Dear Margo: When You’re Homophobic — Quietly

Sad but true: I disapprove of homosexuality. Should I hide my views? Margo Howard’s advice

When You’re Homophobic — Quietly

Dear Margo: I am a 19-year-old college student. Though not politically correct, I disapprove of homosexuality. Most people don’t know I feel this way. I have no problem with gay people. I have a few close friends and many more acquaintances who are gay, and I support gay adoption, gays in the military, hate crime legislation, etc. But in all honesty I do think it is wrong. I am religious, and I disapprove, but I keep my beliefs quiet because I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. I know my views are irrational, but pretty much all religious faith is irrational.

Recently, another student and I met, and while we didn’t instantly become best friends, we ended up on a friendly footing. She is taking a French class that she’s not doing great in, so I, being fluent in French, offered help. The assignment was to take on a political issue facing America today; she chose homosexuality. More specifically, she wrote that there’s nothing wrong with homosexuality, and those who believe otherwise are small-minded bigots.

I was naturally a bit uncomfortable, but didn’t say anything. She, however, wanted to engage me in a discussion about how my religion influenced my views on homosexuality. I tried to be brief, but she kept digging. Finally, I told her basically what I told you. She blew up and started ranting about how “people like you” are ruining America and Christianity is just an excuse to be hateful, etc. She also told our mutual friends that I am a bigot who hates gays. I think she was far out of line. Was I in the wrong here? If so, what should I have said? –CN

Dear C: This is interesting because it is somewhat convoluted. You say your views are irrational, that religion is, as well, and you don’t make a habit of being vocal about your views. You have gay friends and acquaintances, so you are not a practicing bigot. The fellow student you were trying to help asked your views and then went nuts when you obliged her — in what you say was an abbreviated form. Because you knew where she was coming from, you could have fudged, but instead you were intellectually honest and, given the situation, courageous.

I think your defense with your friends is to point out that your instinctive friendships have trumped your religious views, and to remind them that you have never chosen to discuss this. I find the young woman immature and confrontational, and I also get the idea that, in time, you will lose the views you have now because you know there is something wrong with them. –Margo, progressively

A Lost Love, Five Years Later

Dear Margo: A co-worker and I had a long-distance three-year relationship — he was in London, and I was in the U.S. It was awesome because he would be here for a week each month. I could focus on my career and family, and yet we had a wonderful time. In 2005, we both decided, for family reasons, he needed to stay in London, and I in Virginia. So I took care of my mom, who had Alzheimer’s, he took care of his family, and we stayed in touch as friends — but intermittently.

He is not a great communicator, but he has now expressed the desire to regroup. I will be honest: I have missed him, but I have no desire to rekindle something that has him in London and me here. I plan to be upfront with him when he arrives, but don’t know if I should insist he stay in a hotel until we sort things out. Or is that silly, as adults who truly loved each other? He truly was special. –Need Your Thoughts Soon!

Dear Need: You are both adults, and I detect a great deal of feeling on both sides. Bag the hotel. If you two cannot arrive at a plan to bridge the distances to your mutual satisfaction, I think the rekindling interlude would still be a definite plus. And I have the idea that his wish to “regroup” suggests he may have a plan. I hope so. –Margo, hopefully

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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.


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105 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    LW#1:  You were not in the wrong to state that because of your religious beliefs you disapprove of homosexuality when confronted by your friend on the issue. You are not on a crusade, you don’t hate gay people and in fact support their full civil rights so I would not call you a bigot.   I’m not sure that you mean that religion is irrational in the sense that it is stupid or wrong headed, merely that faith overrides  reason and I don’t think that you should abandon your faith simply because it disapproves of homosexuality.  (The Catholic churches would be empty if every Catholic who practices birth control or engages in premarital sex abandoned the faith).  I’m not particularly religious myself, but I respect those who are…while at the same time realizing that some religious tenets can lead  evil people to violence and injustice.   You don’t sound like you are getting ready to lead a gang of skinheads to the nearest gay bar to strike up a rumble or seek adoption by the Phelps family.   I would continue on as you are keeping an open mind and treating people well.  And simply relegate the confrantation with your classmate to the *bad experienceI will forget about* category.  And in the future, if perssed on the issue simply say *I support civil rights for gays* and leave it at that. 

