Outlook Ohio Column: Dan Savage Under Their Authoritarian Homophobia
I’m a 22-year-old lesbian living in Utah. I’m finally going back to college this fall. I have autism (high functioning), and I couldn’t handle going to school full-time while working. Thus I will be stuck living at my parents’ house, as I couldn’t afford rent and living expenses on my own. The problem is, my parents are super Republican and religious. While I live at home, I can’t date (they are against me being gay), I can’t drink, and I can’t watch movies with swears. They also force me to participate in daily scripture study, which I hate. I don’t know what to do. I can’t be myself or have any fun while I live at home because I’m afraid my parents will kick me out. But I can’t afford to move out, either. I’m shy and socially nervous, so I don’t have any friends who could help me out, and I can’t see living with roommates who are strangers. I’ll be 29 by the time I graduate, and I don’t want to live like this for that long. Any advice? Maybe I could work something out with my parents, but they are set in their ways and I don’t want to hurt them.
Under Their Authoritarian Homophobia
If they were just enforcing “their rules” about booze in their house, that would be one thing. But requiring your adult daughter not to date anyone, or not to be a lesbian at all, is just mean. (A lot of insane religious people believe homosexuality is an act, not an identity, so someone who isn’t currently having gay or lesbian sex isn’t actually gay or lesbian. By that standard, I haven’t been gay for hours.) And leveraging their daughter’s autism and social isolation and economic dependence against her in order to control her? Meaner still.
You say you don’t want to hurt your parents—you’re a good daughter—but it’s clear your shitty parents don’t care if they hurt you.
Typically my advice would be to tell your mean and shitty parents what they want to hear—to feel free to lie to them under duress—and then lean on your friends, do your own thing outside of the house, and be careful not to get caught. But that’s not an option for you.
So you’ll have to ask yourself what you value more: freedom now or getting your degree sooner rather than later. If it’s your freedom, move out, get a job, go to community college, and take your time getting that degree. If it’s getting your degree before turning 30, knuckle under, spend a lot of late nights “studying in the library,” and go to the student resource center on your campus and ask if there are any campus services/support groups for students with autism or Asperger’s syndrome. Who knows? You might meet some people who you could see yourself living with, as roommates and friends, and be able to get out of your parents’ house sooner rather than later.
P.S. You’re in Utah, UTAH. If there’s an LGBT student group on your campus, go to the meetings and share your story. You might meet a gay Mormon boy with parents like yours—shitty and mean—who could use a fake girlfriend until he graduates, and you could use a fake boyfriend until you move out of mom and dad’s.
Last week, I spoke at the Wilbur Theater in Boston and the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. Audience members submitted their questions on tiny cards before the show, allowing them to remain anonymous while forcing them to be succinct. Here are some of the questions I didn’t have time to get to at both events…
My girlfriend wants to explore her sexuality with another woman but be “heterosexually exclusive” with me. She wants me to have equal freedom but doesn’t think it’s fair for me to be with another woman. I am a heterosexual man. How can we achieve sexual equality?
An open relationship for her but a closed-on-a-technicality relationship for you? Yeah, no. Want to achieve sexual equality? Explore your sexuality with other women—as a single man.
I am a 50-year-old queer man who never really came out—except to people I’m cruising or fucking. Oh, and to my wife. Is there any social or political value to coming out now, in the shadow of a Trump presidency?
There’s tremendous social and political value to being out, whoever the president is. There’s also social and political risk, whoever the president is. If you’re in a position to come out—and you must be, otherwise you wouldn’t be asking—not coming out is a moral failing.