“Our Son, the Homosexual”

EDA:Hello, I’m Eda LaShan and our subject for How Do Your Children Grow? on this particular program has to do with homosexuality. It was a subject that we talked about a little bit on last year’s series. In that time, we were talking about it in terms of young children and their developing attitudes toward their own sexua1ity and sex information and so forth. I’m happy that this year we are going to have on opportunity to talk to a family where there is a young man who is a homosexual and his parents, who are part of the situation, understand it and know about it. With me tonight is Joe Acanfora, who is a teacher and who is active in the gay liberation movement, and his parents, Lee and Joe, also who are here to discuss how they all have worked this situation and problem out together. I wonder as we get started whether you, Joe, could tell us a little bit about the background of how it happened that you were able and willing to allow the fact of homosexuality to be known about not only by your parents but by a larger community because of something that happened. Could you tell us a little about the background?

JOE III:All right. Well it wasn’t something that was planned from the beginning; it just sort of developed as things went on. I suppose where it all started was, I went to Penn State and - I had realized for a very long time that I felt that I may be homosexual. And I really didn’t know what to do about it and it was really a strong internal battle. And one day I was walking through the student center and there was poster on the board, saying “Homosexuality: A Way of Life.” It was a free university workshop and I just couldn’t pass it up because that was the first time it was a chance to talk to someone else about it. And I started attending these workshops on a weekly basis, and met some people there who were homosexuals, and I realized that they didn’t fit all the stereotypes that are very popular today. And these meetings grew in number until we were getting about 50 or 60 people each week. And we decided that we had a very good group to start an official organization on campus, and try to help other homosexuals who were having prob1ems. And we began the processes to form this group on campus and applied for official recognition and were denied by the university. They said that we conflicted with the educational policies of the university, which were never defined. So we decided to tile a civil liberties action in court saying that we weren’t allowed to freely associate with the people we wanted to, or freely speak out as we wanted to. And I was one of the plain­tiffs in the case because I felt really strongly about this. And this happened at the time I was student teaching, in the town that Penn State is located in. And when the news came out that I was a plaintiff, I was dismissed from student teaching. And I had completed 7 weeks with excellent reports and my students all liked me. I was really doing well - just had three weeks to finish up. So I was dismissed, and it was remarkable that the students in the school ra11icd to my support; they got petitions together, teachers came forward in my support, and even parents of my students wrote letters to the editor, letters to the college requesting I be reinstated. And within a week we took it to court, I got an injunction, I was given credit for the week I missed, and able to finish the student teaching. This was March of this year. Then June when it came time for me to graduate from Penn State, I applied, as everyone else did who was in education, for a teaching certificate in Pennsylvania.

And well, one of the requirements to teach in Pennsylvania - you have to be a person of good moral character. And so the college was faced with the situation where there’s this homosexual who has stated it publicly - not been afraid to state it; now we have to say he has good moral character. Can we do this? And the dean of education refused to do it. He called together a council of 6 deans to decide. They split 3-3 on the decision. So the case went to the State of Pennsylvania, whether or not to certify me, and the State had it for three or four months and just within the last two weeks made a decision to certify me. I was homosexual but I did have the right to teach and met all the qualifications. In the meantime, I had obtained a teaching position in Maryland and was doing very well for the last month there teaching 8 th grade science. And now when they got news of my -- the Secretary of Education of Pennsylvania set a precedent by certifying me. This made the newspapers dawn there, and now I’ve been dismissed from teaching down there until they can investigate what exactly happened in Pennsylvania. So the battle is still going on • I don’t know where it’s going to go from here but -

EDA:And so while you were still a student, it became public knowledge, through the paper and so forth. Did your parents - Lee and Joe - Did you know about Joe’s homosexual preference before this all happened, or did you learn about it at that time? You knew about it before that?

LEE:Yes. Joe had wrote and told us.

EDA:How long ago was that?

LEE:It was about his second year in college that he wrote and told us. Because we were going down to see him that weekend, and - I guess he sort of wanted to break it to us easily. And he wrote the letter first, and this way we could talk about it over that weekend that we went to visit him.

