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Poll: Is psychologist Jeff Gardere right about “worst nightmare”?

Timothy Kincaid

November 5th, 2010

Dr. Jeff Gardere is not a hater. The celebrity couples therapist isn’t out to attack the rights of gay people. But he may be making assumptions about parents that are based more in his own internalized prejudices than on reality.

He was a guest last night on CNN to discuss blogger Nerdy Apple Bottom’s posting about her five year old son’s decision to go to a Halloween party as Daphne from Scooby-Doo. In addition to scolding the mother for “outing her son”, he announced a rather shocking and surprising declaration:

“I have to tell you, I work with many heterosexual as well as, uh, gay couples and it is the worst nightmare of both the heterosexual and the gay couples to have to fathom that their child may be gay.”

Now it may be that those heterosexual and, uh, gay couples that I know are anomalous. Perhaps I only have run across very strange heterosexual and, uh, gay couples in my life, but I don’t know any who consider fathoming that their child may be gay to be their worst nightmare.

I know some who would prefer that their kid be straight, some who don’t care, and some couples who hope that one of their kids is gay. I even know of one parent who tried to raise a son to be gay… unsuccessfully (but he did end up supportive). Yet I don’t know any who are fearful of such a prospect, much less that it’s their worst nightmare.

But I may be unusual in that way. So let me poll our readers, some of whom are, uh, gay couples who have or hope to have kids of their own.

Is psychologist Jeff Gardere
a blithering idiot
an arrogant heterosexist
none of the above free polls



November 5th, 2010 | LINK

It seems to me that the doctor has ignored the selection bias. Parents who are fine with having a gay child don’t end up in a therapist’s office.

November 5th, 2010 | LINK

What would the doctor say about DEAF parents who express STRONG desire that their own child be DEAF like they are?

Among the minority language users of ASL, a deaf child born to deaf parents or to hearing parents who were the children of deaf parents, they CELEBRATE. It’s perfectly understandable that a parent can, perhaps, be concerned about the hardship a child might endure while STILL being happy to have a child that they completely understand.

David Roberts
November 5th, 2010 | LINK

I saw this early this morning on CNN and it immediately struck me as an idiotic thing to say. On the one hand he commends the parents for standing up for their child, and on the other he paints a gay child as a nightmare. And of course, no challenge from the talking head. Way to help with bullying — not.

There was also the line about how the scorn from some of the other parents was a “natural reaction.” Not too bright.

Ben in Oakland
November 5th, 2010 | LINK

I don’t know anything about the guy. Yet, I’m sure he just wasn’t thinking very clearly.

After he gets himself ripped a new butthole on the Internet Butthole Ripping Machine, he’ll probably apologize and think his position through next time.

On the other hand, he may be right for some parents. Or it may just be that they will think the outfit is in terrible taste with clasihng colors and no sense of style, and think that laco of taste is not really something a budding young gay boy needs on his resume.

Lindoro Almaviva
November 5th, 2010 | LINK

I’m sorry, but I see where the Dr. is coming from, even if I disagree with his assertion.

We all know what we went through as kids, the self doubts, the bullying (is in many cases), the hurt of the coming out process, the fear of rejection, the bible abuse, should I continue?

Would I call it my worse fear? Maybe not, but I do worry for my niece because I know how cruel people are, look at the Republican’t party! They ran 2 very homophobic campaign and attempted to run 2 more, with varying degrees of success.

No parent in their right mind would tell you that they do not lay awake thinking “What of my son had to deal with all the abuse? What of my child had to deal with everything I went through? What if my child has to go through the bullying, rejection, stigma, abuse etc that I had to go through?

You can not tell me that as a parent, I would not thing it would be a lot easier for my nice, or for any child for that matter, would have less of a chance to go through it if (s)he was heterosexual. So you can not tell me there are not parents out there praying God, make my child heterosexual and it is not out of hatred towards anyone, but out of the very real fear that a gay child has a target on their back and considered fair game bu both children and adults.

Sorry if i offend anyone, but this Dr. is verbalizing very real fears that anyone who has a child in their lies, be it a son, daugher, niece, nephew or other close relative, have not experienced in their flesh.

November 5th, 2010 | LINK

Okay, am I the only one from a rabidly conservative, religious area? Am I the only one who remember that school board member who said he would disown his children if they were gay? Am I the only one who has friends who have openly and repeatedly said they would rather their child die in a car accident than be gay? (so no kidding, the husband of a friend of mine actually said he would rather his son get drunk at his prom and die in a crash than make out with another boy.)

Not to long ago, my aunt was watching my seven year old cousin flirt with a classmate and her reaction was ‘at least he’s not gay’. Maybe not a nightmare, that, but in the same neighborhood.

Yes, for some parents and families, having a gay child really is their worst nightmare. There’s a reason our children are killing themselves, after all, and it’s only partly because their friends and classmates can’t accept them. It starts at home, after all.

