By Milton Wendland
© 2012 Milton Wendland and Diversity Rules Magazine. All rights reserved.
Milton Wendland is a licensed attorney and a professor of Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies at the University of Kansas, where he teaches courses in LGBT cultures, sexuality and law, and queer theory.
Dear Inqueeries: I’ve heard about daddy/son relationships? Does that mean incest? Or just really old men skeezing on twinks? Sincerely, Trevor.
The human heart is an expansive organ, and that means sometimes we fall in love with people who might not be same age as us. In the str8 world this often means an older, well-established man dating a younger woman, although str8 women too have had their younger partners. The age difference might be relatively small (10-15 years difference) or quite large (30+years); sometimes these are called intergenerational relationships to indicate the age and life-stage difference.
In the gay world the situation is slighter more complex (and about more than just sex or “skeezing”) because gays aren’t usually born into families from which to learn about the LGBT world. For example, babies born into Asian-American, southern, or upper-class families generally are Asian-American, southern, or upper-class and learn their histories and cultures through their families, . But most lesbians and gays are born into heterosexual families in which there is often no way to transmit gay culture so that gay children grow up with little or no “assumed” or “family-transmitted” cultural knowledge. An older gay man may take a younger gay man under his wing to introduce him to the (gay) world. A younger lesbian may seek an older, more experienced lesbian as her entrée into (lesbian) history and culture. These relationships can be complex blends of mentoring, affection, guidance, and mutuality, not only about gay and lesbian life but about adulthood more generally.
While they may appear curious to those not in them, these relationships have been and continue to be powerful ways of maintaining gay culture – especially for gay and lesbians who have been estranged from their families, who are from difficult social or class backgrounds, or who do not otherwise have mentors, even though not every gay or lesbian may choose to be in a relationship of this type. The phrase “daddy/son” is slightly tongue-in-cheek and does not indicate an actual incestuous relationship but rather the “social roles” each man approximates in the relationship in terms of knowledge of (gay) life.
My partner is 19 years younger than me and although we use the daddy/son language in jest the truth is that our relationship is built on mutual trust, love, and cooperation. My role as the “daddy” is not to parent my partner but to help guide him as he continues to develop a gay identity, to make sure he knows LGBT history, to introduce him to gay literature and film, to make sure the recognizes the struggles of those who’ve come before him – not far afield from the way a “parent” introduces a “child” to similar elements of culture.
(Note: My response refers to unrelated people at or above the age of consent. Adults who have sexual “relationships” with children are pedophiles or child molesters.)
Dear Inqueeries: I’m concerned that my daughter is lesbian and I just don’t know what to think or do or say. Is there any resource for families?
Yes! Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) is an organization founded in 1973, which works specifically to help increase understanding and acceptance of LGBT people. There are 350+ local chapters in the U.S, as well as a website that offers all sorts of resources for you in the privacy of your own home (www.pflag.org). The members of PFLAG have been where you are – confused, hurt, angry, joyful, curious – and will provide a non-judgmental venue for your questions and concerns.
“Inqueeries” is an interactive column where readers are encouraged to submit questions for Milton to answer! Contact Milton directly at: [email protected]