EDA:How did you feel? How did you react?

LEE:Well, naturally I was alone in the house when I got the letter, and - well I was part confused and a little upset. And I was just wishing someone was there that I could talk to. I more or less read the letter a few times just to make sure I heard it straight, and – I – I cried. So uh, I real1y didn’t know what to do, so -- I didn’t want to call a neighbor or anything so I called my doctor. And it was a woman doctor and I spoke to her about it. And I read the letter to her. And she had put my mind at ease and - she said - -whatever she did say, she made me feel so much better, and that when I went down to see my son, she said it would be more or less talked out. And that evening my husband had read the letter, and - his reactions I guess were like mine.

JOE JR:Like a parent, I guess, got upset and a little bit excited, a little bit nervous. But then after a while I guess we sat down and talked about it. We figured Joe was always a smart boy from the time he was born. So whatever decision he made we abided by it.

LEE:And we were more or less quite ignorant on the subject. So we –

EDA:But you liked him, didn’t you? (LAUGHS)

LEE:Definitely – Yes.

EDA:That’s the first thing, isn’t it?

LEE:Definitely. I mean Joe’s always been a wonder­ful person and, I guess this is why we didn’t get terribly upset. Because we knew what type of person he was. So by talking to him and … he enlightened our minds so much.

EDA:You know, it is interesting. Joe was ta1king about what happened at college, and said that you met this group and discovered they were not sick. And I couldn’t agree with you more. I think one of the things that certainly entered into your parents’ reaction and your own first attitudes towards it, is that there’s been a process of brainwashing that has gone on in this country and many other countries in recent years. I think there have been periods in society throughout the history of man where homosexuality has not been considered an illness in any sense of the word. And some of them have been the very best times in the history of art and religion and culture and so forth -- both during the period of the Greek civilization and during the Renaissance. There have been times where people had a very different attitude about it, in terms of the fact that the way people love each other was not the important thing, not the technical part of it, but the kind of human beings they were, and what they brought to the relationship. And I think certainly your reactions of fear and confusion, I think, are very much part of the kind of society we’ve been living in recently. And I think I must say, somewhat shamefacedly, that it is the people of my ilk - in the field of mental health - who have tended to take very broad general kinds of attitudes toward homosexuality and have viewed it clinically, for the past 50 or 60 years, as representing deep neurotic disturbances of early childhood. I don’t happen to share that feeling at all. I think that one of the kinds of things - there have been many research studies; most of them I don’t have much respect for, I must add. The thing about research studies on the question of homosexuality is that, where they may find -- you know, they find that maybe 50 or 60 percent of people who become homosexuals have this or that kind of a family background or fami1y pattern or personality characteristics or so do their families. The trouble with all those studies is that first you’re kind of impressed with them, 50 or 60 percent. What about that other 40 percent - who aren’t so easy to categorize? And what about the general popu­lation of families in which young people may turn out to be heterosexual who may have had the constellation of family patterns which people have talked about as being connected with homosexuality? So I think this first issue of it, whether it is an illness, a kind of mental illness or something, is something that the culture or the society is really wrestling with. And in terms of that I’d be interested to know, when you wrote to your family, how did you describe — what did you say about it, in terms of what your understanding was?

JOE III:Well, first I think every time the subject of homosexuality comes up, people immediately say – All right, what is the cause? And it is usually geared toward the illness -- what causes this illness? And that is where the first basic mistake is. If you talk about heterosexuality, no one ever comes up and asks you what caused you to be heterosexual. You just couldn’t answer it. And the same thing goes for homosexuality - there’s no one answer . And I don’t know it’s especially useful to ask why, if this is this way a very large minority of the population are homosexual. And let’s start there and say, How are we going to accept these people? How do they fit in? Why do we hate them? Why do they have this tremendous guilt? Let’s not ask what caused it, because that’s not especially relevant. If you ask me what causes it, you’re sort of implying, how can you stop it.

EDA:Well, I think a parallel to that is that there are an awful lot of perfectly miserable heterosexuals.


