Dear Ms. Behavior:
My girlfriend and I have reconnected with my 40-year-old cousin, whom I haven’t seen in ages. Jason has moved to my neighborhood, and he is a decent guy.
The problem we have is that Jason utters vaguely homophobic statements—about one per evening we spend together. He also makes sure everyone knows (because he’s always single) that he’s not gay.
Jason invited us to his new place last week, and the walls are covered in vintage homoerotic art. Though it isn’t porn, it is unmistakably gay in its undertones—e.g., shirtless, muscle-bound men all pushing a car or fixing an airplane together. I spent a long time looking at the prints.
Jason noticed, and said, “Those were the days, when men were men, and a great value was placed on male buddies.”
Male buddies? I think we should clue Jason in. He’s probably a gay man, and doesn’t know it!
Do you think it’s OK for us to connect this to his homophobic comments, which make both my partner and me uncomfortable?
I really do want to keep the relationship with Jason, because most of my family is dead.
What’s your advice?
Your cousin actually may believe that his interest in male friendship is totally nonsexual. Whether it’s roping horses together in a meadow or lifting weights at the gym, strenuous grunting and appreciation of each other’s glistening muscles are indeed part of the ritual of man-on-man attachment.
For certain people, such bonding activities may be a prelude to sex. For others, the desire for physical touch remains hidden under the veil of “male friendship.” Touching often only is sanctioned during pastimes such as fixing things together, contact sports, and other forms of costumed frottage.
You can and should address Jason’s overt homophobia. Tell him that his comments make you and your partner ill at ease. Otherwise, it may seem that his remarks are OK with you.
Relentlessly tsking at Jason’s derogatory comments may help him catch on. If such subtlety doesn’t work, you may need to try administering a small shock with a cattle prod.
Suggesting that Jason needs to recognize his own buried gay impulses, based on his artwork, will be fruitless. It only would alienate him, at least at this early point in your reconnection, particularly if he’s as repressed as he seems.
Right now, all you can do is share your own lives with Jason; take him to a gay fete once in a while; and hope that when he awakens to his desire for tea-bagging, you’ll be the first to know.
Dear Ms. Behavior:
I have a good friend, Dale, who is kind of a loner, but a very nice person. I’ve known her for a long time.
Because Dale never has a partner, and doesn’t have any family, we always have her over when we have gatherings or parties. We sometimes ask our friends to include her in theirs, too, and they usually find her to be good company.
Recently, a couple of our gay male friends made it clear that they didn’t want Dale at their holiday party. I thought it was mean, especially because she had nowhere else to go. I wanted to stay home, but my partner insisted I was being stupid. So, we went, but I was angry the whole time.
Do you think I should say something to these Heartless Queens about not opening their homes to the lonely on Christmas?
It’s nice of you to run the Lesbian Lonely Hearts Club, and always to invite Dale. It’s also kind that you go the extra step, and encourage your friends to do the same.
But all you really can do is ask. You can’t insist that others include your lonely friend. If your friends don’t want to do so during Christmas, it’s really their decision—and their karma.
You have to decide if you want to go without her, and beyond that, whether you want to remain friends with the Ice Princesses.
© 2010 Meryl Cohn. Address questions and correspondence to email@example.com. She is the author of Do What I Say: Ms. Behavior’s Guide to Gay and Lesbian Etiquette (Houghton Mifflin). Signed copies are available directly from the author.