Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Secret Identities

A few weeks ago while jogging with my boyfriend, I tentatively told him, “I’ve decided that I want to do something, but I’m afraid you aren’t going to like it.” I then proceeded to tell him about my idea for a new blog about the two of us forming our life together as newly-partnered gay parents of seven children in a small conservative Utah town. I had already put together a blog banner made up of Simpsonized versions of the two of us and our children—his four and my three—and had come up with a clever blogonym for him that played on his real name without outright revealing it. I explained that I was feeling the need to write publicly again, and that the coming changes in our lives, with us moving in together and attempting to form a blended family, promised to provide something for me to write about. Basically, I wanted to create a gay blog mashup of The Brady Bunch and Jon & Kate Plus Eight. (Though now that I think about it, perhaps modeling our new family after Jon & Kate is not such a good idea…)

As I suspected, he was not entirely comfortable with the idea. What it comes down to is this: He is a private person, and I am not. I have no qualms about revealing my secret identity. Although I blogged for several years as Master Fob and later Mr. Fob (when I decided “Master” was too presumptuous), my real name was never a secret—the blogonym was just part of the game. At the time, I was in a heterosexual marriage and I published a couple of essays about being a gay man married to a straight woman. My then-wife and I appeared in a newspaper article and later on a TV news program, garnering some degree of the fifteen minutes of fame our friends Josh and Lolly Weed are currently experiencing. My boyfriend, meanwhile, is only out to a small percentage of his family and friends. Part of it is that he comes from a small town in Utah and many of the people in his life who he has come out to have not taken it well. Part of it is the fact that, while I work virtually for an international company that is quite gay-friendly, he works here in Utah where he has no guarantee that being gay won’t get him fired. But really what it comes down to is that he simply doesn’t share private details of his life with the people he associates with. He doesn’t tell his coworkers or casual acquaintances about his family life unless they ask, and even then he only reveals enough to answer the question. He believes in keeping personal matters personal.

I disagree with him on this—I believe that by sharing private parts of ourselves publicly (within appropriate boundaries; I’m not going to talk about our sex life or anything), we open the doors to more intimate relationships and a stronger sense of community—but I respect his point of view and it’s important to me that he know I won’t violate his trust by sharing details of his life that he doesn’t want shared. And so we talked about what I can and can’t say, searching for the middle ground where I can do this public thing that’s important to me without disrespecting his need for privacy. He doesn’t want his children, even with anonymizing blogonyms, to be the subject of a public blog, so they won’t be. Instead, fictionalized representations of them will be occasional guest characters on the blog. I dumped the Simpsonized avatars because they would be too recognizable to anyone who knows his family, and I let go of the oh-so-clever blogonym I’d had in mind for him. In its place, I’ve decided to call him Clark, because he’s my Superman, and because his secret identity is important to him. Which you would think makes me Bruce (or Lois, to use a less slash-fictiony metaphor), but the more I thought about it the more I felt like my existing blogonym, Mr. Fob, works just fine. The name originally comes from the name of my writing group, the Friends of Ben. But another, more widely-recognized meaning of “FOB” also exists—Fresh Off the Boat, referring to foreigners. Having grown up in Honolulu and generally being more “big city” in my worldview, I do feel like something of a foreigner here in Smallville, Utah. But thankfully, Clark is Smallville born-and-raised, so I’ve got someone to show me the ropes. And what gay man wouldn’t want Superman as his own private tour guide? 


  1. All the Fobs down in Smallville loved gay guys a lot,
    but the Grinch, who lived just north of Smallville, did not.
    He hated the gay guys, the whole gay agenda!
    Now please don't ask why, though his mad referenda
    might have been just because of too-tight tidy-whities,
    or a heart that was shrunken at least three whole sizies.

    1. You should totally sell this as a picture book.

  2. I would buy it. And send it to my nieces and nephews! :)