Greatest Advice Column Ever

If you grew up reading Dear Abby’s hackneyed and out-of-touch advice, this column is going to make you smile. A parent wrote in to Amy Dickinson, a syndicated advice columnist, saying that her son is gay and she feels “betrayed” and wants her to talk some sense into the young man. The mother’s letter:

Dear Amy:

I recently discovered that my son, who is 17, is a homosexual.

We are part of a church group and I fear that if people in that group find out they will make fun of me for having a gay child.

He won’t listen to reason, and he will not stop being gay. I feel as if he is doing this just to get back at me for forgetting his birthday for the past three years – I have a busy work schedule.

Please help him make the right choice in life by not being gay. He won’t listen to me, so maybe he will listen to you.

– Feeling Betrayed

And Dickinson’s brilliant reply:

Dear Betrayed:

You could teach your son an important lesson by changing your sexuality to show him how easy it is.

Try it for the next year or so: Stop being a heterosexual to demonstrate to your son that a person’s sexuality is a matter of choice – to be dictated by one’s parents, the parents’ church and social pressure.

I assume that my suggestion will evoke a reaction that your sexuality is at the core of who you are. The same is true for your son. He has a right to be accepted by his parents for being exactly who he is.

When you ‘forget’ a child’s birthday, you are basically negating him as a person. It is as if you are saying that you have forgotten his presence in the world. How very sad for him.

Pressuring your son to change his sexuality is wrong.

If you cannot learn to accept him as he is, it might be safest for him to live elsewhere.

A group that could help you and your family figure out how to navigate this is This organization is founded for parents, families, friends and allies of LGBT people, and has helped countless families through this challenge. Please research and connect with a local chapter.

– Amy

Best. Advice. Ever.

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  • cry4turtles

    May I assume that the world just got a teeny weeny bit less religio-thuggish?

  • Al Dente

    You could teach your son an important lesson by changing your sexuality to show him how easy it is.

    Whenever I hear or read someone saying “being homosexual is a choice” I want to ask them “when did you decide to be heterosexual?”

  • barry21

    That letter strikes me as bullshit. Is “Betrayed” really stupid and narcissistic enough to believe that forgetting the kid’s birthday three years in a row caused teh gay?

    Now that I think of it, stupidity and narcissism are never in short supply…

  • Michael Heath

    The letter’s got to be a Poe. Not because there aren’t scads of conservative Christians out there who abuse their gay children, but it’s just too perfect and humorously shallow. E.g.,

    I feel as if he is doing this just to get back at me for forgetting his birthday for the past three years . . .

    [bold by Heath]

    Ed leads with:

    If you grew up reading Dear Abby’s hackneyed and out-of-touch advice . . .

    I grew up reading twin sister Ann Lander’s advice column every day, from the time i was about eight or nine into adulthood. I’m very grateful for to her. I grew up in an extremely small rural fundie town where her pragmatic advice, as compared to the arbitrary moral edicts of the Bible as read by fundies, helped validate I was the sane moral one.

    One day when I was very young I came across a word in her column that sounded very important. It reminded me of the word president. So I asked, Mom, what’s a prostitute?. I don’t remember the response, only the spasmodic moment that followed. I was fortunate my mom didn’t stop the paper subscription or restrict me from reading any part of it, and am still a newspaper addict to this day.

  • David C Brayton

    Why didn’t I think of that response ten years ago?

  • julial

    Well done Amy. Sexuality is chosen by force of will just as much as shoe size is. Similarly, trying to change it is unhealthy and painful.

    Whenever I feel holier than anybody, I ask myself: what is it that I believe deep down in my heart of hearts which will be proven false in my lifetime. Of course I answer myself, “why nothing, nothing at all.” However, I never believe me.

    You really can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Fortunately, we get new dogs every day.

  • hunter

    Michael Heath @ 4:

    The more I see this story, the more I’m convinced you’re right — it reads like something from The Onion. She’s afraid her church friends will “make fun” of her? Seriously?

    That said, I’m still glad Amy took the opportunity to write what she did.

  • caseloweraz

    The letter to Amy Dickinson might well be a Poe. But by the same token it might not be. Amy was correct to treat it seriously, and her answer IMO is brilliant.

    And before I leave I’d just like to recommend John Prine’s takedown of Dear Abby. You can find it on YouTube.

  • alanb

    Whenever I hear or read someone saying “being homosexual is a choice” I want to ask them “when did you decide to be heterosexual?”

    The problem with this response is that there is a group of people for whom homosexual behavior is indeed a choice – bisexuals. And research suggests that a number of homophobes fit into this category – they are projecting their fear that they will be unable to control their own impulses. You might want to keep that in mind if the person reacts by looking at you like they don’t know what you’re talking about.

  • grumpyoldfart

    I don’t believe that bit about forgetting his birthday for the last three years.

  • timpayne

    “Dear Abby’s hackneyed and out-of-touch advice” you say?

    Clearly a sign of misspent youth, you never heard her good stuff.

  • Nomad

    Alanb, I’ve tried that before, asking someone trying to argue that it’s a choice if they were aware that they were basically implying that they were bi. They were basically puzzled, and repeated their assertion several times. When I asked them point blank if they chose to be straight they firmly denied it.

    I tend to think that the choice gambit is more about putting the blame on homosexuals because the person is feeling a pang of guilt about what they’re doing and want to believe that it is the gay person’s own fault. In other words victim blaming.

  • tfkreference

    It’s a Poe in the sense that it’s indistinguishable from parody.

    As ridiculous as some of the details are, I wouldn’t be surprised either way.