EDA:Who are maybe married and may be on the surface leading perfectly normal lives. Who may be violating each other’s personalities and destroying each other in all kinds of subtle ways. And while we certainly sometimes try to find aspects of their earlier experience which may be part of this, I think it’s an over­simplification to say that the sexual orientation is the key to it. I think what’s the key to whether people are well or not, has to do with the way they relate to other human beings, in terms of what it means to love rather than whether they an heterosexual or homosexual. But I don’t want to put words in your mouth, I was wondering what you did say in your letter, to try to explain it to your parents.

JOE III:Well I told them that I’d had these feelings for a very very long time, as long as I could remember, as a matter of fact • and I had fought and fought and tried to stop it, tried to ignore it, pretend it wasn’t there -- as I know all, I think homosexual people do at first. Because they have internalized all these prejudices society keeps batting out. They think they’ we sick, they think they’re second-rate people, they think they’re disturbed. And, of course, that’s all you hear, so you believe it - until you begin to read other points of view. And you begin to look into yourself and say, Well as far as – I’m okay! I’m not hurting anyone, and I do feel good, so why am I sick? And you say, Well it’s because this person said so. So what kind of reason is that? So, gradually I built up my self-confidence and saw that I was a normal, able human being who had a lot of qualities that were good. And I loved my parents, who were very close. And I made the decision that -- there were two choices. I could either NOT tell them and continue lying to them - making up stories, and we’d gradually drift apart because I saw this happening already early in my college years. Or, my other choice was to tell them, risk a negative reaction. But, I knew that we were very close and through talking it out, we would overcome it. And so I decided to tell them. And I explained how I felt, I explained how I couldn’t possibly be happy going on lying, pretending - I had to be myself. And the fight now would be with other people for them to accept it. It wouldn’t be with myself. And it was a much easier fight.

EDA:So would you all agree that the key issue here was that you were a loving, close family, and you didn’t want to leave that? Is that really, I think, what made Joe share it with you?

LEE:I felt very enlightened by what Joe had told me, and I sort of felt very proud as a mother that he was able to come to me and tell me this. It made me respect him more, that he had the strength to do this. But it was - I felt kind of proud of my husband and myself that he was capable of doing this.

EDA:How was that first weekend visit when you went to college to see Joe after that?

LEE:There wasn’t too much talking then. It was sort of –

JOE III:We were sort of feeling each other out, see if anything had changed, and as far as I could tell, it hadn’t.

LEE:But when he came home for the summer, it was all put on the table, and explained. And I think that’s when dad shook hands with him and it was okay.

JOE JR:Well, like I told him then - I loved you then, I love you now. And I’ll love you afterwards. So whatever choice you make, we’re with you.

LEE:Joe’s always been a good person, and we’d never turn our backs to him.

EDA:And you have a 21 year-old married daughter who, I think, - you have a grandchild too?


EDA:And also a daughter of eight. And does therest of the family now share the information?

LEE:Yes, my 21—ycar-o1d daughter knows it. Matter of fact, Joe and her - they’re only a year apart - they’re very close. And she has accepted it as we have, for the simple reason Joe’s a wonderful person. And –

JOE III:It was such a hard experience. I told my parents through a letter because I knew it was a very emotional issue, and I knew I couldn’t say exactly what I wanted to say face-to-face because emotions would get involved and things would be lost, and things wouldn’t be clear. So that wasn’t too hard, through a letter. I think it was a little easier. My sister, the 21 year-old one - I told her in person, and it was a very emotional experience. But after it was all over, it was a relief. I had told her, we - there was nothing I was hiding from her, we had a full relationship then, and we were still close, and it wasn’t pretending anymore. That’s when it’s worthwhile – it really makes you feel good.

LEE:Matter of fact, when Joe did tell us about it, in a way I felt relieved because we were always close - when he was younger. But then there was a period where there was some tension between all of us, and I just didn’t know what it was. Whether it was me, I was doing something wrong, problem at school - and we just couldn’t touch on it. And when he did explain it to us, in a way it was a relief to know that it wasn’t something terrible that we couldn’t accept.