    LW#2:  If this guy is truly special, give him a hearing and see what happens.  He may be the love of your life or a merely a passing ship but given your history, I think it is worth hearing him out. 

  2. avatar jsbach says:

    Margo, I was in agreement with your reply to LW#1 until your last sentence. I don’t think it was necessary for you to tell LW#1 that he would grow out of his views, and I don’t agree with you when you state that he realizes there is something wrong with his views. I think you misinterpreted his intended meaning when he states that religious belief is irrational. I don’t think he’s trying to send across the message that he realizes there’s something “wrong” with his views, but that religion is not something that belong in the realm of rationalization, logic, and empirical evidence, but something that requires one to believe and have faith in. He has chosen to believe in his religion, and I believe his faith to be strong. I also believe he keeps his religion to himself so as not to offend others, and in the end I wish more people would follow his example of keeping thy religion to thyself. Nowhere do I see someone who is wavering on his views.

  3. avatar RoseGildedCat says:

    ;0) Nowhere did I see it mentioned LW1 was a “he”, either. The ‘best friends’ bit made me think “she”. I think having to guess annoying, but I think Margo gave a useful, if not perfect, answer; ‘Smooth it over, while reflecting on your views.’  That won’t hurt anyone, and it may help. It’s useful for anyone that finds their upbringing, their culture, or their religion clashes with the latest ideas. Progress.  I don’t know what that means. People use it like Humanity has always moved in a straight line from knuckle-dragging, to knowing it’s rude to burn witches in the name of God. But we haven’t, and right and wrong are disturbingly relative; mostly to the desires of State, but often of Religion, or even Commerce. I don’t know that any of them ever get it right for Humanity as a species. No one knows, so in that respect we are all on our own. You just have to accept the consequences of your beliefs.

    • avatar jsbach says:


      Again, I don’t think it was appropriate for Margo to comment on LW#1 growing out of his (yes I’m assuming) beliefs. The letter was not from a confused soul who had doubts about his beliefs, but from someone who got caught in a sticky situation when confronted with someone who had a completely opposite viewpoint. Furthermore, Margo didn’t simply state to ‘Smooth it over, while reflecting on your views’, she stated confidence that LW#1 would in time grow out of his views.

      • avatar Shannon R says:

        I don’t think Margo was saying he would grow out of his religion, it’s just that obviously this person feels that homosexual people are equal to everyone else and that in time he will stop feeling like homosexuality is “wrong” for the reasons his faith dictates.  Just like catholics who use birth control.  It’s common sense if you can’t afford a bunch of children then don’t have them!  Scientific advancements are a wonderful thing. Faith’s opinion of homosexuality is based on the idea that people “choose” to be homosexual when this is so clearly not the case.  It’s biological.  It’s a biological variation of that person’s make up no different than if they were born left handed, albino, or any other biological difference. 

  4. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    Letter #1 – Brings up an issue I am struggling with right now in my life. Allowing people to speak their peace and accept it is coming from where they say it is coming from. Not overlaying my experiences on what they are saying. As in the fact my dad was clergy and he never once, interpreted any of God’s word in a negative way toward homosexuality. To the contrary, we were taught to be inclusive in that regard. And trust me, coming from the Black community, that was huge! To admit you are Gay is frowned upon, especially by clergy. But my father always said he wanted to raise his children to be open minded and embracive.

    So reading this the thought came to me, are the writer’s feelings about homosexuality really coming from the fact that their religion may say it is wrong, or is it simply an internal belief that it is wrong? It’s like that old saying “I can’t be racist, some of my best friends are Black!” Well, this writer is living proof you can have close friends that are gay and still be homophobic.  Bigotry and bias doesn’t go away just because you are exposed on a regular basis to those you have a bias against. I personally believe it lessens the more we see others as people like ourselves.

