I have been with my fiancee for a little over 4 years. I met her son when he was ten and he is now 14. In the beginning I felt in my personal opinion that he was a little bit of a "Momma's boy" but I figured it was because he didn't really have a male figure in his life and had been with his Mom the whole time and plus the fact that he was just a little kid but now he's still a "Momma's boy."

I get it - I am a bit old school, I'm in my mid 30,s now. Growing up it wasn't as socially accepted to be gay like it is now. I think my parents would have disapproved of that at that time, although they seem a little more open minded these days.

As for me, the first half of my life was, "gay = bad" and the second half, "gay = ok" so to me, although I don't like it-for me it's not my thing, I also don't put people down for it. I've had gay friends/acquaintances. I've worked security at one of the biggest gay bars in West Hollywood. My only problem is when they try to force it on me like, "oh you MUST accept the gay community and you're homophobic if you don't." It's like: no, everyone is entitled to their opinion and everyone can like or dislike whatever they want.

Anyway back to growing up. Ok, my parents worked two or three jobs each since we were pretty poor so my brother (2 years older) and I were pretty much taking care of ourselves. I remember walking home from elementary school. It wasn't too far about 1.5 miles - 30 minutes walking - but like I said, elementary school! We would have to do chores before they came home. My mom was the "mean" one and would spank us with the belt if we didn't. She would ground us, make us read and basically write book reports so she knew we read. Other than that we would always be playing outside with the neighbors - football, basketball, soccer, riding bike,s typical boy stuff.

In high school at 15 I got my first job because I liked music and wanted to buy instruments or band shirts and saved up to buy my first car, then 9-11 happened so I wanted to join the military. My Mom wanted me to go to school so I did - I graduated from an automotive school and worked for a year but I felt like I wasn't doing enough, so behind her back I went and joined the Marines and now here I am.

This boy like I said before very feminine, dancing and twirling and using a girly or baby voice that he talks in 90% of the time. He is scared to take out the trash which is right outside of our apartment building or do laundry alone downstairs which is in the building, even though it is is gated and only people with the code can get in. He gets scared when someone knocks on the door.

I feel like he over reacts to sweet, "awww" type moments like you'd imagine a girly girl doing, and same when it's something that's sad. He Squeals when he’s excited like you'd imagine cheerleader teen girls doing, and dances in a very girly manner and not just when there's music like at a party or even dancing when you're home alone. If he's cleaning or something he'll dance with no music and he'll do it for attention. He will literally come out of his room and if I'm watching TV or something he will start dancing putting his arms up and shaking his hips either until I acknowledge him. Sometimes I pretend that I don't notice him and he'll give up and go back to his room.

Since I've been in his life I've tried getting him to do things with me, like I'll try taking him out to play baseball, football, or any sport. I put him in MMA but he gives up on those things so easily and whines/over exaggerates at the smallest of bumps and injuries. At 13 he cried because he was in the YMCA and they were going to big Bear for the weekend. Even the younger 8-9 year olds didn't cry.

Nowadays he had brought it up to his Mom that he feels like I don't like him because I don't spend time with him, but everything we do he doesn't like or care for. I go running 3 times a week, 3 miles at least and he asked her why I never take him so I took him. After 20 breaks and barely half a mile we turned back and headed home. I basically jogged knowing it was his first time I told him to slow down and conserve his energy but it didn't help after that he's never wanted to go again.

Sometimes I feel like it's just me. I feel like sometimes I'm being too hard on him but then again he gets bullied a lot at school because of all of this. The boys tease him. He's gotten beat up a few times. We had to put him in therapy because of it, but even the therapist asked his Mom if he was gay after a few sessions so his Mom asked him which he said no. We assured him that we wouldn't be mad and we'd still love him and even reassured him by comparing the situation with one of his friends which she used to baby sit when he was little that came out as gay and is even "instafamous" or an influencer and how nobody was mad at him, but he insists he's not gay.

But he loves wearing pink. He'll pick girl characters in video games or make things pink like guns or cars or whatever he's playing. I would really just prefer him either saying he's gay and is be fine with the things he does because then it would be understandable or him saying he's not gay but also not doing these things.

Am I wrong? Am I being too harsh? What should I do?

  • 4
    Accept your stepson for who he is. Don't judge him for being what is traditionally seen as feminine. Femininity and masculinity are societal constructs that change over time and culture. Our jobs as parents are to accept our children unconditionally in a world that can be harsh to those that are different.
    – jcmack
    Commented Apr 7, 2020 at 3:40

4 Answers 4


Let me start with a small anecdote. I am going to tell you about a young man I like a lot. When I met him, he was in his early twenties, six foot something, heavy built and with hands like the proverbial trash can lids. A bit scruffy, and certainly looking like someone you want nearby if you have to enter an somewhat shady area of town. He plays soccer in a local team and isn’t afraid of bit of rough play. Today he has a young wife, has turned a barn into a house largely by himself and yes, he’d like another beer, thank you!

Do you know what he chose as a profession? He’s a preschool / kindergarten educator. He spends his work day helping three to six year olds learn and play together. With all the snot, dirty fingers and singing of simple songs that are part of the job. He chose a profession that has in our society a low status and low income compared to other jobs. But he found his calling and is very good at what he does.

So please, I recommend you let go of some of your stereotypes - how a boy or man should behave1 is a construction of a given society. If you need an example: In Arabic countries, where homosexuality is a crime, men will not hesitate to hold hands in public - because it’s an expression of friendship, not a romantic relationshipSource. Try that in the US and you are sending a totally different message. And some men don’t appreciate the ways masculinity is expressed in their culture, and likewise not all women follow the “rules of how to be feminine”. I can change the tires on my car in less than 20 minutes without machinery and I know how to do a proper winged eyeliner and full-blown makeup, but I will do neither daily. I can even run in three-inch heels (lots of practice, I danced as a sport), but will usually pick comfy loafers.