EDA:Well you knows it’s perfectly clear that all of you cared enough about each other not to want to have this interfere with your feelings about each other. But I wonder, in the very beginning, whether you weren’t quite disturbed and quite shocked. I think, as a father, did you have a feeling that somehow this was - did you kind of blame yourself?

JOE JR:Would I blame myself? Would I blame my wife?

EDA:In our society that wouldn’t be unlikely.

JOE JR:No, I’m not that stiff-minded. I never was. I mean I may be a little thick on some things, or a little hard to get along with, or — supposed to keep my mouth shut in a lot of cases, but no, I knew he had all his marbles about him and knew what he was doing, knew what he was saying. So …

EDA:No arguments or blame between –

JOE JR:I mean when he explained it - he opened up and explained to us just how he felt, and I had a little bit of time to think it over. I figured, well no different than anything else.

EDA:And since Joe had brought some friends home and – I think I recall something about his saying that - having done some reading on the subject too ?

LEE:Yes, we read - read up, not on everything but – the time I did have I did some reading, plus I wanted to get to know these - type of personality. And I had invited them for the holidays, because Joe had said that some parents had turned their children away, which I thought was really heartless. And to my sur­prise, because I was ignorant about the fact that these boys are really human - they were kind, clean, helpful, and – it was just unbelievable - matter of fact, might say they would be more normal than what is supposed to be normal, as they say today.

EDA:Because of the kinds of attitudes that I think have been presented to the public by many professional people, as well as others - you said that when you first found out, you called your family doctor. At that point were you blaming yourself? Did you say what I’ve done wrong?

LEE:Well, I thought it. But uh - I’ve been open­-minded on a lot of things. I mean after all, I know there’s a lot of things going on in the world that - That’s why I wasn’t exactly shocked. I mean I wasn’t completely stupid, from what’s going on in the world today, so –

EDA:The reason I asked is that it’s so common, no matter what happens to your children - another part of the climate in which we live today is parents feeling guilty about everything that happens to their children. If the child is shy, what did I do wrong? If the child has temper tantrums, what have I done wrong? If the child steals something at an age where most children are stealing something, parents say, What did I do wrong? I think one of the things that has been so common about our generation of parents, is that the first thought they have - and this is something I think where we’ve all been brainwashed - is What did I do wrong?

LEE:Well that’s a natural reaction, that comes to any parents.

EDA:But I gather that the thing that may have made it different for both of you is the fact that this was a nice person.

JOE JR:Oh yes, very nice. Couldn’t be better, from the day he was born, till now.

LEE:And I feel like, if any gay person would want any information, I think he is the one that should take the first step, not the parents, to understand why people are prejudiced and discrirninate against him.

EDA:I think one of the saddest things is something you told us before we went on the air, and that was about some of the mail you got from homosexuals who so envious of the fact that you arc still a fami1y, and they have not been able to tell their family and feel very cut off from people they care about.

LEE:I’ve had some come to my home and were shocked because I invited them in and sat and spoke to them. And I only could help them to a certain point, I’m not no psychiatrist. But they went home feeling a whole lot better, and - I felt kind of good about that.

EDA:I think it was interesting, too, about how your youngest child reacted to it. I gather that you have –

LEE:Well, I was undecided what age to tell her. And I spoke to different people, and they felt that the younger you tell a child something, the more easily she would accept it. And she thinks the world of Joe, as a big brother, and he’s a teacher and - he’s just big superstar of the family. So I explained to her, first making sure she knew what a heterosexual was, that she understood about love and marriage and the beauty of having a child and how you have a child. And then I explained to her that there is also people that feel differently - that a woman can fall in love with a woman, and a man with a man, and this is something that is an inward feeling - that’s just there, that they cannot help. And it doesn’t make them any different, they’re good people.

EDA:I loved her reaction the next morning when –

LEE:Well, to my surprise, like I said, for a moment she had a tear in her eye when I told her, but I read her a letter that I had received about how wonderful parents they thought we were for accepting Joe as he was,and - when I read this to her, she says to me, “Mom, I think you’re a wonderful mother. ” And it made me feel good for an eight year-old child to say this. And then that evening when she went to bed, I didn’t know what reaction she would have, and she called me in, and to my surprise, she just said, “Mom, thank you for telling me.” But, like I said, it was sort of a jolt the next morning –

JOE III:Next morning -- I just opened my eyes, and she came running in and said, “I know about you and I still love you.” And it was a shock, it was really beautiful.