    Being able to see two men that are Gay and in a relationship as capable of being committed to one another just as much as any one else. And conversely, those that just want to “hook up” that should be viewed through the same prism. Straight men and women “hoop up” for quickies and one night stands every day, yet if a Gay person does it, we deem it as part of “their culture” which perpetuates the stereotype of how they aren’t like us. And justifies for some a reason to condemn homosexuality as sinful. I agree with Margo, as time goes by and this letter writer sees homosexuals as real people living real lives, she will see them as her equal.

    Letter #2 – I think in 3 years I can count on 1 hand the times I have disagreed with Margo’s advice or opinions. How she feels about Oprah and a few of her responses to letters. This one I couldn’t disagree more. I think given the fact this couple have been apart for 6 years and only connected platonically once in while, that is reason enough for him to stay in a hotel.

    She doesn’t know for sure that he is open to something more than a long distance fling, and is only guessing. So because she plans to be upfront with him about her feelings in that regard, it COULD blow up in her face if he were to stay with her. All that she was hoping to hear may not be what he says and then what? They would be stuck in an awkward situation where he may have thought they were getting back to a “fling” only arrangement only to realize she wanted more.

    I say have the guy stay in a hotel. Meet up with him and catch up on life, feelings, future plans and yes….what you both want from one another emotionally, sexually and define your relationship. Unless you two are super adult and can discuss your feelings from the beginning of his visit in a way that guarantees no hurt feelings, I wouldn’t risk having him stay with you.

  5. avatar Mr. Wow says:

    CN is not a bigot.  I have a close female friend who is much the same.  She supports civil rights for gays, but her upbringing stands in the way of feeling truly comfortable about it.  She simply “doesn’t understand” the attraction between people of the same sex. 

    I wouldn’t dream of condemning her for what–at this point, and maybe forever–she cannot fully embrace.  And while I don’t avoid talking about  my own life, I don’t hit her over the head every time we meet, talking “gay stuff.”   There is so much more we agree on.  

    CN’s friend sounds more bigoted (and certainly more immature) than CN. 

    Do no harm and keep an open mind, CN. 

    • avatar Koka Miri says:

      While I agree that the LW is not a bigot and that she handled herself appropriately (I find it mature that she recognizes she holds a prejudice yet still advocates civil rights – her friend asked and should have been willing to accept her answer), I find it a little sad that even you categorize anything you talk about as “gay stuff” and not “relationship stuff”. It’s difficult when gay people are trapped into being apologetic for themselves so subversively. Maybe if you talked about your life normally, your friend would come to hear that it’s not much different. If you’re worried if you talk openly you’ll lose her, she’s not much of a friend no matter what her beliefs. On the other hand, I don’t know anything about your life. But if it is something that she’d find negative (other than just about relationships) then please don’t categorize it as something purely gay, because you’re harming the rest of us.

      I know tone doesn’t carry over well, so I want to say I’m really not trying to be abrasive, only that you deserve a friend (of whom I’m sure you have plenty others) who you can actually be yourself with. If you hide something, she’ll feel she’s correct it’s something to hide.

      • avatar A R says:

        I want to point something out, Koka Miri: many gay people have ideas, attitudes, and norms that they feel belong to only their gay community. I’ve often been surprised to hear my gay buddies act like something “belonged” only to them due to their “gayness”, and that I couldn’t possibly understand. Many of my friends have a very “we versus the rest of you” attitude. I’m not sure why.

      • avatar Mr. Wow says:

        Dear Koka…

        What mean is…I don’t burden my friend with a lot of sexual talk, the kind of casual chat that friends often exchange.   She knows about B. asks about him, and has even offered relationship advice. (which was major for her!)

        I simply don’t make a big deal about “being gay” when I am with her.  Nor does she carry on about “being straight.”  There are six billion other subjects in this world to discuss.

        She is a good person.  I don’t need everybody I know to “understand” me.  I don’t need straight validation.  I know who I am.

    • avatar Belinda Joy says:

      Mr. Wow, with the exception of the part about your friend’s upbringing placing a negative slant on Gays and Lesbians, I am your friend. :-) Put me in her shoes.

