Here’s Why Jeffrey Dahmer Never Came Out to His Parents & How His Family Reacted When They Found Him With a Man

Jeffrey Dahmer
Photo: Getty Images.

As true-crime followers know, Jeffrey Dahmer was gay, but what may come as a surprise is how his family learned of his sexuality and what their reaction was based on their conservative values.

Dahmer—also known as the Milwaukee Cannibal and the Milwaukee Monster—was an American serial killer and sex offender who murdered and dismembered 17 men and boys in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, area between 1978 to 1991. Dahmer earned his nickname as the Milwaukee Cannibal after police found that many of his murders involved necrophilia (the sexual act with a corpse), cannibalism (the act of humans eating another human) and the preservation of his victims’ body parts, usually their skeletons.

Dahmer, who was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and schizotypal personality disorder, was convicted of 15 of the 16 murders he committed in Wisconsin and was sentenced to 15 terms of life imprisonment on February 17, 1992. Dahmer was sentenced to a 16th term of life imprisonment in 1978 for another murder he committed in Ohio. Dahmer died on November 28, 1994 after he was beaten to death by Christopher Scarver, a fellow inmate at the Columbia Correctional Institution in Portage, Wisconsin.

Since his death, Dahmer has become the inspiration for several TV shows, movies and documentaries, including Netflix’s 2022 drama series, Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, in which he’s played by American Horror Story alum Evan Peters. In an interview with Netflix in September 2022, Peters explained why the serial killer was the hardest role he’d ever played. “I was very scared about all of the things that Dahmer did, and diving into that and trying to commit to [playing this character] was absolutely going to be one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life because I wanted it to be very authentic,” Peters said. “But in order to do that, I was going to have to go to really dark places and stay there for an extended period of time.”

He continued, “I have to say that the crew was instrumental in keeping me on the guard rails, I cannot thank them enough and I could not have done any of this role with them…It was a challenge to try to have this person who was seemingly so normal but underneath all of it, had this entire world that he was keeping secret from everybody.” “It was so jaw-dropping that it all really happened. It felt important to be respectful to the victims and to the victims’ families to try to tell the story as authentically as we could.” Dahmer is also the subject of Netflix’s 2022 docuseries, Conversations with a Killer: The Jeffrey Dahmer Tapes.

Netflix got into hot water over its initial classification of Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story as it came with the LGBTQ+ tag upon its release on September 21, but following social media backlash, it removed the tag.

One Twitter user pointed out how inappropriate the tag was, saying, “Slapping the LGBTQ tag on Dahmer like ‘Looking for LGBTQ content?? Well boy do we have the show for you! Where every episode another LGBTQ person gets massacred & eaten!’ It’s like saying Schindler’s List is a family flick for Jewish people.”

Was Jeffrey Dahmer gay?

Jeffrey Dahmer

Image: Marny Malin/Sygma via Getty Images.

Was Jeffrey Dahmer gay? Dahmer came out as gay for the first time to a judge in 1989 after he was convicted of sexual assault and enticing a child for immoral purposes, according to the Don Davis’ 1992 biography The Milwaukee Murders: Nightmare in Apartment 213: the Twisted True Story of the “Real-life Hannibal Lecter.” The book reported that Dahmer came out as an attempt to seek a more lenient sentence. Dahmer came out again two years later when two police officers were called to his home when his neighbors found a drugged 14-year-old boy named Konerak Sinthasomphone who had escaped Dahmer’s apartment. After Dahmer convinced the officers that the boy was 19 years old and was his boyfriend, the officers returned Sinthasomphone to Dahmer’s custody and left the scene. Soon after, Dahmer killed Sinthasomphone by injecting hydrochloric acid into a drilled hole in Sinthasomphone’s brain.

Dahmer’s parents, Lionel Dahmer and Joyce Flint, divorced when he was 18 years old. Though Dahmer’s father wasn’t accepting of his sexuality, Robert J. Dvorchak and Lisa Holewa reported in their 1992 book, Milwaukee Massacre: Jeffrey Dahmer and the Milwaukee Murders, that Dahmer’s mother was more tolerant with him being gay. The book reported that Dahmer and Joyce had a conversation over telephone in March 1991 where Joyce told her son that she had “no problem accepting his gayness.” The book also reported that Lionel, a fundamentalist Christian, often made negative comments about gay men and lesbians throughout Dahmer’s childhood and remained against homosexuality even after Dahmer’s trial.

According to Milwaukee Massacre, Dahmer knew his father wouldn’t approve of his sexuality, which is why he never came out to him. “I’ve always felt he was somewhat of a social misfit,” Lionel said in the 1994 special, Inside Evil: Jeffrey Dahmer. “I tried my damnedest to instill interests, in trying to become interested in something in life, education, trying to get him to accept Christ.” Lionel also told reporter Stone Phillips at the time that he would have “tried to change” Dahmer if his son had told him he was gay because he still believed that homosexuality was a sin. After his parents’ divorce, Dahmer lived with his grandmother. According to NBC’s 1994 special, Dahmer and Dahmer, Dahmer’s grandmother was religious and attended a conservative church, where Dahmer would sometimes accompany her. The special also reported that Dahmer’s grandmother kicked him out of her home after she discovered a partially naked man with him in her house.

