Wednesday, May 12, 2010

To the Parents

Every now and again I like to troll advice columns. Ok... I'm an advice column junkie. Miss Manners, Prudie, and Cary Tennis (from Salon.com) are my favorite.

A few months ago I was reading old Cary Tennis advice columns, and ran across one that I found very profound. It was in response to a father who caught his 13 year old son looking at gay porn. I was surprised to find myself feeling very much like the person Cary describes in his response, and have to appreciate that, as a straight man, Cary gets it. His letter to this father is reprinted below:

“To paraphrase a Frank Zappa song from the 1960s, I'm not gay but there's a whole lot of times I wish I could say I wasn't straight! I mean, we straight people have to really step up on this whole homosexuality thing. We walk around like we're the normal ones and everybody else is, like, different. But just think about it. Like, on a gut level, remember when you were 13? It was weird, right? Getting hair, and having urges, and wondering about girls and jobs and the future, and wondering, wondering, wondering. Can you imagine what it's like for a kid as these natural processes, spiritual and biological and utterly beyond his control, are taking him on a strange ride that he didn't really buy a ticket to but he's on anyway, as he's trying to grow up and conform and figure out what he supposed to be doing, what it's like for him to realize that the way he's developing, just, by the way, is utterly freaking out the adults, so they're having conferences in the kitchen and they're looking at him funny and not believing what he says, and now he's lying about what he's looking at because he has no idea what's going to happen to him if it turns out, horror of horrors, that he might actually be gay, that it's a scary, weird problem that he has to hide from others, especially those in his own family? Can you imagine what that's like? Can I? And we straights wonder why gay guys sometimes wait until their 20s or 30s or 40s to come out to their families? Or never come out? Or prefer not to mention it or make it a topic of national discussion or get a little testy when we assume that in our latterly discovered enlightenment we will treat every gay guy as regional spokesman for, like, Gay America, and we bring up the gayness of others as if we were the ones who, naturally, because we are so wise in other areas such as the conduct of foreign policy and stewardship of the environment, will take it upon ourselves to decide for them how they ought to act and what they are entitled to and whether they can live together and get married and visit each other in the hospital? And whether what they do and who they do it with is a sin? As if we could speak not only for the powerful white Christian heterosexual majority of America but for God himself? Jesus! If I was gay but had the benefit of knowing how we straight people think, would I ever come out? I'm not so sure. I might prefer to just keep the whole thing between me and a few friends.

“So. Take a deep breath. A posture of utter humility before the mystery and grandeur of life is appropriate. And be cool. It's going to be OK.

“And also just generally reassuring kids about all this nonsense is appropriate too, don't you think? So could you just tell the kid that you love him and that how we develop sexually is just one part of who we are, and that however you develop it's completely and totally fine? Could you just tell him that you were 13 once and you remember it's a very weird and uncomfortable time, and that though you have rules in your house your No. 1 rule is that you love your kids and you're there for them?

“Could you just do that?”

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I wonder sometimes: If my father or mother had written this letter and received this advice (and followed it), how much better would my relationship with my family be?

To the parents of gay youth everywhere – I could not put it better than this.

5 comments:

MoHoHawaii said...

Nice.

JonJon said...

So very well put. And so heartening that it's coming from a straight person. I love it when people stop to think that not everyone experiences the world the way they do and then even go so far as to try to think about how others experience life and what it might be like for them.

Horizon said...

My dad caught me the very first time I peeked at some porn online when I was 12. I got the page closed before he could see that it was GAY porn and just got lectured at and grounded. I wonder what his reaction would have been back then if he had seen it was two guys in the picture. I wonder how MY life would be different.

Thanks for the post. Both to Jon Jon for showing it to me and for referring me to Gay Saint!

Konrad said...

I agree, what a great outlook to have with your children. I know that growing up must be hard. Growing up and also knowing you are different from your friends and super confused that you might be gay and wont be in line with Gods plan and not having anyone to talk to about it is very hard. Not that im speaking from personal experience or anything. ;) I think that if everyone treated their children like this there would be some much healtheir attitudes about sex and sexuality out there! Thanks for the post.

Pablo said...

Thanks for re-posting this. You inspired me to re-post it too. Every parent needs to read this.

And, thanks to JonJon, I disovered your blog, which I really like. Thanks!