Friday, January 8, 2010


I love Jeanne Phillips, who now writes the Dear Abby column. The morning paper is filled with death and destruction, accidents, failures, political malfeasance, the weakness of Chinese steel and the delay in building the Bay Bridge. I love finishing off with the suggestion there are people out there who can cut through all the crap and make life work.

99 days out of a hundred, I skim her column, nod assent, put the butter and milk back in the fridge, and get into the day.

This morning I hit the hundredth day.

I read:

Dear Abby:

I am a 5-foot-5-inch high school sophomore. I am small-boned and my voice is high-pitched. I’m terrible at sports, and physical education class is a nightmare. I have become friends with another guy, “Rick,” who is much like me, and it helps to have someone who has similar problems.

Because Rick and I hang out together, some of the macho guys have started a rumor that we’re gay, and now everyone in the school thinks it’s true. Our PE teacher has even made comments to this effect, which compounds the problem.

Rick and I are shunned and have even been physically attacked because of this. We are not gay. We are just good friends who share common problems. We are interested in girls, but they aren’t interested in us. When I try to say I’m not gay, they say, “Then who is your girlfriend?” When I tell them I don’t have one, they laugh at me.

Rick and I are both “A” students. We keep telling ourselves that we will succeed where some of the macho guys who are obvious losers will not, and we’ll have the last laugh. However, this is still a terrible situation for us, and we can’t stand the thought of another two years like this. Please help.

- Sophomore in Sacramento

And her response:

Dear Sophomore:

If you and your friend haven’t already told your parents what’s going on, do so immediately. Then you and your parents should pay a visit to the school principal to report that you have been attacked by other students and misidentified as gay not only by your peers, but also by a member of the staff.

It appears that both staff and student body in your school need to be educated about the fact that discrimination, assault and hate crimes are illegal. If the harassment is not stopped immediately, your families should take this matter to a lawyer.

And I wrote back (

Dear Abby:

Your response to Sophomore in Sacramento contains your usual common sense, but it troubles me that you lay out being “misidentified as gay” as a wrong parallel to being “attacked by other students.” How would it strike you to be “misidentified as Jewish” or “misidentified as black”?

I understand you might not want to add to the burdens of growing up these young teenagers already have the burden of defending gay people. But if white kids are “accused” or “suspected” of being black, shouldn’t the first (and perhaps only) response be “so what if I am?” and not “No, I’m not.”? Shouldn’t we all fight discrimination together and not leave it to the bullies to pick us off one at a time?

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