My 13-year-old son came out to us this morning. We love and accept our son, and this news isn't surprising. (But when will the stereotypical neatness kick in?) But we do have some concerns. He has already made the news public at school. We want to make sure he knows that we don't care about his sexuality, while preparing him to deal with those who do. Also, any advice you can give for when he starts dating would be appreciated.
Dad Seeks Support
"On behalf of advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth everywhere, let me be the first to say ‘thank you,'" says Eliza Byard, executive director of GLSEN (www.glsen.org), the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, which works to create safe school environments for LGBT — and straight — youth. "Simply by giving your son your love and support, you have already significantly increased his chances of living a happy and fulfilling life." (LGBT youth whose families are hostile are eight times likelier to commit suicide than are their straight peers.)
"The bad news is that school can be a miserable place for LGBT youth," says Byard. "GLSEN's 2009 National School Climate Survey found that nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT teens experienced harassment in school in the past year. The good news is that engaged parents can make a huge difference."
So, while you want your son to understand that you "don't care about his sexuality," you also have to make him understand that you're aware of the challenges he faces.
"Talk to your son and learn more about his school and his experiences there," advises Byard. "What kind of response has he received? What supports are in place at school? Does the school have a Gay-Straight Alliance? Do students have access to LGBT-affirming resources in the library? Does the school have policies that address bullying?"
Call your son's school and set up a meeting. Making sure his teachers and school administrators know that you're on your son's side — and you intend to hold them accountable — can go a long way toward creating a safe environment at school.
"Send a GLSEN Safe Space Kit (www.safespacekit.com) to your son's school to give educators the tools they need," advises Byard. "Visible signs of support, such as a GLSEN Safe Space sticker on a door, can fundamentally alter the school experience of an LGBT youth by helping them identify adults who are supportive."
As for dating and sex ...
"Treat your son with the same awkwardness you would your other kids," says Byard. "Make sure he has access to all the health and safety information he needs. (Sitting down to watch reruns of Will & Grace together won't cut it.) Make yourself available to talk whenever he needs, and welcome his boyfriends inside the house the same way you would if they were girlfriends."
I'm into BDSM and my safe word is "safe word." It's short, memorable and unmistakable in its intent. Someone recently told me that "any serious BDSM player" would laugh me out of the community if I used that. Is she just being a dickhead? Should I have to say something silly like "grapefruit" to get my point across?
Grapefruits Aren't Good
I may not be the best person to adjudicate this dispute, as my safe word is "popcorn." (And, yes, I cross my arms over my chest when I use it, as demonstrated here: tinyurl.com/safewordpopcorn.) But the woman who says you'd be laughed out of "the community" has a bad case of You're Doing It Wrong.
YDIW is a social-skills disorder that members of the BDSM community are at particular risk of acquiring. (Others at heightened risk: religious conservatives, sports fans, advice columnists.) BDSMers with YDIW feel they have a right to inform other BDSMers that they're doing it wrong — whatever "it" might be — even if "it" poses no risk to anyone.
BDSM players should speak up when they witness other BDSMers doing something dangerous. The secondary, tertiary and quaternary goals of creating a BDSM community were the sharing of skills, the promotion of good play practices, and the holding of dangerous or malicious players to account. (The primary goal? Getting laid.) But some BDSMers confuse a responsibility to speak up when they witness dangerous play for an invitation to critique other people's kinks, sexual interests, safe words, etc.
YDIW in BDSMers — and social conservatives — can be treated through the application of "NO ONE GIVES A FUCK WHAT YOU THINK, ASSHOLE." It should be applied liberally whenever YDIW flares up.
I enjoyed your pieces about monogamish couples. However, it's time for a column dedicated to people in successful monogamous relationships! I have been with my partner for 10 years. We'll both flirt with a cute waiter and dance with hot guys at gay clubs, but we always go home together. It pisses me off when people assume that, because we are gay, we're having sex with every Tom, Dick and Harry.
Couple Of Compatible Keepers
That's a wonderful idea, COCK.
People in successful, long-term monogamous relationships are invited to send in their stories. Letters from monogamous sufferers of YDIW will not make it into the column, however. If you can't write about your monogamous relationship without disparaging those in non-monogamous or monogamish relationships then, um, you're doing it wrong. (I told you advice columnists were at heightened risk of YDIW.) Tell us why monogamy works for you and how you've made it work. But please refrain from telling everyone who isn't doing it the way you do it that they're doing it wrong. That's my job.
CONFIDENTIAL TO CANADA'S UNKNOWN LAWYER: Next time there's a legal hiccup in the fair application of Canada's marriage laws where same-sex couple are concerned, let's err on the side of not declaring thousands of same-sex marriages — mine included — to be "invalid," shall we? Let's skip the shitstorm next time and jump right to the fair and just resolution.
Find the Savage Lovecast (my weekly podcast) every Tuesday at thestranger.com/savage.