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A Gay-Friendlier Dr. Laura

Timothy Kincaid

July 1st, 2008

dr-laura.jpgI’ve listened sporadically to the Dr. Laura radio show for years.

Dr. Laura Schlessinger, who dispenses advice – usually common sense – to callers with relationship and other issues, has had a rocky history with the gay community. Originally she was fairly friendly and matter of fact. But in 1998, Schlessinger converted to Orthodox Judaism and I began to detect a change.

More and more Dr. Laura seemed to encourage her listeners to do more than “go do the right thing”; she advised them on political opinions and partisan issues and sought their help in influencing legislation. Time previously spent on advising housewives about how to deal with their mother-in-law was now used to complain about law or the culture.

It was also at this time that Schlessinger’s attitude about homosexuality took a sharp turn. While previously supportive, Dr. Laura began to use terms and support ideas that were less than favorable.

Dr. Laura began to support, ex-gay claims and efforts. Her language also came to reflect a changed view about the nature of homosexuality. In 1998 she made her now famous statement,

“I’m sorry, hear it one more time perfectly clearly: If you’re gay or a lesbian, it’s a biological error that inhibits you from relating normally to the opposite sex. The fact that you are intelligent, creative and valuable is all true. The error is in your inability to relate sexually intimately, in a loving way to a member of the opposite sex – it is a biological error.”

And in 2001, ex-gay gadfly Richard Cohen published his book Coming Out Straight: Understanding and Healing Homosexuality with a foreword by Dr. Laura Schlessinger. In it she states, “It will open the door to a new, happier, and fulfilling heterosexual life.”

For some time a battle raged between Dr. Laura and the gay community. When Schlessinger got a TV deal for her own show, a group of gay activists including John Arivosis started a website, StopDrLaura.com, which monitored the site, contacted sponsors with documentation of Schlessinger’s anti-gay content, and identified embarassing programming decisions.

Schlessinger tried to downplay her statements and made public apologies. But after her television show was canceled she maintained and expressed bitterness against the gay community and gay persons on her radio show.

But in 2003, Schlessinger denounced her affiliation with Orthodox Judaism. She told her radio audience that while she still considers herself a Jew, “My identifying with this entity and my fulfilling the rituals, et cetera, of the entity — that has ended.” And as recently as the past week, Dr. Laura has mentioned that she does not keep Kosher.

Since her deconversion, I’ve noticed a softening of Dr. Laura. She seems less interested in preaching and more interested in finding practical solutions to her callers’ problems.

Today, while out getting lunch, I heard Dr. Laura address a caller. Considering her history, I was particularly interested to hear how she would respond to this young man who “really very much wants to get married and have children and grow old with some woman” – but finds himself attracted to men. He had been living celibately but was finding his life frustrating.

I was wondering if Dr. Laura would advise reoreintation efforts or perhaps marriage with the intent of denying himself and living with fidelity.

But she told him, “No.”

Dr. Laura told the caller that a woman wants a man who wants her, and that it is unfair to deny some woman a chance at a real relationship.

And although the caller hopefully expressed that he had had girlfriends in the past, at no time did Dr. Laura suggest that he was anything but gay or that there was even the possibility of “change”. She told him that while she would like to be “a Fairy Godmother (pardon the term)” and grant all the wishes of her callers, she can’t and we don’t always get to have what we want.

She then went further and told him that he would be happier if he came out to his family. She recommended throwing a big “Coming Out” party and invite everyone.

I wish that she had told him that gay relationships can provide a loving commitment in which he could grow old happily. But she did tell him that her own personal closest friend is gay.

And I wish that she didn’t believe that children need both male and female presence. But she did tell him that if he lived with his mother (for that female presence) that there’s no reason he couldn’t be a great parent to kids who need one.

I do wish that Dr. Laura Schlessinger would use her access to an audience that most of us cannot reach to bring about civil equality and social acceptance. But I am happy that today, on the air, Dr. Laura provided a pragmatic real-life response in a way that was neither judgmental or confrontational. She treated this gay man’s concerns for what they were and offered neither a sermon nor false hope.

Comments

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Scott
July 1st, 2008 | LINK

Laura is an entertainer. She really only goes with which way the wind is blowing.

She was hot to do interviews with Robertson and Dobson 5 years ago when it benefitted her but now that the landscape has changed she’s moved on to something else the pleases her audience.

Drowssap
July 1st, 2008 | LINK

Dr. Laura told the caller that a woman wants a man who wants her, and that it is unfair to deny some woman a chance at a real realtionship.

She is 101% correct on this point.

Emily K
July 1st, 2008 | LINK

I’m in awe.

I wonder why she “de-converted.” I wonder if it IS just a publicity ploy to get on the good side of the right size audience.

Devlin Bach
July 1st, 2008 | LINK

The Lord works in mysterious ways . . . ; )

Zeke
July 1st, 2008 | LINK

I also wish she would have told the young man that not only would it not be fair to the woman but it wouldn’t be fair to HIMSELF. A person who doesn’t love, respect and take care of his own needs can hardly be expected to love, respect or take care of the needs someone else.

Jeez, if Dr. Laura has left Orthodox Judaism after being such a loud, proud and sometimes mean proponent of it there may be hope yet for David Benkoff especially considering how much they sounded alike on the issue of homosexuality and the advocacy of sexual “reorientation”.

