I know, I know—“nut job” is not a civil salutation. Intellectually, I know that the use of such phrases is neither nice nor likely to be very productive. But cut me some slack, and I’ll explain.
Every time I write a column for the Indianapolis Star discussing equal rights for GLBT persons, I can count on receiving a letter from the same long-time “fan” (who is a fan only in the sense that he obviously reads my columns. Otherwise, as Jon Stewart might say, not so much). The essential message is always the same, faux-solicitous one: I am doing a terrible disservice to my gay son by not providing him with the “treatments” that are available to make him “normal,” by which Mr. Nut Job means straight. These treatments, he unfailingly informs me, have been “proven” by extensive scientific research, with which I need to familiarize myself.
The letters often include Xeroxed copies of this so-called research, inevitably the sort of stuff endlessly churned out by right-wing “scientists”—guys hired by the same fine people who first alerted us to the homosexual agenda being pushed by Sponge-Bob Squarepants and Tinky-Winky.
Having learned long ago that the very worst thing you can do when you attract this particular type of pen-pal is to respond, I routinely route the correspondence to the circular file and go about my business. But I’ve been brooding over the last letter, and instead of continuing to mutter under my breath, I decided I’d use this column to vent, and to write the response I’d send if I thought the person at the receiving end possessed anything akin to an ability to process logic.
So—here’s my open letter to nut job:
Dear Mr. Right-Wing Obsessive,
Thank you for your twenty-third letter, explaining why I should run, not walk, to the nearest reparative therapy practitioner with my “abnormal” “sick” “disabled” son. I will give serious consideration to your suggestions once you respond to a few questions.
First, I’d like you to calm my concerns about the therapy itself. (Since you claim there are great amounts of credible scientific data available, I’m sure these questions will be easy for you to field.)
How will this therapy affect my son’s non-gay behaviors? You know, the personality traits that dictate what sort of human being he is when he isn’t in bed? My son, for example, is extremely popular with all kinds of people (even with lots of people that you might consider “normal.”) He has tons of friends, gay and straight. Everyone in his family adores him—his brothers, his stepfather, his stepsisters, his nieces and nephews. Will this therapy make him even more gregarious and lovable?
My son is both book-smart and street-smart, and he has always earned good money and been self-supporting. He pays his taxes without whining about it (do you?) and he is generous to charities and to his family and friends. He’s also a very good citizen; he votes, he recycles, he helps those who are less fortunate. Will this therapy further enhance his common sense, his IQ or his compassion?
Assuming you can assure me that I won’t change this wonderful human being by destroying a relatively small but nonetheless essential part of who he is, I also have some questions about the reason for your extreme interest—dare I say obsession?—with my child’s sexuality.
Will your life improve if my son is no longer gay? If so, how? Will America be safer? Will global warming abate? Will we find new sources of energy? Will Christians all begin acting like Christians? What, exactly, will change? What accounts for your insistence that my son—whom you do not know, whom you have never met—must change his very identity, a very important part of who he is? And what accounts for your evident eagerness to tell other people how they should live?
For that matter, how many wonderful friends do you have? How close is your family? How many kindnesses do you extend to those you live and work with?
In short, what makes you think you are even one-tenth the person my son is? And where the hell do you get off telling me that he is “sick”?
When you can give me satisfactory answers to all these questions, maybe I’ll take you more seriously. (But I get to determine what constitutes a “satisfactory” answer.)Yours Truly, a mother who is immensely proud of her son just the way he is.
Thanks for letting me vent. I feel much better now.