^Question: So I am a openly gay teenage boy and for the most part my family is supportive. However, I get really bothered because my family, especially the males, will always be making gay jokes and using the word, “gay” as an insult.
Yet whenever I go to try to talk to them about something serious like being bullied or how I feel about a guy – or even try making a joke myself – they act shocked. This makes me feel like all I am to them is a joke and that they don’t take me as a person seriously.
Should I really feel this way or is it normal behavior? Also are there things I can do to help open the communication lines and let them know how it makes me feel?
This is definitely a tough position to be in.
As a teenager you don’t have much power, especially if you are financially dependent on the males to whom you are referring. Usually as a therapist, I would encourage you to tell these males how you feel – that it hurts you to have them do and say the things they do.
However, for these males, that might ignite more jokes or shocked behavior. It might not be safe to talk to them directly. Not knowing the situation, I would not want you to find yourself in a position where these males feel antagonized and can harm you or put you out of the house.
The way you feel is perfectly normal and I would be worried if you did not feel the way you do.
That said, the behavior of the males you are referring to is the norm, unfortunately, for the male culture. Males are socialized to turn their backs on identifying with anything feminine, thus under-developing qualities like sensitivity, connection with emotions and empathy for the way they make others feel. It is common for males to unite against another male who does not follow the patriarchal rules of our culture and who is embracing anything that is characterized as “feminine.” Those who do not follow masculinity rules set by patriarchy are punished profoundly.
You said that for the most part your family is supportive. My suggestion is to talk to these supportive women and men in your family and see if they understand how you feel. Ask them to help you as an ally to talk to these males about the fact that you don’t like the way you are treated in the family.
Most importantly: it is very serious that you are being bullied. It is imperative that you seek out the supportive family members whom you talked about and tell them that within the family you are not able to achieve peace and respite from the very thing which happens to you outside the family.
Is there a counselor in your school you can talk to? Is there a Gay/Straight alliance that you could attend for support? The males you speak of in your family may not be able to handle that right now and avoiding them might be the best answer.
Ignoring and avoiding are not always the best solution, but again, since you are a teen it might be what you have do. Instead, stay connected to those in your family who are safe and trustworthy.
Joe Kort, MA, MSW, is a therapist who specializes in gay affirmative psychotherapy, relationship therapy, sexual addiction and sexual abuse. His website is joekort.com .