The Good Doctor

BY Jon Barrett

April 12 2011 9:00 AM ET

Watch video of the interview below and click here to see videos from Dr. Phil's gay themed episodes over the years. 

 

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 Nobody questions that Dr. Phil McGraw is opinionated, blunt, and never hesitates to speak his mind. But pro-gay? People who don’t watch his daytime talk show, about to start its 10th season, might be surprised to hear that this host has been speaking out in support of gay interests — especially in support of gay and questioning youth — since day one.

In fact, McGraw is so supportive that we at The Advocate were somewhat confounded in February when a few online outlets reported advice, posted on DrPhil.com, suggesting that the mother of a young son “take the girl things away” from her son “and buy him boy toys.” We reported on the advice on Advocate.com and, as a result, helped stoke a lively online conversation about its merits.

What we didn’t do initially is report all of McGraw’s advice to the mother: that the toys would have no bearing on her son’s sexual orientation and that once her son realizes what his orientation is, “it won’t be a choice; it will be something that he’s pre-wired to do.” And because the advice was posted on the show’s website, we didn’t call any Dr. Phil reps to confirm that it was indeed McGraw’s advice. If we had called, we would have learned (as we did when the reps called us) that the advice was from a show McGraw taped in 2002.

Our missteps resulted in the opportunity to sit down with McGraw — both to talk about his nine-year-old advice and to further examine the roots of his strong support for gay youth, marriage equality, and the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Whether you’re an avid Dr. Phil show viewer or not—or whether you read the abbreviated transcript of the conversation below or view a video of the full conversation on Advocate.com — I think you’ll be surprised by what Dr. Phil has to say.

The Advocate: Thank you for having me here, Dr. Phil. And congratulations on what I understand are 1,500 episodes so far?
Dr. Phil: We just passed 1,500. We’re in our ninth season. So I had five years on Oprah and nine years on here, so I’ve been doing this for 14 years.

And since some of those first episodes, you’ve been talking about gay issues.
I have. We deal with what we call the silent epidemics in America, and I think so much of the treatment of the gay and lesbian community is silent — and should not be.

Were you surprised by the rash of teen suicides this fall?
Well, I’m not sure that we have had an upswing or an uptick in suicides in the gay and lesbian community. I’m not even sure we’ve had an uptick with gay, lesbian, or questioning youth. I think what we have is an Internet that has become more prolific and so some of these stories that might have frankly been buried before, or have been local or regional, now have the wherewithal to become national stories.

I assume you agree that hearing about it more is a good thing.
I think hearing about it more is a good first step. But I think as Americans, we’re a little ADD and I think we jump from headline to headline to headline, and you can hear a story about a young person that has been bullied or picked on, taken their own life or whatever, and that can get the attention of the public for this much. But when the next headline comes along, they move on. We don’t need just to talk about it more, we need to sit down and have some intelligent discussions about what we’re going do about it. I mean, we know that gay and lesbian youth are bullied and picked on at a much higher rate than other kids. And there are other at-risk groups as well. But it is a real problem for gay and lesbian youth and that’s not going to change until we do something about it, and when I say something about it, that means we’ve got to educate the people that are in a position to recognize it, prevent it, remediate it when it’s happening. And we’re not going to do that until we get some legislative power behind it because it takes money. It takes money to put things into the curriculum. It takes money to train teachers, many of whom may have very antiquated views about things. It needs to be part of the curriculum. A curriculum of inclusion, a curriculum of acceptance. This isn’t a thing where you put up a poster on the bulletin board the first day of school and say, “We don’t bully and we don’t pick on this and we accept all different people that might be different than ourselves.” It needs to be an ongoing dialogue where it becomes part of what shapes the minds of the people that are doing the bullying.

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