FOF #911 – Michael’s Plea

Jan 15, 2009 · 141833 views

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At the age of 15, West Virginia resident Michael met Wisconsinite Dean Juenke online. As their relationship grew more intense Michael decided to come out to his parents and reveal that he was having a […]

    Comments

  1. Rich Leather says:

    My advice? Accept that his husband might be away for a couple years and, if he wants to continue the relationship, spend the time preparing for his return.

  2. Mark Wilson says:

    OK third time lucky with the Youtube clip of Michael thanking Marc and Fausto.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6JeGlCXsHtM

  3. Steve says:

    Great podcast. Thank you for sharing this story. My heart goes out to him.

  4. Tony says:

    It seems that Michael found what he desperately lacked – someone to listen to and give him attention (he had no gay peers his age and his family was not close). But Dean knew or should have known that adults are not allowed to have such relations, as what occurred here over the internet and phone, with minors. That’s why, unsurprisingly, Dean is in prison. I have no sympathy for the situation they are in. Michael and Dean are the type of people that I find frustratingly naive and deluded.

  5. Enrique says:

    They weren’t treated unjustly. Dean broke the law; in the eyes of the law, it doesn’t make it less illegal if the kiddie in the kiddie porn wants the guy to see it. The idea of bringing Obama into it is insane, and it is beyond deluded to think there would ever be a pardon for this.

    They need to stop with the excuses, own up to the fact that Dean broke the law and now must pay the consequences, and stop speaking out so carelessly in case they make it worse.

  6. Ben says:

    I can accept Michael’s excuse of being naive because of his age at the time. However Dean was a grown man and certainly was aware that what he was doing(accepting the pics and videos from a minor) was illegal. I feel that as soon as Dean knew Michael was only fifteen he should have ended the online relationship. I don’t think Michael’s parents were wrong to alert the authorities. What parent would not be concerned if their fifteen year old child was having an online relationship with a much older person, gay or straight? However, if Michael truly loves him I hope they have a happy life together. After Dean serves his time in prison.

  7. CharlesVer33 says:

    I hope Dean isn’t getting hurt or abused in prison.

    Still this relationship seems very fragile and their hearts might change once Dean comes out of prison, and Michael grows older.

    If Michael was my son I would have probably spent time introducing him to other hot guys his own age, but I can imagine it must be terribly difficult to be a father to a gay son in a bigoted world, not having any resources.

    Still, why wasn’t Michael on any dozens of websites chatting with guys his own age? Probably because the patience and wisdom of someone older than him was really appealing and allowed him an escape at the time from his family.

    Thank you guys again for this excellent show.

  8. rebecca says:

    Excellent interview! This story really hit me hard as I too had a relationship with a much older person when I was 15. It was only with time (and much more experience) that I realized it wasn’t a healthy relationship and that the age gap was unfair for me and seriously affected my growth and development.

    Anytime an adult enters into a relationship with a child (15 years old is still a child in my book) the relationship will always be unequal and the child will be affected. I am also a mother of a 17-year old gay son.

    I would have acted just as Michael’s parent did and I would have pursued the issue with the authorities as well. I love my son and I know he is mature, but I also know that a 15-year old is not mature enough to make decisions that would affect his whole life. Although I wish Michael the best, I can’t help but the think that this relationship won’t last and should never have gone this far.

  9. Michael Rogers says:

    While there may or many not be an injustice in this case, it’s my belief that the LGBT rights movement has more important matters before us, including the right to serve their nation, to buy a home, to have a job…. Here we have a guy who hit on a fifteen year-old and got his naked photos. I’m ready to bet 10 to 1 that the guy rubbed more than one out with the pics in front of him.

    When this kid dumps this guy — and after a bit of therapy and maturity he will — at least a couple of years in jail will hopefully have taught him to leave the next teenager alone.

    I think we can all agree there’s more important work for the activists, academics and lawyers in our community. This is not a gay issue, it’s a child porn issue. Important to report and blog about, but I don’t want to see my donations to Lambda Legal supporting this guy’s right to have naked pictures of underage kids.

  10. Mikey Dee says:

    I totally understand where michael is comming from…most guys our age SUCK. I just think his husband should have waited and been more mature and responsible before he did somthing illegal. LAW are meant to protect us and three years to wait for love isn’t long by my standards. I don’t know all the facts to say he should be pardoned.

