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Parenting LGBT youth

A father, due to his LGBT beliefs, disowns his
son. "The letter." The son's reaction. Analysis.

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2007-FEB: A father sends goodbye letter to his son:

Dad disowns son 1

A father, identified only as "Dad," allegedly sent the following letter to his son James in 2007-FEB. It followed a telephone call during which James told his father that he is gay James was about 28 years-of-age at the time:

"James: This is a difficult but necessary letter to write.

I hope your telephone call was not to receive my blessing for the degrading of your lifestyle. I have fond memories of our times together, but that is all in the past.

Don't expect any further communication with me, no communications at all.

I will not come to visit, nor do I want you in my house.

You made your choice though wrong it may be. God did not intend for this unnatural lifestyle. If you choose not to attend my funeral, my friends and family will understand.

Have a good birthday and good life.

No present exchanges will be accepted.

Goodbye,

Dad." 2

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2012-AUG: James posted the letter on the Internet:

"James," the son, under the pseudonom "RegBarc" posted the letter during the first week of 2012-AUG to the Atheism section of the web forum Reddit. He added the title: "This is how hate sounds."

During a later interview with the Daily News he said that he is a "well-adjusted guy" now aged 33, but that many other LGBT individuals who have a similar experience "... need serious help, compassion, and guidance, through what will unquestionably be one of the rockiest experiences of their lives."

He blamed "zealotry" from Bryan Fisher, of the American Family Association, Maggie Gallagher, former president of the National Organization for Marriage, and Dan Cathy of Chick-fil-A which negatively affected "everyday people."

He said:

"I’ve never done drugs, was an excellent student, an obedient child (far less trouble than many of my classmates), didn’t drink until I was 22 because it terrified me, and have had just 1 speeding ticket in my life.

Yet I am still seemingly deserving of this terrible act of hate and cowardice that one person can place on another. 5 years on and I am still doing fine, though this letter saunters into my mind every once in a while. When it does, I say without hesitation: F..k you, Dad." 3

Reddit visitors responded with comments. Two were:

  • "I actually hope that someday he gets a chance to look deeply in his heart and comes to understand how horribly, terribly he screwed this up. If so, he’ll maybe have a chance to start some personal redemption and healing."

  • "I don’t think 'Dad' is the appropriate term for this man. He sullies everything that name stands for. He should have signed it 'Goodbye, Bigot'." 3

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Analysis of the letter:

Although the father did not mention his son's homosexual sexual orientation explicitly, his use of the term "lifestyle," and the reference to the topic of the earlier telephone call make it obvious that his son's orientation was the reason for his disownment.

Details are a bit sketchy in the letter. However, is is likely that the father believes that:

  • homosexuality is a "lifestyle" not a sexual orientation; it is a choice that a person makes. People can choose to follow many lifestyles: to be single and promiscuous, or to be married, or to engage in serial monogamy; to live in the city, the suburbs, a small time, or urban area; to work for a large company, small company or to be self-employed; etc. Integral to the father's concept of homosexuality is that it is simply one more lifestyle to be consciously chosen from the three or four alternatives: heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality and perhaps asexuality.

  • A homosexual is defined as a person who engages in same-gender sexual behavior. It is not defined by a person's feelings of sexual attraction towards persons of the same gender, or their self-identity, or their sexual fantasies.

  • Heterosexuality, bisexuality, and homosexuality are not all morally neutral. He regards homosexuality as intrinsically degrading to the individual.

  • Homosexuality is unnatural... that is, not found in nature.

  • God considers homosexuality as something that humans are to not be involved in.

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James is one of the lucky ones, relatively speaking:

We are guessing that at the age of 27, James had finished his education, left home, started to be established in a career and become relatively independent of this family of origin. So being disowned by his father was devastating emotionally, but at least did not endanger his life.

James has probably been aware of his sexual orientation for at least a decade and conceivably even two decades. If he had come out of the closet as a teen, and been disowned by his father at that time, then he might well have been thrown out of his home and instantly become homeless.

The National Coalition for the Homeless states that:

  • 20% of all homeless youth in the U.S. are from the LGBT community. This compares with the incidence of homosexuality and bisexuality among American youths that is estimated as about 2% by many social and religious conservatives, about 5% by some sociologists, and 10% by some LGBT organizations and by the National Coalition for the Homeless. The incidence of transgender individuals and transsexuals is very small relative to lesbians, gays and bisexuals.

  • LGBT youth, once homeless, are at higher risk for victimization, mental health problems, and unsafe sexual practices. 58.7% of LGBT homeless youth have been sexually victimized compared to 33.4% of heterosexual homeless youth
  • LGBT youth are roughly 7.4 times more likely to experience acts of sexual violence than heterosexual homeless youth
  • LGBT homeless youth commit suicide at higher rates (62%) than heterosexual homeless youth (29%). 4

Other studies of the sexual orientation of homeless youths have reported that gays and lesbians form between 11% and 35% of the total. 4,5,6

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Reactions to "the letter" are in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Dad disowns son in letter after son comes out gay," On Top Magazine, 2012-AUG-08, at: http://www.ontopmag.com/
  2. Anthony Bartkewicz, " 'You’ve made your choice': Gay man posts dad’s brutal farewell letter disowning him — It goes viral," NY Daily News at: http://www.nydailynews.com/
  3. "Dad Disowns Gay Son With Shocking And Heartbreaking Letter," The Inquisitr, 2012-AUG-08, at: http://www.inquisitr.com/
  4. "LGBT Homeless," National Coalition for the Homeless, 2012-FEB, at: http://www.nationalhomeless.org/
  5. Kruks G. Gay and lesbian homeless/street youth: special issues and concerns. J Adolesc Health. 1991;12:515–518. [PubMed]
  6. Tenner AD, Trevithick LA, Wagner V, Burch R. Seattle YouthCare's prevention, intervention and education program: a model of care for HIV-positive, homeless, and at-risk youth. J Adolesc Health. 1998;23:96–106. [PubMed]

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Copyright © 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance 
Originally written: 2012-AUG-10
Latest update: 2012-AUG-10
Author: B.A. Robinson

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