Fathers and gay sons: A complicated, vitally crucial relationship.
post September 13, 2010 | the review by Jessica Schrader
Fathers in many families space mysterious, distant, intimidating figures—even much more so because that boys with homosexual attractions. They are the family torchbearers of manliness, and, as males young and also old know, homosexuality is thought about the dreaded opposite of masculinity. Follow to Michael Kimmel, a sociologist and expert on male sex roles, men demonstrate their masculinity by repudiating all that is feminine and also demonstrating an ever-ready willingness to engage in sex-related intercourse through women anytime the possibility arises-in a nutshell, to prove they room not gay. To be happy is to be powerless, weak, unable to break totally free from Mommy, and these attributes are incompatible with genuine manliness.
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Initially, the assertion that homophobia plays center stage in men"s woman self-concept might seem quite extreme. However, walk to places where men and also boys congregate such together schoolyards, sporting activities fields, fraternity houses, and locker rooms in this country and you will hear taunts such together "You"re a sissy!" "That"s for this reason gay." "Hey c*cksucker!" or "Wow, you really got f*cked in the *ss on that play!" Sex between males is seen as an action of violence and also domination quite than an expression that love, affection, or shared pleasure, and also this mocking, even if it is it is excellent playfully or through hostile intent, is intended to degrade a male by deriding his manliness. A boy growing into a gay male will acquire the post loud and clear that he is weak, dirty, and, probably worst the all, much less than a man. Hence it is no wonder the the boys in the study for my book: Coming Out, coming Home: help Families readjust to a gay or Lesbian Child, recalled being so reactive and fearful that the responses of their fathers—the very people who were expecting them come receive and also carry the torch of masculinity.
As this 18-year-old young guy recalled:
My father has constantly been very physical. He preferred competitive sports and he play football. That was constantly pushing me to be on the football team or to do this or that. The sort of points I had absolutely no attention in doing in ~ all, and also I don"t know just how tied up the is in sexuality, but I definitely felt prefer I had something I required to keep hidden from him.
Rico, a 22-year-old Latino male who operated in a bookstore, explained how his father"s derision, perhaps fueled by suspicion, made him fearful:
He would call gay world names and stuff. Just saying the he didn"t agree with it and also thought it was wrong and also all the stuff. . . . Yes, and he didn"t want me to come to be that . . . One time I had just dyed mine hair. I was eighteen, nineteen. I dyed the red. And also he said: "Don"t it is in a girl, you fag!" or something favor that.
Rico, who parents were long-divorced, regarded these admonitions as a threat, i beg your pardon is why at the moment of his interview he had yet come come the end to his father.
When Jay to be asked if his arising sexual orientation played any function in his relationship with his father, the replied:
Yes. I think ns was taking out my disappointed with every one of the right jocks at college ... The he to be this pops normal guy that had the common family, the regular house and also the typical job and also normal, normal, normal. And I don"t know ... The was basic target, too, since he wasn"t always here and when that was right here I could attack him.
For sons, paternal disapproval is a particularly bitter pill come swallow. Perhaps, deep down, castle yearn for your fathers" love and also approval, but fear disappointing them by no being the guy they supposed them come be. They realize if they room being chided in the outside human being for not being real males that this will certainly reflect poorly on their dads, that will it is in angry and disappointed when they come out. Because that this study, amongst the 65 families interviewed, just 17 fathers agreed to participate and unfortunately, no one of the fathers of the boys who reported feeling taunted or pressured by them consented to an interview, therefore I can not acquire their perspectives. However, favor Jay, it is possibly too tempting to do fathers an easy target, specifically in the absence of their voices. We have to remember the fathers and also sons live in the same world—one that teaches boys the homosexuality is incompatible with real masculinity and, by association, full male adulthood. Fathers too were raised to not just look under upon homosexuality, yet to fear it in themselves. The fathers that these masculine respondents may have perceived the they failed at one of their most vital tasks: happen masculinity onto their sons. Thus having a happy son might feel particularly shameful because that a father, as he may think it is an indictment of his very own masculinity.
