A Gay Dad, A Straight Son, And The Sex Talk

Awkward? Yes and no.

  • James Finn

Written on Mar 16, 2021

A Gay Dad, a Straight Son, And The Sex Talk Iakov Filimonov / Shutterstock

What’s it like being a gay man raising a straight teenage boy?

Isn’t it especially awkward? People ask me about that all time. I guess it’s unusual, so people are curious about it.

I don’t get upset.

I like curious people, and I like telling stories. I told one just the other day as a matter of fact — about my foster son and me discussing religion while he was knocking over old ladies on his skateboard.


OK, I’m exaggerating. But he came close to knocking over one old lady! Here’s another story. The big sex talk. Or one very important sex talk, at least.

See for yourself how it went.

Brent stalks into my office with a box clutched by just the tips of his fingers, making as little contact with it as possible. He has that teen “oh-my-god-adults-are-so-lame-and-embarrassing” look on his face.

If you’re a parent, you’ve seen that look. If you’re a teen, you’ve made that face.

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“Um, Jim,” he stammers, managing to sound more mortified than indignant. “Did you leave this on my dresser in my room?”


“Mmm-hmmm,” I nod. I don’t grin, but I want to. I find the situation amusing, but my 16-year-old foster son clearly doesn’t. So, I keep my expression as neutral as possible. I turn back to my computer and start typing again.

I hear the package clatter to my desk where he’s dropped it, so I glance at him.

“Ewww! Gross! Why?” he asks.

“Because even though I’ve asked you to leave your bedroom door open when Claudia comes over, you had it closed when I got home from work yesterday. I’m worried about you. We should talk about it. And you evidently need those.”

“Jim! Oh my god! It’s not like we’re having sex!”

“Good, I’m glad.”


“Then why’d you put a box of condoms in my room? Right out in the open! Julien saw them just now. I about died!”

My response is drier than toast. “Buddy, Julien’s 17 years old, and Sophie is 18. He’s seen condoms before. Trust me.”


“OK, so I’m sorry if I embarrassed you. I didn’t mean to. Look, Julien probably thinks you’re cool, but that’s not the point. I’m glad you aren’t having sex, but you and Claudia are stuck all over each other all the time. You practically make out at the dinner table. One of these days, things are gonna get more hot and heavy than you plan for. You need to be prepared.”

I notice Brent’s face turning as red as the crazy color he’s painted on his bedroom walls. His voice squeaks and cracks as he answers. “We do not!”


“You don’t what?”

“Make out at the dinner table!”

“I was exaggerating, buddy. But the table is glass. I can see what her feet are doing, you know.”

“Jim! Quit! Can we talk about something else?”

“What? A teenager who doesn’t like talking to a parent about sex? I’m shocked. Shocked, I tell you.”

“Oh, my god. Just kill me now, please. Make it stop.”

“Hey, Brent?”

His reply is sullen. “What now?”

“I don’t want to embarrass you, but we have to talk about this. I had sex for the first time when I was only a little older than you are now. Lots of people have sex at your age, and most of them don’t plan for it. It just happens.”


RELATED: What Abstinence-Only Sex Ed Does To Parents, Kids And Teen Pregnancy Rates

“Yeah, right,” he snorts.

“Seriously, one thing leads to another and things get out of control.”

“Like Claudia would ever let that happen!” He sounds wistful now more than embarrassed, so I go in for the kill.

“You know what? Girls usually want sex just as much as guys. They just don’t let on. Admit it, if she’d let you, you’d have done it already, huh?”

I see Brent starting to form the word “no” with his lips, but his head is already vigorously nodding yes — I assume involuntarily. So, I laugh. “Of course you would have, man. Admit it. Huh?”


He laughs too, in something like a casual affirmative, and it feels to me like the ice is broken.

“They ever show you in school how these things work? I ask, nodding at the box.

“Yeah, we practiced with bananas and cucumbers.”

“Excellent!” I give myself permission to cut the cucumber in the fridge up for a salad. I’d bought it after ducking into the pharmacy for the Trojans. But I hadn’t been looking forward to condom-donning demos! I’m acting cool, but I’m probably at least as uncomfortable as poor Brent.


I’m worried. Am I doing this right? What would Claudia’s parents think if they could hear me? I wonder what Brent’s social worker would think. After all, I’m a gay man raising a sexually mature boy. I know that shouldn’t matter, but it gives me pause.

What would they do if they thought I was giving Brent implicit permission to have sex with his girlfriend under my roof? One thing I know for sure. If Claudia ends up pregnant, things would be bad. Mostly for her, but for my boy too.

He needs the condoms, just like I needed them when I was 17. Not that I had any then. I just lucked out, incredibly. I’m amazed that I don’t have HIV after two or three years of blithe ignorance in my youth.

Keeping Brent and Claudia safe and healthy is important to me, more important than worrying about what people think, and more important than wanting to avoid embarrassment.


So, I take a deep breath and dive into a serious talk.

Brent has calmed down, so it goes well. After a few minutes, he turns to leave. Once he’s framed in the doorway, I call out and stop him.

“Hey, you forgot something.”

I toss the box to him, and he snags it out of the air with a wry grin.

I hear him whistling as he saunters down the hall to his room.

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James Finn is a former Air Force intelligence analyst, long-time LGBTQ activist, an alumnus of Queer Nation and Act Up NY, an essayist occasionally published in queer news outlets, and an “agented” novelist.