  11. David Andora says:

    I don’t have any real issue with the mutual interests between these two, but when I was that age- I really thought I knew what I wanted in life, but surprise, I’m sill figuring that out and enjoying the process. I think it is unwise for an older person to risk so much of his own life over a person with a stark contrast in life experience. But no one asked me.

  12. Alvin says:

    Hmmm…i say just keep both parties at 18 and above and there is no problem…but thats just my opinion

  13. Objective Guy in the East Coast says:

    What can a hot 18 year old boy possibly see in a morbidly obese old man?

    I’m suprised the feds didn’t get Michael in trouble. If it were ok as long as the kid made it himself, there’d be a huge legal kiddy porn market, and a lot of 15 year olds driving BMWs!

  14. RcktMan says:

    Wow… I have never been so conflicted about a Feast of Fools show before. I saw the posting and listened to the show, and I really, truly, wanted to feel sympathy for Michael’s situation… but after letting everything rest in my brain for a while and thinking it over, I’ve come to the conclusion that I just can’t.

    First, I think Michael is a good kid, and has a good heart… but he isn’t thinking realistically at all. Aside from wishing for a pardon from Obama (I’m sorry, Michael, but that is just NOT going to happen), I think that, although he says he’s mature enough to know what he wants and thinks he knows exactly what he’s doing, he really is no more mature than any average 18 year old. While I think he and Dean may truly love each other… I think the adage “Love is Blind” is screaming in the face of everything that’s happened here, and neither one of them wants to admit it.

    Dean was wrong to pursue any sort of relationship with a 15 year old. Period. Whether we believe the law is stupid, or that it goes too far… it is the law, and it should be obeyed. Had they stopped what they were doing when it came out that Michael was 15 (and Michael is just as much at fault there), none of this would have happened.

    But that’s not what happened, and now Dean is paying the price. It’s unfortunate, but that’s how it goes.

    Michael, I wish you and Dean the best of luck, but it’s hard for me to take pity on your situation.

  15. RcktMan says:

    Objective Guy … why would an 18 year old NOT be attracted to a “morbidly obese old man?” Is there some law that states that “fat” people may not be loved? I may not agree with their situation, but at least they’re honest about their attraction. That part is real, and you should hopefully be able to respect that.

  16. Objective Guy in the East Coast says:

    Michael needs to see a therapist, along with his family. It’s obvious he’s hurting inside and everyone would benefit from the ability to objectively look at their situation.

  17. Objective Guy in the East Coast says:

    I think that law exists in IL, NY, CA and FL.

    “Hot people are not allowed within 50 feet of un-hot people.” It was passed by Sonny Bonno in 1984.

    Just kidding here, you’re totally right.

  18. Objective Guy in the East Coast says:

    But if you’re saying “Love is Blind” doesn’t that imply that some of the participants aren’t taking physical attraction in the factor?

  19. Ramon Akwimbi says:

    michael needs psychological counselling. i dont know the whole story as none of us seem to, so i cant say for sure but i think he’s got many complex issues to work through.

    he is one step away from being a law and order SVU episode, one that doesn’t have a happy ending.
    and that’s meant as a warning.

    when i think now of how i was at 15 and basically everyone ive ever known at age 15 im pretty well convinced that michael has no idea what he’s doing, even if he is a few years older now.

  20. Marcin says:

    Let’s not forget one important fact here – Michael was not a child at the time the relationship started. He was 15 y.o. That’s within the age of consent in most of the civilized world, or at least Europe and Canada, where the age varies between 14 and 16.

    Dean may have broken the law, but that does not change the fact that law that sets the age of consent at 18 in this day and age is, simply speaking, completely unreasonable.

    While this is not a direct analogy, obviously, it’s still akin to saying – when seeing the pictures of these two poor Iranian boys hanged for they homosexuality – “Well, they broke the law. In the eyes of the law what they did was illegal, and the fact they wanted to do it does not make it legal.”

  21. sfimporter says:

    Did anyone think of Woody Allen and Sun Yi when they heard this story? While the younger halves of the relationships can claim naivete – the older halves seem like they could use some therapy to understand why they are attracted to the younger.

    I seems like everyone is filling a need that may be unrelated to the other actual person – and more fulfilling because of the mental roles.

    But hey – who can explain love.

  22. JimLJd says:

    I hope that Michael, and of course, Dean is/are reading all these excellent comments! Parents who are very controling tend to have their children react in an opposite way – that’s a law of physics that pretty well applies to human relationships. I think, as a parent, that’s my take on this situation, rather than blaming a 15 year old.

