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Come out already, damn..
August 1, 2008 12:53 PM   Subscribe

How do I help my obviously gay, claiming to be straight roommate come out of the closet?

I live in an apartment with two other roommates, “James” and “Jane” and they’re cousins and they’re both 21. I am best friends with Jane and very good friends with James since high school.
His first year of college he went to southern California. He had trouble adjusting, didn’t fit in anywhere, he joined a rugby team but because they didn’t immediately befriend him he dropped out. During his year away he became very depressed and began smoking cigarettes. The next year he moved to the school that my other roommate and I attend.
Although his depression eased a little, it is still there and effecting his decisions.
James has had a girlfriend since the end of high school.
They’re very cynical and antisocial. When he’s not around her he is more social and open to doing new things but when they’re together they drag each other down. They’re both intelligent and his girlfriend goes to a very prestigious school but they act as though they’re above everyone else.
In addition to James’ depression we also have noticed after he came from school a huge drop in weight. He has developed very strange eating habits. He’ll eat a can of garbanzo beans for dinner with hot sauce and he travels with specific food.
He has an obsession with the Saddle Creek label- all of their artists. His room is decorated with Saddle Creek memorabilia. If I hear the Tilly and Wall or Rilo Kiley’s Black light album one more time I’m going to burst.
We feel like much of his behavior is contrived so that people will think a certain way about him. Like a planned explanation for why he is the way he is.
We think he is gay. Everyone he meets initially thinks he’s gay. All of my friends ask me if he’s gay in private and are surprised to find out he has a girlfriend.
He seems to have a crush on my boyfriend, like a little kid crush. They have a lot in common; they both enjoy video games and music. My boyfriend is very personable and wants to have a good relationship with my roommates however even he has noticed James’ affection towards him.
When I’m in my room with my boyfriend (WHEN THE DOOR IS CLOSED), James will barge in with my boyfriend’s favorite vodka and a movie or a proposition for a strange adventure that he would not normally embark on with Jane and I, even though we invite him to do things like that all the time.
When he knows my boyfriend is coming over he’ll clean the house. When my boyfriend is over, he’ll exclusively talk to him and ignore Jane and I. He’ll try to look “cool” by drinking and smoking weed/cigarettes, which is unusual for him.
When James has his girlfriend over the door of their room is open all the time, even when they sleep. He has told us before that he and his girlfriend play a game to see who can hold out the longest without having sex- he brags that he always wins.

SO…
We want to know how to help James make the transition from straight to gay. Jane and James’ gay cousin and his boyfriend have both said that James is definitely gay. They recommend that we assume he’s gay and just treat him as such but we feel that he is more fragile than that and would easily get offended and annoyed. Basically we’re looking for a way to ease him out of the closet because we feel he’ll be much happier and positive. We want him to enjoy life and not feel so trapped.
posted by ad4pt to Human Relations (53 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
If he's depressed, you should encourage him to see a therapist. Otherwise, he comes out when he feels comfortable. Not when you are ready for him to come out.
posted by spec80 at 12:58 PM on August 1, 2008


I don't think the gay cousin and boyfriend are exactly impartial in pronouncing someones gayness. Leave him be, perhaps he's lonely, doesn't like his girlfriend but doesn't want to be alone and is trying a little to hard to make friends with your guy. Doesn't make him gay.
posted by zeoslap at 1:01 PM on August 1, 2008


We want to know how to help James make the transition from straight to gay.

Not your job. I'd say, let him choose, and don't lead or "look for a way to ease him out of the closet."

Jane and James’ gay cousin and his boyfriend have both said that James is definitely gay.

Ambiguous -- does Jane say that, or does the mutual cousin of Jane and James?

They recommend that we assume he’s gay and just treat him as such but we feel that he is more fragile than that and would easily get offended and annoyed.

I think your instinct is a good one. People wrestling with their identities don't necessarily want others to help them, and can react defensively.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 1:04 PM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Eating garbanzo beans, smoking, cleaning up the place and being friendly to guests, being cynical, listening to a particular music label -- these things make you believe he's gay? And, he should come out of the closet because you want him to? Your question is odd.
posted by Houstonian at 1:05 PM on August 1, 2008 [14 favorites]


I know it's hard to believe, but you could be wrong! I know it's hard to imagine since you've decided that he must be gay based on all of this evidence, but you might just be mistaken.