EDA:Speaking of young children, I’d like to talk to you about being a teacher, because I think one of the issues is a very important one for the society, and that is the question of whether you are certified as you -properly should be. One of the questions which I read in the proceedings of your first court activities, was the question of how you would handle relationships with young people, yourself, in the school situation. I thought what you said about it was kind of –

JOE III:Well, one of the really terrible stereotypes, misconceptions that for some reason all homosexuals are sexually interested in children, is really absurd. So immediately, the authorities questions – well how can you put in a class with all then vulnerable children? And I just told them I’m there to teach! I’m assigned to teach! And I’ll be dealing with science. My relationship with students will he professional. I’ll definitely be concerned about how they develop, and I’ll do all I can that they become full, feeling people. But I’m no more of a threat than a heterosexual teacher would be, and –

EDA:I think someone raised the question of, if there was a 16- or 17-year-old in one of your classes - or was it a younger child - who might find –

JOE III:They asked absurd questions like, What would your sexual relationship be with the students? And of course, just like a heterosexual teacher, sex doesn’t enter into the classroom. It’s just not there. And I would say someone who keeps insisting that you’re going to do this is maybe a little sicker than a person who isn’t going to do it. But I’m a teacher, a professional teacher, and that’s what my point of being in a classroom is - to teach.

EDA:How did you decide to become a teacher?

JOE III:Well, I was very interested in science, especially meteorology. I originally majored in meteorology for two years, and decided that instead of working in a little office, I’d rather work with people, and so I thought teaching would be a good way to do that. Compromise on both.

EDA:How old were the children that you were teaching in student-teaching?

JOE III:They were 13, 14 – years-old. And they were tremendous. The last day of class they gave me a party. Everyone in the class knew about my situation because it had been front-page news for a couple of weeks. They gave me a party, they bought me a tie and a tie-clip. One of the girls baked a cake. And so the students didn’t mind, we always got along well, and I talked to them a lot. And I think they learned a lot, that if you stick up for your rights, and you’re a person concerned about other people, maybe that’s just as important as - much more important, rather - than hiding and lying. I think that taught them a lot more than science.

EDA:Have you - did you have any discipline problems with children, or not - in the classroom?

JOE III:The normal type that every teacher has. Out of 35 kids, maybe two or three will be discipline problems, but nothing special.

EDA:What’s happened? How have you handled that?

JOE III:Well, you just let them know that you’re the boss - and other students are interested in learning even though they may not be interested at that moment. And - you know - Who are they to disrupt the class when everybody else is trying to listen? And usually they quiet down.

EDA:So far, what teaching you’ve done has been a positive experience? You’ve enjoyed it? You’ve enjoyed the kids?

JOE III:Oh yeah. I can’t wait to get back, and that’s all I want to do is teach, and –

EDA:I think, just to bring our audience up to date, at the present time you have started to teach in the Maryland schools, and within one month have been taken out of the classroom and put into some administrative job, is that right?

JOE III:An office where, I guess, I’m no threat to young children according to the board of education. And I’m in the process, now, of trying to get back in the class through - hopefully they will make an enlightened decision very shortly. If not, it’s going to have to go back to the courts. But I have every right to be in the class, and my students and I got along very well, and there’s no reason that the board of education had to disrupt the year, disrupt the students’ learning process, because of their prejudices.

EDA:One other question which interested me very much in the court proceedings, with the six deans, was it? They began to ask you very personal questions about your private life. And I wonder if you could tell us how you handled that.

JOE III:Well, this meeting was called to see whether I was a person of good moral character, so that I could teach. And I assumed it would be questions relevant to my teaching career. And some of the deans, educated men with Ph.D.s who had been deans for 15, 20 years, began asking quest ions about my favorite sexual act and things like this that were absolutely absurd. And I let them know that I wasn’t trying to avoid their questions but, unless they could show me that was relevant to teaching, could give me a reason why they had to know that, and asked them if they would ask that same question of one of their married teachers - I said there just is a certain tradition of respect for privacy in this country, and it wasn’t relevant at all.

