I am the father of a recently out 18-year-old gay boy. Here's the problem: My son is in a relationship with a 31-year-old guy. I'm not OK with that. Yes, my son is a legal adult at 18 and can make his own decisions, but he's also still in high school. His mother argues that in order to be supportive, we can't object to this relationship. I don't think this is a gay versus straight objection. If I had an 18-year-old heterosexual daughter who was in a relationship with a 31-year-old man, I would have exactly the same concerns and objections. Beyond that, even if I can establish that it's OK to have an objection, or to feel the need to take some action to be supportive for my son, I don't know what I can or should do. What say you, oh wise one?
One Concerned Dad
Your wife is wrong.
Homophobic parents are bad for gay kids. But "supportive" parents who let their gay kids get away with murder — supportive parents who stop parenting their gay kids because they worry about seeming homophobic if they object to lousy gay boyfriends, choices, apparel, etc. — aren't doing their gay kids any favors, either. Your son, despite what he might tell you, needs his parents to advise him, meddle in his affairs, even object and interfere.
Here's what I would do if I were in your shoes, OCD — I would take my son's 31-year-old boyfriend out for a beer and ask him a lot of pointed questions: How did you meet my son? Are you having sex with my son? Are you using condoms? What is your HIV status? How old was your last boyfriend? And, finally, do you realize that I will tear you gay limb from gay limb if you hurt my gay kid?
As for your son, OCD, tell him that you realize gay guys his age sometimes date older men because there aren't a lot of boys his own age to choose from. (If you didn't already know that, now you do.) And tell your son that this gay dude you know — that would be me, OCD — told you that something's usually wrong when a 31-year-old is dating a teenager. Something's usually wrong with the 31-year-old. There are exceptions, of course, and maybe his boyfriend is exceptional — maybe he's not a jerk who pursues naive boys because gay men his own age can see through his shit — but the simple fact of his age requires that he be subjected to a higher degree of scrutiny than a first boyfriend who was closer to your son's own age.
Finally, OCD, tell your son that you know he's an adult and free to date whomever he wants. But you're his dad and he has to hear you out — whether he wants to or not.
My 13-year-old nephew, who is straight, was in a play last year. It was a very positive experience. The only problem is one of the theater group's fans, who is 50 and gay, befriended my sister and seems to be fixated on my nephew: He posts to my nephew's Facebook page, he's constantly asking my sister to allow my nephew to spend the night at his apartment, etc. I would like you to weigh in on this situation, Dan. Other family members share my suspicions, but we're afraid to say anything to my sister because she has a temper. Should I go ahead and tell my sister and brother-in-law that I think the guy is attracted to my nephew?
A Worried Aunt
Thanksgiving, 2019: "I'm so sorry you got raped when you were 13. I thought something was off about that guy. But I didn't say anything at the time because I was afraid your mom would yell at me. So, um, pass the yams?"
Unless you're looking forward to making an apology like that after your nephew confronts his whole family for failing to protect him when he was a child, AWA, you should speak the fuck up. Talk to your sister, temper be damned, and talk to your nephew, too. Your sister could be color-blind in addition to being an angerbomb — prone to rages and incapable of seeing red flags — and it's possible that your nephew already told his mother that this man makes him uncomfortable and got yelled at himself.
Firmly raise your concerns, AWA, but don't make accusations. You may not have all the information. It's possible that this man has no sexual interest in your nephew. It's also possible that your nephew is gay, recently came out to his mother and father but wasn't ready to come out to his extended family, and this man is mentoring your nephew at your sister's request. But even so, fifty-something gay men do not invite 13-year-old boys to sleepovers for the same reason fifty-something straight men don't invite 13-year-old girls to sleepovers: Suspicions will be aroused, even if nothing else is. In my opinion, the invite itself is a mentor-disqualifying display of piss-poor judgment.
Speak up, AWA.
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