from Escaton, I stumbled across Bradford Plumer laughing at Dr. Dobson's (this excerpt of the letter is actually contained in a quote from some quack, but dobson is quoting it positively)oh so helpful advice to father's trying to straighten their gay sons out:
"[T]he boy's father has to do his part. He needs to mirror and affirm his son's maleness. He can play rough-and-tumble games with his son, in ways that are decidedly different from the games he would play with a little girl. He can help his son learn to throw and catch a ball. He can teach him to pound a square wooden peg into a square hole in a pegboard. He can even take his son with him into the shower, where the boy cannot help but notice that Dad has a penis, just like his, only bigger."
There was no lack of rough and tumble games in my household and although I still throw like a girl, my dad and I worked on innumerable workworking projects together and somehow I still ended up gay as an ace of spades. As to the last suggestion, I can only thank my father for having not tried such methods to ensure my straightness. (I am trying mighty hard to avoid the obvious Michael Jackson jokes).
So, I of course ended up going to sponge dob stickipants' web site to see if he had any more helpful tips:
Dr. Dobson's Newsletter: June 2002
I have read this man's stuff and listened to his radio shows for years, basically because I think he is a crazy person, but one to whom many in my family listen. I don't know if it is the way he twists information and misrepresents 'facts' or the psuedosympathetic love-the-sinner way he does it that pisses me off more, but he always manages to piss me off something special. There is too much here to even begin to address, but let me comment on one little snippet which makes me want to punch something:
"In 15 years, I have spoken with hundreds of homosexual men. I have never met one who said he had a loving, respectful relationship with his father."
Oh shut the fuck up.
I have a great relationship with my father and even though there were times when we fought when I was a kid, he was around more than most other fathers I have met. You want to know why coming out to your family is often such hell for people? Asshole statements like this trying to place blame on someone for something that shouldn't have blame attached to it at all. My parents were great through the whole coming out business (with a few notable bumps in the road, all of which center around sponge dob and his ilk), but on occasion my dad implies that he feels responsible for my homo condition. Which I tell him is horseshit and to quit listening to idiots and if he feels the need to try to take credit for something to do with my big ol' gayness, then he can be proud he raised a son who could grow up gay in rural AL without coming out emotionally tramatized on the other side and who has taken it all in stride instead of internalizing the popular bigotry that so many people (I looking dead at you mr. prez, dr. dobson, pat robertson, etc.) try to shove down our throat all the time. He can take credit for raising a son with backbone and self confidence, but if he cares to whine about me ending up gay or trying to think back to something he could have done to prevent it, he is going to be told to shut up.
dr. dobson's logic really just makes steam pour out of my ears. Yes, there are plenty of gay guys who had horrible relationships with their fathers and I might even be willing to be that there might might even be a higher instance of strained relationships between fathers and gay sons than between fathers and straight sons, but you would need a lot more information before you could argue that this suggests a causal relationship. A simpler and more likely explanation might be that in a society where homosexuality is actively vilified, only recently decriminalized, and is held up as being in opposition to masculinity, a homosexual son might be more likely to be withdrawn or defensive than a straight son or a father may feel more pressure to try to revamp his son's interests which could lead to further friction. If my father had even tried to force me to play baseball instead of turning over stones and catching bugs and snakes (as I spent a majority of my childhood doing), I would have been one pissed off little ballplayer with a bad attitude which dobson would tell you that I should have been punished until I submitted. Instead, he took me fishing and took me hiking and to zoos and pet stores. Perhaps the reason I don't have the requisite bad relationship with my father which dobson thinks gay sons are supposed to have is precisely that he didn't do what dobson or popular bigotry recommended: he instead supported his son's not always orthodox interests and developed an honest relationship with him. There were plenty of rocky patches and I was often a withdrawn and hostile kid, particularly to my parents, but they never gave up on me or wrote me off or tried to crush the things about me that didn't add up the macho charicature of what a boy is supposed to be like so when I came out on the other side of the chemical and emotional imbalance that is adolescence, there was still a relationship to build and common ground to be found.
james dobson vilifies exactly the wrong people and makes life harder for kids and parents everywhere. He has made an empire out of telling people what they want to hear: you are angry and your child doesn't respect you? hit 'em. you son is a pansy? you can change him and you are right to do it. In some sick way his message is empowering ("You can do it and God wants you to!"), but at the end of the day it is craven and misinformed and ends up hurting people. I thank my parents for being selective in what of his advice they took to heart (although I can't say I don't wish they would quit listening to him altogether).