Take a Number, Please; and He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother
Dear Dr. Hurd,
My partner is an outgoing person. We were at Aqua Grill several weeks ago when we met a younger guy who is his type (I’m his type and the guy looks like me, minus about 10 years). They struck up a conversation, and I was horrified when they exchanged phone numbers. Driving home we had a big fight. He claims I don’t want him to have friends, and I claim that…well, I’m not sure what I claim, but I just don’t like it. I guess I feel threatened.
Dr. Hurd replies,
More facts are required. Was the number exchange done in secret, or openly with you present? That matters. If it was done with you deliberately excluded, then you have reason to ask, “If you want us to socialize with him, that’s one thing. But why do you want to meet with him privately?” I think it’s reasonable to point that out. If you exchanged phone numbers—privately—with a guy he knew you found attractive, I’m sure he would react, too. That’s also fair to point out.
Think of it as a little empathy exercise. “Would you honestly have no concerns if I did that?” You had this conversation (fight) with him before you could form your thoughts. That was a mistake. Even now, you’re telling me you’re not sure what you claim, but you have to be sure. I suggest that you write down the facts and then determine reasonable questions from those facts, like I’m doing here. He says he wants friends. Friends are people you enjoy, but not necessarily hop into bed with. Is that how he defines friend? Won’t he find it frustrating to be friends with someone who’s his type, and who has interest back? Talk to him about it in a rational way; don’t be shrill or anxious.
There’s a bigger picture here too. You either trust him or you don’t. If you do, then it’s fine to raise a question; reminding yourself that you trust him. I assume your fear is that he’ll hook up with this young fellow in some way. Exactly how is he going to manage that secret? Or do you already keep secrets and lie to one other?
You obviously pay attention, and you’re right to let him know that you noticed what he did at the bar. But if you honestly don’t trust him, then that goes beyond his exchanging phone numbers or not. You’ll need to figure out why you don’t trust him, and decide if it makes sense. If it does, then you have your work cut out for you.
Dear Dr. Hurd,
My gay brother visits Rehoboth often, and I found this copy of Letters in his room. Wow, your advice is right on.
But I’m not sure what advice to give him, so here goes. My brother is a freshman in college. He really loves our parents, who are slightly religious but don’t practice. They’ve made anti-gay remarks in the past, and he’s afraid they won’t approve of his gayness. He feels like he’ll be a disappointment because of what he thinks is their anti-gay attitude. I see what he’s getting at, because of their comments.
I’m 15, by the way, and I’m not gay. But I love and admire my brother and hate to see him hurt. Please help me help him.
Dr. Hurd replies,
When your parents make anti-gay remarks, they’re not talking about your brother. There are “gays” whom they dislike in the abstract, and then there’s your brother, whom they presumably love.
When they learn your brother is gay—and they eventually will—they will have to discard one idea or the other. “Our son, whom we love, is a good guy” and, “Being gay is disgusting, bad and wrong” are two contradictory assumptions that cannot be reconciled. One of them has to be false. They’re either going to stop disliking “gays” or stop loving your brother. But not both.
One of the reasons homosexuality is such a hot button is that it forces people to confront those contradictions. For example, most of us are taught, usually by religion, that love is not about ourselves and has nothing to do with personal fulfillment. Some say love exists for the purpose of creating a family. That’s why so many people who attack gays/lesbians do so in the name of “preserving the family.” What they’re really afraid of is the idea of love being about personal fulfillment.
For someone to acknowledge their homosexuality shatters that theory. Though you can be gay or lesbian and have children, homosexuality articulates that love is, first and foremost, for the personal fulfillment of the two people involved.
Your brother is fortunate to have your love and loyalty. In fact, in spite of your age, you might well end up being the leader on this issue with your family. You can’t shield anyone from hurt, because nobody lives in a bubble. Life is an adventurous and sometimes treacherous place. But the loyalty of one’s loved ones makes all the difference. Just keep being who you are. That will do more to help your brother than you realize.
Michael J. Hurd, Ph.D. is a psychotherapist and author. His office may be reached at 302-227-2829. Email your questions or comments to Dr. Hurd.