Dear Dr. Bill. Just this past Sunday my boyfriend told me that when he was a 16 he started attending church and the bishop of the church took interest in him. He said the bishop was highly respected as a man of God and all the parishioners led him to believe that he was special because the bishop favored him. When he turned 17 he went on a trip with the bishop and the bishop coerced him into sex. The thing that's startling to me is that sexual contact continued for several years. He said he was brainwashed, coerced and taken advantage of by a man that he looked up to. I am having a hard time processing that sexual contact continued for so long. I love him, but I do not know if he's gay. He says he is not. I don't have a problem with him being gay, I just don't want to be used as a beard. He said he is not attracted to men and has never been with another man. I don't know if I should leave or stay!? I support gay rights and I want to support my boyfriend, but I do not want to be used as a coverup for him. That's not fair.
In most cases when men admit to having had sexual relations with men for years, I can be a Doubting Thomas when they claim to be straight. However, victims of sexual abuse are an entirely different matter. They can grow up to be confused as to their sexual orientation. The problem in this case is that while your boyfriend was a minor -- and could be considered a victim -- he was not a child, as such. One could almost argue that while it was statutory rape due to his age, his being on the cusp of adulthood almost made it consensual. [Of course the bishop was wrong, wrong, wrong. It was a betrayal of the worst and most selfish kind.] The sexual contact continued well into adulthood. A little boy may be confused into thinking that he is doing the right thing and is not being victimized, but an adult is another matter.
I think you should tactfully suggest that your boyfriend get counseling, which victims of abuse should get in any case (if he hasn't already). He may feel such deep shame over what went on between him and the bishop that he can't help but deny his homosexual feelings, if they exist. Only a compassionate and educated counselor or therapist can determine exactly what's going on with his sexuality if he can't figure it out or accept it for himself. If he has a genuine attraction for men, his denying it and feeling guilt over it, will only make it worse for him. And if, as you say, he is ultimately gay [or bisexual with a preference for men], you don't want to be his beard.
Best of luck.