Dear Abby to Bigot: Gay People Are ‘Born That Way’

History repeats itself, and as the saying goes, those who don't learn from it are doomed to repeat it.

PhilipsEchoing the famous 1979 letter in which Abby told a writer who took issue with the same-sex "weirdos" in their neighborhood that they "could move," a couple in Tampa, Florida moved into a new neighborhood and took issue with the two same-sex couples in the local social circle.

Despite being welcomed by everyone, when it was time for the new couple to host a gathering they deliberately excluded the same-sex couples, citing not wanting to compromise their "values" (of which "love thy neighbor as thyself" is evidently not one), and are now perplexed by the sudden shunning they are experiencing from the rest of the community. 

Abby took the time to set them straight, so to speak, starting with the direct statement, 

[R]egardless of what you were told in your previous community, a person's sexual orientation isn't a "lifestyle choice." Gay people don't choose to be gay; they are born that way. They can't change being gay any more than you can change being heterosexual.

While never being cruel, Abby takes them to task and lets them know that they have a golden opportunity here and not to blow it.


  1. says

    It’s always lovely when a well-recognized, well-respected columnist has an opportunity to disseminate some common sense about “values” to conservatives who might actually be receptive to it. You’ve gotta figure, if those folks are reading her column and even asking her for advice, they’ve found some worth in what she says and are more likely to listen.

  2. bkmn says

    I expect the good Xtians were serving up shellfish while wearing cotton and poly blend slacks and were probably on their second/third/fourth marriage (cause marriage is sacred!).

  3. jonnathewoodswoman says

    The bigots should get used to shunning, it’s going to be their future.

    Maybe they really DO reap what they sow.

  4. Gregory in Seattle says

    You may want to remember that Abigail Van Buren has always been a pseudonym. The original was Pauline Phillips, who started writing in 1956 and fully retired in 2002. Her identical twin sister, Esther, wrote the advice column Ann Landers.

    From 2000 to 2002, Pauline co-wrote Dear Abby with her daughter, Jeanne, who took over the column completely in 2002.

  5. Kieran says

    This is the kind of education campaign about gay people that should have happened in America 50 years ago. Being gay is no more a “lifestyle choice” than being left-handed is a “lifestyle choice”.

  6. steve talbert says

    Too bad its false information. All humans are born bi sexual but differ in the amount of attraction toward the sexes. It’s a moral choice to act on it, and this is why such a big deal was made in the past when people were ignorant about basic science and made crude associations about right and wrong.

    No longer are left handed people put to death (or as recently as 1950s in USA forced to write only with the right hand).

    Or epilepsy, diabetes, and malaria caused by bad air and sinful living (1800s).

    Or having a spell put on you by enemies to make you sneeze. (1600s Massachusetts).

    This is why the people with twisted religious beliefs that having sex outside of marriage only for the purpose of childburtg is sinful know that they themselves make a choice not act on their natural attraction to the same sex. WE NEED TO PUSH BACK ON THE MORAL ARGUMENT. IT’S MORAL AND NATURAL TO BE ATTRACTED TO ANY SEX YOU PERSONALLY WANT AND YOU SHOULD HAVE EQUAL RIGHTS AND RESPECT.

  7. will says

    Why is Dear Abby getting so much attention here? Because she is serving up talking points we want to hear?

  8. anon says

    The Dear Abby and Dear Ann columns are mixed bag of real, fake, hoaxes, repeats and very broad advice, but at least the editors (the columns are not written by a single person) were always generally gay supportive, or at least after Rock Hudson died of AIDS. There were some mixed messages before that.

  9. Fox says

    Good answer!

    And I’m laughing at “Unhappy in Tampa’s” complaint that “I don’t feel we should have to compromise our values just to win the approval of our neighbors.” Yet, somehow she thinks her neighbors should compromise THEIR values just to win the approval of the new bigots on the block.

  10. TonyJazz says

    I felt her response should have been more harsh, as it softpedalled their bigotry….

    …but it could have been a lot worse….

  11. Scar2 says

    Great response, but I have this feeling the letter was made up. I guess it doesn’t matter since it’s not serious journalism.

  12. says

    @Talbert.. You may have been born bi-sexual. I was definitely not. Just as a left handed person uses the hand that is “right for them”.
    My “moral choice” was to be heterosexual. But as I grew older, that “choice” just did NOT work for me.
    I can definitely tell you that it is not a choice for some people. Your choice to say what you wrote was your choice; but please do not make your thoughts a law for everyone else. That would make you a bigot.

  13. Neil says

    @Steve Talbert: I agree 100% with Peter. You may have been born bi-sexual, but I was not. I could not force myself to be attracted to a woman, although I tried at one point.

