My son likely is gay; my father hates ‘homos’

Posted June 16, 2012, at 7:10 p.m.
Emily Yoffe
Emily Yoffe

Dear Prudence,

In the past two years it’s become very apparent that my son “Ben,” who is now 8, is probably gay. My wife and I have not discussed this much, as both of us are uncomfortable with the prospect. We have tentatively agreed to let be what will be and to roll with it the best we can.

The problem is my father. He is a macho, gruff and sometimes brutish man, and he has not taken well to my son’s effeminate ways. On more than one occasion my father has lectured me about Ben, telling me if something isn’t done, “That boy’s going to grow up to be a homo.” He often tells Ben to “man up” and to “stop talking like a sissy.”

In response, Ben, who is respectful and well-behaved, has become withdrawn around his grandfather and avoids him. Our house is close to my father’s and he helps us financially. He even takes care of our three kids while we’re at work. My wife and I really didn’t want to deal with Ben’s likely sexual orientation until he was older, but now my dad is forcing our hand. What should we do? — Sweet Boy’s Father

Dear Father,

It doesn’t matter if the perpetrator is your father and you’re in deep with him financially, you should never allow anyone to bully or humiliate your son. It’s not going to be much of a savings if relying on your father for child care results in Ben’s emotional collapse. If someday Ben confronts you, asking how you could have knowingly let his grandfather mistreat him, imagine telling him you just needed the money.

I understand your father is from a different generation. But that doesn’t excuse someone from being so stupid as to think that if you slap some wrist splints on an effeminate boy and bellow at him “Man up, you sissy!,” you’ll turn him into a heterosexual. I agree that letting your son enjoy his childhood and feel loved — no matter who he ends up loving as an adult — is a good strategy. But you and your wife need to be comfortable with your son so that you can address your father’s discomfort.

A Sept. 15, 2010, article by Slate contributor Jesse Bering about “prehomosexuality” will help give you some perspective. Look at the website of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays for information and to find a support group if you want to talk to other parents who will understand your situation.

You need to address your father calmly but firmly. Tell him that Ben is just a child, and his grandson. You understand that he’s frustrated that Ben is not the rough-and-tumble type, but that doesn’t mean that Ben doesn’t deserve to be respected for who he is and for all his wonderful qualities. Tell him it’s crucial that the hectoring of Ben stops. Say it’s already damaging Ben, and surely no grandfather would want to do that. If your father threatens to withdraw his financial support, or responds that he’s entitled to treat his grandson as he sees fit, then tell him you’re sorry to hear that. But say he must know no real man would ever let anyone hurt his son, and you will figure out how to get along without his help. — Prudie

Dear Prudence,

My daughter’s friend Leila has been harassing her over the phone because a few weeks ago, when Leila spent the night, she allegedly accidentally left a valuable necklace here. Turns out the necklace belongs to Leila’s dad’s girlfriend, and Leila did not have permission to borrow it. My daughter and I have scoured the house for the necklace but have found no trace of it. I am not sure it is here.

On top of Leila’s abusive profanity-filled phone calls, Leila’s dad and his girlfriend expect my husband and I to repay them for the lost necklace. First of all, I don’t know if the necklace is in our house and I don’t feel responsible for Leila losing it.

Secondly, they say the necklace is worth over $300, which we have no way of verifying. How do I handle these people and their daughter’s bullying? Our daughters are 12, by the way. — Can’t Find Necklace

Dear Necklace,

What a coincidence. I recently stayed at a friend’s house and brought along the Hope Diamond. I must have left it by the bathroom sink, and my hosts better return the stone, or better yet, reimburse me for it.

Unfortunately, you have to tell your daughter that her friend and her family are behaving so terribly that your daughter can’t socialize with Leila anymore. Then if the family keeps contacting you, reiterate you don’t have the necklace, you’ve never had it, and if the threats don’t stop immediately, you are going to call the police. — Prudie

Dear Prudence,

I’ve discovered a fraud in my company, and I don’t know what to do. I work at a great, small company, and the owners are wonderful bosses. The main division, where I primarily work, is profitable and well run.

But another division — where I have some duties — is in trouble, which everyone knows about except the owners. This division is run by a middle manager, “Scott,” whose skills and expertise are lacking. A recent hire by Scott, a guy named “Thom,” is threatening to bring the situation to a head and I am not sure whether I should alert the owners.

Suspicions among the staff were aroused when Thom, who was billed as an expert in our field, appeared to know little about our industry. He also started insisting his name was “Tom,” not “Thom,” though his email and other documents use “Thom.”

I like research and have access to multiple databases, and I quickly discovered Thom’s credentials are fraudulent, and he’s lied about pretty much everything since being hired. My company does not like complainers, and the owners value a culture of kindness. Suspicion would not go over well. But Thom threatens a large part of our business, and Scott is so opaque he appears to be hiding a lot of things. Should I wait for this to play itself out, or should I speak up? I fear being branded as a non-team-player and I need this job for the long term.

— Armchair Detective

Dear Detective,

I hate to break it to you, but if a major division of your company is overseen by a sketchy guy who hires an obvious impostor, and your bosses have no idea, then your company is not that well run. If you would be branded disloyal for bringing to the owners’ attention the fact that a fraud artist is threatening their livelihoods, then you might not have a job in the long term because this business may not be destined to last. Go to your bosses with what you’ve discovered. Explain your concerns were provoked when Scott made a high-level hire of someone who appears to lack familiarity with your industry. Say database research is one of your skills and you discovered information about Thom that shows some serious inconsistencies. Avoid making direct accusations about Scott and Thom — you’re simply drawing attention to the record. (If the thought of doing this makes you too fearful, you can write the trusty anonymous letter and enclose your documentation.) If Thom isn’t quickly gone and if Scott’s division doesn’t have a shake-up, then reread “The Firm” — and dust off your résumé.

— Prudie

Please send your questions for publication to prudence@slate.com. (Questions may be edited.)

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