Steve Ralls

You Can Drive a Prius AND Love Your Gay Son, Too

Filed By Steve Ralls | April 28, 2008 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Media
Tags: Details Magazine, fatherhood, John Cepek, LGBT families, PFLAG, sons

As Terrance Heath pointed out here at Bilerico recently, there was a perplexing and, some might say, offensive article on the Details Magazine blog about straight men's reaction to the idea of having a gay son. Even the most progressive of heterosexual men, blogger David Hochman concludes, just can't come to grips with the idea of having a gay son. These Prius-driving, Obama-supporting, Project Runway-watching future dads, Hochman would have us believe, just aren't quite ready to experience the world of "butterfly wings" and "tea parties" in the boy's room at home.

Which, of course, begs two important questions: First, Straight men watch Project Runway?! And second, what pre-historic rock does David Hochman live under?

There are, of course, plenty of heterosexual men who haven't just accepted - but have also fully embraced - their gay sons. And they're speaking out in response to Hochman's absurdity in a week-long series on the PFLAG blog.

The series, which will feature a different story from a PFLAG dad each day this week, kicks off today with PFLAG National president John R. Cepek, father of both a gay son, and a straight one, too.

"A child of the sixties, I wanted my children to march to a different drummer, and so when I learned John is gay, I clapped along with the beat," Cepek writes.

"As a matter of fact, I also have a straight son. The three of us went fishing, threw snowballs at each other, wrestled, chased each other around Uncle Frank's house, argued and fought, played soccer, played catch, watched movies, threw water balloons, went swimming, and participated in nearly all the activities dads and sons undertake. Truth be told, John didn't come out until his first year in college. If he had come out earlier, I'm sure he'd agree we have done all of the same things together."

That's a far cry from the anonymous straight men in Hochman's article, who, he says, love sipping margaritas with the gay couple across the street, but become concerned when their sons watch Hannah Montana "with a little too much glee."

Which begs two more questions: Someone over 12 knows who Hannah Montana is? And why couldn't Hochman find a straight man with the -ahem- "cajones" to go on the record?

"Frankly, the article strikes me as phony," Cepek writes today. "I'm not keen about anonymous sources for one thing. For another, the article confuses gender identity and sexual orientation, dishing up stereotypes left and right. Finally, the article cites an expert who observes that parents 'overestimate the miserable life their children will have if they're gay.' But all three of the anonymous sources are surrounded by successful, presumably happy, gay men. How could these three be so intelligent and progressive and ignore their own experience?"

So Cepek and other PFLAG dads are setting the record straight about their experiences with their gay sons.

Perhaps Hochman's anonymous dads would like to invite them over for a margarita, so they can learn that it's perfectly OK to drive a Prius and love your gay son, too.

(The PFLAG dads' series will continue throughout the week, on the PFLAG National blog.)

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Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | April 28, 2008 1:04 PM

My dad bored the heck out of the rest of our family and his friends talking about his son. The years I and my partner sponsored a Little league team in Chicago my dad came to several games and loved seeing my business name on the boys jerseys. But it was not about that. I had a father who believed in me and knew I was gay for years before it was ever discussed.

He was not as emotionally available as what Mr. Heath describes,as the time we spent together was consumed by chores and work. My dad had two jobs when I was growing up and there was little time, but he was of the depression and WW II generation. Working gave him a sense of security leisure could not afford him.

There was never a discussion of effeminacy or that I might embarrass him about anything. He was secure in himself about his masculinity and my decisions were my own. In short, he trusted me to make decisions for myself and yet he was protective of me.

The last year and a half of his life he lived in my home with my partner and myself and it was the greatest gift imaginable. To be there for him, to give him a bear hug twice daily and to let him tell me the story of his life that he finally felt I was old enough to know (I was 48). My being gay was incidental. He loved me for being his son.


I fully appreciate your outrage over the issue whether in 2008 there still are straight and otherwise progressive men who would be uncomfortable in accepting gay sexuality in a son. However, I do not understand why you are so surprised by their overt expression of homophobia.

The unfortunate fact is that we continue to live in a society that engages in wholesale discrimination against the LGBT community, and your suggestion that homophobia has been buried under a prehistoric rock simply is not supported by the facts.

In the 1990s the Clintons enacted two of the most homophobic pieces of federal legislation in decades -- DADT and DOMA -- and even today Hillary supports only a partial repeal of DOMA. This legislation which team Clinton signed into law was possible only because -- to continue borrowing your metaphor -- of the bedrock of homophobia that supports our society.