Though Dahmer hadn’t come out until he was an adult, his attorney claimed in his trial in 1992 that the serial killer had “discovered and accepted his homosexuality” as an adolescent. Milwaukee Massacre also reported that Dahmer “admitted to [him]self he is gay” to his probation officer in 1991 and “told agent that’s the way he is so ‘fuck it.'”

Who did Jeffrey Dahmer date?

Jeffrey Dahmer

Image: Curt Borgwardt/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images.

Who did Jeffrey Dahmer date before he became a serial killer? In an interview with The Plain Dealer in 1991, a woman named Bridget Geiger claimed she went to prom with Dahmer while they both attended Revere High School in Bath Township, Ohio, in June 1978. Geiger was 16 at the time while Dahmer was 18. Geirger described Dahmer as polite and courteous but somewhat aloof to The Plain Dealer and claimed that he asked her to be his date because her best friend dated Dahmer’s best friend at the time. ″He was scared to death of girls,″ she said. ″He was scared to death I was going to kiss him.″

Geiger also told The Plain Dealer that she was invited to a party at Dahmer’s house sometime after the prom. “[There was] no music, no food or drinks – it was a nerd party. There were seven people at the whole thing,” she said. She also claimed that Dahmer and his friend called for a seance at the party. ″Then, after we sat down and were situated, the lights went out and one of the kids—not Dahmer—said, ‘Let’s call Lucifer.’ Then the flame on the candles snapped,″ she said. Geiger told The Plain Dealer that she immediately left the party frightened and hadn’t seen Dahmer since then.

While Dahmer didn’t have any known serious relationships, several of his friends have recalled their experiences with him throughout his adolescence. In an interview with the Phoenix New Times in 2017, John “Derf” Backderf, who attended Revere High School with Dahmer, recalled his reaction when he learned his friend was a serial killer. “I don’t think I had any thoughts,” Backderf said at the time “It was just total shock, followed by weeks of absolute surrealism. “I remember a week or so after his arrest, I was standing in the checkout line at a grocery store in Cleveland, where I live. I glanced over at the magazine display and every … single … cover had a photo of Dahmer staring out at me. This was a guy I sat next to in study hall and gave rides home from school! I just left my cart and bolted out of the store. It was too much for me.”

Backderf also told the Phoenix New Times that he believed Dahmer’s lack of close friends at the end of his time in high school may have contributed to him becoming a serial killer. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that when high school ended, Jeff became a monster. He had lost whatever friends he had when we all graduated. He was utterly alone at that point, with only the voices pounding inside his skull,” Backderf said. “Certainly a big part of the story is the way teenage friendships play out. That’s why it resonates with people. It’s all too familiar, that sort of casual cruelty and indifference. I don’t spare any punches there, which is how you have to approach memoir, with brutal honesty. You can’t be afraid to make yourself look like an asshole.”

Backderf also recalled what it was like to know that Dahmer’s murders were so close to him. “The hardest part to deal with for me was how close my friends and I were to that first murder (in 1978), mere yards away from the body at some points. If the situation had been different, yeah, that could have been me chopped up in the trunk of Dahmer’s car,” he said. “That first murder was a crime of opportunity. Dahmer simply lost control for a second, and Stephen Hicks was dead. That’s all it took. The day he carved up the body, we were all just down the hill at a house party at [another high school friend] Neil’s. I’ve no doubt we were imitating some of Dahmer’s schtick, because it was part of our everyday banter at that time. And 100 yards away, Jeff was butchering a corpse. I had a few sleepless nights over that.”

Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story and Conversations with a Killer: The Jeffrey Dahmer Tapes are available to stream on Netflix.

Jeffrey Dahmer "A Terrifying True Story of Rape, Murder and Cannibalism" by Jack Rosewood

Image: CreateSpace Independent Publishing.

Jeffrey Dahmer: A Terrifying True Story of Rape, Murder & Cannibalism (The Serial Killer Books)

For more about Jeffrey Dahmer, check out Jack Rosewood’s Jeffrey Dahmer: A Terrifying True Story of Rape, Murder & Cannibalism. The biography—which is a part of Rosewood’s The Serial Killer Books series—tells the true-crime story of Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer, a serial killer who terrorized Milwaukee, Wisconsin and murdered more than a dozen people (not to mention committed acts of necrophilia and cannibalism) throughout the 1980s until his eventual arrest in 1991. The book explains how Dahmer, who had an above-average intellect and is described as “conventionally good-looking,” was able to fool everyone around him, including his family, his neighbors and the police, to avoid capture for so many years. Jeffrey Dahmer: A Terrifying True Story of Rape, Murder & Cannibalism also takes readers through Dahmer’s murder trial, his death at the hands of his fellow inmates and how his crimes rocked Milwaukee for decades to come.

Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story and Conversations with a Killer: The Jeffrey Dahmer Tapes are available to stream on Netflix.

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