This week, I read an excerpt of a memoir by Robert Oscar Lopez, a bisexual man in his 40s who blames his lesbian parents for his crappy, sexually-confused life. I’ll concede that some lesbians are probably not great parenting material, but the same can be said for any parent—gay or straight. In fact, the childhoods of two of America’s most outspoken anti-gay leaders–Scott Lively and Fred Phelps—were pretty awful.
Lopez’s moms (who did not raise him from birth, by the way, and did not live together until he was 19 and briefly home from college) are now being touted by far right pundits as examples of “bad gay parents,” an idea that was recently brought to light in a gay parenting “study” by University of Texas Associate Professor Mark Regnerus. Regnerus’ study was flawed, as we now know, because he ignored two very important factors: the trauma of a broken home on a child’s development—something that Robert Oscar Lopez certainly experienced—and the difference in children raised by gay parents from birth (Regnerus only had two cases of this), from those raised by parents who came out later in life.
Gay parents do not cause dysfunctional adulthoods, but bad parents do. With everything we know about the psychological trauma of broken homes and absentee parents, is it any wonder that Lively and Phelps were the products of really, really dysfunctional childhoods? Each man grew up to create an anti-gay organization that was eventually labeled a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. And each man is a strong believer in the importance of a male and female parent in the home. That last fact is interesting, but not for the reason they think it is. When you grow up in an abusive or broken home, the “perfect” family—one without the “evils” of society—is always on the horizon. Is it any wonder these two men grew up to hate gay people—those men and women who survived their own childhood “trauma” (coming to terms with their sexual orientation in a heterosexual world), only to be truly self-realized? Taking a look at the childhoods of Phelps… and Lively may some light on their hatred of homosexuals, and their constant obsession with “traditional family values.”
First, the Massachusetts pastor responsible for the “Kill the Gays” campaign in Uganda, Scott Lively. By his own admission, the Abiding Truth Ministries founder was an alcoholic by the time he was 12 years old. In a short autobiography on his website (ScottLively.net), he states that his father was psychotic, and that as a young boy he took to the bottle to cope with his father’s behavior. By the time he was 16, all hell broke loose:
At 16 I watched my father, in a state of extreme psychosis, engage in an armed stand-off with the state police in my childhood home, over an incident involving my dropping out of school. He eventually surrendered and was driven away in the back of a police cruiser, never to return. He spent the rest of his life in the state mental hospital.
Nothing against Lively’s dad, but it makes a lot of sense that Scott Lively’s immediate family member would be really, really crazy. Just listen to Scott talk about gays (in one of his Uganda presentations), and try to figure out why he hasn’t been taken away in a police cruiser, himself:
“If your definition of homosexuality is being able to do whatever you want to and that you should be able to go and engage in sex with another person and because of that the disease you have is going to spread to that person and they’re going to take it home and give it to their wife, how much tolerance should we have for that?…zero tolerance.”
“If you catch them at 12 years old, which they are working very aggressively to do and you tell those children that if you have an attraction towards someone of the same gender, that means you’re gay and because you’re gay you need to come with us.”
With the home life Lively had at the age of 12, it sounds like he would have been better off with a couple of gay parents. (I’m joking, of course, but I think you see my point).
Lively is not the only gay basher with a missing mother and a crazy father. Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps, of “God Hates Gays” infamy, was five years old when his mother died of esophageal cancer, and his father disappeared from his home life for the next 10 years. During that time, young Fred and his sister, Martha Jean, were raised by an aunt, even though his father lived in the same town. In the book “Addicted to Hate: The Fred Phelps Story,” by Robert S. Levinson, a friend of the family described Fred Phelps’ father as a time bomb:
“If he [Phelps’ father] got mad, he was mad all over. He was ready to fight right quick. He was mad, mad, mad.”
With a father like that, and young Fred’s obsessive interest in boxing (a friend from his grade school said that Fred was known for leaving his “mark” on other children), it is not surprising that he had a few “daddy” issues. The biographer pressed Fred’s only sibling, Martha, for more information, but she refused, saying that she would “not talk” about their childhood until Fred had died.
Let’s hope that she gives a press conference. People have been trying to decipher Phelps’ gay hatred for years—and she may hold the key.
A huge caveat here: a bad childhood does not mean that one grows up to be a homophobe, a closeted homosexual, or the leader of an anti-gay hate group.
But it doesn’t hurt.
No childhood is perfect, and no parent is, either. But when you associate a bad childhood with a gay parent (which both Phelps and Lively do in their professional rhetoric), it creates a false perception that a child needs a at least one heterosexual parent to turn out emotionally and socially “okay.” But did Phelps and Lively end up “okay?” Depending on who you ask, most people would say that the hatred in their hearts runs pretty deep.
Whether you are raised by a single parent, a gay parent, or a “traditional” mother and father, the one ingredient you need (to not turn psycho) is unconditional love. (This is especially true if you think your parent will disown you for being gay, but that’s another story).
Phelps and Lively, sadly, missed out on conditional love from their fathers. It didn’t make them gay, but it made them full of hate.
And what kind of childhood is that?