    From some random web page, I found this in an FAQ on bisexuality:

    Q: Didn’t Freud think we’re all bisexual?
    A: Not quite. Freud thought we were all born bisexual, and may develop a preference later in life. Further studies do not support this, but most people have had at least some level of feeling for both genders at some point in their lives.

  14. Mikey DallasM says

    I was a writer to Dear Abby about a dozen years ago as “Hurting in Houston” whose family disowned my partner and I when my parents moved into a Florida gated community and announced we were no longer welcome because they feared their social standing. Some of you probably remember this as Abby’s answer created a bit of a national furor when she took my side. She also called me personally twice to check on how we were getting along, and sent me a packet of the supportive letters she had received on the topic. I can assure you, the letter she just published was real, as they all are. She has no need to make this stuff up as she receives thousand of letters each day.

  15. SAYTHETRUTH says

    Sexual orientation is not a choice. BUT it is not genetic either: you are not born with it. It is framed in the brain wiring, very early on in infancy for various and uncontrollable factors. The “born that way” leads to pseudoscience, the most you can find genetically is things that marks sexuality at large, not specifics of whom people are attracted to.
    Sadly this is becoming a useful meme because it is EASIER than having to explain those factors to dumb bigots, but nevertheless it is dangerous. We gays do not have especial genetics, -that even some could deem aberrations- we are equal, our sexuality is not a choice but is not contained in our genetic information. The early stages of infancy are of the utmost importance to many traits in personality that are carried along a person’s life, that’s where the serious focus should be in. Not to “correct” anything by the way, just to stop blabbering pseudoscience.

  16. Simon says

    It is just a meaningless play of words. You can say every color is both black and white. Black color is a color with zero percentage of whiteness.

  17. Samuel says

    @Saythetruth: There is new research out which has concluded that being gay (in males anyway), is about 35-40% genetic from what they have learned so far. Found in the region known as Xq28, and in a second genetic region, on chromosome 8.

    It also depends how literal you are about defining ‘genetic'; as the chances of being a gay man are also proven to increase by 28-48% for every older brother one has (even if they are raised separately), it’s something that happens in-utero. This may not be genetic, it may be hormonal, etc, but all evidence is definitely pointing to sexuality being determined before birth, not in the early childhood years onward.

  18. emjayay says

    Thanks to everyone here for correcting steve talbert and SAYTHETRUTH so I don’t have to.

    Too bad TR has the worst antiquated commenting system of any blog on earth.

  19. steve talbert says

    You can not want it to be true, but the human bush is predisposed for having sex with both sexes. Emotionally is different because emotions involve moral choices as well. The example of a guy having sex with a woman then a guy and finding out they like guys better is proof of that, not an example of how that is wrong. It’s bot pseudo science its just a fact of biology. Same with all primates. Particularly bonobos monkeys.

  20. steve talbert says

    I didn’t say people should be forced to be bi sexual or that everyone will be but that our bodies are made specification to allow it. Who cares if its a choice or not. We should all the equal choices. Choosing gay, bi, or straight in terms of how you put your body to use should be equally respected.

  21. steve talbert says

    Primates in particular have evolved to be able to physically have sex with same or opposite sex..unlike almost all other living things. Which one someone emotionally or morally chooses shouldn’t matter as long as its consenting adults. Society doesn’t currently allow a man and woman too closely related to have sex only because children could be damaged. But it wasn’t always that, and it was common with early settlers, particularly puritans to have uncles marry nieces and first cousins to marry. In south Carolina first cousins can still marry.

    The issue should be that it is wrong to force a personal moral opinion on society and other individuals.

  22. steve talbert says

    Remember than with many, if not most, religious people who are antigay they don’t care if a person is born that way or not. They also think child molestors and murderers are born that way. It’s all part of gods mysterious plan. They also agree that the world climate is warming but that too is gods plan. So the only way to defeat those people are on their own terms. Yes having gay sex is a choice but so is having straight sex and its not an issue.

    It only came about because population was small and religion wanted to grow the community. If in the future with over population people are raised from birth to think they should only be in gay relationships and kids are done through surrogates or birthing business adoption, then a man and woman getting married would be equally taboo and wrong..

  23. says

    “i love the red and gold bike that i see in the corner of this room”

    “i have a favorable opinion of the stereo-system in this room”

    these words weren’t spoken by a newborn looking around his hospital room, the gist of these words could not have even been thought of by a baby’s brain. babies are barely aware of their own existences, so how could they mentally declare anything about their existences? newborns have no idea of anything about the world around them, and there is not enough information in a newborn’s brain to base any opinions on.

    there is not enough information in a newborn’s brain to base any opinions on. quoth madonna, “life is a mystery”.