      How many times have you read my posts in which I said I don’t understand homosexuality. How can a woman not desire a man? How can a man not crave a woman? How can a woman want to kiss and fondle another woman?  I used to get attacked on the message boards for saying I didn’t understand homosexuality. And nothing has changed in that regard. And no one is more of an advocate for equal rights (okay I guess that is stretching it a bit, I’m sure there are others)  for Gays and Lesbians than me. 

      I agree with Koka Miri on this one, based on her response to you. You should never have to water down your personality so that it is more palitable for someone else….never. That’s like saying if you and I were friends and I knew you didn’t like me to talk about “feminine issues” (hormones, women’s rights, female politicians, women only conferences or movies or books) yet at the same time I knew you supported women’s rights and equality, that would be okay. You can accept that I am a woman, you just don’t want to hear about it. 😀

      What type of friendship is that? You’ll accept me but only up to a certain point? No, indeed CN may not be a bigot. She may be a lovely person with a warm heart. She sure sounds like it. But to her credit she is confessing a form of bigotry. “I love you Mr. Wow, I just don’t love the fact you love men”  That would be a horrible thing to say or think because as you and I know, homosexuality is about a lot more than who you have sex with.

      • avatar emma manderson says:

        In response to your questions- “How can a woman not desire a man? How can a man not crave a woman? How can a woman want to kiss and fondle another woman?” I would say it is all a matter of pheromones. It had always seemed to me that I was bisexual. It made sense to me, logically- why WOULDN’T a person find everyone attractive? But when I eventually tried to get into a relationship with a woman I found that although it was theoretically appealing, the sex didn’t work for me. Women just don’t smell right, haven’t got the right pheromones. This made me understand homosexuality properly in a way I never had. If the chemicals don’t mesh, there’s nothing you can do. 

    • avatar ebonyblu says:

      Well, I agree 100% with this post.  Why, because I have really close gay friends but I do not agree with their lifestyle.  And I have non gay friends whose lifestyles I don’t agree with and keep it to myself.  Why?  Because a friend walks with a friend, accepts a friend for who they are, and enjoys them as they are with the good and the bad.  I am entitled to my opinions, views, and etc.  There are many things that I do not share with others because I don’t want to offend, family included.  I don’t see how any of this is considered a “prejudice” or “phobia” because being gay does not make you a race or nationality or a gender.  Add to that, I don’t treat someone “different” or think of them “differently” because they are gay.  I treat them the same as others and respond accordingly.  And last, there are topics that my gay friends commonly talk about and/or do that I don’t.  Just as there are topics that my male friends commonly talk about that I don’t because I’m a girl.  So there is “gay stuff” and there is “guy stuff” and “girl stuff”.  I just think people are reading too deeply into things and feel that when someone says something that is not appealing to the gay community, there is h*ll to pay.  But I’d like to see the same for other communities.  Double standards . . .

  6. avatar Sweet Dream says:

    To quote LW#1 : ” I know my views are irrational, but pretty much all religious faith is irrational”. There’s still hope. For the time being just continue to be yourself. I know you’re not a hateful person and try not to be bitter about this incident. It will blow over because people will see your behaviour and decide for themselves what they think of you and I’m sure they know that you’re a good person.

  7. avatar Messy ONE says:

    LW #1 – You really are a small-minded bigot, and you don’t have the right to expect that just because you don’t air your view with everyone that some of your friends won’t be offended with you when they find out who you really are.

    You claim that you have openly gay friends, but you don’t approve of them being gay, which is a major part of the very essence of who they are. How can you truly accept someone’s friendship when, in the back of your mind, you are constantly judging them for something that’s not in their control? If one of those friends came to you with relationship problems what would you do? What would you say?

    Margo is absolutely right. You are 19, which is still part of the teenaged stupids (many people have this condition well into their 20s). One day you might grow up and understand that you don’t get to have it both ways.

    You either love your friends and accept them or you don’t. You can’t be a true friend unless you understand that being a true friend means that you have to accept everything about them.

    • avatar MKE says:

      Actually, you are the one who sounds extremely small minded Messy One.