    Who is more responsible are the parents, although, bad things happen to ‘good’ families as well! I think Michael is pretty brave for putting up videos on YouTube & for coming on the show and revealing his story!

  23. Michael Rogers says:

    Rcktman…

    You have a lot of good points. Then this: “Had they stopped what they were doing when it came out that Michael was 15 (and Michael is just as much at fault there), none of this would have happened.”

    I could not disagree more. It’s not the fault of the 15 year old. It is the older man who manipulated a young man. If a 15 year old is declaring himself in a romantic relationship with some older guy he never met, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist — or a psychologist — to know that in this case age is the power play and Michael is the victim.

    The moment the kid said “I am in a romantic relationship with you” the adult should have said, “Wait! Check out hmi.org and nyacyouth.org.” Unfortunately, his psychological issues instead meant he was OK accepting pornographic images of an underage person.

    The real sadness here is that the prison system will not provide any mental health counseling and when Daddy, er I mean husband, gets out it’s Michael who will once again be victimized.

  24. CharlesVer33 says:

    Regardless of what happens, please make sure to seek counseling. Many places offer sliding scale (pay what you can) and there certainly are LGBT youth centers in a major city near you can call.

    Have you also called the Trevor Project? That might give you some great resources to handle all the intense circumstances.

    http://www.thetrevorproject.org

  25. matt says:

    If a younger person wanted to chase after me, I would absolutely say hold on bud. I may want to be a big brother, but I aint going to be his lover.

  26. Mark Wilson says:

    There seems to me to be a lot of suggestions of needing therapy here but I guess that’s the US way, does everyone have a therapist or is that just a west coast thing?

    The three points that are obvious to me are these:

    1. If Michael had been over the age of consent none of this would have happened so no story, no show. I think you they were both naive to think nothing happen because of that. I’m sure looking back they would have done things differently but everyone has 20/20 hindsight;

    2. This will be the big shock for some people, not everyone is attracted to their own age range and body type. There are 9 years between my husband and me, 25 years ago when we first met that seemed a lot, now it hardly notices; my sister who is 4 years younger than me is married to a man who is older than my husband. My parents were nearly 20 years apart, my father was fighting in WW2 while my mother was still at school. Forgive me Fausto if I’m wrong but I seem to recall your parents had quite an age gap too; and

    3. You don’t have to be old to know what you want, my first romance was when I was 13 with my next door neighbour (he was in the same class as me at school) but I knew that someone older was what I wanted. I was raised on a small island (5 or 6 times smaller than Puerto Rico) and didn’t know anyone older or where to go to find them but I knew I was attracted to them even then. Only last year I was propositioned by someone 24 years younger than me and a few years ago I was told by a young blonde guy in the sauna that I was 20 years too young for him!

    Finally Michael/Dean hang in there and try all you can. If you fail at least you did your best.

  27. CharlesVer33 says:

    Part of the overwhelming reason why people are offering the suggestion of seeking counseling/therapy is the fact that Michael (and Dean) and his family have gone through a lot of trauma, and should have a way to process it and cope with the pain.

    Also, its obvious that Michael was seeking a relationship with a much older man as a way of escaping not only his family, but the alienation he felt from his peers.

    When the other people at school are jerks, why would you want to be romantically invovled with them?

    I think therapy of any kind, would be a good place to start. If the therapist doesn’t seem to connect with you Michael, switch. Find soeone you feel you can make progress with and you can afford.

  28. will says:

    input your comment here…YOUNG GAY GUYS IN OUR COUNTRY NEED OUR HELP BUT THIS SENDS THE WRONG MESSAGE THIS MAN TOOK ADVANTAGE OF A TROUBLED .CONFLICTED YOUNG MAN SHAME FEAST OF FOOLS .HOW ABOUT FAUSTO TAKING A BREAK AND MARK AND TRACEY BEING THE HOSTS

  29. Marc Felion says:

    Hey Will, only crazy people write in all capital letters..

    We’re sharing Michael’s story. I’ve had lots of conversations with Michael about his situation and he is now an adult and can speak for himself.

    Although I produced this segment, I’m the co-host and co–producer of FOF. Tracy is a guest, but we’re encouraging her to do some youtube videos so you can get your fix of the lovely lady. This is Fausto’s show so , if you don’t like Fausto as the host, then move on.

  30. Wesley says:

    I pick a poppy for its prettiness;
    And I weed a weed for its wickedness.
    My Love is mine, though my love in not mine.