Lindoro Almaviva
November 5th, 2010 | LINK

I think the issue being taken, rather that straight people thinking gay child is a nightmare, is the “how dare this doctor say gay parents also lay awake at night wishing their kids be straight too.”

I am going to say I would rather my niece be straight and be taught about respecting other people for who they are than she being a lesbian and having to go through all the pain I went through.

Richard Rush
November 5th, 2010 | LINK

While it may not be the WORST nightmare for many heterosexual parents, I do believe it is a huge nightmare for many of them. And while it would be nice to believe the nightmares are due to concerns for their kids having more difficult lives, I believe they are really due to feelings of disgust and revulsion at homosexuality. That is how our opponents win anti-gay voter referendums: They frighten parents into believing their kids may become gay if gays are granted any equality at all.

Gardere didn’t say which type of concerns were causing the nightmares. But in the case of gay parents, if there really are any concerns, I certainly believe they would be about their kids having more difficult lives.

eric marcoux
November 5th, 2010 | LINK

I am 80 years old; married for 57 years to another man who is 82. As a young boy I experienced much of the pain and brutality and bullying currently discussed.

As a Catholic seminarian and as a young Catholic monk I moved into a world where sexuality was simply not discussed. My acquired internalized self-hatred was then externalized and expressed through fasts and self-flagellation.

At 23 I left the physical safety of the monastery; met my love; married him in a religious context, thanks to a rogue Franciscan. And again married him again in a Buddhist ceremony on our 50th anniversary.

In our life together we live the characteristic confusions and stresses and strains and boredoms of our heterosexual married friends. Our neighbors can still hear us shouting at times.

Were we to have children, I would pray they be gay. I would want them to know the particular joys that come to me and my love precisely because we are gay. Having been lied to by the world, told we gay people cannot love one another (we can have sex, but not love), discovering and exploring what tenderness, respect and passion there is in our GAY hearts gives unending wonder and delight. Ongoing revelation.

When I and this old man to whom I am married lie together, sharing wrinkles, sharing the relatively short time left to us, I pray that we might be reborn again as same gender lovers. I still want to know more about him and the love we are all capable of knowing.

Should Jews pray there children not be Jews because life might be difficult?
Should musicians pray their children not grow up loving and revealing music to others because their lives might be difficult? Etc.

Eric in Portand

November 5th, 2010 | LINK

Well here’s the thing: assume for the moment he’s right. What on earth is the point of saying it? Is he trying to imply that this mother in letting her child dress as they want is somehow turning her child gay? Because that is sorta a hater thing to imply.

November 5th, 2010 | LINK

my 2-cents. I agree with Riva. It is only in the worst of religiously misled homes that such a thing is a “worst nightmare”, because it means that your child is going to hell.

Otherwise, I wouldn’t presume to generalize about parents, without significant care and study.

For instance, I doubt Jonbenet Ramsey’s parents top worry was that she was lesbian. I mean, the hierarchy of their concerns is just wildly different, right?

November 5th, 2010 | LINK

I really doubt that. I’m gay, my worst fear is that something horrible (death, becoming severely disabled, etc) may happen to my future child. I don’t consider being gay horrible. I grew up in a profoundly homophobic home. But I wouldn’t say that being gay was my biggest challenge in life by a long shot. That’s probably in part due to the fact that I’m younger (28), but still.

November 5th, 2010 | LINK

The doctor responded to this:

November 5th, 2010 | LINK

Wow, why do we need a poll for this?

If there’s any picture definition for a quack, it’s this moron.

November 6th, 2010 | LINK

Why isn’t the poll in check box form so you can choose a blithering idiot and an arrogant heterosexist?

November 6th, 2010 | LINK

I picked “blithering idiot” but after reading his further comments in the piece linked by spazmodeus, I’m somewhat mollified.

He missed one obvious connection: If the child actually does turn out to be gay, the support of his parents is going to make a huge difference in the way he deals with it.

November 6th, 2010 | LINK

The central point is everyone should want the child to grow to be a happy, well adjusted adult, whether he be gay or not. And, met with acceptance instead of hatred, if he is gay.

November 6th, 2010 | LINK

Why does everybody immediately think “gay” just because a boy dresses as a girl? When girls dress as boys, nobody thinks anything of it.

Is this really so unthinkable? It’s all very misogynistic, really….

Priya Lynn
November 6th, 2010 | LINK

We all know what we went through as kids, the self doubts, the bullying (is in many cases), the hurt of the coming out process, the fear of rejection, the bible abuse…So you can not tell me there are not parents out there praying God, make my child heterosexual”.

Oh, sure a lot of parents want their child to be heterosexual but thinking that if their child was gay it’d be their worst nightmare? Get real, obviously not. The vast majority of parents are going to have worst nightmares that are far, far more shattering than that.

