By Bonnie Kaye
In my last newsletter, I promised that I would address the most common fears women have when they are finally able to accept that they are married to a gay man. These are the same fears I had when I learned about my husband. I think that the fear of the unknown is much more difficult to deal with than the truth. These questions are painful, but they need to be discussed to alleviate some of your irrational worries and help you understand your rational ones.
Q: If my husband is gay, will my children be gay?
A. It’s possible. I was scared for years. I believe that gay is genetic, not a choice or learned behavior, and I know that genes can be passed on to children. In the 1980’s as I met a greater number of families and started calculating multiple homosexual members of the immediate or extended family, I began to see a pattern that really alarmed me. No one wants to have a homosexual child. That is not a homophobic statement at all, but rather one based on a mother’s love for her child. We all know how difficult it is to be gay in our society, and we don’t want our children to have to face those hardships. However, recognizing that this was possible, I raised my children in an environment of positive feelings about homosexuality from a young age.
Just because people were different, it didn’t make them wrong or bad. I did this because I knew there was a greater chance of one or both of my children being gay because their father was gay. And, I later learned that my ex-husband’s father was “bisexual,” even though Michael had never met him because he was adopted by extended family members at birth.
As things turned out, our daughter, now 21, is a lesbian. When I discovered this two-and-a-half years ago, I cried. No matter how much you prepare yourself for this possibility, you still cry when it becomes a reality. And when I finished crying, I hugged her and told her that I didn’t care—and I don’t.
My daughter told me that thanks to my attitude, she was able to accept who she was without running away from it and hiding like her father felt he had to do. She was comfortable with her sexuality. For that, I am grateful. I know all of the confusion and pain her father lived with for years trying to accepting himself. I assure you that my daughter will not be marrying some unsuspecting man to prove that she is straight. I feel good about that.
Ironically, it was much easier for me to accept my daughter’s homosexuality than it was for her father to accept it. And, her father is extremely defensive and angry if I bring up the fact that this is genetic, as if I am blaming him. There is no blame here, nor do I hold him responsible. But I know there is a part of him that feels responsible even though there is no blame intended.
I have spoken to so many women who have experienced one or more of their children being gay or struggling with accepting their homosexuality. I know that it is heartbreaking, but don’t let this be a barrier between you and your child. By now you should understand that homosexuality is not a choice that anyone would consciously make. There are no choices when it comes to this.
Love your child without letting this become an issue, otherwise you will both lose out. And in case this is a fear that becomes your reality as it did mine, stop the negative gay talk in front of your children lest they get the message that there is something wrong with them that will stop you from loving them if they are gay.
Q: Can my child’s sexuality be influenced if she/he spends time with his/her father and sees his lifestyle?
A. Absolutely not. Gay is not something that can be influenced when it comes to a person’s sexuality. No one can “become” gay by hanging around gay people. Sexuality does not “rub off” on children. It can influence their opinions in either a positive or negative way about homosexuality, but it doesn’t “turn them gay.” I find it so sad when I receive letters from time to time from women who have this terrible fear and for that reason, do their best to keep their children out of the reach of the fathers.
This certainly can’t help the situation and in fact, only worsens it. A child needs a father, and sexuality shouldn’t be the issue. Responsible parenting should be the only concern. That being said, a gay father also has the responsibility to be sensitive to a child’s feelings. If a child is uncomfortable being in a gay environment such as parties, picnics, social gatherings, etc., that should be the first consideration.
Also, it isn’t surprising that a child will feel uncomfortable with the father’s lifestyle, especially during adolescence. No matter how much a child loves a father, it doesn’t mean he or she is going to be comfortable with homosexuality through those difficult years. .
Q: Do I have to worry about my gay husband being around my son? I read stories about some gay men liking younger boys and it scares me. And what about his gay friends? Will they go after my son?
A. I understand this fear. It comes from the darkest side of the horror stories that we tend to hear when learning about homosexuality. I think a lot of this fear comes from the fact that our own husbands or ex-husbands are fixated on younger men. But it’s ironic how we don’t fear for our daughters when we are married to straight men. The thought of incest would never cross our minds, even though there is a far greater number of a father-daughter incestuous relationship than there are gay father-son concerns.
