Mother of a gay son says "I tried to change him and nearly killed him. My son and I don't go to church anymore"

Having a gay son deepens mystery of others' hatred
Mary Olson

August 11, 2000 Minneapolis Star Tribune
I read Stephen J. Heaney's Aug. 5 counterpoint, "Human sexuality is about biology, not just about love," and felt a familiar nausea. The statements about God's grand plan, the right kind of relationship, the reproductive organ argument, the comparison of homosexuality to a disordered desire or addictive disorder. Yes, those darn homosexuals, trying to get us to dismiss their disorders and say they're all right so they can quit struggling to rectify their lives.

The big question is: Even if they wanted to not act on their feelings, what does that mean? That they spend the rest of their lives without a close, committed relationship? Or do they marry someone of the opposite sex, try to live a "normal" life and make their spouse miserable? Or is friendship supposed to be fulfilling enough for them? Would it be for you? Do they accept their homosexuality as a particular struggle God has given them, accept their misery on earth, and comfort themselves with promises of happiness they will one day receive in heaven? I don't understand!

My 14-year-old son is gay and every time I read about the Boy Scout controversy, Dr. Laura, church doctrine against performing gay commitment ceremonies, opinions about states that allow gay couples legal marital rights, and so on, it's like someone pounding on me, telling me my son is immoral and deviant and will not have the same rights as the rest of us upstanding citizens.

A big part of the problem is that the people who are so down on gays don't personally know any. I don't mean they don't know so-and-so in the office who's gay or haven't seen a gay character on TV. I mean they don't really know a gay person, an individual. If you know an individual, you know there is more to being gay than sex.

My son has been called a girl, made fun of, and ostracized most of his life. He's a feminine boy, always preferring My Little Pony and Barbie to sports and trucks. So boys ask him to prove he's really a boy. They threaten to staple his tongue to his chin. In private, the straight boys flirt with him and touch him and try to get him to touch them. He thinks they really like him, until he's once again ostracized in public. He changes for gym class in the office because the other boys stare at him, waiting to see if he can prove he's a boy or whether he makes a move where they can accuse him of looking at them. He spent lunchtime in the school library because no one would let him sit with them. He even got asked to move when he sat at a table alone.

I thought maybe my son was gay when he was three because of his feminine ways. Then I was angry at myself for that prejudice, knowing that not all gay men are feminine, and why can't a boy like bright colors and girlish toys? When my son told me he was gay at nine, I thought, no way, he's too young to know! Puberty hasn't even hit yet! He just knows he's different and the kids call him a girl and tell him he's a fag so he's just being affected by those taunts.

I played baseball with him more. I tried to get him to sign up for sports. I signed him up for karate so he could at least defend himself. I coached him on being more masculine. I called it being more assertive, told him to speak in a gruffer voice, told him not to flail with his hands when he was talking. I hated myself for trying to make him into something he wasn't, shaming him for the things he was, buckling under what society considered "normal" and therefore OK. But I was afraid he might end up beat up someday, maybe even dead. I'm still afraid of those things.

When my son at age 12 again told me he was gay, while he was crying and wishing he was dead, I didn't know what to do. I wanted to stop the pain. I wanted to grab all the people in the world who have hurt him personally or through articles like Heaney's counterpoint and drag them into my house and show them the results of their words and actions. Instead, I got my son antidepressants and therapy once a week.

The way my son is the way he is. I can't change him. He's tried to feel attracted to girls but doesn't. Why do people accept other characteristics people are born with? We don't look at anything else in the same way that we look at homosexuality. Suddenly it's about God, and a threat to families and the institute of marriage. Is that because it has to do with sex? I don't get it!

People get upset because gays are in their face, having gay pride marches, protesting at the Republican convention. What? Once a year they get to openly walk the streets showing their affection for each other, something we do and take for granted every day? They are tired of being ignored and treated as less than human. They want to have health insurance, to have their partner receive their pension if they die, to have immediate family visitation rights in the hospital. These are all normal, responsible desires, but we won't even allow them that. This is about having legal, human rights. It is not a conspiracy or grand plot to make us all homosexual or bring on the downfall of society.

"Homosexual acts ... make no sense"? Because the organs fit together, does rape make sense? If a heterosexual couple does not want children, do their sexual acts no longer make sense or is it still OK because they have the organs-fitting-together thing going for them? I hate it when people call their opinions "the truth." Call it your truth, because it certainly isn't mine. God creating feelings in people that he then expects them to ignore? Now that doesn't make sense. It seems like some warped joke that only man could create, not God.

My son and I don't go to church anymore. Even though not all churches preach hatred, the institution has come to represent pain. God's name has been used so much to frighten and hurt people. So I keep asking God to please help people like Dr. Laura and Mr. Heaney see and understand what they are doing to God's children so all this can please stop.