Savage Love readers respond to Dan Savage's advice to Auntie Mame last week:
There are times when I suspect you give an outrageous response to a reader so you can get a free column out of the angry responses.
Regarding your response to Auntie Mame about the femmy 5-year-old nephew, I think calling his father's reaction emotional abuse is completely over the top. Restrictive and unfair? You better believe it. But abuse? Nothing in her letter leads me think the kid would get pulled from his home by a social worker. If the dad were abusing the kid, he'd be in his face calling him a sissy and a namby-pamby, or whatever, and making him sit in a dark room. Or making him eat dog shit to make a man out of him (see the book Ten Points by Bill Strickland). Leave the term "abuse" for those who deserve it.
I just wanted to commend you on the superb advice that you gave the lady who is worried about hiding her nephew's homosexuality from her brother. My son is exactly like the little guy described, and apart from making me sit through High School Musical 2 instead of father-and-son rugby games, I couldn't love him more. It saddens me that there are parents who set themselves and their kids up for the most astonishing amount of heartache by denying a kid's sexuality.
All Power To Auntie Mame
"Auntie Mame" has a 5-year-old nephew who likes to play dress-up in girl's clothes, and the father has forbidden him from doing so. You wrote that there's "a 100 percent chance that your brother will one day regret his actions," and even to tell the nephew that his father "will come around one day."
I've got to call 100 percent bullshit on you. In fact, I'm sort of forced to wonder what planet you've been living on recently. I was also caught cross-dressing by my parents, at about the same age—and their displeasure was clearly communicated to me, and I dropped it for the rest of the time I lived with them (mostly). We've never discussed it since; I'm now in my late 30s, and there is no way in hell my parents are going to "one day regret their actions/come around." Late in high school, I was told that the one thing that would get me disowned would be to "run off with" my male best friend at the time.
Is my life destroyed? No, I really don't think so. Perhaps screwed up a bit—I couldn't even call this "emotional violence," frankly, just a big difference in taste. But any rate, please do not get the hopes up of Auntie Mame and her nephew in such an unrealistic fashion. Waiting for an acceptance that never comes may be far more hurtful, on an ongoing basis, than just accepting that your father and you don't like all the same things.
Been There, Done That
While I don't disagree with the advice you gave Auntie Mame—be supportive and prepare to provide more emotional and physical support—I wonder if the nephew in question isn't experiencing more of a gender-identity challenge than one of sexual orientation. Yes, there's the whole "Zac Efron is cute" thing, but what the heck does that mean when you're 5?
As a breeder female, I chose at that age to play with the boys because they had trucks, and got dirty, and mixed up weird botanical crap found in the back yard and dared you to eat it. That was cool. Although I identify as female, I was drawn to the power of male environments. Perhaps young nephew isn't even gender-identity challenged, he just likes the really fun—and powerful—parts about being a girl.
Plenty of self-respecting gay men never thought of putting on makeup and dancing to showtunes. Many have. Many females have never been enticed by silly boy shit. Many have. How 'bout we add the advice of not making assumptions about our young nephew while providing a safe space in which he can work it out for himself?
I was delighted to see Auntie Mame's letter today, because I have been wondering for two years whether my 6-year-old son might be gay. It's fine with me whatever his sexual orientation is, but one wants to know, and to be aware of who your children really are so that you can be sure to parent them the right way. And I think the last thing you want, no matter what age your kids are, is to ASK them these things, especially when they are sweet and shy and sensitive. You just want the conversation comfortable so they can tell you things.
Anyhow, two years ago he started asking whether men can marry men (I tell him people can marry whoever they love), and pointing out that "boys are much prettier than girls." He is sweet, shy, gentle, and musical, and loves to paint his nails and dress up. He once asked wistfully if YouTube had any videos of "two men mating." (I assured him it did not.) This is all fine, and not a parenting challenge, and he'll grow up to be darling whatever his sexual orientation is. But what has surprised me is the number of our liberal, open-minded, non-homophobic friends whose reaction when we mention this is that "no one could possibly know at age 5 what their sexual orientation could be." That seems wrong to me. You don't have to know anything about sex, or want to have it yet, to know what kind of person you are interested in. I knew perfectly well at age 4 that I was a princess and that I would marry a prince, and that princes were in some way attractive, even if I wanted nothing to do with them in real life.
