STRAIGHT PARENTS/GAY CHILDREN: Keeping Families Together by Robert Bernstein


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A compelling portrait of straight parents involved in the gay rights movement. Bernstein describes his experiences as the father of a lesbian and as an activist with Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (P-FLAG), articulately recounting his own and other parents' move toward celebrating difference and speaking out against injustice. Bernstein says that he and his daughter Bobbi's stepmother had long adjusted to the idea that Bobbi might be a lesbian, for reasons that he admits were based on stereotypes, such as her competitiveness in sports and her ""boyish"" mannerisms. Unfortunately, the Bernsteins' struggle is given somewhat short shrift. The author acknowledges that as a young man he was a virulent homophobe, but he does not really explain how he negotiated his homophobia over the years. Many of his profiles of other parents of gay children, however, are complex and moving. Roscoe Thorne, for example, comes across as a subtle study in contradictions. After his son Tracy was discharged from the Navy for homosexuality, Thorne urged him to seek a ""cure through psychiatric treatment."" He ends up eloquently addressing a Navy review board on his son's behalf; yet in an interview with Bernstein, he is infuriated by the idea of gay and lesbian civil rights. Still, Bernstein's cautious approach to his own life gets in the way of his discussion. For example, the author and his ex-wife exemplify a pattern seen in many families in the book: The parent who is the same sex as the gay child has a much harder time accepting the child's homosexuality than the parent of the opposite sex. Bernstein's reluctance to examine this diminishes his perceptive analysis of how homophobia affects families. (For an account of another P-FLAG parent, see Leroy Aarons's Prayers for Bobby, p. 517.) Bernstein's prose is sharp and his profiles are sensitive, but we are left wanting to know more about his own family's struggles with homophobia.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1995
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Thunder's Mouth