And if he is gay, he has to figure this out for himself. And he might never come out, even if he "should" in your opinion. It's frustrating, but you can't make him do anything, even if you think it would be better for him and make him happier. Only he can decide to be happier, and if he chooses to come out to be more true to himself and all that jazz, then yay! And if he is gay but never comes out, then that's his choice and it's not your place to force him to.

It's not your duty (or frankly, any of your business) to help him "transition" to the gay lifestyle (or do anything, really), unless he asks for it. The only thing you can and should do is continue to be a good friend/roommate.
posted by AlisonM at 1:09 PM on August 1, 2008


About your boyfriend... I think it's very possible that this is just normal behaviour for someone looking to gain approval from someone they feel a [non sexual] connection with. It may seem very yourboyfriend-centered, but this could be because he has spent a while not seeming to 'click' with anyone.

Who cares if he's out? It's a very personal choice that no one else could ever understand.
posted by sunshinesky at 1:11 PM on August 1, 2008


You are too critical of your friend. Leave him alone. He's not going to sleep with your boyfriend. Actually, I can't say that for sure. But if he does, you're better off, because now you've got two people in your life that you've forced out of the closet! Good job!
posted by banannafish at 1:11 PM on August 1, 2008 [5 favorites]


And, how are you supposed to "treat him as such", that is, treat him as a gay person? Unless you are his boyfriend, how would you be treating him differently? And, if you help him "make the transition from straight to gay", how in the world is this going to make him happier than if you did not involve yourself in his sexual preferences?
posted by Houstonian at 1:11 PM on August 1, 2008


the first half of your question is a list of things about him that annoy you. the second half is about how he hits on your boyfriend.

you can't make him come out until he's ready. but i doubt he'll come out to someone who feels so much contempt for him.
posted by argylekneesocks at 1:12 PM on August 1, 2008 [6 favorites]


I think you'd be doing him a favor by leaving him alone.

If he is indeed gay, he'll come out when HE'S ready. Just accept him as your friend and let him figure things out for himself.

Did you ever consider that he might NOT be gay and just has some pretty low self esteem? Your telling him that, "Hey, it's OK to be GAY" could be just the blow that sends him over his edge.
posted by matty at 1:15 PM on August 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


I will repeat what I said in an earlier thread - my firm belief is that someone else's sexuality is only my business if I'm trying to get into her pants (and then, only so far as to determine whether or not it's a possibility.)

If you're not trying to sleep with the dude, it's none of your business - and IMO it's incredibly rude and thoughtless to try to make it your business.
posted by restless_nomad at 1:15 PM on August 1, 2008 [20 favorites]


How do I help my obviously gay, claiming to be straight roommate come out of the closet?
...
James has had a girlfriend since the end of high school.
...
We think he is gay. Everyone he meets initially thinks he’s gay. All of my friends ask me if he’s gay in private and are surprised to find out he has a girlfriend.

We want to know how to help James make the transition from straight to gay. Jane and James’ gay cousin and his boyfriend have both said that James is definitely gay. They recommend that we assume he’s gay

...
What you just described is a fey straight dude who has a friend that is weirdly obsessed with defining other peoples' sexuality. Let your poor friend make his choices about gender without having to worry about gaining your approval.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:18 PM on August 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


Your concern is understandable, no one likes to see someone they care for unhappy, but sadly if James is gay it is something he must deal with himself. If and when he decides to come out be receptive and warm, please do not tell him you knew right off the bat, it’s not really a nice thing to state. Let James listen to his horrid music (believe me I understand about Rilo Kiley!) make his oddball comments and food decisions, but do inform him that his actions towards your boyfriend are unwelcome.
posted by hibery at 1:22 PM on August 1, 2008


I have a feeling there's at least one AskMe question in the archives that's like "I'm straight, but everyone's convinced I'm gay and in the closet. It's really frustrating. How can I convince them to back off and accept me at face value?"

