Several years ago I sat on a plane next to a man who looked to be a bit older than me. In his lap was a thick manuscript. We greeted each other and I asked about the stack of papers he was holding. He said his son was an honors student at a big name college and he was required to do a senior thesis. He went on to say that his son chose to write a novel for his senior project.

I said that was impressive, which brought a smile to the father’s face. I asked if I could take a look at the manuscript and he gladly handed it over.

I don’t recall the content of what I read but I do remember that after a few minutes it prompted me to ask this question: “Forgive me for asking, but is your son gay.”

The father looked at me and said, “He tells me he is.”

Portrait of African-American father and teenage son outdoors at park






I’m sure he could see in my face curiosity about how he responded to that news. He then told me a story about his two sons, this one and an older son.

The older son had graduated with a double major (chemical engineering and business) from a very prestigious college. He then landed a great job, got married, and began a life that was shaping up rather nicely. Sadly, older son became very ill, was diagnosed with cancer, battled it for several months, and nearly died. The father described the terror of those days and his desperate search for support and answers.

He found them in a strongly fundamentalist Christian church. The father spoke fervently about how his newfound faith and the strength it gave him as he witnessed his son struggling and nearly dying.

But now, he said, his faith—his rock—was a confusing obstacle that stood between him and his younger son. His beliefs allowed no room in his family for a gay son. I could see the pain in his face as we both considered the implications: His son was gay and adrift.

For good or ill, I ventured in, where angels fear to tread.

I offered a comment that sounded something like this: “For what’s it worth, the research on male homosexuality is quite clear on the issue of choice or lifestyle. There is no support for it. And as a clinical child/family psychologist, I’ve worked with boys 3- and 4-years of age who engage in cross-gender behavior and meet the criteria for Gender Identity Disorder [a controversial label that is no longer used]. Long-term studies have found that 75-80% of these boys grow up to be gay men. Bottom line: Your son did not choose to be gay.”

The father looked at me and said, “Maybe God put you on this plane for a reason.”