My partner and I have been together for 11 years. We’re in Florida, so we’re not officially married, although we had a ceremony for ourselves and family a decade ago. We’re invited to a five-year-anniversary party for my husband’s straight brother and his wife. What’s the protocol for buying an anniversary gift for a couple who’s never given us a present to acknowledge our wedding or anniversaries? Somehow we want to let it be known, without being impolite, that we like to celebrate our love, too. They’re not homophobes and are generally pleasant enough, so are we overthinking this or do we have a right to some form of reciprocation or acknowledgement of our relationship? Daniel G. in Coral Gables, FL
A: Danny, what part of making your relationship next to invisible by ignoring your ceremony and anniversaries do you not get as homophobic? And as far as your not wanting to be “impolite,” how fucking “impolite” do you think ignoring your relationship—FOR 10 YEARS—is? Screw how “pleasant” they are. Their clear message is “Your gay relationship isn’t as legitimate as our hetero ones.” If it were me, I’d give them the traditional five-year anniversary gift of wood in the form of a stick and tell them where they can keep it. But that’s me. Maybe you should consider having your hubby take his brother aside and calmly but firmly say something like, “Daniel and I wish you and your wife continued happiness, but we’re not giving you a present, and here’s why. We’ve been together twice as long as you, and you’ve never given us so much as a toaster. We are taking this stand to remind you that our relationship is just as real and important as yours and it deserves the same recognition.” Then inform him of the date of your next anniversary, while handing him a list of where you’re registered.
GAY HELL? Q: I’m a recent release from the closet. I am verrrrrry new to the male dating scene. Can you offer advice with coming out? I’ve missed so much of my life trying to be straight. I’ve found so much peace since coming out that I don’t know why I didn’t do it years ago. But I live where the Bible is strong. My family thinks I’m allowing the devil to persuade me into a life of evil and that I will burn in hell forever. Can you send some water to put out the fire I seem to be heading for? Mark S. in Columbia, SC
A: Despite homophobic religion’s unfounded and willfully ignorant pathology, being gay does not sign you up for hell. Read Daniel Helminiak’s What The Bible Really Says About Homosexuality and be done with that. I grew up 200 miles due east of you, Mark, and I learned that the only evil fire in my life was from hatemongers bent on creating hell on earth for people who don’t vote, act or fuck exactly like they do. Unfortunately, you’re going to run into some bitter homos who have been deeply damaged by families, churches and other people they thought they could trust. Be forgiving of those poor guys, Mark, but don’t be one of them. Focus on the goodness in your heart, and the grace of freedom you have found in accepting who you were created to be. A loving God could only look at that and say, “Indeed, it was very good.”
Article continues below...
YOU CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN Q: How often am I supposed to visit my folks back in Virginia? I know that sounds terrible, but I loathe going back. I went through so much there and finally escaped the torment four years ago when I moved to California. I’m 25 and love my life in L.A., but my mom persistently tries to guilt me into coming back for extended visits. I like them, but after a day or two I’m done. It’s not that I don’t like my parents. I do. But this guilt is making me feel like a bad son. Greg in Studio City, CA
A: When family uses guilt as a weapon, they’re deliberately causing psychological pain to make you comply with their desires. There’s a word for that: bullying. It’s as violent in its way as the schoolyard A-hole—perhaps worse because it’s a betrayal of trust. The very people who are supposed to be loving and protective of you are the ones doing it. Little wonder you said you “like” your parents, not love them. And no surprise you fled, either. You’re not a bad son, sweetheart; they’re just lousy at this aspect of parenting. Stay where you are happy, Greggie. Airplanes fly in both directions. If they really want to see you, they can come to where it happens on your turf.
HAVE A QUESTION FOR JOEL? Ask away! E-mail him at