This week, Danny M. Lavery and John Thompson discuss a Prudie letter: the almost in-law.
John Thompson: Wow, yeah. That is an open and shut case of homophobia, 100%
Danny Lavery: yeah there’s no plausible deniability here
she just really hates that her kid is bisexual and wants to force him back in the closet
and she wants to leverage his self-doubt over his “ability” to read social cues to put additional pressure on him, no?
John Thompson: Absolutely. And from the letter I think he has some uncertainty about how he should project himself into the world
but it doesn’t sound like the MIL’s going to succeed, honestly
which is cause for some hope
I think it’s significant that he hasn’t, from the letter at least, really questioned his fundamental insight about himself
Danny Lavery: yeah, although I feel terrible that he’s been calling his relatives to *apologize* for coming out
I agree that he does seem to have a consistent sense of self-understanding despite his mother’s harassment, but I do worry about him right now and I want to encourage the LW to speak to him directly
and say that his mother is wrong, that he has nothing to apologize for, and to offer him support
John Thompson: I completely agree
Danny Lavery: I also worry about how much financial control his mother has over him
I’m not sure if she’s mostly just like, handling his bills for him or if she has direct access to his bank accounts and could potentially isolate/control/abuse him in that way
John Thompson: I hadn’t considered that angle, I’m glad you brought it up
I’m not sure what the circumstances there are, or what legal recourse is possible or necessary
it would be a definite escalation of abuse if that were to become a factor
I think that the LW should lead with their (evident!) love and acceptance, maybe with a little narrative about how concretely he has become a part of the LW’s family, and affirm an explicit commitment, on the LW’s part, to supporting them. That would be a start!
Danny Lavery: I think so too!
John Thompson: the financial / material support question is one thing, the personal support is another, and I think in the latter case the guy’s in as good a place as could be desired. Also coordinate with the sister / fiancé and anyone else in the family who feels the way the LW does. I’d say “throw a party for him” but that might be way intense!
Danny Lavery: do you think it would be going too far to say to Paul “I think your mom takes advantage of your self-doubt to convince you that your autism prevents you from ‘understanding’ what bisexuality is”?
John Thompson: yeah, it’s definitely understandable that he wants to trust his mom, but his mom is very wrong here
he’s already come to a point of self-reflection and he’s trusted it enough to speak to it outside her influence
reify that trust in himself, I think it’s there
and celebrate it, I think. Help him, as the LW can, to take pride in it
Danny Lavery: yeah and really push back against the idea that autism means it’s impossible for him to verify/trust social cues without his mother always acting as a gatekeeper
I feel alarm bells whenever someone says something like “because of your autism, *only* I can help you verify your sense of the world”
John Thompson: Absolutely, and it might be a difficult process to shake that established pattern
but I think a key is establishing an alternative lens, through the in-law family, that doesn’t shame him
Danny Lavery: right, the LW doesn’t have to pressure him to break with his mom or try to position themselves as an alternative – “Don’t listen to her, listen to me” – so much as affirm “I’m with you, your self-knowledge here is a good thing, your other relatives and I are happy you came out to us”
John Thompson: Fully agreed. Not just happy he came out, happy to have met, come to know, and to have them belong
Now available in your podcast player: the audiobook edition of Danny M. Lavery’s latest book, Something That May Shock and Discredit You. Get it from Slate.