I won’t say that this doesn’t happen or can’t happen, but I certainly wouldn’t worry about this happening. This is a very irrational fear. Just because a person is gay doesn’t mean that he is a child molester. It is so important to be able to differentiate between homosexuals and pedophiles.
Homosexuals often get the bum rap of being pedophiles, which is very disturbing to me. Pedophiles prey on innocent children, male and female, without much differentiation on whom they victimize. Pedophiles are usually straight, heterosexuals. Even within the realm of pedophilia, there are many different kinds of child molesters, which make the situation even more complex.
However, it is not unusual for gay men to like guys who are much younger than they are. We feel this sense of discomfort when we find many of our husbands going after or out with younger men once they come out. This certainly does seem to be the natural trend with gay men, especially when they come out at a later age.
I have no concrete answer on why this happens, just numerous theories formed from the answers I’ve received from the gay men that I discuss this with, including my own ex-husband. Some say it’s because they are recapturing their own youth; others say they are finally being able to act on the attraction they’ve had since they were that age but never had the chance to act on it.
Although the following statement will offend the sensitivities of some of my gay friends, I’ll risk it. The value system of gay men differs from the value system of straight women when it comes to acceptance of having sexual relations with younger men in their teenage years. What would be totally unacceptable for us to accept as proper conduct is quite acceptable within the gay way of thinking. I am not sure where gay men draw the line of acceptable ages for pursing young men.
However, I don’t think that many gay men would object to a man at any age having sexual encounters with teenagers who are 17 or 18. The concern we all have is where does the line stop the drop. Is 16 okay? Is 15 or 14? 13? There are some very shaky grounds when we speak about this. So there are some concerns.
As wives or ex-wives, the thoughts of our husbands being with young men whom we see as teenagers is a repulsive thought. We would feel a sense of repulsion of our husbands were straight and pursing 17 year old girls, so it’s not just a gay issue.
However, we are so devastated by the imagery of our husbands with other men, that the thought of them being with younger men still in their teens is far more discomforting to us. This added to the fact that this is not only acceptable but also common behavior within the gay community is what is so upsetting to us.
The explanation that these teenage boys are seeking older men because it represents a sense of security, experience, and stability doesn’t comfort us at all. We are still sickened at the visualization.
We are also worried about our own sons. It’s a common fear that most of us have on some level. Will our husbands’ friends be pursing our sons as they go through their adolescent years? I worried about it. Is it a rational fear? I don’t know, but it doesn’t stop me from feeling that way.
A. I think this is the first thing that comes to the minds of women once the words of “gay” are spoken. They are petrified that they might be infected with AIDS. Obviously, there is still a lot of misconceptions about AIDS or else they wouldn’t be so worried. Ironically, most of the women who write to me about this fear haven’t had sexual relations with their husbands for years. They should not worry so much BUT go and get tested for HIV/AIDS. Is it possible to get AIDS without sex?
Well, I won’t say no but the chances of it happening are so remote. AIDS is not airborne, nor can you get it from drinking from the same glass, using the same towel, or sharing the same bed. It is transmitted through blood or semen, so if you and your gay mate have been sharing needles it is possible. Once blood reaches the air, the virus dies soon afterwards as the virus cannot live outside the body. So unless your husband has been bleeding on you after he is cut and you have an open wound, if you have not had sexual intercourse for years I wouldn’t worry too much about it.
I tell women that everyone who was sexually active no matter how many years ago, or is still sexually active, should get tested. Those who are still active, even married one should get tested yearly.
If your husband has had recent sexual relations with you, you must definitely rush to get tested. Even if he tells you that he hasn’t acted on his homosexuality, get tested anyway. Gay men coming out to their wives often lie about their sexual experiences because it is too difficult to tell the truth. Sometimes the truth comes out weeks, months, or years later. Sometimes it never comes out. So you do need to protect yourself and get tested ASAP.
If you have had recent sexual relations with your husband, it is good to check out all sexually transmitted diseases—not just AIDS. Numerous women have had complications because they had STDs and were not aware of it until complications prevailed. STDs can fester for a while before they appear so you may think you’re safe when you’re not.
No matter what you are facing, remember that you are not alone.