Accept and support him for who he is, not for who you think he might be.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:22 PM on August 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure, but it sounds like the asker is female. Maybe the roommate is drawn to your boyfriend because he's looking for a male friendship as an escape from the two nutty women he lives with who are trying to "help him" see that he's gay? I know I would find that pretty offensive.

Try to get enough going on in your own life that you don't have time to worry about your roommate's business.
posted by dixie flatline at 1:23 PM on August 1, 2008 [5 favorites]


Like everyone above said, you can't help him come out. But can you can talk to him about the behaviors that bother you and your boyfriend, like the lack of privacy.

And no, you're not weird or have an odd question. Your frustration with him though does show up in your writing and that makes you seem a little harsh.
posted by Cog at 1:25 PM on August 1, 2008


You can tell James that when the door is closed, it would be better for him to wait for later to hang out with you and your boyfriend.

And I guess you could tell him that you feel uncomfortable when he talks only with your boyfriend when you're in the room, but he seems to ignore you. It might be more effective, though, if your boyfriend would be obvious about including you.

Those are matters that affect you. The rest of it seems like your business because you like the guy and live with him... but really, you need to stay out of it. It could work in your favor -- paradoxically, he'd be more likely to come out to someone who already accepts him as he is.
posted by wryly at 1:26 PM on August 1, 2008


We want to know how to help James make the transition from straight to gay.

Just be his friend. Whatever else happens or doesn't happen, that's all that really matters.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:28 PM on August 1, 2008


Speaking as a straight guy with a handful of "gay" proclivities - an passion for interior decoration; a dislike of MANLY! drinks; a modest appreciation for (some) musicals - leave him the **** alone. If he's gay, he'll figure it out, in all likelihood. But until and unless you actually find him having sex with another man, while shouting I AM NOT GAY NO NOT ME, your best way to help him is to assume/recognize that he's a straight guy with a less-active-than-most sex life and a far-from-uncommon desire to appear Cool around another guy whose good opinion he may value/desire for reasons unrelated to boinking.
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:32 PM on August 1, 2008 [10 favorites]


You can't force someone out of the closet. You can make it clear to him that you're there for him, that you're happy to talk if he wants to, and that you'll support him.

It sounds like you should talk to James about the things he does that annoy you. For example you could ask him not to come into your room when the door is closed.

... that he would not normally embark on with Jane and I, ... When my boyfriend is over, he’ll exclusively talk to him and ignore Jane and I.

It's "Jane and me", not "Jane and I".
posted by betterton at 1:32 PM on August 1, 2008


[a few comments removed - if you can't be constructive replying to the OP, please feel free to stay out of this thread. JudgeMe answers aren't helpful. thanks.]
posted by jessamyn at 1:34 PM on August 1, 2008


I have no idea why people think you're being thoughtless, and I especially don't know how argylekneesocks saw contempt in the first part of the question--it seems like worried concern to me. If I had a friend who was obviously unhappy, I would want to help, too.

But, nonetheless, I think everyone's right that there's nothing you can do. People in denial tend to get defensive when confronted; the best thing you can do is just make sure he always feels that you're on his side, backing him up. (Not to mention the fact that he might not be gay after all!)
posted by equalpants at 1:37 PM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'd tread carefully here, especially as sexuality isn't boolean. I had a flamboyant roommate in college who talked longingly, all the time, about his (male) friend from high school. We all "knew" he was gay, at least until he brought home a girlfriend that he seemed quite passionate about. On the other end of the spectrum, one of the most masculine people I know is also gay.

Is it possible that James has low self-esteem / not many friends, and just wants to be seen as a "normal person" (err, not on account of sexuality, but on account of feeling like an outcast in general)? I was kind of like that in middle school—I was never one of the "cool kids," so I always tried to act all tough around them. It had nothing to do with sexuality, but everything to do with compensating for my low self-esteem. Especially with his past depression and all that, I'd ascribe his odd behavior to that. Perhaps your boyfriend is just a chance for him to try to practice being someone else, since your boyfriend doesn't live with him every day to see the strange garbanzo-bean obsession or the depression? Maybe he does have a crush on your boyfriend, but he's just longing for acceptance.

