Dear Margo: Straight Cred

How should I respond when people tell me that homosexuality is a choice? Margo Howard’s advice

Straight Cred

Dear Margo: I belong to an LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) group at my university. I understand that kids my age have it a lot easier than homosexuals did, say, 20 years ago. I do, however, have a problem — still — with people who take it upon themselves to try to “change” me, as if changing me were necessary or even possible. I’ve been told there are therapists who could “turn things around,” and even that praying could make me straight. Well, I am happy the way I am and, of course, do not believe anyone or anything can change the proclivities with which you are born.

If I wanted to be rude, I could cite for these people the number of clergymen and politicians who are not out, who support homophobia and who are then caught publicly in a same-sex encounter. I have tried very hard not to do this. Is there something I might say when people (uninvited) tell me that my sexuality is all a matter of my choosing and deciding? — Michelangelo

Dear Mike: I, like you, have about had it with people who have “decided” that homosexuality is a choice or an “alternative lifestyle.” This thinking is flat-out ignorant of both science and human nature. I think a fairly gentle way to make your point would be to ask, “So tell me. How old were you when you decided to be straight?” Or: “Can you imagine there’s anything that could turn you into a homosexual?” If either of those responses does not settle their hash (for you young ‘uns, that’s an old expression meaning “close them down”), then I don’t think these people are worth dealing with. –Margo, realistically

Just Cluck No

Dear Margo: My husband is the youngest of six, and two of his sisters rule the roost in the family. They take over planning every holiday, every party, every shower. I don’t mind this, but my husband and I are expected to help pay for these parties, showers, etc. We are told when to show up, what to bring and how much we owe for helping to host … even though we have no input about what parties get planned, dates or times, and sometimes we haven’t even been able to attend. Part of me sees this as “taxation without representation,” and part of me is just glad someone else does the work. We have always given the money because it seemed best to keep the peace.

However, his family is now demanding that we host Christmas, since they have all done it for many years. Since I am an introvert, not a planner or an entertainer, the thought alone brings me to tears. But the reality is this: We live in a 1,200 square-foot townhouse, and the family is 25 people. While I appreciate that his sisters have hosted holidays for a long time, his sisters do not work and have wealthy husbands. We are the least financially equipped to do this. In fact, having this type of gathering would mean forgoing gifts for other family and friends. We explained the situation and bowed out this year, but I fear at some point we will be expected to host. How do I impress upon these people that unless our circumstances change drastically, we will never be hosting Christmas? — Exhausted in Advance

Dear Ex: Tell the hens, I mean the sisters-in-law who rule the roost, that it has become such a tradition that they handle the family events that it would be a shame to lose their golden touch. Tell them of your tiny house, your introversion, your lack of expertise, the stress of your job, your temperamental oven and anything else you can think of. In other words, just say no. Happy hols. –Margo, defensively


Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via e-mail to Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


Every Thursday and Friday, you can find “Dear Margo” and her latest words of wisdom on wowOwow

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104 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Mandy McNalis says:

    Spot on Margo, on both counts!
    The “When did you decide that you were straight?” line is one of my personal favourite shut-downs.  I like to follow it up (while they’re sputtering) with “exactly,” then smile, and walk away.  The follow up also works when they simply say, “I didn’t decide,” or “I didn’t have to decide.”

    • avatar moonrevenge says:

      There’s a YouTube video where a man goes on the street and asks people whether homosexuality is a choice. I found it!

    • avatar Adam Corder says:

      I am a gay man and I have had the misfortune of encountering a few people who are “prepared” for these retorts and will continue to argue. Sometimes it’s necessary to be much more blunt if these people persist. I have found that, “No, your logic is faulty and I didn’t ask your opinion in the first place,” is a pretty good follow-up if the offender doesn’t take the hint initially.

      I am sometimes astonished that strangers presume to know more about my life than I do. After all, I’ve made something of a study of it.

    • avatar Karleen S says:

      I’d be more inclined to say, “Talking to your imaginary friend isn’t going to do anything for me, but there are therapists who can help you.”
      Seriously, there is much more proof that homosexuality is scientific fact than there is proof of an a magical interdimensional being who created everything.

  2. avatar Gerri Lynn says:

    LW2, Dear gods. Say no. Keep saying no. And they CHARGE you for parties? Seriously? I hear chicks in the family roost, and they’re chirping “Cheap cheap cheap.” That’s a whole load of BS. Unless they’re serving caviar and expensive wine, the party givers should be bearing the bill, not the whole family. If they don’t want to cook everything, they should be asking around for extra dishes. *shakes head* I suugest putting your foot down slowly by at least stopping your paying for parties that you don’t go to. At that point, they’re just taking advantage of you, and there’s that saying about people not being able to take advantage of you unless you let them.