EDA:As I read the proceedings, I thought to myself, what would have happened if a young married heterosexual had been in your position being asked those questions, and they asked him what he does in the privacy of his own home, and I think he would have been absolutely outraged, and I don’t think it would ever have occurred to then to ask that question. And I think that’s really one of the issues. I think attitudes are changing, and they may be slow, and it may take some time. One of the reasons that I think attitudes are changing is the fact that what was the Kinsey investigations and the research which has followed about heterosexual relationships — one thing has become absolutely clear -- which I think has always been something that people didn’t talk about and never faced about the human experience -- and that is the sexual practices of heterosexuals are not always that different from that of homosexuals; that what goes on in the private bedrooms of this country and every other, offer a variety of kinds of sexua1 experiences which have absolutely nothing to do, directly, with whether or not people are kind to each other; or whether or not people love each other; or whether or not their love is private with each other. And that it really has become somewhat irrelevant what the particular act may be. Now, this is something that’s beginning to be true, and I think it has - it is partly the result of the sex research that’s been going on in this country. But, I wonder in the very beginning when you were still in college and beginning to face the possibility that you would be quite open about it - whether you feel, looking back, that you were very much influenced by the more negative attitudes which were part of society at that time and still are part of it to some degree now. Even before, you know, when you were younger, did you have some sense that this was a possibility in your own feelings? Did you feel that somehow you were a second-class citizen, rather than –

JOE III:Oh yes, it was really unbearable, because the biggest problem is, you begin to suspect that maybe you are a homosexual, and you say “No this can’t be happening to me - this degrading illness! How could I possibly get it?” And you have no one to talk to. You can’t talk to your parents, you think, because, well, they’re going to be hurt and they’re going to throw you out of the house. You can’t talk to your friends because just the day before they’d been making jokes about gay people and you just stood there and had to take it. You can’t talk to any of your family, you can’t talk to minister because they say you’re a sinner. You can’t talk to your doctor because he says you’re sick, You’re left by yourself. And libraries carry very few books on the subject, and you feel like - I’m alone in the world. And it’s really a self-destructive situation . And it’s only ignorance that leads to fear and hatred; and only when you educate yourself and other people on the situation, can things improve. You start finding out that all these myths aren’t true, and- my God, it’s a beautiful thing! I’m a regular person again! I don’t -- I’m not afraid of myself! And I’m normal! And it’s really good, and –

EDA:Where there are serious hang-ups, it really has to do with self-hatred, isn’t it? The issue -- one experience which I think may be related to this was, I was so interested when I saw the play “Boys in the Band,” and it reminded me of the Virginia Wolfe play – “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe?” — I mean the Albee play called “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe?” The Albee play has to do with a heterosexual couple, and “The Boys in the Band” had to do with homosexuals. And yet, they were really the same play. Because in both cases they were dealing with self-hatred – that people who are heterosexual can hate themselves and hate each other. And I’m sure this can be true for homosexuals too. And very largely, in a society that encourages you to have feelings of self-hatred. So that really the question of feelings about ones self - are really the key to whether a homosexual life experience can be a positive one, or whether it can be paralyzing and immobilizing -- the same way that anybody can hate themselves and destroy themselves.

JOE III:There’s nothing inherently good or bad about homosexuality or heterosexuality. It’s just the social setting that it’s found in. Homosexuality has been put down in our society, and because of that it disturbs many homosexuals. If this was removed, homosexual life could be just as happy and fulfilling as a heterosexual one.

EDA:And there are times in history when this has been perfectly true.

JOE III:There’s many cultures and many …

EDA:But in terms of the fact that this is the kind of society that we do live in, I wonder – has there been much flack, Joe? For example, has there been much reaction in terms of your co-workers? Or both of you [Lee and Joe Jr.], in terms of neighbors?

JOE JR:Well, as far as the neighbors are concerned, all of them know about it, and heard about it – they’ve not objected over it.