I think the 'solution,' both for his self-esteem problems and for the possible quest to come out, is to make it clear that he's 'accepted.' It seems in particular from what you said that he's out for your boyfriend's approval, so can you get your boyfriend to make a concerted effort to do so? If he can communicate that he accepts "the real James," he might come to stop the weird airs around your boyfriend, and he might come to be a little more comfortable with who he is. The maddening part of all of this is that it has to be done subtly, through actions, not words: flat-out saying, "I know you act all weird when I'm around, but I want you to know you don't have to do that for my approval" would be a giant step backwards.

Also, homosexuality can sometimes lead to things like denial at first... It's possible that James is still coming to grips with all of this himself, and if that's the case, I think you've got to sit back and let things take their course.

None of this has anything to do, though, with your right to request that he leave you and your BF alone when you've got the door closed.
posted by fogster at 1:38 PM on August 1, 2008


Umm the first thing that comes to my mind is "why?".

Let me just humor you and say that because of all the "evidence" above, his is gay. So what? How would your life be improved if he came out? I know you think its all noble to help him come out so he can "enjoy life more"...but honestly, you don't know whats best for him.

If you're SERIOUSLY worried about him being depressed and taking up habits like cigarettes (I swear I'm saying that with a straight face), you should try to get him to see a psychiatrist/psychologist/any kind of legitimate licensed therapist.

Assuming, then taking the reins for his change in sexuality is not a game for little children.

Good luck (finding someone to talk to him about his so-called depression).
posted by hal_c_on at 1:48 PM on August 1, 2008


Ditto the folks who say that (a) You can't possibly know for sure that this guy's gay, and that (b) Even if he is gay and searching, he may not want your help with his identity issues.

But there's probably no harm in doing a few (small!) things to make your home a slightly more gay-positive environment. If I were you I'd get, read, and leave around one or two engaging, good-quality, easily-digested pieces of gay literature. Stuck Rubber Baby would be great, as would What They Did to Princess Paragon. Alison Bechdel's Fun Home might also be good.

Don't overdo it. For purposes of this, you should avoid ponderous tomes and important historical documents. Skip the Randy Schiltz. Leave Maurice alone. This isn't about dropping hints, or about trying to build him a little gay terrarium to live in. It's about saying, in a non-intrusive way, that homosexuality is (a) not something you and your roommates are afraid of or in any way squicked by; and (b) a topic you're perfectly happy to learn about and discuss. It's also about making some fun texts that might resonate available to him for free in a place that's less public than a library or a bookstore.

And if he really isn't gay, or if he doesn't want to open up to you about his ongoing struggle with sexual self-definition, well, Stuck Rubber Baby, Fun Home, and What They Did to Princess Paragon are all really good books, and you won't be sorry you read them. (Stuck Rubber Baby and Fun Home are graphic novels with a lot of substance and heart. What They Did to Princess Paragon is a novel, and it's more of a beach read, but it's really, really funny.)
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 1:49 PM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


these things make you believe he's gay?

I have to agree with this. Forget about "helping him transition"; you haven't really described characteristics that are particularly gay, outside of him seeming to like hanging around your boyfriend. Like others said, maybe he is genuinely going through a tough time and your boyfriend is someone he connects with. If he got touchy-feely with your boyfriend every time they drink, that's another thing. The fact you haven't mentioned anything like that makes me think it isn't happening.

What is it that makes him so obviously gay?
posted by Adam_S at 1:51 PM on August 1, 2008


"We want to know how to help James make the transition from straight to gay."

Wait until he asks you to help him make that transition and then be supportive and non judgemental. Try not to blurt out "About time!" and try not to project that you think his girlfriend is a beard. Low sex drive (if it is low, not everyone leads the Friends lifestyle) could be caused by his depression (if he's depressed).

The only thing you have to be proactive about is the doors thing as his behaviour is unacceptable there. You need to 1) ask him to not come into your space when the door is closed followed up with a lock if he persists and 2) ask him to keep his door shut when he's with his girlfriend followed up with looking the other way if he persists.
posted by Mitheral at 1:52 PM on August 1, 2008


xmutex++. I assume your intentions are good, but this is just a weird post.

