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Jewish Journal

When Gay Means Guinea Pig

by  Merissa Nathan Gerson

January 7, 2011 | 2:53 am

Advocate.com calls Sarah Silverman a "Serious Gay Ally" for boldly declaring she would not marry until "All Americans can legally wed."

Yenta,

When my boyfriend and I first started to date, I heard through the grape vine that there was speculation one of his brothers might be gay. I immediately told the person who told me this to not spread rumors and that it wasn’t true. Please note that I am in no way homophobic! I am extremely liberal and I have walked in numerous gay pride parades in support of loved ones. I want everyone to be happy and I would never judge anyone upon their sexuality.

I met this brother, who is absolutely gorgeous. They have 4 brothers in total. Immediately, we had a lot of respect for each other and spoke to each other with ease. I had asked my boyfriend how on earth could he still be single, and I heard that every girl in their town was trying to hook up with him. It’s his good looks that led everyone to notice when he wasn’t hooking up with the good looking girls who threw themselves at him. Now that he is 24, it does seem a bit odd that he has never dated a girl.

As time went on, I couldn’t help but hear more and more about his sexuality from people from their town.  One night, a friend (even though this was not a FRIENDly move) asked my boyfriend about the sexuality of his brother in front of a group of people. My boyfriend got extremely awkward and didn’t say anything. Since him and I talk about everything under the sun, I thought it was strange he did not bring this up to me afterwards.

Recently, I received a phone call from a friend asking me about the situation. Her sister had told her that her boyfriend (my boyfriend’s brother) had confided in her and told her that the brother wrote them a letter months ago explaining that he was gay, and told them everything.

So at this point, we have been dating for years, and I know the truth. I want to show him that I am here for him no matter what, and I would never judge anyone for their sexuality. I don’t know whether he is embarrassed to tell me, or if he just doesn’t want to admit it to himself just yet. But what I feel most horrible about is that people are talking about it. Should I tell him just how many people have mentioned it to me and claim they know it is true? I have told everyone that has asked me that I have no idea and that it is none of their business to begin with. My boyfriend and I are very serious, and when I think of his family I think of them as my own.

I am hurt that he hasn’t talked to me about it yet (he’s known for months), but I would never be angry over this. He knows I love him more than anything. I want to do the right thing by him and his family, without making anyone feel uncomfortable. I really don’t think they know how many people talk about it. Should I wait for him to tell me? Maybe if the family knew that people already know, it would ease the process? He knows people talk about it, but I don’t think he knows that people claim to know for a fact that he is gay. I feel like I am cheating by knowing something of this nature and not being able to tell my boyfriend, especially when I know he could be in pain.

Yours truly,

Trying To Do The Right Thing

Click Here to visit AskYourYenta.com.

Dear TTDTRT,

The first time I read this and answered this, I thought all along you were talking about the brother, not your boyfriend.  So, disclaimer, the paragraphs that follow this are a sassy response to that assumption. 

Original still-relevant answer to incorrect reading of question:

A big red flag in life is when someone openly declares “I am not….”  Usually, the need to declare what you aren’t, alludes a bit to what you are.  Ie, if you are so adamantly “liberal” and so die hard “not homophobic” then you would probably not be writing so much to prove it.

It sounds to me like this whole deal with your man’s brother batting for the home team is more about you, than about his homosexuality.  There is no evidence in this story that he is suffering, or that he needs you as an ally.  In fact, there is no imperative for a healthy sexy gay man to come out to the whole wide world.  There is no debutante ball for the homosexual emerging.

It sounds, however, like you really want to host a debutante ball for your boyfriend’s brother’s coming out.  What if he doesn’t want a ball, but wants a small dinner?  Ie, what if this guy is perfectly content being gay, living gay, and not speaking up and out about it?  You sound like you feel a need to communicate your acceptance, desperately.

How to be truly accepting?  Maybe stop heeding the talk and gossip about this guy and his private life.  People talking about him is not his problem, nor should it be yours.  It isn’t as if he killed a bunny, he lives an identity.  That’s it.  People’s fascination or repulsion is generally their own problem.

I would say stay out of it, work on your own relationship to homosexuality, and let this guy live a life in peace.  Be his friend, fine, but not in order to save his homosexual soul.

There are a million ways to exercize this need you have to be an ally to the homosexual community.  Try joining StraightForEquality.org, FriendFactor.org “Where straight friends stand up for their gay allies,” or join a Facebook group for allies to make your support publicly known.  Posting these groups on your profile is a great way of showing allegiance.  These are ways of also making yourself visible as a safe space should this guy ever decide he needs you.

Below is a list from GLAAD.org “The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation,” of 10 ways to be a straight ally, without needing, necessarily, to use gay friends as guinea pigs.

10 Ways to Be an Ally & a Friend

1. Be a listener.

2. Be open-minded.

3. Be willing to talk.

4. Be inclusive and invite LGBT friends to hang out with your friends and family.

5. Don’t assume that all your friends and co-workers are straight. Someone close to you could be looking for support in their coming-out process. Not making assumptions will give them the space they need.

6. Homophobic comments and jokes are harmful. Let your friends, family and co-workers know that you find them offensive.

7. Confront your own prejudices and homophobia, even if it is uncomfortable to do so.

8. Defend your LGBT friends against discrimination.

9. Believe that all people, regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation, should be treated with dignity and respect.

10. If you see LGBT people being misrepresented in the media, contact us at glaad.org.

Also check out “What Would A Queer Ally Do,” or “Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbian and Gays, PFLAG.org for other resources.

As for your ACTUAL question:

You might, in trying to do “the right thing” be getting too mentally involved.  In lieu of your boyfriend, maybe just ask him about it.  Your fear of the subject isn’t helping.  You don’t need to say, “hey, everyone knows your brother likes men, they are all gossiping!”  Why not just gently mention the truth?  Or, another option…don’t mention it and use the resources I posted to begin to show you are an advocate for the gay community.  Visible advocacy makes it more likely that your boyfriend might come to you.  Either way, be brave, try not to skirt the truth because in cases like this one, it throws everything out of proportion.  Also, try not to presume your boyfriend’s silence is a matter of shame and suffering or that his family needs your help.  This assumption doesn’t bode well for how you view homosexuality.  It is also possible that your boyfriend just doesn’t care if his brother likes girls, boys or smurfs.

Follow AskYourYenta on Twitter

Ask Yenta an anonymous question!  Send an e-mail via www.send-email.org to merissag[at]gmail[dot]com.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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With more than 10 years of talk therapy under her belt, Merissa has waded through life’s dilemmas with a constant reflective therapeutic bird on her shoulder. Add a few...

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