Thursday, May 7, 2009

If Your Teen Son Comes Out . . . .

Dan Savage is America's best sex advice columnist, which is not to say that I always agree with him. He can sometimes be insensitive and rude - all of which is why he so loved by his fans. He is somewhat famous for the acronym DTMFA (dump the motherfucker already) when people write in about their clearly lame and/or abusive partners.

In this week's column he gets a serious letter (sometimes it's clear the letters are not very real) from a parent whose teen son has just come out, and has an older boyfriend. The parent has good intentions, but Dan gives some good advice on how to be the best possible parent. Very cool response - and the parent is a model for being open and supportive.
Savage Love

My 14-year-old son just came out to me. He has a slightly older boyfriend, and they're going to the school dance on Saturday night. I am adjusting to a truth I had long suspected. I am worried, though, that my son will get hurt. We live in the South—North Carolina—but our town has a gay community and an annual pride parade. When I asked him if the other students at school would be cool with him bringing a boy, he said, "Who cares?" Bullying is not a huge problem at his school.

We have had the sex talk several times, but I have always assumed a hetero approach. I think my son is too young for sleepovers with his boyfriend, and I would really like him to wait a couple more years before he gets seriously sexually active, though I expect petting and kissing are givens. Any advice?

Still My Son

Treat your son to some of that equal treatment we gay people are always going on about, SMS, and treat him just like you'd treat your 14-year-old straight kid. No responsible parent would allow his 14-year-old daughter—and that's how you should think of him for now (more on that in a moment)—to have sleepovers with her slightly older boyfriend, right? So no sleepovers for your gay kid. Remember: You can be supportive and be his advocate without signing off on stuff you wouldn't sign off on for a straight child—indeed, it's the best way to show your support.

What else can you do? You can hover, scrutinize, interfere—all the crap that parents typically do when their children begin to date. For instance, SMS, this boy your son is seeing? Have you met him? Meet him. How much older is he? Find out. Are they messing around? Ask them. Make sure your son understands that he doesn't have to engage in anal intercourse to be authentically gay, or all grown-up, or out. He can take things slow—he should take things slow. Encourage your son to date, to hold hands, to make out. And you should, as awkward as it's going to feel to say so aloud, encourage your son, when he does become sexually active, to stick with mutual masturbation and oral sex for a good, long time—until he's sure he's ready for intercourse, not just anxious for it.

Getting back to the daughter business: You should also regard your son, at least through his adolescence, as more of a daughter to you than a son. We tend to be more protective of our daughters—our straight daughters—than we are of our sons. Why? A sexist desire to keep our daughters "pure"? That's a part of it, sure, but there's also this: Men are pigs, and people on the receiving end of male sexual desire/attention are in more danger than people on the receiving end of female sexual desire/attention. (In general—individual results may vary.) Testosterone is the crystal meth of hormones, a badass drug, and men are more likely to be abusive and violent. The prevalence of HIV among gay men makes the stakes higher for your son. So don't allow him to date anyone you don't get to meet and approve of, and don't confuse "being supportive" with "letting him do whatever/whomever he wants." Be active, be engaged, and never stop being his meddling, interfering, hypersuspicious dad.

Good luck, SMS. It sounds like your son lucked out having you as a parent.

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