With all that cultural stuff out of the way, let’s look at your son.

  1. Accept him as a person.
    Not as boy who should do “boy things”. Don’t question his sexual orientation or identification - he may be heterosexual or not, he may know how he feels about his identity or not. Or possibly even “not yet”. Contrary to what some people believe, a person’s identity (in the sense of sexual orientation or gender identity) is about as influenced by his surroundings as is his eye color - not at all. Nobody is “made” homosexual or straight. And playing baseball is not a preventative measure. And if you are sending the message that you will just “not oppose”, that’s not accepting.
  2. Bring your sense of humor.
    I sense that you are at least irritated by very effeminate behavior. Apparently he noticed that too - judging by your description of how he dances in front of you to get your attention. I am inclined to see it as a good sign - at the very least he’s trying to interact with you.
  3. Consider that the role of the “manly man” is already taken in your family structure.
    From what you write, you are a (former?) marine, strong, in excellent shape and fit. There are two ways how a young adolescent human can react: Strive to follow your lead and become “better than the current alpha” - or find a totally different niche. I would bet that your son excels in quite a few things where you struggle? Maybe you haven’t noticed yet (they are probably “unmanly” in your definition), but I encourage you look closely. Accept his strength in these fields.

If you want to bond and improve your relationship, I recommend you follow his lead for a bit. (Later, take turns. That’s how adults manage different interests, and it may be a good approach for you two.) So when he wants to dance - dance with him. It’ll do you good, trust me. This way, you can get to know the young person this former child is metamorphosing into right now. It’s a fascinating stage.

1 If you want to know what many women think about “tough manly men” that have learned to suppress expressing their emotions, open a random women’s magazine... Yep, cliche again, but there’s a grain of truth.


Step 1: Accept Them; Step 2: Never Stop

This may not be what you want to hear, but the best way to 'deal' with this is to actually be accepting.

I want to preface this with something you said early on in the wall of text:

my only problem is when they try to force it on me like oh you MUST accept the gay community and you're homophobic if you don't and it's like no everyone is entitled to their opinion and everyone can like or dislike whatever they want

The reason I highlight that is this sort of belief is used to justify a lot of homophobic behavior. Maybe you don't engage in homophobic behavior, but you allow it to occur around you. You don't engage with it and try to quash it. And when gay people are around you observe your lack of engagement on the matter, they presume you accept it.

It's important to remember the words of Desmond Tutu,

"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor."

So if your step-son is gay and sees that your friends joke or disparage gay people and either you contribute to those jokes or just silence from you, then it doesn't matter what you say regarding accepting them being gay because your words sound hollow in light of your actions. Or maybe inaction.

It is worth noting that you have recognized that you need to do more. I think that's huge step for you.

The next step would be to focus less upon trying to get your step-son to do activities you're interested in and spend time learning more about what he wants to do. You want to do sports, camping, jogging, etc. but nowhere could I find an instance of you trying dancing which he seems to really like. You're a marine and it seems you're scared of dancing and it's likely because you're afraid of appearing feminine. To connect with your step-son in a meaningful way, you have to face that fear and connect a bit with your feminine side.

The next thing I'd tell you is to brace yourself. Your step-son may not be gay, they may be trans. And if you think the treatment of gay people is bad, trans people might have it even worse. To say nothing of society being cruel to trans people, the lack of acceptance for them often leads to a very high teenage suicide rate.

I can find you links to all kinds of trans stuff, but you can find that on your own or ask a separate question once you advance this a little more. For now, I'd recommend doing something a bit over the top. Put on a tutu and clean the house while dancing. It'll feel silly, but all of sudden your step-son's not the only one in the house doing it and hopefully not feeling alone.

  • 5
    And even if the son is neither gay nor trans, acceptance of a person the way they are is paramount. There is nothing “unmanly” in being afraid or loving cute things, or showing emotions, only an (culturally influenced) assumption of how an individual should present themselves in a gender role. Which is in my opinion, to be blunt here, f*ing BS.
    – Stephie
    Commented Apr 7, 2020 at 15:37


I see you worry very much about your step-son.
Well... don't.

I known it's easier said than done. He likes "girly" things and playing girly characters. A lot of people do - at the very least because female character can be more pleasant to the eye. There might be nothing to it, just a question of taste that might or might not change.

If there is anything to it - be it homosexuality, gender dysphoria, anything else - life might get hard, specially depending on where you live. In the second case consulting with a psychiatrist might be a good option but it has to come from him. Just mention that it could help.

About jokes and the like : it should be no problem, on the condition that you don't make all your jokes about it. Joke about gay, joke about jocks, joke about blond, black, green, and every letter of the alphabet that you can think of. Try yourself at nonsense jokes... Get a book or find a website and browse with him, rating the jokes from dumb to outrageous.

If you want to do things with him, go step by step.
Trade a 15 minute jog for a round of whatever he likes.
Sit down and try narrowing something that cross both your interests. Each of you get a sheet of paper and write 4-5 things you like doing. Then see if you can trade initiation, or just see if you can help him progress in one of his interests, even if it's not one of yours. At the very basic level, just share stories : your accounting of a great match and his story of a great... still whatever.


First, assume that the behavior is a logical response learned from experience rather than innate personality.

  1. Is it cute when your wife does all of these things? Maybe he sees that you prefer these behaviors. Why would it be different for him?

  2. It may be hard to see anything positive about being a ‘manly man’. If he sees you genuinely happy the way you are, he might be more open to those parts of you.

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