First of all, human sexuality isn't as straightforward (no pun intended) as "homosexual" vs. "heterosexual". It's a fluid, complicated thing. See: Kinsey scale; the Klein grid.

Nothing in the first two-thirds of your post has anything to do with whether this guy is gay. Okay, he sounds like a little bit of a weirdo, but c'mon. He likes chickpeas and shitty music? So what? I like chickpeas, and I'm sure some of my friends think my music is shitty.

Based on the remaining third of your post: okay, so maybe he does have a hankering for the cock (though it's equally possible that you're drawing unwarranted conclusions). Again: so what? If he comes out, it's gonna be when he's ready to come out. There's nothing you can, or should, do to accelerate that process; just be accepting and understanding when it happens. And make it understood that you are okay with gay people (but do it quietly and implicitly—don't wear big red blinking letters that say "I LOVE HOMOS AND IF SOMEONE I KNEW TURNED OUT TO BE A HOMO I WOULD BE TOTALLY COOL WITH THAT BECAUSE I THINK HOMOS ARE JUST GREAT").

But some guys just produce false positives on the gaydar. I have a bar buddy who's absolutely fuh-lam-ing—I just assumed he was gay when I met him—but he's totally not.

Whether you're right or wrong about his sexual orientation, it's none of your business (unless, of course, he fucks your boyfriend, but that's very unlikely). If he's really straight, your assumption otherwise is probably very obnoxious. If he's really gay, but not ready to come out of the closet (or perhaps still trying to figure things out himself), your badgering is not helping.

It takes some people a while. Just be his friend, and if your suspicions are correct, he'll come around when he's ready.
posted by greenie2600 at 1:54 PM on August 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


Look at it like this.

How would you like it if James decided that you were a lesbian, and proceeded to try to drag you out of the closet because you cleaned, ate certain foods, and were friendly with his girlfriend?

If he's your friend, accept him. Accept him being in the closet, or out of it. Don't try to drag him out of it. If you're being a friend, then you're already doing the best thing you can do.

"We want him to enjoy life and not feel so trapped."

Has he given you any indication that he feels he isn't enjoying life and is trapped? As in saying to you "I feel trapped"? Or are you basing this on your perception of him? If it's the former, then see the second paragraph. If it's the latter, then see the first.
posted by Solomon at 1:56 PM on August 1, 2008


In my experience, thinking yourself into someone else's head is a dangerous proposition. Especially when it concerns sexuality.

Long story short: mind your own business.
posted by mynameisluka at 2:13 PM on August 1, 2008


Perhaps he's bi?

Really, you should let him identify himself as HE chooses to, period.
posted by konolia at 2:19 PM on August 1, 2008


I don't think most of those things that you speak of indicate that he is gay. Even wanting to hang out with your BF doesn't really indicate that, since it sounds like he really just wants friends (case in point, the rugby team thing). Random characteristics don't make someone gay - there are lots of gay-seeming straight people and straight-seeming gay people. I know people in both categories. Heck, earlier this year I attended the (straight) wedding of someone that I and everyone else had sworn for years was gay.

Regardless, why don't you just treat him like a normal person and stop trying to figure out his life or put him in little boxes. Being kind towards someone is a way to make them feel better about themselves and their life - there is no reason to change behavior or "treat someone as gay." I don't even know what that means. I think you think you are being really open-minded, but the whole thing just sounds really closed-minded. If he is gay, he'll come out when he's ready. Don't drag him out.
posted by ml98tu at 2:22 PM on August 1, 2008


We want to know how to help James make the transition from straight to gay.

You can't. Especially since you don't actually know if he's gay. Really, you don't.

There's a guy I work with who buries the needle on my gaydar (data point: I'm a lesbian, been out a long time, have the gaydar calibrated regularly). He dresses well and styles his hair in a trendy-gay-guy-in-San-Francisco way. His mannerisms are all gay gay gay.

Except he's not. Married (to a woman), has a kid, and just. isn't. gay.