LEE:They still come to visit Joe – his girlfriends and boyfriends. Matter of fact, he was a best man at a wedding to a boy he grew up with. And, uh – all the relatives – they’re still – Joe’s their favorite boy. There’s no difference. And I as a parent feel like I would rather have a healthy homosexual as a son, than a mentally disturbed child because I didn’t 1et him live his own lifestyle.

EDA:You know, there’s a wonderful story about that --about the very very aristocratic lady who happened to be the grandmother of a young man whom she had sent to Yale. And he went to Yale, and he’d gone to the best prep schools and so forth. And when he got out of college he said, “I’m sorry, Grandma, I don’t want to go on to professional life, I want to be a truck driver.” And she looked at him with great dignity and she said, “Well, be the best truck driver that’s ever been.” And I think that this is a marve­lous attitude, being concerned with who the person is and whatever they’re going to do, that they do it in ways which are human and compassionate and tender towards other people. And I think that perhaps is –

LEE:And I also feel that I wish more people weren’t afraid of truth. Because truth can make a more fulfilling and more content life - a more happy home. And I think too many parents fear truth, and I think the gay person should tell his parents, and –

EDA:Yeah. I think one of the saddest thongs about the whole situation - Joe’s obviously a really swell young man - and that’s perfectly clear. And the fact that all of you care so much about him confirms what I can see. The sad thing is that there are so many lovely young people who happen to have predilections towards homosexual love relationships; who are terribly in fear of talking to their co-workers or their parents or relatives; and who might very well find that, because they really are nice people, that’s the kind of reaction - I think the kind of thing Joe was talking about before where you’re so affected by the attitudes of the general public that you think, I must be rotten, affects an awful lot of young people and makes it impossible for them to go on communicating with their families…

LEE:This is why I said that I feel a gay person should try to understand why people are prejudiced, and discriminate. The simple reason that they’re ignorant of the facts; the way we were brought up; how we were taught; the fears, the stories that we heard from our parents; what you read -- it was just all misunderstood.

EDA:I think, in all fairness, we’ll also have to say that in the kind of climate we live in, where this is still a long way from being generally accepted -- the fear, the burden, the guilt of parents who do find out can be really quite devastating. And it would seem to me that when young people want their parents to be aware of their feelings and their way of relating in life, that also has to be part of it. I think Joe was kind of lucky in this case -- that you responded with a great deal of warmth and acceptance, even though you were shocked to begin with. And an awful lot of parents will really be quite devastated, because we’ve told them that there must be something terrible that they did, and to it seems to me the other part of it is that the homosexual child really has to be sort of compas­sionate and helpful and understanding, and maybe very patient, in the process of maintaining a relationship-

LEE:Yes, I think they’re the first –

EDA:- got to go slow, that you can’t expect parents in our society to really be able to accept it very easily or very quickly. Well our time is almost up and I was thinking during the day, as I thought about our meeting together - one image that came to my mind was, the kind of things that I wanted to teach my own daughter. She’s now 22. And I thought, what are the kinds of things I wanted to teach her about her relationships that had to do with love, whether she was homosexual or hetero­sexual. And I felt sort of like Polonius in Hamlet -- what an the messages that I would want to give her. And as I thought about it, I thought to myself -- the things I would want to tell her about life, that would seem to me to be my values and important to me, would be the difference between tender relationships and exploitive relationships. The difference between irresponsibility in relationships, and being responsible for each other and caring about each other. And the degree to which one human being tries to enhance the best that’s in another person. And the privacy of love. I find myself much more put off by the kind of -- I really consider kind of obscene that there is so much exhibitionism about heterosexual relations in films and plays and so forth now, because I feel that where there is real tenderness and real love, there’s something very private about it. And it seems to me that it’s nobody’s business how one expresses loving feelings towards another human being - whatever sex the other human being may be -- if it has a quality of deep and profound caring, and tenderness, and loving, and compassion. And those are the things which seem to me to be so crucial when we teach our children, and I see every reason to assume that this is something you have certainly taught your son. And I hope soon you will be rein­stated as a teacher as you should be.