    Wanting selfishly, I rip up the earth,
    Waiting stupidly, I rest on the seeds,
    So my love is not mine, nor even thine.

    Odd, struck by the ideas in words, cut through
    Air by tooth, tongue, and cheek.
    Turn the other way (no way, but Way).
    So I say, “I blank love, yes, I blank love you.”

  31. Marc Felion says:

    Here’s a good short movie that I learned about from Joe called James that deals with a young kid coming out.

    It’s a free download from iTunes.

    And while you are there, post a good review of Feast of Fools. Thanks in advance.

  32. js46 says:

    Fausto asks the best questions. “Why do you feel it was easy for you to accept the relationship but sort of challenging and difficult to accept being gay.” I think that is the question he could not answer. Perhaps the relationship did not start as a discussion about how to deal with being gay.

  33. MoocherX says:

    Good show. Thanks for asking the right questions, I think the detail is important to know in a situation when an older man is attempting to form a relationship with someone ‘illegal’ (without knowing at the time).

    Less happy with the comments about the show on Michael’s blog. But he’s a confused young man in a difficult situation – it must be tough. And presumably he’s doing this mostly alone.

  34. Chickengirl says:

    good show…i do feel some sympathy for the two…and i think maybe if Michael’s parents had talked with him more before contacting the FBI Dean may not have had to gone to jail….

    but bottom of the line is.. once Dean started accepting the explicit photos and stuff from Michael he was breaking the law. that’s just the is the way it is. sure the FBI might have been homophobic but that wouldn’t have mattered anyways because if it was a hetero relationship the older person would still be convicted. so yeah the two were pretty naive….Dean shouldn’t have accepted the photos from Michael….if he was of legal age then it would have been different but he was 15!

    its unfortunate the two are separated now but laws were broken :/ and yeah that’s how it goes.

  35. SASSOLINE says:

    Good lord, now on his blog he’s calling Fausto & Marc “unprofessional,” I guess because they didn’t fall for his bullshit tactic to try to confuse this as a gay-rights issue. What a snot-nosed little brat. His boyfriend breaks the law? It’s the prosecutors fault! His story fails the “smell test” on your podcast? It’s YOUR fault.

    He needs to grow up and learn to accept responsibility.

  36. Marc Felion says:

    Don’t take that letter too seriously. It was written by a delusional queen that wants to skinny up to Michael by dividing him from those who support him. It’s a classic tactic of an abuser. Will Michael recognize this? What do you think?

  37. SASSOLINE says:

    I think Dean could use some “skinnying up!”

  38. Marcin says:

    My, for a group of people who are vilified and condemned for their sexual attractions, we sure are a judgmental bunch, aren’t we?

    Michael’s and Dean’s relationship does make me little uneasy or makes me wonder at where the attraction lies, but isn’t love in the eye of the beholder? Their relationship would be legal in my country (or, for that matter, in most of the European Union countries) so I cannot condemn Dean for “breaking the law” in his own country any more than I can condemn Oscar Wilde or Alan Turing.

  39. Marc Felion says:

    Michael took the “unprofessional” letter down and issued an apology. He has also clarified that he is not asking for a pardon but rather a Commutation of Sentence which allows the sentence to be changed/modified as requested.

    Also, let’s be mature ad not make fun of someone because of their weight issues.

  40. SASSOLINE says:

    Yeah, I’m judgmental. I judge men in their 30s who enjoy illegal homemade porno pix & videos of a 15 year old boy. If that doesn’t make me as ooh-la-la as Europe, I sincerely do not give a shit.

  41. Ben the Niem says:

    I loved this interview. I think Fausto and Marc did an excellent job of being pretty objective about the whole thing, and they asked very good questions, some that were hard for Michael to answer.

    In a way, though, I would like to hear Dean’s side of the story. Everything’s filtered through Michael, whom I’m afraid is still naive and young. Although he does give some lip service to how love is hard, he’s only really known a distance love… more on that in a bit, I suppose. Anyway, while everyone (well, mostly everyone) is saying that Dean is some kind of monster for his part in all this, I wonder if he felt… trapped, in a way, by Michael? What were there conversations like? I bet it wasn’t always rosy, I bet there were times where Michael sounded desperate. While I do think Dean should have put the brakes when explicit material became available, I bet it would be hard to do that. Michael says they are equally in love, but I bet on some level he’s aware that Dean’s a father figure surrogate. And I bet Dean feels, in some way or another, like Michael’s dad. I still think he should have had presence enough to stop it, but I bet it would have been difficult.