Love My Son
I love your column, and think that 99 percent of the time, you are bang on, primarily because you recommend honesty and communication. However, this time I think you really blew it, primarily because you recommended dishonesty and subterfuge.
You were right on when you said that the homophobic father was endangering his relationship with his son. As I once said to a homophobic mother: "Your attitude toward your son is never going to make him sorry that he is gay. It's only going to make him sorry that you're his mother."
However, you advised Auntie Mame to do the gay stuff with little Johnny on the sly. There we part ways. It is not addressing the real problem, which is the father's, not the boy's. He is learning at a young age to disrespect his father (who, I know, already disrespects Johnny) to do things on the sly (shades of Larry Craig), to not trust his father, to find an adult who will indulge him (manipulation), to lie, and worst of all, to be IN THE CLOSET about who he is. It's all going to come out anyway—what 5-year-old can keep a secret, or even understand that one must be kept? Johnny will be punished, and probably the worst thing, Auntie Mame will be denied access, and then that little boy will have no one in his life to support him.
Better for Auntie Mame to bravely tell Daddy the damage he may be doing to his son and to his relationship with his son, and OFFER TO PAY for a few visits to a therapist for daddy. Communication is what is necessary here, not ideology or self-righteousness. A little boy's future is at stake.
The letter writer Auntie Mame and you both are making an assumption that is likely wrong. Lets go over the evidence: the young nephew likes "putting on makeup, watching and dancing along to musicals with vampy women (like Chicago), [and] playing dress-up." This doesn't sound so much like the child is gay, but rather that he is possibly (male-to-female) transgendered. I should know because I am myself.
If instead of a nephew doing these things it was a niece, no one would mind or give it a second look. Assuming someone is gay and not possibly transgendered when in fact they are transgendered can cause just as much harm as assuming that they are straight when in fact they are gay. Having had my say, I will agree with your overall advice regarding the letter writer to be supportive and how to deal with the dad. Ideally, all parents will let their children grow up to be whoever they will be free of preconceptions.
Just when I thought you couldn't suck any harder there you go fucking shit up all over the place again. Who the fuck gave you a column to dispense your miss-education to the masses? Who!? Seriously, I want names.
Please say you at least bent your way over to the top or someone else grabbed their ankles to accommodate your outstanding ignorarrogance—a word I invented esp. for you, dickweed.
While you were busy slobbing some corporate schlub's knob, the rest of us queers who want, I dunno, some semblance of equality one day, were busy educating people on their assumptions vs. encouraging them. Let's use some hard examples, shall we? (I'll skip the pun.)
Auntie Mame writes to dear ol' Uncle Dan about her presumably homo nephew. At 5 years old, he is wearing makeup and auditioning for Rent. Great. Auntie Mame openly admits she supports her claim on mere superficial evidence, but Uncle Danny's sage wisdom attests "there's a 99 percent chance your nephew is gay"—are you fucking kidding? No. You're not. Because you are an idiot.
So, by your logic, does that make every Tonka-truck-sportin', T-ball-playing hetero-assumpted boy 99 percent straight? Try taking both heads out of your asshole and open something besides your brown eye for once, you disgrace of a gay man. Auntie Mame even phrased it as sexual "preference." Hello 1990! So glad you could join us. God forbid Uncle Danny enlighten her. Oooh nooo, that would be much too easy. Kind of like you + prom night + the football team. YOU SUCK.
You are a waste of space, of sperm, and of my time. Have I mentioned I hate you? Hope so.
Tongues And Kisses
The Girly Boy is 99 percent likely to be gay? What science is that statistic based on?
In my experience (former nanny; 14 nieces and nephews), GB is 99 percent likely to enjoy dressing up and dancing, as 99 percent of all children his age do. Kids aren't born understanding gender stereotypes; we teach those to them. Boys see something cool going on and want to join in. (The only difference between face-painting and makeup is the difference we say is there.) Whatever the rate of homosexuality is (15 percent?) that's GB's chances of being gay. Gays (and hets) come in all flavors. You can't go by taste in musical theater.
But whatever, you're telling Auntie Mame to keep secrets and lie? Um, no. My credentials as an aunt give me the authority to say to my siblings, "At my house, they get to drink soda." Or play dress-up, or sing and dance, play with water guns, eat junk food—all those things they aren't allowed to do at home but don't seriously affect their safety and well-being. Parents (and children) understand that rules are different in different households. And that's a lot healthier than teaching kids to hide and lie.
