I Think Our Son Is Gay by Okura is really about how to be a good ally. It may be more difficult than it appears because you have to decide which battles to take up on your own and which to concede to your loved one. When Tomoko began to wonder if her older son Hiroki, a second-year high school student, was gay, her adventure began. Even though he hasn’t told her yet, she is well aware of the potential consequences for him. Both observing and worrying are equally important to her story, and both require that she give her words and deeds some serious thought.
She made several observations in volume one, one of which was that she thought Hiroki had a crush on his best friend Daigo. Daigo had been a regular visitor to their home for three volumes, so when he suddenly stops, Tomoko (and Yuki, though he’s more subtly about these things) worry. When she inquires, Hiroki gleefully informs her that Daigo has begun dating a member of their group. The news shocks both Yuki and Tomoko, and Tomoko is concerned about how her son is handling it.
Manga has long addressed the theme of a crush meeting a significant other, to the point that works like No Longer Heroine outright acknowledge the cliche. Tomoko is unsure of Hiroki’s reaction or whether it alters his feelings, however it’s likely that his crush was never going to be shared. It’s interesting that she doesn’t consider the fact that gender doesn’t really factor into that; just consider Asumi, a childhood friend of Hiroki, and her intense but unrequited infatuation on him. She is concerned, though, that since Hiroki’s options are more constrained, he would find it more difficult to get over Daigo—or at the very least, he might never get the chance to be open and honest about his feelings.
She talks to her gay coworker Mr. Tono about the situation in order to accomplish this (without actually explaining her motivation). Since Tono is the only openly gay character in the series to date, he serves as Tomoko’s de facto assurance that her son will be okay. Tono is a fascinating character. He also demonstrates to her how callously brutal the world can be. Tomoko sees with discomfort how Tono’s employees treat him more like a fictional character than a real person, making assumptions about him based only on media stereotypes rather than who he is as a person. Even though Tomoko rarely speaks to them, we can see how each microaggression and errant assumption affects her perspective on the world and the way she thinks. For instance, Tomoko is made to consider the possibility that she may have previously considered it amusing when a TV show had a part that makes fun of attempts to “test” someone’s heterosexuality. Now, though, all it does is remind her of how insensitive and terrible that “joke” actually is. She consistently puts her son’s comfort and well-being first, which is a crucial component of being a strong ally.
Despite playing a much less part in the story, Yuki’s lack of interest in romance is still hinted at in this volume. Tomoko feels concerned when Asumi’s mother and other local ladies sneer that if he went to the movies with a girl, she must be his lover. She is aware that Yuki is not interested in dating, but she is unsure of why she feels uneasy about the assumptions made by the other ladies. It may not be ready to declare Yuki to be aromantic and/or asexual, but the inclusion of Tomoko’s discomfort is significant since it acknowledges that there is no set period of time during which someone will become interested in dating. The brief mention of Yuki’s life illustrates how important it is to let people live their lives at their own speed. In order to stop the kind of rumors he has faced, it is crucial that Yuki himself suggests that he might stop coming to the movies with others. I Think Our Son Is Gay, as always, deftly draws attention to the negative aspects of social norms, heightening their resonance.
This volume is noteworthy in addition because Daigo has a chapter written from his point of view. It doesn’t answer the question of whether or not he’s aware that Hiroki likes him romantically, nor does it reveal if he reciprocates. But what it does show us is that Hiroki is an important person to Daigo and that he wasn’t sure how having a girlfriend would affect their friendship. If anything, he was willing to continue to put his friendship with Hiroki first, but Hiroki himself quashed that idea. The whole thing implies that this close friendship may not be forever, because the boys could want very different things from each other. But that bittersweetness is part of growing up, and it’s good to see that Daigo, too, is grappling with it.
This continues to be an excellent series. It’s deceptively powerful for something written and drawn with a light touch. Okura delves into a variety of topics (including the disconnect between straight guys thinking lesbians are “hot” but gay men are “gross”), and his use of symbolism with the mascot doll Daigo gave Hiroki is well-executed. Warmhearted and poignant, this is a series worth reading.