The Good Doctor
BY Jon Barrett
April 12 2011 10:00 AM ET
Well, I think, I certainly hope, that I am a work in progress. I certainly hope that I am an evolving project. But things did not sit right with me about this, dating back to my original training. And I’m 60 years old, obviously. So my schooling was back in the ’70s and at that time homosexuality was a diagnostic category in the DSM manual, used by the American Psychiatric and American Psychological Association. And the wisdom that was taught then was that gay was a lifestyle, that it was learned. And there were many schools of thought that said it was the product of a domineering mother and a weak father. And this is what was taught in that time and that era and so I was influenced by that, but it never set right with me. I think I was a bit of a rebel about that at the time, but I don’t think there was ever a moment of awakening on my part. It just didn’t add up to me.
Did you, or do you, have very many gay people in your life?
Well, I haven’t called roll, I don’t know how many gay friends I have or don’t have, but I have many, and you know, it’s interesting. This is maybe a big issue media-wise or publicly, but in your life, if you have kind of an attitude of acceptance and inclusion, it’s just not an issue for even two minutes. I mean, people are who they are, and I know gay people that I don’t like, we’re not friends. I know gay people that I do and we are, but it has nothing to do with their sexual orientation.
That’s fair. I wanted to talk to you a little bit about some advice you gave a woman back in 2002, when you started the show, and she had asked you about her son, who was playing with girlish toys. I believe you had told her that was no indication of how he was going to turn out, what his sexual orientation was going to be…
You know, it’s interesting to me that somebody would even consider that in that light. If you understand that your sexual orientation is a hard-wired genetic DNA reality and not a learned lifestyle, then what toys you play with is not going to determine whether you’re straight or gay, you’re not going to take a child that is hard-wired to be gay and give him G.I. Joe and so he becomes straight, and you’re not going to give a kid a Barbie and so he becomes gay. What I said to the parents at the time, you don’t like the toys he’s playing with, take them away from him and give him some different toys. You’re the parent, be a parent. If you think that your kid’s playing too many video games, get rid of the video games. If you think they’re playing too many sports, then, you know, don’t let them do that. But it has nothing to do with programming their sexuality.
So your suggestion that she take the toys away had more to do with her discomfort with him playing with those toys?
Well, I think it had to do with her discomfort and what she thought was confusing to him. Maybe you can help me here. Do gay boy children play with girl toys?
I’ve never heard that.
I think some straight boys play with girl toys.
My kids played with the boxes. I mean, you give them a toy, they throw the toy away and play with the box. But I’ve never seen any research that said young male children that grow up to be gay preferred female toys.
No, I don’t think that’s true. I think that people would hope, though, that parents would be comfortable enough with the child’s choice of toys and that — like you said — that wouldn’t have an effect on their sexual orientation.
Well, that’s a parenting issue. That’s not a gay or straight issue, that’s a parenting issue. And parents have the right to choose what toys they want to expose their children to. Like for example, I’m not a hunter. I’ve never had a cross word with a deer, so what am I going to go track one down and shoot it for?
What do you think about gender identity disorder? Maybe we’re talking about a child who, maybe, is born as a boy but is starting to identify possibly as a girl?
I don’t think that he would be drawn to those toys because of his genetic encoding. I mean, we identify things socially as being male or female. There’s nothing inherently female about a Barbie. It’s like eating breakfast. There aren’t breakfast foods. We just decided that we’re going to eat cereal in the morning instead of a cheeseburger. That’s not because some foods are breakfast foods. We just decide that and we assign that to different things, and I think we have to be cautious about doing that.
So would your advice have changed if you were asked that question today?
I don’t think so. I think a parent has a right and a responsibility to do what they think is appropriate for their child at the time. Now, there are limits to that. If a parent had a child that believed that they were gay or lesbian and [the parents] said, “Well, we’re not going to have that, you’re going to go do this,” and so you’re now telling a child that has their own mind to be somebody they’re not, then I think now you’re in a situation where those parents need to be counseled.