So no, I am not surprised that just a few years later, there still are straight so-called progressive men who would be uncomfortable with their sons' gay sexuality. Indeed, the fact that the Clintons -- who otherwise claim to be progressive if only for self-serving purposes -- supported DOMA and DADT in the first instance probably is a fair indication that they too would be uncomfortable with their son's homosexuality (if they had a son).

Finally, what does watching Project Runway have to do with whether one is gay or straight? It's a tired cliche.

Steve Ralls Steve Ralls | April 28, 2008 1:39 PM

Lord. Have. Mercy.

Hillary Clinton is now responsible for making straight men uncomfortable with the idea of having a gay son? Is there anything (anything?!) the Hillary-haters won't blame her for? Pretty soon, they'll find a way to blame her for the melting polar ice caps . . . the destruction of Pompeii . . . and Katie Couric's poor ratings on the CBS Evening News.

Let's conveniently forget that Hillary didn't sign DOMA; didn't support DA, DT as early as 1999; and didn't vote to write discrimination into the constitution. And let's forget, too, that her opponent hasn't introduced legislation to repeal DA, DT; hasn't endorsed same-sex marriage; and doesn't think a trans-inclusive ENDA will be a reality anytime soon.

Nobody's perfect (yet many are better than what we have now), but nobody's the sole reason for everything that's wrong in the world, either. If that were true, we could also blame her for my 'Project Runway' JOKE, which obviously wasn't as funny as I thought it might be.

If a politician supports blatant anti-gay discrimination -- such as DOMA and DADT --then yes that politician is perpetuating hateful attitudes that make straight people uncomfortable around gays including relationships between straight fathers and their gay sons.

Your contention that Hillary did not sign DOMA and DADT is a little silly since she unabashedly is running based upon her experience as First Lady and repeatedly touts the record of Bill as among the reasons to vote for the Clinton team for a third term. (Moreover, Hillary is only for a partial repeal of DOMA, and Obama is for a complete repeal of DOMA.)

No, Hillary is not the "sole reason" for homophobia in America; she just happens to be a standard-bearer of well-entrenched homophobia in society, and she is unwilling to expend political capital on behalf of the LGBT community to change these hateful attitudes and discriminatory practices.

Remember: Hillary claims she wants to represent the values of the bible-clinging gun-toting white ethnic working class voters in small town and rural America. Where do you thing the LGBT community fits within that value scheme under a possible Clinton third term?

I realize that Hillary enjoys a lot of support among the LGBT community -- as did her husband who, prior to DOMA and DADT. also claimed that he supported our rights in his troll for votes. Lie to me once, shame on you; lie to me twice, shame on me. Go ahead: vote for Hillary. Just don't say nobody warned you if she and Bill throw the LGBT community under the bus once again in the event she gets elected.

James Baldridge | April 28, 2008 3:34 PM

Bravo! Sometimes I think that all these articles do is, while trying to be positive, end of hurting more than they help. I have VERY accepting parents. My dad went through the, I am sorry to say, typical hand wringing and worry, but mainly because he knew my life would be harder as a gay boy and then man, and what parent ever wants his child's life to be hard. To this day Dad is interested, in touch, and excited by my successes and helpful and supportive in my failures. I couldn't be happier with how I was treated as a child, and I wouldn't trade my dad for anything in the world. I am sure he'd add his name to any article saying so!

OMG, I heart PFLAG! Can I just give all the PFLAG moms and dads out there a big hug and a warm batch of cookies? Seriously!

Personally, I thought the joke was funny, Steve. Not everyone is so thin skinned.

I dunno. It might be fake, that's a possibility, but I think there's a difference between a father who has a son who might be gay versus one who is already out. The former hasn't had to deal with it directly yet, it's still abstract, and he hasn't become involved in anything like PFLAG yet.

I mean, homophobia exists, right? There are still lots of parents who don't want gay kids.

Like mine before I came out, and I'm sure they'd have said the same things about being OK with gay friends before hand. My mom even lent her support to putting together a GSA at her school before I came out. But that didn't change the fact that when I did it took her a good two years of an emotional roller-coaster to get through it.

Cher said pretty much the same thing when she got depressed over her lesbian daughter even though she works so much with gay men.

I don't see what's so bad about acknowledging that some people are somewhat homophobic even if they otherwise are good people.

I ♥ PFLAG and Project Runway.

But I agree with HOGB that stuff like Bill Clinton's support of DOMA help contribute to the climate of "I'm tolerant unless it's my family..." where everyone proclaims to be great big happy diversity advocates until the chips are down. But is that Hillary's fault? Nope. The decision to sign it was Bill's alone.

OK, but big question: do I get points on my q-card for the cher reference, Bil?