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This week the column is devoted to the question many people ask after they read a particularly juicy letter: What happened next? On Monday we published a poll in which readers were asked to choose among five letters that ran this past year. (Beforehand, I contacted all the letter writers to make sure they were game.) Follow-up letters by the top two winners of the poll are printed here. It’s no surprise the No. 1 vote getter was “Brotherly Love.” This was the dilemma posed by a man in a long-term incestuous gay relationship with his twin. Their family accepted their homosexuality and wondered when each would meet a nice guy and settle down. The two were at odds over whether to tell their relatives about the twincest (thank you commenters for coining that term). I advised them not to tell all, but to reassure their family that as unorthodox as their living arrangement seemed, it made them happy. Here’s their story:
A lot has happened since then. The first thing I have to mention is that my brother didn't know I had written in to you. He noticed your column during breakfast and almost had a heart attack when he realized it was talking about us. After he got over the shock, we both started joking and worrying that someone we knew would read it and put two and two together. I guess I should have thought about that earlier! In the end we were both relieved to be talking about this openly and honestly. We did contact an attorney as you suggested, who told us that while incest is illegal in our state, our situation was unique and unless we paraded down the street engaging in public sex, there was no chance of prosecution. After that, talking about your column some more sparked a motivation to get the perspective of a professional marriage/family counselor. We found one who, over the past seven months, helped us not only think through the immediate dilemma but also, unexpectedly, deal with some long-buried issues from our childhood.
The way our relationship turned romantic and sexual when we were kids was that I was being bullied pretty badly starting in fifth grade for being a "sissy" and my brother (who was a lot more masculine, into sports, and therefore not bullied) was the only one I could turn to for support. I didn't feel that I could confide in our parents, who at that time made homophobic comments regularly (it was the middle of the AIDS epidemic). There was one night in our room when I broke down crying and admitted that I was gay. He saw himself in the role as my protector, and then one thing led to another from there. So in the therapy sessions we spent a good deal of time sorting through our conflicted feelings, then and now. I fully acknowledge that when we were kids the relationship was somewhat co-dependent, but we lead pretty independent lives now with separate careers, friend networks, etc. I know some of your readers think we're emotionally stunted, and maybe we are. On the other hand, I know plenty of people in unhappy relationships (gay and straight) with troubled families, so I guess in some way we're all a little screwed up, aren't we?
One of the more ironic parts of this situation is that the sexual aspect of our relationship faded away many years ago. We're physically intimate, but it's limited to kissing and cuddling for the most part. According to our counselor, this phenomenon is actually not uncommon among gay male companions, and from what I gather, even among heterosexual couples who've been together as long as we have. I know how weird this must sound, and often we both just burst out laughing at how our lives turned out, but it is what it is.
As far as what we should tell family and friends, after discussing it extensively with our counselor my brother and I eventually saw the wisdom in your advice. Over the summer when our mom brought up the subject (again), we were well prepared with a response. We told her that we both tried dating men and women (true) but never met anyone who made us want to give up the comfortable, happy life we already have living together (true). We said she didn't have to worry we would die alone, because we're committed to supporting each other to the end (also true). She wasn't thrilled, but at least the way we responded appeared to allay some of her worries. We gave similar explanations to a few of our friends and they seem to think it at least makes rational sense, even if it's not ideal from their perspective.
We'd like to thank you for providing such a nonjudgmental and compassionate response. I guess it seems obvious in retrospect, but at the time the solution didn't seem clear at all. And writing the letter to you set in motion a lot of other positive changes besides.
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