DEAR ABBY: I recently attended a friend's party that was being given to celebrate their son's 18th birthday. I thought it would be cheeky and fun to buy him a risque card from an adult boutique, thinking everyone would get a good laugh, and we'd have something to roast the young man with. When he opened the card, he had this look of horror on his face, ran out of the room all teary-eyed and went directly to his bedroom. His mother picked up the card and immediately asked me to leave. I was really embarrassed but unsure about the reason.
I gave them a week or so to cool off. I called back only to be informed by the mother that I had violated her son's sanctity of sexual orientation because he identifies as a "they" and "prefers androgynous boys to women." She went on to explain that as a result of my "indiscriminate sexism," I'm no longer allowed around the family.
I feel I should've been informed of the child's orientation being such an important aspect of his ... or rather, "their" identity, and tried to explain it was an honest mistake and would never happen again. My friend said the damage was done, and they can't forgive that kind of arrogance and blatant disrespect for "their" gender identity and sexual orientation.
Was I insensitive for not asking first, or should the parents have taken the initiative to inform me so I wouldn't make such an egregious error in what I assumed was a well-rounded friendship? Any advice would be great. -- WANTING TO SCREAM IN EUGENE
DEAR WANTING: I think one lesson to be learned here is that some people are not comfortable with sexual humor. Another is that it is a mistake to assume that everyone is straight or cisgender.
I'm sorry that the young person was embarrassed. Your apology should have been directed at them, not their mother. But since the mother has now decreed you persona non grata, you will have to accept it. It's unfortunate. The family overreacted. What could have been handled as a simple teachable moment was blown out of proportion.