    “i love what slot-machines represent to me” – i can’t imagine a little baby forming this opinion, and i can guarantee that my attraction (some would say “addiction”) was not present at birth. there wasn’t enough information in my newly-born brain to base any opinions of slot-machines on. i didn’t even know what slot-machines were until i lived for a while, i had to learn. i had to learn what they were, and not until i was 36 and willingly at a casino and “under their spell,” would i have had enough interest to put my hands all over them.

    “i love what computers represent to me” – i didn’t know what a computer was until i was 7 or 8. it was not until a few years later, when i was “under the spell” of the IBM PCjr, that i had enough interest to put my hands all over a computer. i dabbled with computers, and i developed an interest. baby, i became this way.

    i am attracted to slot-machines as i am to computers, i have a mental hard-on for both. the hopefulness that overtakes me when i’m in their presence, well, it mirrors the hopefulness that overtakes me when a big and strong specimen of manhood speaks to me. i love what big and strong men represent to me, but i was not born with any opinions or conclusions regarding men. i didn’t know that a big and strong man, complete with a testosterone-spouting chest of hair and muscular strength, was anything worthy of putting my hands all over. it was not until i was “under their spell,” when i would have had enough interest to put my hands all over men.

    it wasn’t until i realized that i was a lackluster specimen of manhood, when i became “under the spell” of big and strong men whose chest-hair and armpit-hair and physical strength would slap me around, wake me up and put me in my place as a little slight of masculinity. if i had not developed armpit-hair ten years after the (much-respected) athletic boys did, i would have never had any reason to be so delusional around something as grimy as an armpit. if i was as physically-capable as the much-respected (athletic) boys were, i would have never had any reason to look at them any differently than i looked at myself. if i had no reason to look at men in gaping-mouthed praise and amazement, i would have had no reason to ever consider myself to be gay. ergo (i love using that word – quoth nanny fine: “ergo? who’s ergo?”), both heterosexual and homosexual attraction are gender-identity issues.

    ergo, my sense of masculine gender-identity was greatly affected by my not being confident in my own masculine state-of-gender. people are born with blue eyes, blue eyes are physical things that exist outside of one’s mind. feelings and interests, whether pro-masculinity or pro-casinos, are – to take a song by mariah carey – “all in your mind”. baby, i developed this way.

    how could anyone, at any age, say the words, “i’d rather be in a casino than in a baseball-stadium,” without even having seen or gained a knowledge of both casinos and baseball stadiums? how could i have been born lusting for men, then, without first experiencing men? how could men have had any effect on me before my brain was developed enough to have come to any sort of conclusion regarding men?

    i have loved money for as long as i can remember. this doesn’t mean i was born loving money. i have loved casinos and slot-machines for a few years now, but i wasn’t born this way. ergo, i had been in one or two casinos before becoming addicted and mentally-aroused by casinos, and i know that my addiction would never have come to be without first having come to realize casinos…day after day. yes, a little less than a year after my first casino-experience, i started going to casinos every day – just because it was just something different to do. total immersion, i think, is what the nyu summertime film-school called their program.

    at home as a boy, i was “totally immersed” in taunts from a girl named laurel. she had a nickname for me, “grit,” because she couldn’t regard me as masculine or as anything but a “cross between a girl and an IT”. if that’s not a sort of “talk therapy” to make a skinny little boy regard REAL men as proper, well, what is? ergo, as a boy, i was “totally immersed” in what i regarded as taunts from my classmates, and being picked last for sports-teams bothered me as much as my hairless, unmasculine armpits did. as you can see, i was “totally immersed” in “gender-identity therapy” as a boy – this “total immersion” affected my sexual identity. i wasn’t born with a prepackaged identity, because living life gave me an identity and got me to realize my place in this world. baby, i developed this way.

    i didn’t choose to be gay, i wasn’t born gay, i became gay through impressions and opinions given to me – impressions and opinions that i was a little masculine insufficiency. “opposites attract” relates to one’s gender-identity more than it relates to one’s actual state of gender.

    it is for this reason that i cannot refer to gay males as men, it is for this reason that i use quotes when referring to gay “men,” and it is for this reason that god is anti-gay. let me close with a quote that i came up with:

    “if i were god, i’d be insulted to know that one of MY masculine creations is seeking a perfect masculine creation”

    mr. dylan terreri i
    dr. sheldon cooper, ii
    “When I’m hungry, I eat. When I’m thirsty, I drink. When I feel like saying something, I say it.” – Madonna

  24. says


    I agree with you. Somewhere along the road you became severely messed up!

    I was born left handed, my mother whipped me as a child until I became right handed. I was born gay, and through all the persecution, humiliation, name calling and getting beaten up . . not to mention praying to God to please let me be straight, nothing could over come the FACT that I was and always will be gay.