Because you don't want kids to keep secrets. What is the first thing child molesters do? Get in good with a kid, allow secret privileges, and then blackmail kids into keeping the sexual abuse a secret. Better to advise the aunt to tell the dad he's silly, "The kid can dress up at my house, stop reading things into this." She has a wonderful opportunity to stick up for this kid. And the example she sets is something that, gay or straight, he'll admire all his life.
You are usually dead on with your advice. You can usually smell bullshit a mile away, but you really dropped the ball on this one. This one doesn't pass the smell test. Are we really supposed to believe a 5-year-old just happens to find showtunes on TV and with no outside prompting wants to put on lipstick and women's clothes and sing along? I don't think so, Dan. Occam's Razor should shave some of the fat off of this one and leave us with an aunt that's trying to stick it to her brother by turning his son into what he despises. Or maybe even more likely, an uncle that wishes he were an aunt, who's doing everything he can to turn the nephew gay and somehow make himself more palatable to the family.
Sibling rivalry run amok is much more likely than a cross-dressing, showtune-singing 5-year-old.
Concerned About A Kid In The Middle
I am a right-wing Bible-thumper, and I have enjoyed your column for many years. What consenting adults do behind closed doors is their business. Auntie Mame's nephew is not an adult. Furthermore, Auntie Mame is not his parent. The ultimate responsibility for raising the young boy lies with his mother and father. By indulging this child's desires without the parents' consent, Auntie Mame is teaching the child that it is okay to lie, and this is wrong. Period. The only exception to this is when the child is in danger. Eventually, Auntie Mame's nephew will grow up and be able to wear all the makeup and watch all the musical theatre he wants. His father's denying these as a child won't make a hill of beans worth of difference in the long run. Integrity, however, is learned young and lasts a lifetime. As a parent, you should be ashamed for giving such advice.
About To Get Reamed By Dan
I just read your letter from Auntie Mame, and I have to tell you, I had my own Auntie Mame growing up in South Dakota, which happens to be my maternal grandmother. I loved playing dress-up, and playing with dolls and my stuffed animals, and dancing, but I still liked playing with my G.I. Joes and my trucks.
My dad did not like that at all, so my mom took away my dolls and I stopped dancing and playing dress-up. I was told that it was wrong and I should play sports and not play dolls. I was crushed, Dan. However, whenever I stayed over at my Grandma's apartment, I could dance, goof off, and play with dolls.
It didn't help my hometown was about 700 people and I would constantly be teased every day until I graduated from high school. I moved on from there and never looked back. When I was finally comfortable in my skin being a fag, the first person I told was my Grandma. She told me she loved me even if I was straight, and she had a feeling I'm gay, but she wanted me to figure it out.
My immediate family still struggles with me being gay, but it's my life and I am living it the way I am.
Thank you for the wonderful advice you gave Auntie Mame.
I'm writing in response to Auntie Mame, who thinks her 5-year-old nephew is gay and his father is forbidding "gay play," e.g. makeup, dancing to musicals, dress-up, etc.
I had an Aunt Mabel who provided me with a safe and supportive "home away from home" while I was growing up. She and her home were especially important to me when I was in my teen years. I have been able to be an out gay adult who feels secure and spiritually happy due, in great part, to her unconditional love and guidance. If I had been raised solely by my parents, this would not be the case. My own partner had a mom who forbade outdoor activities and forced her to dress as a young Southern belle. She is now mucking out our stables and loving it. But the scars from a childhood based on shame and forced closeting are still there.
Auntie Mame: Please heed Dan's advice to be there for your nephew. He needs and is asking for your support!
Susan From Oregon
My best friend's 9-year-old son is gay. Everyone knows and almost everyone is cool about it. The only one who is not cool about it is his Bible-thumping mother.
An interesting story for you, though: In August, she took him shopping for school clothes. He of course went for more flashy colors (purple, red, and pink) in clothes, shoes, and backpack. His mother "suggested" he might want to pick more masculine colors, so as to blend in more easily.
He came home with a camouflage hat, camouflage jacket, and camouflage backpack. It wasn't until after the shopping expedition that his mother realized—after a friend pointed it out—that her son had convinced her to buy him a matching coat, hat, and bag.