Moreover, it is perhaps humiliating for a father to have actually a kid who engages in sex acts that are thought about by many to be so disgusting and degrading that their really mention is used by males to insult each other. Once a father in this study initially uncovered out his son was gay, that repeated, over and also over, "Do you understand what two males do to each other? Is that what you want to do?" include to this shame and also disappointment men"s propensity to be stoic about problems to avoid showing up incompetent or weak and one gets a feeling why many fathers, favor those of the boys formerly quoted, did not want to discuss such a topic v a stranger—a happy stranger, no less.
Nevertheless, that is necessary to recognize that father-son antagonism can be an especially wounding for a gay man. Richard Isay, a psychoanalyst who specializes in work with gay males believes the gay males experience a reverse-Oedipal facility whereby, together young boys, they end up being subconsciously sexually attractive to their fathers (rather than their mothers). When the young is a toddler, the father anxiously senses the subliminal sexual charge in their partnership and, because he is socialized to it is in repelled and afraid that homosexuality, he consequently disengages native his son. Oedipal concerns aside, a emerging gay boy may demonstrate some traditionally feminine gestures or interests that foreshadow one adult homosexual orientation, i beg your pardon may consequently make his dad uncomfortable and also want to distance.
Sadly, father-son disengagement or strain may have specifically pernicious after-effects for happy men"s adult lives and relationships. Because a boy"s relationship with his father is his first, most essential relationship through a man, that is the primary arena where he learns no only how to connect in close contact with other men but likewise whether that is lovable in their eyes. If this main relationship is defined by fear, distance, and also hostility during childhood, together it is for plenty of gay men, this will no doubt interfere through his capability to type and maintain intimate, cursed relationships through male partner in his future.
But heal Is Possible
For happy sons of all ages, but especially those who are struggling to establish, fix, or combine their existing same-sex relationships, it can be a an excellent idea to look towards their previous relationships with their fathers for insights and answers. What were the relationships like prior to they came out? Afterwards? What walk they learn around their self-worth from their fathers? What go they learn about their precious in the eye of other men? do the form of guys they are drawn to have any criterion in your relationships through our fathers? for example, few of us favor the solid silent species because that"s what our dads were prefer while others walk for these varieties because that"s what us wished our dads were like. One of two people way, i have uncovered in my clinical job-related with gay males that much valuable information deserve to be gained by examining past, and also even existing father-son interaction to identify what patterns space being repetitive and/or reacted to in their existing relationships. Armed with this insight, gay men deserve to then make much more informed choices about how to interact with the guys in your lives.
Fathers that love their gay sons need to know the unique duty they pat in their son"s self-esteem and future relationships. Definitely all fathers require to display that they love your sons and daughters, however fathers of gay sons require to discover ways to surmount the barrier of homophobia and socially scripted queasiness about gay sex to display their sons the they are indeed lovable and also deserve the love the a good man. Although I rarely recommend fiction to my clients or students, ns urge all fathers of happy sons to monitor the television collection Glee to study the relationship in between the happy character kurt Hummel and also his dad, Burt. Clock this really macho dad reach throughout the an excellent divide the sex-role expectations to maintain a connection with his wonderfully "flamboyant" gay son constructed on unconditional love. And also know, Dad, the there space many, many of us gay guys out there watching that connection too—with tears the gratitude, envy, and longing.
If you room interested in conference Dr. LaSala and also are in the NYC area, involved Barnes and also Noble Booksellers at 82nd St.and Broadway this Wednesday, Sept. 15 at 7 p.m. Find much more information here.
Michael C. LaSala, Ph.D.
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, is a professor in ~ the college of Social work-related at Rutgers University, and author the Coming Out, coming Home: helping Families adjust to a happy or Lesbian Child.