“Can I Lie To My Father About Being Gay So He’ll Keep Paying For College?”

The Times' "Ethicists" column weighs on being closeted to protect your future.

One New York Times reader is facing a moral dilemma that may hit close to home: Can he lie about his sexuality in order to get his homophobic father to continue paying for college?

gay college student

Writing to the NYT Magazine’s Ethicists column, he explains:

I am a young gay man in college. My father generously pays for my tuition and rent. The problem is that he does not know I am gay.

He has made it very clear that if I were, he would not only withdraw all financial support but also cast himself entirely out of my life. His suspicion arose in high school when he found love letters between me and another male student. I swore they were meaningless and have since been defending my heterosexuality.

Questions about my sexuality are inevitable whenever I come home. My father has demanded I produce archives of all emails and text messages for him to review, although I have successfully refused these requests on the grounds that he has no claim to my adult communications.

Is it ethical for me to continue accepting financial support for my education and my career that will come from it? Could I continue to lie to accept the support and one day disclose my sexuality and pay him back to absolve myself of any ethical wrongdoing?

While the three columnists, all queer, agreed it was the writer’s father who was truly unethical, their advice varied.

Writer-psychotherapist Amy Bloom:

Lots of people keep these things from their parents, and you can do that in a completely honorable way. The letter writer can, in his position of dependency, lie to his father and know that although he is not taking the bravest or most admirable stance, his lying is understandable. You can certainly forgive yourself for the lying in this circumstance and maybe be mindful of the fact that this will not last and that you won’t have to keep lying.

Gay College Students - Horizontal

Ghanaian cultural theorist Kwame Anthony Appiah took an even stronger stance: “Not only is this young man entitled to conceal the truth from his father, but he doesn’t owe him a repayment later when he can afford it.”

Kenji Yoshino, a legal scholar at NYU, doesn’t think it’s unethical to lie, either—but he suggested the writer seek out alternative funding so that he no longer had to rely on his bullying father.


He recommended the Point Foundation, an organization that provides scholarships for LGBT students, who are often in precisely this situation.

“In a sense,” Yoshino wrote, “the organization has ethically anticipated the letter writer’s dilemma.”

Do you agree with the columnists? Got your own opinions? Leave your answers in the comments section, below!

freelance pop-culture blogger (NNN, MTV Iggy, Oxygen) / recovering academic / wannabe club kid / satanic hipster / talentless DJ.