      Of course you can have friends and not approve of everything they do. You can still love and accept your friends, even if you don’t always approve of their choices. For a different example, my friend is having an affair, which I don’t approve of, but I dont love her any less. (and no, calm down, I’m not comparing being gay to having an affair, only that my friends don’t always do everything that I would).

      You can’t control how you feel at your core, but you can control how you treat people.
      As for the whole: “How can you truly accept someone’s friendship when, in the back of your mind, you are constantly judging them for something that’s not in their control? If one of those friends came to you with relationship problems what would you do? What would you say?” thing…who says he/she is constantly juding them? I doubt every second she is with her gay friends she is thinking “gross, you’re gay”….and if I had to guess, I’m sure the letter writers response to them asking for relationship advice would be just as mature, and probably the same advice he/she would give a strait friend.

      And, I’m sorry, thinking homosexuality is wrong, while still accepting and loving people who are, makes you stupid? I feel the same as the letter writer on the subject, but I am not stupid, I don’t judge anyone for thier choices in life (even if they don’t exactly match what I believe), and age has not changed my views (I find offense in you and Margo sugguesting one should grow out of religious beliefs. How rude.).

      No, being a true friend does not mean you have to accept every single thing about a person. It only means you love them any way, despite flaws or differences. (ugg, and no, I never said being gay is a flaw, only that I don’t agree with it)

      I am so tired of “open minded people” putting religious people down. I don’t see how you can consider yourself so progressive and accepting when all you are doing is juding a different group of people. Those types of people are guilty of exactly what they accuse others of. Maybe its time they grow out of THEIR stupids.

      • avatar Messy ONE says:

        Sorry, gotta disagree. The LW is (now, and I know that can change) constantly judging these people in the back of her mind. She SAYS she accepts her gay friends for who they are, but if she believes that homosexuality is wrong, then she is incapable of being a good friend to them.

        She admits that she has to constantly and consciously work to keep her mouth shut about her disapproval. Do you sincerely believe that no one is noticing that? Do you really think that her friends trust her enough to tell her about things that they know she’ll disapprove of? People aren’t entirely stupid, you know.

        She has to censor herself all the time, and her friends are censoring themselves around her because they know what she thinks. She doesn’t have to say it out loud. That’s not friendship. It can’t be, because neither party can really trust the other.

        • avatar A R says:

          By your logic, one cannot be friends unless they can be totally forthright about *all* aspects of their beliefs. I don’t quite agree with that. I don’t tell *all* my business or beliefs to anyone—whether we agree on a topic or not. It’s not censoring oneself to choose to release information on an as-needed or need-to-know basis. It’s also not imperative that friends share the exact same beliefs. If that were the case, none of us would have pals.

          • avatar Carrie A says:

            We’re not talking about people with different beliefs though. Most people have different opinions on things and still remain friends. We’re talking about someone who disapproves of who their friends are inside. A better analogy would be someone who has a friend with blue eyes even though they disapprove of blue eyes. How can you really be friends with someone when you don’t like a big part of WHO they are?

        • avatar MKE says:

          My apologies. I didn’t realize you were a mind reader and/or psycic to the point where you could tell me what she is thinking and doing.

          But considering the reaction of the girl learning french from her…obviously people DON’T notice…

      • avatar Messy ONE says:

        As for religion, I’m glad that the superstitions of Bronze-Age desert nomads bring you comfort. However, that’s not under discussion here. ALL religions teach close-minded groupthink. Your post is proof of that.

        • avatar MKE says:

          Oh, I do love superstitious bronze-age desert nomads. I find them cute and cuddly <3

          haha, and you call me close minded. :)

      • avatar jamie spence says:

        Very well-said, MKE. I feel much the same way.

        It’s always ironic to me to see intolerant behavior from those who preach tolerance. They seem to be all for everything…except an opinion that differs from theirs.

        And I have to applaud Mr. Wow for his respect for his friend. I have a friendship that is very similar.

      • avatar Carrie A says:

        So, MKE, everyone should respect your belief that homosexuality is wrong and the LW is right but it’s fine for you to jump all o