She was mortified that she was "duped" into letting his "gay" tendencies get away from her. But this is just the kind of thing that will screw him up forever. You have got to let kids be who they are. I was into theater, choir, art, etc. I'm not gay and I can't dress myself to save my life, so who really knows what "gay" is at this point in a child's life.
I'm a doctor—which in and of itself doesn't make me exceptionally qualified. Worse, I'm a surgeon, and mostly retired. So kidneys—other than when they have holes in them from guns or knives—aren't really my area of expertise. Still, I found your ER doc's comments wrong-ish, if not entirely ass-backward. As to drinking the piss of a normal person, I'd think it matters how hydrated they are. In other words, the drier you are, the more concentrated your urine, and therefore (says I, the minimally expert) the more worrisome if one were to consume it: high concentrations of salt, for example. If well-hydrated, urine is more water-like.
Moreover, your expert's comments about a person with kidney problems rang false as well: Typical of poor kidney function is that the urine produced is very water-like, and therefore not particularly dangerous when ingested. The comments about infection are likely accurate, but that's not really about failing kidneys. There might also be issues about the sort of drugs a person might be taking. Perhaps before the flow commences, the pissee should get a note from the pisser's doctor. Having a mass spectrometer around would be an alternative.
I like your work, and not just your column. I live only a few miles north of you, where I blog about the life of a surgeon.
Someone asked how much urine is safe to drink, and I'd like to supply some missing info. There is a book by James Armstrong called Water Of Life. It's about the benefits of urine therapy. It says that urine comes out of the body sterile and stays sterile for few seconds; it can be used topically on wounds, cuts, and burns, and internally for a variety of reasons. For the best therapeutic effect, one should consume his/her own, and soon the body regulates itself, improving kidney function and more. One can fast on urine, do enemas with urine, store it for few days to use ONLY topically on tendon injuries and bone fractures. I've done some urine therapy myself with excellent results, although I didn't get around to complete fasting. Brief reference to urine therapy can be found in some mainstream (New Age) books, like Dan Millman's Way Of The Peaceful Warrior.
I realize that I'm limiting myself to wonderful kinky possibilities since I'm taking health VERY seriously—oh well. I like to apply makeup on guys, and encouraged one cross-dresser, so I hope I'm not a lost cause.
In your last column, you and a guest doctor said in essence that drinking urine was perfectly safe, provided that the donor does not have any diseases that may be transferred. This isn't correct, as you've mentioned in a prior column.
Urine carries ketone bodies, which will decarboxylate into acetone. In small doses, this doesn't pose much of a problem, but if a person was to chug every drop of their kinky partner's urine every time they had to take a leak, this could build up and cause ketosis of the kidneys, which hardens them with a buildup of chemicals, greatly reducing their effectiveness on life-threatening scales.
To take a poor example, a piece of bacon in the morning is quite tasty. Twenty pieces of bacon every morning will quickly buy you a heart attack. Similarly, guzzling urine infrequently isn't too much of an issue (even if it does happen to be disgusting to some of us), but drinking it like bottled water can be fairly dangerous.
No Cute Acronym
Loved the dumbass response from the surgeon, as well as the über-retarded comment about ketone bodies from another responder.
As far as the mercifully retired Sid S. is concerned, he ought to know that most patients with end-stage kidney failure don't piss much at all. Ever hear of dialysis? The potential danger from drinking urine made by "damaged" kidneys comes from the abnormal leakage of blood cells into the urine: It is these cells that tend to carry viruses such as HIV and hepatitis. That's why bodily fluids with a high cell content (blood, semen) are considered much more infectious than fluids that have few or no cells (normal tears, saliva, and urine).
Your ketone alarmist is off-base as well: Ketones aren't normally in the urine to any significant degree, unless you're starving yourself or you are about to drop dead from not taking your insulin. Even when they're present, ketones are easily converted to nontoxic substances in any healthy person within minutes. You put the same stress on your body by putting vinegar on your salad, fer chrissakes.
Both these bozos do a lot of hand-wringing about the concentration of the urine. Sure, that might be a consideration if you were doing multiple funnel shots of piss, over and over and over to the tune of gallons of urine. The same would be true if you drank comparable amounts of fucking Gatorade–I addressed this in my original comments. The sheer volume does matter, but only in the most extreme cases. As long as your own kidneys are working, reasonable amounts of urine no matter how diluted or concentrated shouldn't pose a meaningful threat. So guzzle that piss, pig-boy!
Dr. W. H.