November 6th, 2010 | LINK

My own worst nightmare for my possible children is that they’ll turn out to be normal. I think my own parents are also glad that all my siblings have their own freakish quirks.
On the matter of bullying at school, my experience is that the excuse for it doesn’t matter. There is a fixed amount of bullying going on and it will latch on to anything. (Bullying at my school rarely went further than taunting, but it was persistent and imaginative taunting.)
But what bugs me most here is that they describe it as a “girl costume”. How many girls dress like that? It’s not a girl costume, it’s a drag queen costume.

Regan DuCasse
November 6th, 2010 | LINK

This Dr. is all of the above. After reading all the comments, I don’t think this part of the equation was touched on. Or if so, barely.

This tests the courage and commitment of the parents to do their damndest to protect and support their child, come what may.

This discussion has been the same whether talking about mixed children from interracial couples, to the gay children of whoever.
To speculation on the motives of parents who have crippling and painful genetic diseases who decide to have a child despite the warnings.

Gay children, more than any others, is why the question: What about the children? Will loom, even before the child is born, the child is the one expected to carry the burden of their parent’s cowardice.

NerdyAppleBottom showed her courage that not all parents confronted with this issue will have.
She’s rare, and she’s public about the protection of her cub, come what may.

The real deal is few parents are allowed or are given the tools, intellectual, emotional or moral, to prepare to deal with having a gay child.

Indeed, the arrogance of themselves and their communities, assume they never WILL have a gay child, and if they do, to respond with the same hostility as an outside mob, rather than instinctual parental protection FROM that mob.
Consider Clint McCance’s statement what he’d do to a gay child of his own.

It might stand to reason, if a gay child has a physical sign of being gay, rather than it manifest after they’ve bonded with their parent, they’d have been left in the wild at birth to die.

So it begs a bigger question why a parent would do the equivalent of that abandonment long after the fact of knowing their child and loving them?

This is NEVER about the child, the adults hide behind that child so they won’t have to examine their own moral cowardice.
This is about the PARENTS and whether they are willing to protect and give their child what they need whether they are gay or not.
After all, gay children DO have straight siblings.
They are expected to be different from each other, yet have the same parental love and guidance and support.

Shame on those mothers A, B, and C that NAB described.
They are those parents whose own cowardice betrayed more than they might think.
And NAB showed them what she was willing to do AGAINST them. Something a lot of faith communities don’t expect, but should.

And I wish more parents of gay children were ferocious, determined and it wouldn’t hurt for them to let it be known they might kill for the love and protection of their own.

If only.
Because if the FAMILIES of gay people got behind them politically as well as socially, there would be a lot more to fight societal homophobia like NAB is doing while her son is still little.
She’s not trying to wait until too late.
She’s doing it NOW.
And more power to HER.

November 6th, 2010 | LINK

What bothers me most about Dr. Gardere’s pontifications is that he says the negative reaction of Moms A, B, and C is “natural.” Put that together with his assumption that having a gay child is a parent’s “worst nightmare,” and he seems to be implicitly giving parents permission to dread a gay or gender-nonconforming child. It seems to me that this is a very unhealthy attitude to eocnourage in parents. What’s natural is for a parent to love, accept, and defend her child, just as Nerdy Apple Bottom is doing. Parental rejection of gay children is NOT natural, it is cultural!

Ben in Atlanta
November 6th, 2010 | LINK

Perhaps as continuing education it would benefit Dr. Gardere to attend some PFLAG meetings and meet some parents for whom the world didn’t end.

I read his apology over at GLAAD and accept it.

I remember my own mother’s reaction when I came out to her and remember it being about her and not about me. I think there is still a little truth in his original statement.

Pam Spaulding had a poll on her blog with “Get off my lawn” as an option. I like that one.

And FYI, American Morning runs from 6-9 am Eastern. Dr. Gardere was talking to Kiran Chetry.

November 6th, 2010 | LINK

Gardere strikes me as a remarkably stupid and unthinking man. So, knee-jerk bigotry of the sort demonstrated by the mothers in the school is “natural”?

Surely, CNN can do better than to tout this ignorant attention-seeker as an ‘expert’.

November 7th, 2010 | LINK

I’m a mom of two and since my kids were born I’ve had a lot of “worst nightmares” that I worry about in regard to them. The list usually consists of things like them dying or being kidnapped or getting some horrible disease but nowhere on that list of “possible horrible, nightmarish things that could happen to my kids” is “being gay”! My kids are 16 & 13 and I’ve talked to them about their sexuality & they know that if they do have questions or realize that they’re gay, that doesn’t change the way I love them. It’s just sad that there are people out there that think being gay would be the worst thing that could happen to their child!

Priya Lynn
November 8th, 2010 | LINK

Kristie you’re my hero.

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