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The "Dr. Phil" TV program & sexual orientation

Analysis of the "Relationship Surprises"
episode of 2009-OCT-08

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The "Relationship Surprises" episode:

This episode was broadcast on 2009-OCT-08. It included a great deal of information about sexual orientation that is of particular interest to lesbians, gays and bisexuals and their families and friends. 2 The show involved three main segments:

bullet Dr. Phil interviewed TV personality and author 5 Jane Valez-Mitchell who struggled with alcoholism. She explained that once she became honest about her addiction, she was eventually able to become honest about her sexual orientation. She acknowledged, some 12 years after getting sober, that she is a lesbian.
bullet "Barbara" realized that she was a lesbian at the age of 13. At 39, she became pregnant through in vitro fertilization. During her pregnancy, she unexpectedly became sexually attracted to men. For the first time in her adult life, she has become confused about her sexual orientation. Dr. Phil responded by affirming that a child who is surrounded by support and love will thrive in any family setting, whether it be led by a single parent, two opposite-sex parents, or two same-sex parents. He said:

"I think what Denise [a representative of the American Institute of Bisexuality] and I are saying to you is that if you will just relax, and really just focus on your baby, and enjoy that right now and let your body mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically, every way, kind of get back into balance. And I would also not want you to make the wrong assumption that this baby can't have a wonderful, fulfilling, nurturing life with a single mother or with two mothers. Right now what we know is that everybody around that child loves the child, nurtures the child, is peaceful with the child and is focused on the child. It can't get much better than that. If you meet a guy and enjoy it, let that develop. It may become a platonic friendship. ... Let that play out. It's OK. You don't have to be in a hurry. Right now you just need to focus on that little baby who is just about as cute as they get."

In contrast, most religious and social conservatives feel that a child cannot be properly socialized if they are brought up in a family of one parent or two same-sex parents.

bullet "Meeka" is the mother of a 16 year-old young woman who recently revealed that she is bisexual. The mother was disgusted at her daughter's revelation. She felt like vomiting when she found out. She threw her daughter out of the house. She thinks that her daughter's bisexuality is just a fad. Meeka was distressed when she and her daughter went to a counselor who determined after only ten minutes of conversation that the daughter is indeed bisexual. Further, the counselor said that it is OK to be bisexual.

Dr Phil said that parents often feel guilty when they find that their child is not heterosexual. They worry that they did not properly feminize their daughter or masculinize their son. He rejected the validity of this belief, which is often promoted by religious conservatives. He said:

"There's not one study I've ever seen anywhere that suggest that this myth that a dominant mother and a weak father creates a gay boy. And all of those things that you hear talked about, there is just no basis for that." (emphasis ours)

Dr. Phil did not explain in detail which these other myths are.

He affirmed the importance of Meeka supporting and accepting her daughter. He said:

"Kids who are gay tend to have a four times higher rate of suicide than the general population. Kids who are gay and alienated, rejected by their family have a nine times higher rate of suicide than the general population. You add to that a friend who has already modeled that behavior of making an attempted suicide, and I take that very, very seriously. And rather than focusing on what you want the truth to be, you need to try to find out what the truth is and then really focus on educating yourself about it in the interim."

After the show:

On the "Dr. Phil Uncensored" segment, he cautioned viewers about the massive amount of misinformation that is circulating about sexual orientation. He provided hyperlinks to information sources that he finds to be reliable. None of the above referrals promote the conservative Christian belief system about homosexuality:

bullet The Trevor Helpline: (866) 4-U-TREVOR (866.488.7387) This is a help line for teens struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity. It is only available in the U.S.
bullet Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) A gay-positive organization that promotes equal rights for persons of all sexual or.
bullet American Institute of Bisexuality

To which we might add:

bullet PFLAG: Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays PFLAG celebrates "diversity and envision a society that embraces everyone, including those of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities" They promote "the health and well-being of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons, their families and friends." One of their main functions is to help parents cope when one of their children comes out of the closet.
bullet The Gay & Lesbian National Hotline can be accessed from Monday to Friday 6 to 10 PM and Saturday noon-5 PM ET: at: 1.888.843.4564.

Other references to sexual orientation on the Dr. Phil website:

bullet "Christine" asked:

"Can homosexuality be learned and unlearned?"

Dr. Phil answered:

"Homosexuality is not a learned behavior. A sexual orientation is inherited; you are wired that way. Certainly some people will experiment with a gay lifestyle, and a gay person might experiment with a heterosexual one. If she is really gay, she will find a place in that life and in that community. The important thing is that you just love her through that. What difference does it make if she is gay? Accept her, support her and do not be judgmental. It is difficult enough for her to live openly and honestly in this society; don't put your judgment on top of that."

bullet Their website has three pledges directed against GLBT bullying -- one each for:





School faculty

The student pledge states that:

"We believe that everybody should enjoy our school equally, and feel safe, secure and accepted regardless of sexual preference or gender identity/expression."


"Anti-GLBT bullying causes pain and stress to students that are gay as well as students perceived to be gay and is never justified or excusable as 'kids being kids,' 'just teasing' or any other rationalization."


"Our school?s GLBT students, like all students, are entitled to a school and classroom environment that provides an optimum opportunity for education free of fear and harassment."


"Support GLBT students who have been or are subjected to bullying."


  1. Dr. Phil's website is at:
  2. "Phil McGraw," Wikipedia, downloaded 2009-OCT-12, at:
  3. "Relationship Surprises," Dr. Phil Show, 2009-OCT-08, at:
  4. "Is homosexuality a learned behavior?," Dr. Phil, undated, at:
  5. Jane Valez-Mitchell has written a book about her journey: "iWant: My Journey from Addiction and Overconsumption to a Simpler, Honest Life," HCI, (2009). Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store

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Copyright 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2009-OCT-20
Latest update: 2009-OCT-20
Author: B.A. Robinson

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