Let him know you love him no matter what. Hang out, talk, do fun stuff together, etc. But you can't "help" him go over to the gay side, whether he is or not. It's his thing to do. Or not.
posted by rtha at 2:31 PM on August 1, 2008


They recommend that we assume he’s gay and just treat him as such but we feel that he is more fragile than that and would easily get offended and annoyed.

I'm a straight guy who people sometimes assume is gay. I'm not offended (much) by people's assumptions, as long as they're straightforward with me and believe me when I tell them that they're wrong.

"So... are you gay?"
"Nope. I know, I'm loud and silly and hyper and funny as shit and kind of girly. But I'm straight."
"Huh, interesting."

That's all fine and good. But if someone just started treating me like I was gay? I'm not exactly sure what that would entail, but I'm pretty sure it would piss me off, because it sounds like you've already made up your mind that I'm gay.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:32 PM on August 1, 2008


I don't get the "treating him like he's gay" thing, either. What, you're going to bring home Judy Garland CDs and discuss blowjob technique?

Ask him to respect your privacy while you're in your room with the door closed, and return the favor by respecting his privacy, whether he's in the closet with the door closed or not.
posted by scody at 2:45 PM on August 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


He's 21! There's a lot of strange behavior at that age, and quite frankly, he may not have decided what he is. I'm joining everyone else here in saying, though, that it's none of your beeswax...really.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 2:51 PM on August 1, 2008


As his friend/roommate, the only thing you can do for him at all is to be supportive. If he's depressed, and he talks to you about it, advise him to see a therapist. If he's unhappy with his girlfriend, and he talks to you about it, advise him to break things off for a while (other fish in the sea, and what have you).

The key here is give the advice that you have when he talks to you about it. There is nothing helpful about trying to force subjects on him that he's not ready for, it'll just make him defensive and make it that much harder to help him help himself.

As for his sexuality: It can take people years, decades, lifetimes to come to accept who they are sexually. A person's sexuality and preferences can change from day to day or month to month. And there is no way for you to know what he feels and who he is attracted to unless you're in his head. And furthermore: It's none of your business.

As his friend, you want him to be happy, and you think that "coming out" would make him feel better: but there's no way you can know that. There's no way you can know how that would affect his relationships with his friends/family or how it would impact his own sense of self. And again: unless he mentions it to you, it's none of your business. Who a person is sexually is entirely private until they choose to share it with you. Period.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 2:53 PM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Even if he "acts gay", acting gay doesn't mean you're gay. Having sex with men means you gay.

If this is a guy who's just eccentric and shy and trying to reach out to your boyfriend as a potential pal the only way he knows how (and he just sounds kinda lonely to me, particularly given his age and his college experience)-- nothing will be more excruciating to him than finding out that you all are speculating he's actually a deep-in-the-closet homosexual.
posted by availablelight at 2:59 PM on August 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


whether or not he's gay is completely and totally irrelevant.

your only job, as his friend, is to be supportive, non-judgemental, and provide an ear/advice *if asked*.

the best way to help him is for YOU to concentrate on being a better friend.
posted by wayward vagabond at 3:26 PM on August 1, 2008


They recommend that we assume he’s gay and just treat him as such but we feel that he is more fragile than that and would easily get offended and annoyed.

What, in your mind, would this entail if you were to do it?
posted by jacquilynne at 3:33 PM on August 1, 2008


As someone who came out awkwardly and late, I completely understand why you posted this. To be honest, I lost a few friends who got tired of waiting for me to come out, and got tired of my self absorbed masochism. I'm totally out now, but i still feel a shutter when I run into a friends I made while in the closet.

When people start coming out, they do it in fits and starts, followed by long sessions of denial and self loathing. I would generally avoid the subject and let him be (though it's fine to tell him not to barge in on your boyfriend), but perhaps watch gay themed movies around him, invite gay people to the house to give him the idea that gay is okay. Make a point of not categorizing him.

If he isn't gay, he might just be an awkward, non-normative boy trying to meet male friends. A lot of boys who have mostly female friends are genuinely confused when they try to make friends with other men.

When I was in the closet, I knew a lot of these boys. We'd be really really good friends, until we realized that we wanted different things. Try to coax him into situations where he'll meet men who aren't your boyfriend. That's the best way for him to figure out what he really wants. Be blunt: I love your company James, but you gotta meet some friends of your own sex.