  • Now, look, everybody knows that it’s a choice. For homosexuals. Normal Americans are how God made them and couldn’t change even if they wanted to, no matter how much they want to.

    Ignore that last bit.

  • zmidponk


    The problem with this response is that there is a group of people for whom homosexual behavior is indeed a choice – bisexuals.

    You’re actually making the same mistake as those who genuinely believe ‘reparative therapy’ works. Behaviour and sexuality are not the same thing. It is perfectly possible to be homosexual, but exhibit no homosexual behaviour. Equally, it is perfectly possible to be heterosexual, and exhibit no heterosexual behaviour. In the case of bisexual people, it’s not the case that they wake up one morning and say ‘today I’m going to be heterosexual’, then wake up the next morning and say ‘today I’m going to be homosexual’, it’s that, in a sense, they’re both at the same time – and, again, they didn’t choose this, it’s just the way they are.

  • serena

    Woah woah woah…. bisexuality isn’t some special category that is separate from ‘gay’ and ‘heterosexual’. Nobody “chooses” who they’re attracted to, period. I don’t wake up on a given day and say “Oh today I’m going to be gay, last night I was straight.”

    Now excuse me while I crawl out from under the bus I’ve been thrown under -.-

  • gerryl

    I like Amy’s response, too, but unfortunately some people are big believers in “default settings.” As far as they are concerned, their way is the normal way. Getting to “normal” is simply a matter of doing a reset. Like we are all smartphones, or something.

    When I was a teenager a friend insisted that everyone is “born” Christian. It’s not a choice. When I asked about people who were born into Jewish or Buddhist families, she backtracked a bit and said anyone who was not born into another religion is, by default, Christian. She, by the way, was catholic, and she was telling me that I was a Christian — whether I wanted to be or not. I had no choice in the matter.

  • mithandir

    Slightly off-topic, but I tend to get a bit annoyed at the focus on “it’s not a choice” as an argument, because I don’t see how it matters. Yes, research shows sexual attraction is generally inborn, but even if it wasn’t, if homosexuality was indeed a choice that was as easy to make as what colour of coat to wear … would that make a difference? Would the bigots suddenly be right in stigmatizing it? Should we all be condemning it, if it were a choice? Putting too much emphasis on the choice argument can be made to sound like “Yes, it’s evil, but they can’t help themselves.”

    Now I know almost nobody here thinks like that, and that the choice argument is simply a convenient line of attack against the bigots, but still …

  • I agree with mithandir. Although rather than a line of attack against bigots it’s usually their line of attack against us. So it’s good to have a defense handy.

    I was born BI and I’m-a gonna die BI by and by.

  • birgerjohansson

    Um, we tripods from Stavromula Beta can, indeed, choose our sexuality. The old gonads and organs are discarded during the yearly moulting so it is no big deal.

    I would not recommend sapient primates to emulate the process.

  • mithandir

    birgerjohansson @20: But in HHGTTG Stavromula Beta turned out to be a club in london. Does that make you a barstool ?

  • cry4turtles

    @#8. I love John Prine. Thought I was the only one left at the bottom of the lake!

  • scienceavenger

    I’m not wild about the response. People like that mother think we are all born inherently heterosexual, and everything else is an immoral choice. Telling them to choose immorality is just going to come across as unserious nonsense to them. I prefer to attack the absurdity that someone would choose to become gay. Something subtle like this:

    Damn it, my mother forgot my birthday again! I’m so pissed, I think I’ll start sucking cock. That’ll show her!

  • Pierce R. Butler

    … Dear Abby’s hackneyed and out-of-touch advice…

    Not always. Both she and her sister “Ann Landers” recommended and stood up for Planned Parenthood, even during the peaks of anti-choicers’ nationwide campaign of vilification of PPFA.

  • freehand

    Al Dente” You could teach your son an important lesson by changing your sexuality to show him how easy it is.

    Whenever I hear or read someone saying “being homosexual is a choice” I want to ask them “when did you decide to be heterosexual?”

    I have asked them, and I was not surprised(1) by their responses, all some version of this: “I don’t remember, but I know it was a choice”

    So… you could choose to be gay?

    “Yes, but I choose not to be, because it would be wrong.”

    Wait – you don’t want something now, but you could *decide to want that thing?


    They have no introspective ability. Their misunderstanding of other people is merely an echo of their misunderstanding of themselves. They cannot distinguish between “deciding that they like something” and “deciding to like something”. If they taste different ice cream flavors, they believe that they chose to prefer one over the others, rather than discovering that they prefer that one.

    This letter is a Poe, and therefore might be parody, but half my family thinks like this, if you can call it thinking. There is no leaving these cults; there are only some who escape.

    (1) Since I was raised by Southern Baptists.

  • jeevmon

    Dear Abby was actually on the side of the angels on this one. One of her most memorable letter responses was as follows:

    Dear Abby:

    About four months ago, the house across the street was sold to a “father and son”—or so we thought.

    We later learned it was an older man about 50 and a young fellow about 24.

    This was a respectable neighborhood before this “odd couple” moved in. They have all sorts of strange-looking company. Men who look like women, women who look like men, blacks, whites, Indians. Yesterday I even saw two nuns go in there! They must be running some sort of business, or a club. There are motorcycles, expensive sports cars and even bicycles parked in front and on the lawn. They keep their shades drawn so you can’t see what’s going on inside but they must be up to no good, or why the secrecy?

    We called the police department and they asked if we wanted to press charges! they said unless the neighbors were breaking some law there was nothing they could do.

    Abby, these weirdos are wrecking our property values! How can we improve the quality of this once-respectable neighborhood?

    Up in Arms

    Dear UP: You could move.