    Showers? The host pays for. Weddings? That’s up in the air now, but charging the family members? No way. Holiday parties? Asking for a bit of help might be reasonable, but that should come from the attendees, not as a bill at the end of the night. Birthdays? That’s on the host again. Some things are just tacky. Charging for parties is one of them. Blech.

    • avatar CanGal says:

      Not only should the host pay for showers, but it is in very bad taste for family members to host a shower

      • avatar Lindsey M says:

        I agree with your first statement, but the second statement.  It’s in bad taste for a mother, sister or sister-in-law to host a shower for her sister/daughter/sister-in-law?  Perhaps you meant something else, but if not, I think you’re way off here.  Friends certainly can host, but so can family (and oftentimes, I’ve seen female family members host showers more than friends).

        • avatar CanGal says:

          look it up.  It is in all the etiquette books that family members should not host showers.
          Traditionally, hosting the bridal shower falls to one or more close friends of the bride, often one or more of the bridesmaids. Mothers and other close family members should not host bridal showers, as it is rude and greedy for the family to ask for gifts for their own members.

          • avatar Nancy Pea says:

            what if like my daughter when she was pregnant and didn’t know many of her own age was i supposed to do? i wanted her to have a surprise baby shower. everybody was happy to bring a dish and a small present (if they couldn’t afford one, that was cool. just being there with a card or a hug was fine). i don’t care what etiquette books say on the situation. this isn’t the 50’s where everybody knows everybody. as for showers i have hosted many in my time and many for relatives. why is it considered greedy for a family member to ask for gifts, but not a friend or the person themselves? i find it the height of greediness to go to a registry. we never TOLD anybody what to give her as a gift for my grandson. they gave what was in their hearts. anytime somebody gives me a gift registry to check on, i throw it away. i will give what i want them to have from my heart. one former friend asked (and i thought quite greedily) for a $500 leather recliner. of course, she didn’t get it. but i thought it was horrible to even put it on there. if you cannot afford to purchase it yourself, then you should expect anybody else to. showers are supposed to be fun and happy events. etiquette can kiss my big white ass and bite it!!!

          • avatar amw says:

            Amen sister! People are too caught up in “reputation” nowadays.

          • avatar Nancy Pea says:

            thanx, before all this etiquette business, this is what families did. they put on showers, made hope chests (i had one when i was young, which shows you how old i must be), made presents from what they had on hand to give to those getting married, having a baby and anniversaries. it’s called a shower because you SHOWER them with gifts. so i’m not sorry i’m old school south when it comes to showering my family, friends and loved ones with a party. really!!!

  3. avatar jadedragonfly says:

    For the first letter, when someone makes such a comment to you, you need to consider the source. Those who see it as their “mission” to counsel you definitely aren’t qualified to speak on this matter. I’m with Margo, ask them when they decided to be straight, vice gay. After all, if being gay is a choice, so is being straight, right?
    As for the latter letter, a nice, resounding no will do very nicely. They don’t need any reason, but your husband needs to be the one to tell the SILs this, not you. Stay out of the fur flying contest that will undoubtedly ensue, for your own mental health.

    • avatar Cindy Marek says:

      “…your husband needs to be the one to tell the SILs this, not you. Stay out of the fur flying contest that will undoubtedly ensue…”

      Right. But he probably will chicken (pardon the pun) out. Ever notice how men just suddenly clam up or fade into the wallpaper when they SHOULD speak up and take a stand? But no, when it comes to female relatives of theirs, they suddenly go mute and cop out. Then it’s up to the women to settle it (who else will?) and so we’re always “cat fighting”. That’s thanks to cowardly men who any other time WOULD man-up and say something.

      Guess it’s like that pesky “selective hearing” thing. It’s never at your convenience – just his.

      • avatar Gerry Schwartz says:

        “Ever notice how men just suddenly clam up or fade into the wallpaper when they SHOULD speak up and take a stand”
        Ever notice how women make absurd generalizations?

        • avatar Anne Talvaz says:

          Well, yeah, we do – rather absurdly, I admit – make assumptions, perhaps based on that altogether misleading expression “man up”. Maybe we should take to saying “person up” ;-)?