For what it's worth, you sound like a good friend. You wouldn't be the first good friend to be frustrated by a boy going through this.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 3:34 PM on August 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


Mind your own business.
posted by notyou at 5:01 PM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Adding this to the pile for the sake of emphasis: acting gay, even acting really gay, does not mean someone is gay. Even if he's gay, it's none of your business and you shouldn't treat him differently. If you treat him as if he's gay when he's just desperate for male friends, that is going to make things worse as far as depression goes.
posted by Nattie at 5:57 PM on August 1, 2008


This really puts in perspective the two times in my life someone has thought I was gay. I was assuming they were basing it on some evidence related to my sexuality. But hell, they were probably just commenting on my tendency towards eating beans from a can. Which, you know, makes total sense now. I like beans.

Please let this guy be shy, listen to his favorite music, attempt a friendship with other males, and just generally be himself. If you want to help him, the very best thing you can do is to be accepting.
posted by dosterm at 6:17 PM on August 1, 2008


While I want to caution you that even someone who seems very gay (and to me, this guy doesn't even seem to display many of the stereotypical 'signs of gayness') may be completely straight, many other people have said things in this vein, so I won't harp on.

That said, I would suggest you try to be non-judgemental and friendly, as this may make him more comfortable with talking to you. Watch your language and vocabulary. Many people use gay as a synonym for stupid or lame - e.g., "That shirt is gay," or "I got a B on that test - that's so gay!" This can be offensive even if you're not gay. Try to avoid saying anything that could be construed as homophobic, and whatever you can to be tolerant and accepting.

No matter how tolerant and pleasant you are, however, it is still completely up to him whether he chooses to discuss personal matters such as his sexuality with you. Forcing him to talk to you, or - worse - making assumptions about him and changing your treatment of him based on these - is unfair and unwise.

I can completely understand why some of this man's behaviour is annoying, such as barging into your room uninvited. Maybe you could try gently talking to him about this? From things you have said, though, it sounds like your flatmate has low self-esteem and/or mental health issues and I would tread carefully to avoid hurting him.
posted by badmoonrising at 7:01 PM on August 1, 2008


With everyone having thoroughly debunked the gay thing, I want to comment on a few more tangential things in your description of this guy...

They’re both intelligent and his girlfriend goes to a very prestigious school but they act as though they’re above everyone else.

In my experience, people like that are either full of themselves (duh), or are actually miserable and use it as a coping mechanism for their low self-esteem.

He has developed very strange eating habits. He’ll eat a can of garbanzo beans for dinner with hot sauce and he travels with specific food.
He has an obsession with the Saddle Creek label- all of their artists. His room is decorated with Saddle Creek memorabilia. If I hear the Tilly and Wall or Rilo Kiley’s Black light album one more time I’m going to burst.


I have to say that this is really weird. Like, I've been called eccentric, and I have some eccentric friends. But I don't eat cans of garbanzo beans for dinner. (I'm not sure what "He travels with specific food" means, but I assume it's similarly-bizarre food items that he takes with him?) The obsession with Saddle Creek is similarly random and strange. I'm not sure either has anything to do with depression or homosexuality, but both seem to me to go beyond strange.

When I’m in my room with my boyfriend (WHEN THE DOOR IS CLOSED), James will barge in....

If this was your 12-year-old cousin who didn't grasp that boyfriend + girlfriend + closed door = don't barge in, it would be kind of cute and funny. At 21, this screams "seriously underdeveloped social skills."

I still stick to my theory that he's just looking to try to connect, as a friend, to your boyfriend, but that his social skills are so insanely out of whack that he seems comically obsessed with him.

When James has his girlfriend over the door of their room is open all the time, even when they sleep. He has told us before that he and his girlfriend play a game to see who can hold out the longest without having sex- he brags that he always wins.

This, too, falls into the, "eccentric roommate with seriously underdeveloped social skills" category.

