A Gay-Friendlier Dr. Laura
July 1st, 2008
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.