    Anyway, about distance… save for the intergenerational aspect, the story sounds a lot like a furry relationship. And this is coming from a fur. A lot of young furries form these internet relationships. You fall in love more with the idea of a person, and not really the person themselves.

    Reminds a lot of the Bjork song “I miss you”

  42. David says:

    Still I appreciate the intense dialouge here on topics that are usuall taboo and invisible in your more la-tee-dah gay media, who usually put David Beckham on their cover and how he doesn’t mind gay guys jacking off to his pics.

    FOF rules and Marc and Fausto are awesome because they give the listeners the tools to make their own opinions and do so in an incredibly entertaining and inclusive way. Sorry I haven’t been commenting more, I’m one of those listeners who listen religiously but never get a chance to visit the site. So thank you for all theses shows

    Your dedicated fan
    David

  43. Nidocamen says:

    Great interview! My first real relationship was with a guy who was 9 years older than me at the time. I was 19 at the time, so it was all legal……but I have overbearing parents and I had just come out during the past year before the relationship. And yes, it was a way to initially get out of their house because the situation was very difficult. But I made the decision on my own and the other guy didn’t pressure me to leave my parents’ place. Anyways, I can tell u way more stories about it all…….it was crazy and I have a lot of bad memories tied to it.

  44. I heard the podcast and have a lot of feelings about it. Michael is 18, and he is still growing up. Still trying to feel comfortable being gay. I find it troubling he is more comfortable saying he is married to a man than that he himself is gay. And I don’t fault his parents at all for trying to find out what was going on his life or the measures they took. He was 15 to 16 at the time! And he seems to think that somehow the laws of the land do not apply to him. And sorry, I don’t feel too sorry for Dean either, who willing took part in this long distance relationship with a minor.

    And I could not support this relationship by writing to Obama for a pardon.

  45. Christian83 says:

    I listened to the show last week but took some time to think about it. First I felt pity for both of them. But now only for Michael.

    Dean should have been aware of the risk that he might end up in jail. At least he could have deleted the pictures, videos after he had received and seen them. I would not question thier love for each other. Love always has strange ways. My first bf was also 9 years older than me.

    Michael is still very young but should think about what he really wants to do in his future. He should not only wait for Dean till he is back. He should plan his future and at least try to get in contact with gay guys his age. I am sure he can find a true friend his age.

    Just one day after I had listened to this show I saw a short German movie on TV in the evening which was about a relationship between a 30 year old and a 15 year old guy. It was almost same. After some time the parents of the 15 year old found out about the relationship and threatened the 30 year old to inform the police. In most European countries it is also forbidden to have sex with minors, with guys younger than 18 years. Although the 30 year old broke up with the 15 year old, the parents informed the police and he had to go prison.

  46. Michael says:

    Michael Schnyer was not only naive at age fifteen, he still is. Imagine if Barack Obama, after he becomes president today, commutes Juenke’s sentence. As soon as republicans know of it, Obama becomes a one-term president instantly. To even ponder this is selfish and naive of Schnyer. Obama may be the only chance gays have in some time to make some serious advancements, and Schnyer wants to risk that to get his pedofile husband out of prison? Absolutely not.

    Just so you know where I’m coming from, I’m gay, too. But wrong is wrong. Laws are in place for a reason — in this case, to protect minors like Schnyer from himself. I agree with an above comment: Schnyer’s parents were correct to go to the authorities.

    One day, Schnyer’s eyes will open and he will see that a 15-year-old needs to be a 15-year-old. LATER, when a kid becomes an adult, he can then decide if he wants to become involved with a much older man.

    I don’t know the whole story, but I know enough. The INSTANT Juenke realized he was dealing with a minor, he should have stopped this. That’s only legally speaking. Personally speaking, even if Schnyer was 18 at the time, Juenke, still being much older, still falls into the category of predator.

    And superficially speaking, what on Earth would a kid see in a troll like Juenke in the first place?

  47. Micahel says:

    I wrote the comment above, but I’d like to add:

    If more behavior like that of Juenke’s gets public attention, the Sean Hannity’s and Bill O’Reilly’s of the world are only going to magnify it by using it to ruffle the feathers of their fans who would absolutely eat this stuff up.

    Michael, think of the big picture, not only about what you want for the moment. And TRUST me, you will want something else sooner than later. One day soon, you’ll be asking yourself: What was I thinking?

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