Is it possible that, for one reason or another, he's embarrassed/afraid that people would think he's having sex? I can be a major prude; if I had a girlfriend over and we were just hanging out, I might leave the door open, too, just so it's not an awkward, "They've been in there for three hours!" type thing for my roommates. One of my roommates and his girlfriend would talk openly about having had sex, and it was always a very uncomfortable situation, as were the times they were clearly doing so while I was in the bedroom next door. That said, not closing the door at night seems odd, though I guess I grew up always closing my door at night; maybe he grew up leaving it open, and never learned that, especially with roommates, and especially when you're sleeping with someone, it's normal to close the door.

Though I have to admit that the "see who can hold out the longest without having sex" game with his girlfriend is really strange: not only do I not know any guy, gay or straight, that would want to play such a game, but I also can't think of a single guy, gay or straight, that would tell people about this game, much less brag about winning it.

I'd take everyone's advice here about his sexuality (leave it be; he'll come out when he wants to, if he's gay), but I think the fact that you have a very weird roommate is being overlooked. I could, of course, easily be wrong, but it really sounds to me as if he has (seriously) lacking social skills, on top of a total lack of self-esteem.
posted by fogster at 7:22 PM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]



Try asking yourself this question: How does him coming out help Him right now?

You said he's had a hard time making friends and establishing relationships. As far as I can see, coming out does nothing for him now but remove a caring relationship with his girlfriend that is very comfortable by now.

Now asking yourself: How does him coming out help Me right now?

It seems like it's more of an ego boost for You because you can be the caring friend and then say, "Aha! I knew it all along! Aren't I smart and sensitive, everybody?" Maybe you should work on why you need that recognition, instead of trying to get him to be who you need him to be to meet your own ego needs.

I'm sorry if this causes you some offense, but it sounds kind of selfish for you to want him to come out when/if he's not gay or not ready.
posted by mynameismandab at 10:15 PM on August 1, 2008


They have a lot in common; they both enjoy video games and music.

95% of people enjoy these two things.

And I think that you should just stay out of his way. He is your roommate and it is none of your business.
posted by k8t at 11:22 PM on August 1, 2008


If you really want to show your roomie that you care, just be sure in your words and actions that it is clear that you have no problem with The Gay. If someone is looking to come out (been there), that's what he will consider. Otherwise, stay clear.
posted by lacedback at 12:12 AM on August 2, 2008


I've said this in an earlier thread, too. Just accept and love him as he is. That's what you do with friends. If he's gay, this will make it easier for him to come out when he's ready. If he's not, or if he's never ready, at least he has a friend that loves him. Twenty-one is not that old to not be out yet. It's also the exact age most people have some boyfriend or girlfriend that brings them down and none of their friends like. Give him time. Meantime, just be a friend.

And put a lock on your bedroom door. That is really inappropriate.
posted by lampoil at 5:29 AM on August 2, 2008


What does his girlfriend think of your project?
posted by iivix at 6:12 PM on August 2, 2008


it sounds to me like he is a really irritating friend, inconsiderate and a bit of a poser. i think you have valid reasons to find him annoying. but maybe he's just weird and insecure, doesn't know who he is yet. not necessarily gay.
posted by beccyjoe at 8:35 PM on August 2, 2008


A little late, but here's my own experience: My sister asked me if I was gay when I was 17 and not really ok with it. So I denied. She said that she would have no problem with it and everything, but I just wasn't ready/comfortable to talk about my sexual preferences with her.

That really made it way harder to come out to her later, because I initially denied it and didn't want to hear the "see, I told you so, I knew it all along" comment (which she didn't make when I talked to her, but still).

So as anybody here already said, you are not helping at all with your agenda, you are making things worse.

Apart from that: What's this weird preoccupation with his sexual preference anyhow? Confessing his presumed identity won't help his problems. It's not at all about him, it's about you wanting to know what you're dealing with. Forcing the "gay" label upon anyone who is outside your concept of what a heterosexual male should be like is really making this world a worse place.

I say that because can relate to him. I was an unhappy teen too, but that was because had no friends after moving around a lot. Coming out didn't solve a thing for me, I just stumbled into an abusive reationship because I thought that it couldn't be worse than being alone. Which it was.
So just be a friend to him, if you like him the way he is at all.
posted by kolophon at 4:58 PM on August 3, 2008


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