Joe Kort
July 2nd, 2008 | LINK

This is great news about Dr. Laura! I wrote a piece about her in 1999 when she was promoting homosexuality as a biological error and a sadness.

Thank you so much for posting this. Maybe there is hope for change for us all to accept each other.

Warmly, Joe Kort

Bobs Friend
July 5th, 2008 | LINK

About the worst advice I’ve ever heard given in public was a call to “Dr.” Laura by a young single mother who was going to get a GED and some job training. She had to find someone to care for her kid during those hours and was considering day care.

The good “doctor” told her that if she couldn’t find a friend or relative to leave the child with — if it came to finding a daycare facility — to just go on welfare and forget about school and job training. “You can always do that later,” she advised. Right.

There’s no telling how much harm this woman has managed to do in her career, and changing her religion and attitudes more often than she changes her hairdo doesn’t cancel that out. Nor do coy references to her “bluntness” and “honesty.” WTF???

Mark
July 6th, 2008 | LINK

I believe in cutting the woman a bit of slack. I used to listen to her before she became anti-gay, and liked her conservative but gay friendly advice. So we can hope her change back to a more gay friendly direction will last.

And I don’t think the idea that children might benefit from having both a strong male and female presence in their life is out of the bounds of reasonable discussion.

paul
July 9th, 2008 | LINK

Mark,

Dr. Laura is pretty free about dispensing attitude, so she should be able to receive as well as give. Okay, not a very nice attitude on my part… sigh.

I am glad to here of her deconversion from Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy, fundamentalism with the oft accompanied notion that one can speak for “GOD” with all the incumbent authority, has done more damage than any number of doctors touting their particular cure. Add the two together and, in short you have a ghastly mess!

Steve Schalchlin
July 10th, 2008 | LINK

I also, about a year ago, heard her tell a lesbian caller that if her family did not accept her partner, that it was the family who was in error, and that she should live her life honestly and with integrity with her partner, telling the family to just deal with it.

cd
July 12th, 2008 | LINK

“I wonder why she “de-converted.” I wonder if it IS just a publicity ploy to get on the good side of the right size audience.”

Oh, going all religious ‘n’ rigid was a kind of fad in the late Nineties. After all, the Unbelievable had happened: a powerful man had gotten a couple of blowjobs from a younger woman.

I think the Orthodox Jewish thing was a way for “Doctor” Laura to put being part Italian Catholic and part Jewish together- in a retrograde way, or simply the worst parts of both worlds. (Or maybe it was just all Dennis Prager’s fault. :) )

After a couple of years she apparently got a clue that Jewish Menshlichkeyt and tough Italian femininity were in fact a better mix than Catholic severity plus strict Jewish cultural forms.

Carl
July 12th, 2008 | LINK

Dr. Laura’s recent support of gay callers and, it seems the larger gay community, is surprising. Before I came to know the stories of two close friends who had once been gay, I was quite convinced the being gay was largely based in genetics. I now think being gay is based in unresolved conflicts and, one day when it is allowed, good science will bear that finding out. So, since Dr. Laura is such an astute student of human nature, her recent position on being gay is surprising and disappointing given her larger track record.

Emily K
July 12th, 2008 | LINK

Well, carl, until that day happens…

Jim Burroway
July 12th, 2008 | LINK

Carl,

I’d suggest that you might consider the problem of basing a theory covering every gay person on the planet on the experiences of two close friends. You migjht be surprised that not everyone shares their experience. In fact, it’s quite rare.

The best evidence is that there are likely many different factors or combinatins of factors for different people. To suggest that it is always one cause or always another cause, and that this answer applies exactly the same to everyone, is not borne out by science.

Carl
July 15th, 2008 | LINK

Jim,
Agreed. Basing a position on the experiences of two friends would be silly at best. My opinion was forged over a number of years from study, insight from a non-religious psychiatrist friend as well as a number of wonderful gay and lesbian friends. Many thanks for the civility and the opportunity to disagree respectively.

Timothy Kincaid
July 15th, 2008 | LINK

Carl,

You are, of course, welcome to your opinions. I would caution, however, that there does not seem to be any evidence that orientation is mutable to any measurable extent.

Two evangelical therapists, Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse, attempted to determine whether orientation could change through religious ministries. Although they showed that individuals are capable of changing what they call themselves (a much trumpeted result), they also found that on average there was little to no measurable change in attraction for their prospective sample.

Those who champion reorientation loudly broadcast stories about those few individuals who reported themselves as having changed. But when you look at the details, these “heterosexuals” were still plagued with wandering eyes, sex dreams, lustful thoughts and other indications that “heterosexual” was perhaps not a completely honest word choice. And they certainly don’t mention that one of those few persons later told the coordinators that his reported “change” had been born of a desire to please the researchers and to meet his earnest efforts but had in reality been nothing other than wishful thinking.

Sadly, the evidence, such as it is, argues that very few – if any – persons ever change the direction of their attractions.

That isn’t to say that they cannot craft a happy life either celibate or within an opposite sex marriage. We all deal with what we are given and sometimes we can find happiness by compromising personal fulfillment to meet our religious values.

But it is to say that so far, unless we are presented with evidence that is yet unknown, I’d have to say that for the vast majority of same-sex attracted individuals, the direction of their attractions (sexual, affectionate, romantic) will not change.

It was this, I believe, that Dr. Laura came to recognize.

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