If you’re not familiar with Amy Dickinson, you should remedy that. She pens the syndicated advice column, Ask Amy, that runs in newspapers across the country, and she’s the author of the terrific book, The Mighty Queens of Freeville. She’s also a frequent contributor to NPR programs like Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! and All Things Considered. This week, Dickinson received a question from a homophobic mother, who writes:
DEAR AMY: I discovered that my son, who is 17, is a homosexual.
We are part of a church group, and I fear that people in that group 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.
Dickinson’s reply is not only hilarious, but also highlights the absurdity of the idea that the son’s inherent sexuality is a willful act of betrayal. She says:
DEAR BETRAYED: You could teach your son an important lesson by changing your own 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.
Thankfully Dickinson doesn’t end her reply without addressing the mother’s throwaway line about “forgetting” her son’s birthday FOR THE LAST THREE YEARS. The columnist writes:
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 sad for him.
Yes, this kind of maternal neglect is extremely sad for child. This is likely the punitive behavior of a mother with Borderline Personality Disorder, or another similar narcissistic condition. Borderline mothers are often cold and cruel to their children, “forgetting” birthdays, but then accusing their children of not loving them enough, not being grateful enough. (Think “Mommie Dearest.”) Anyone who has lived with a Borderline mother will recognize the withholding, dismissive selfishness of Feeling Betrayed. Rather than accept her son for who he is, this mother will continue to live in denial, not only rejecting what is her son’s inherent sexuality, but truly believing that her son’s gayness is a purposeful, personal slight to her. My advice to the son in this situation is to read as much about BPD mothers as you can, and look online for resources that help children of Borderline mothers recover from a childhood filled with this kind of emotional terrorism. It’s not you, it’s her. You’re old enough now to make your own rainbow cake and eat it, too. Here’s to that.