the fact it's easy to start questions with "why didn't you just ...?" They can't understand what it is to internalize shame to the degree that it's no longer something you think about. It's just something you are. No amount of rationalizing about it later can erase the early effect it had on you. (For effect, imagine telling a violent rape victim that her rapist can't hurt her again, so just get over it.)

Now it's likely that MOM's husband thinks his children's will be angry at being lied to for so long.
42
The truth will out eventually. Another slip up like this one will occur. Or he dies then the children find out. That would be the cruelest way.
43
Would the adult children feel angry, my guess is they'd be sad that their father didn't trust them with his truth and that their mother had colluded with him.
I'll change my advice. The LW needs to tell her husband this occurred and that he needs to talk to the children and then so does she. I'm sure they want to know zilch about sexual details, so just an outline.
44
If any of the adult children read Dan Savage then this is pretty much settled now anyway. And who doesn't read Dan Savage?
45
@41. Fichu. I'm more inclined than you to find fault with--as well as pity--the husband.

He's married to his wife for eight years before he tells her he's gay. Possibly he gets married to have a family--that's the conventional way. He thinks he can suppress his homosexual urges, that they aren't anything his wife needs to come into contact with, to know about. Even with all these circumstances being so, he's arguably selfish to a degree in having kids without telling his wife of his orientation. Anyways, he can't stick to his resolve. She doesn't tell us how he came out--whether he wanted to have gay sex tout court; whether he wanted sex or a relationship with a particular man, or whether he was already cheating on her. His becoming part of the straight world hasn't worked. But his gay life is not something he can share with his wife (this reticence will be on both of them, but more on him than her); her not knowing what he's getting up to 'working late' (reading in between the lines) is a big contributor to her denying herself a love life for almost all the time she was raising her children.

At some stage the husband should have seen that his self-hatred had put him in an awful, almost abusive, situation, out of which--improbably and owing to her great understanding and humanity--he has been bailed by his wife. Silence and secrecy haven't worked. Telling his wife the truth made raising his family practicable. The decent and courageous thing to do would have been to include his children in his 'circle of truth'. Both he and his wife seem to me to have missed out on many valuable experiences and relationships through his inability to do this.

The 80s were the era of 'gay pride'. We all knew what that meant. It meant gay defiance--saying 'yes, I'm gay; I like smooth tight butts or long uncut cocks, get used to it'--or gay self-love--facing down our own shame. As a teenager in the early 80s it meant thinking that when I was jostled in a corridor or baited, I was right (when the circumstances allowed) to answer back. From the age of fifteen or so, everyone had a choice whether to do this or not. And I think few people were out to no one at all. Not being able to distinguish, in a moral sense, between those who stood up and those who shrank back seems to me politically unconscionable.
46
@2 so what you're saying is, you are totally for outing people against their will, and literally doing nothing is sufficient cause for you to say "fuck this dude". Got it.
47
@36 DK - bronchitis