        • avatar Diana Danh says:

          NO ITS TRUE! Most men are so sick and tired of their moms and sisters nitpicking every single detail of every get together that they just kind try to disappear into the wall paper! It’s not that they aren’t manly men, my hubs is a Staff Sargeant in the Special Forces, but when his mom starts trying to control everything and his sister is adding her two cents, the men of this family just kind of leave all the detail hashing between their female family members and their wife! Problem is they are really jealous so they get upset if we have made other plans for other holidays with other family elsewhere so we can’t even tell them we are going to see great aunt Millie because of the feud between MIL and Millie. I’m a woman and I’m saying that some family members make things difficult and the men just kinda have to dance around all the possibilities of hurt feelings erupting so they just clam up. I don’t think our family is any more or less dramatic or dysfunctional than others, its just that life is politics and you have to know how to play the game to keep everyone on an even keel. I think this is the whole point of Dear Margo and her Advice columnist ilk, to help us navigate the treacherous waters of communication with the people we care about.

          • avatar Sianne S says:

            Or they’ve learned that it’s pointless to argue, because most women tend to disregard what the man says and do whatever they like anyway.  It’s true.

      • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

        Stupid response regarding men not taking a stand.  I bet you would be all over a man who says something that imbecilic.  Just a guess because people who make such foolish statements tend to be the most offended when it applies to them.

  4. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: A polite cold shoulder might do the trick. I’m flabberghasted by people who presume to inquire of or lecture others about their sexuality. That is SO private. And frankly I don’t care about another person’s sexuality (provided it’s not inclined to rape nor pedophilia of course).

    L #2: Bow out gracefully and stick to your guns. It’s your home after all. Good luck.

  5. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    LW#!:  I love Margo’s advice.  I was taught, by a very enlightened mother over 40 years ago(nothing in her bible belt Protestant converted to Catholic religious beliefs would predict this understanding), that your sexuality is what you are born with and that is that.

    LW#2:  I am a little confused.  On the one hand, you complain that your sisters-in-law have taken over all the family gatherings and on the other hand you don’t want to host one yourself.   I agree that asking for cash donations is crass.   It is fairly common, however, for family members to contribute something to family get togethers (flowers, wine, a dish of some sort) particularly holiday gatherings. As for them choosing the time and place for the parties they plan, prepare their house or other location for…are you suggesting they should take a vote and have the party at your convenience?   Maybe your husband’s family has too many parties (I know some families like that) and obviously you can decline the invitation and the accompanying request for cash. 

    Sounds to me like your sisters-in-law are tired of the hosting burdens.  *Ordering* you to host the Christmas party is out of line.  Suggesting or requesting that you consider it, is not.  Just because they don’t work outside the home and their husbands have more money than yours does not necessarily mean it is any easier or more convenient for them to have these parties than it is for you.  Since the norm in your husband’s family is everyone contributes cash and brings something, your financial issues with hosting should be solved.  The space issue seems surmountable.  (My niece had 30 or more people at a recent party in her 800 square foot house and it was lovely…she also works 40-50 hours a week, is pregnant and has a year old baby).  The real issue seems to be that you are uncomfortable being a hostess.   That is reason enough to say no, I suppose, but give those who DO undertake the burden a bit of a break.

    You could, of course, see this as an opportunity to practice your hostessing skills on a friendly group of people and at the same time wrest a bit of control from the sisters-in-law.    

  6. avatar Jrz Wrld says:

    I don’t generally believe that homosexuality is a choice. Your sexuality just “is.” The only people who get to “choose” are bisexuals sitting in the middle of the Kinsey scale (which is also where I think most of those “cured” gays come from). But here’s my thing – I feel like the argument that homosexuality is a choice is a total red herring EVEN IF you are one of those people who accept the idea that homosexuality is a choice.

    Religion is a choice, yet we are not allowed to discriminate based on it. Oddly enough, it’s the strongly religious who most often argue that homosexuality is a choice, but shriek the loudest at any hint of “anti-Christian” bigotry. As an atheist, I think religion is a fairy tale concocted in prehistoric times to maintain social order and cohesiveness. Christianity/Judaism/Islam, with their more efficient single god are just streamlined versions of the original myths. By the standards of the “choice” argument as made by the right-wing with regards to homosexuality, I COULD dismiss anyone who deludes themselves with the rituals and rules of a religion as weak-minded dupes and refuse to hire them/rent property to them/serve them in my place of business/whatever. THey could do the same to me for my immoral beliefs.
    However, chosen religion (or nonreligion) is protected. Yet whom we love and how we love or who we spend our most intimate moments with is somehow MORE of a choice than religion? That, to me seems the most personal “choice” of all and for the government to fail to protect the rights of consenting adults to form relationships with their peers without suffering for it at the same time that it diligently supports the individual’s right to participate in a mass delusion with no professional or legal repercussions is an utter failure of logic.

