I am a 20-year-old straight male and there's a guy in one of my main communities who we are all convinced is gay but has not come out yet. He has an obvious crush on me. I normally don't have a lot of contact with him but we've been working at a summer camp together over the last few weeks and he's been doing some uncomfortable things—not respecting my personal space, staring inappropriately. I'm not sure how to deal with it. This wouldn't bother me if he were openly gay because l could approach him directly and talk to him about how it was making me feel. Is there an etiquette for rebuffing the advances of a closeted person? He's a really nice kid and because he's younger than me if feel that he looks up to me, so I want to be as sensitive as I can and not hurt his feelings.

Concerned Co-worker

My response after the jump...

By staring at you and repeatedly violating your personal space, CC, this kid has for all intents and purposes come out to you. He's let you know—through his actions—that he's gay and that he's gay for you. The fact that he's still officially closeted doesn't obligate you, the object of his misplaced affections, to put up with him humping away at your leg all summer.

So approach him and have the same direct conversation you would have if was out... because he is out. To you.

But do him the favor of pulling him aside and having the conversation in private. Don't open by asking him if he's gay, as he's likely to deny it out of force of habit and/or in a white-hot panic. Just tell him that you know he's attracted to you, CC, and that would be fine if he wasn't letting you know in ways that made you uncomfortable, i.e. staring and invading your space. You might want to add—whether it's true or not—that you know how it feels: "Look, there are girls I'm into who aren't into me and I can't stare at them or invade their space. I have to be cool about it. You need to be cool about it too."

Sometimes closet cases feel like they can get away with gawking or invading the person space of a same-sex crush because they believe—erroneously—that as no one suspects they're gay, no one will think there's anything gay about the staring, the backrub offers, the initiating of late-night wrestling matches, etc. Once he knows you more than suspect, CC, the staring and space invading should stop. If it doesn't stop, go and talk to your immediate supervisor, just like any other victim of sexual harassment.

Finally, CC, if he's cool and knocks it off, be a gold-star straight boy: offer to stick up for him if he decides to officially come out to the other staffers at your (hopefully secular) summer camp.