    • avatar Cady McCowin says:

      Good point. People are free to believe whatever they want about homosexuality (that it’s a sin, a choice, etc.), but they aren’t free to deny equal rights to homosexuals any more than they are free to deny equal rights based on religion, race or physical gender.

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        Unfortunately quite a few in this country believe they are free to deny equal rights to anyone for any reason they choose and in fact are because few are held accountable. In “right-to-work” states like Texas, discrimination of any kind is perfectly legal just as long as it cannot be proven that the discrimination was sole reason someone was discriminated against.  We’ve come a long way in this country with regard to the ideal of equal rights but unfortunately we’ve a long way to go yet before the ideal becomes the reality.

        I’ve played that wonderful scene from “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” where Katherine Hepburn’s character tells her nosy and nasty employee who makes the mistake of assuming Katherine Hepburn’s character shares her shock over an interracial relationship to drive to the office, write herself a check, and then get back in her car and keep driving many times in my life.  The one thing I will not tolerate in my life is prejudice and if there’s one “sin” above all others it’s prejudice and as I have grown older I have learned the wisdom of someone who told me once that they best way to avoid going to hell is to avoid those you know are headed there. At least half this country is headed there. 

        One of the most memorable moments of playing the scene was with a “woman of color” as she liked to call herself who also liked to call herself a “good Christian” and who made the mistake of telling me once that that the Bible says homosexuals are cursed and so she really didn’t want to be around homosexuals and who I hope turned quite “colorless” when I informed her that I was a “good Christian” as well and pointed out that the Bible also said she was cursed and so I really didn’t want her around me and walked off. 

        All these “good Christians” through the years is one of the reasons why I finally started looking around at all these “good people” who believe in the god of Abraham and began to realize the big lack rock probably didn’t fall from the sky but was thrown. And god missed. 

        You cannot deal with ignorance.  And religious prejudice is the worst of ignorance.

    • avatar Morgon64 says:

      “…at the same time that it diligently supports the individual’s right to participate in a mass delusion ”  ROTFL! I couldn’t have said it better myself.

      Sometimes it is so hard to live in a society that seems to absolutely celebrate this mentality of delusion, isn’t it? The one that never fails to make me want to vomit is the declaration by one of the sheep that the U.S. “…is a Christian nation”…GAAAACK! 

    • avatar Mishy Smith says:

      “The only people who get to “choose” are bisexuals sitting in the middle of the Kinsey scale”
      We don’t get to “choose” who we love anymore than anyone else.

      • avatar Jrz Wrld says:

        Maybe that was poor wording. But if you restricted yourself to the opposite gender, you would have a way better chance of finding happiness than someone who was on the gay end of the scale. I think most of the people who claim success with those “ex-gay” programs are just bisexuals who forced themselves to stop looking in one part of the pool and go on to claim sexuality is a choice, because they made one.

        • avatar Gerri Lynn says:

          Honestly, bisexuals don’t get that good of choice, either. The heterosexuals tend to consider them to be homosexual, and the homosexuals tend to shun them because  they will play with the other team. These reactions are by no means absolute, but are still part of the reality that bisexuals face.

  7. avatar Lila says:

    I love Margo’s response for LW1.

  8. avatar Tulip O'Hare says:

    LW1: Never mind the number of clergymen who are not out, who support homophobia, and who are then found out to have spent their entire careers molesting or raping children. That usually shuts people up pretty fast too (unless they’re so daft they think Catholics are in the same boat to hell as gays, and/or that gays also categorically molest and rape children… and some do).

    • avatar Tulip O'Hare says:

      I meant “some people are so daft,” not “some gays also molest and rape children.” Wow, that was bad diction.

    • avatar valry says:

      Most child molesters are not gay, they are straight men who are pedophiles.  It’s a big difference, so saying that will just add fuel to the ignorant homophobes’ fire.

  9. avatar D C says:

    For LW#1 — my husband has a great line he uses when encountering the “choice to be homosexual” debate.  He’ll say to the guy, “So what you’re saying is, it’s a choice, right?  So that means that you could choose to be gay.  I mean if he was really handsome, totally rocked out (muscled) and had a really amazing package?  Would that do it for you?  Or do you think instead it would be maybe that he’s more feminine and artistic?  Which one do you think would have the best chance of turning you gay?” 

    That usually shuts them right up. 

  10. avatar D C says: