"As a gay man, I found the column condescending, out of touch, and insulting." Salon readers react to Ayelet Waldman's latest essay.

By Salon Staff
Published March 31, 2005 8:56PM (EST)

[Read "You're Supposed to Marry the Person You Love, Mom," by Ayelet Waldman.]

Ayelet Waldman's column was a train wreck. I was shocked that Salon would run it.

Wishing her son was gay is a terribly selfish thing to put on a child. I am out, in a committed relationship and loved by my entire family and many friends, but there are still days when it's not easy. It's anything from deciding when to come out to strangers to people wanting to lecture you about your "lifestyle." There are always decisions and choices that straight people don't have to deal with.

I might have felt a bit more sympathy if Waldman had said that she wanted her children to have a strong sense of social justice and being part of a minority group can help that. Or if she'd wanted her son to be an artist and felt that being an outsider contributes to artistic vision. But she didn't.

Her reasons were retro-stereotypical. Shopping? Inappropriate relationships with your mother? This is not the 1950s and this type of stereotyping is insulting and one of the reasons it's still hard to be gay in Bush's America.

-- Jeffrey Marks

Hoping your son turns out to be gay is as dangerous as hoping he's straight: In projecting your own fantasies on him, you set up yourself and, more important, him for a crushing letdown. Your motives for wanting a gay son seem dubious, at least as you explained them in your article; they seem to be an expression of a political and sexual desire of your own. The truly radical position to take is to let your son simply be.

-- Tayt Harlin

Does Waldman even realize what she is saying? Why does she equate being gay with wanting to wear a pink peignoir or playing with one's sister's dolls? Does she actually want her son to be a cross-dresser? As a gay man, I found these comments to be condescending, out of touch, and quite a bit insulting. Either support gay rights or don't; but please don't equate them with some deep desire on the part of gays and lesbians to trash sex-role stereotypes. That is not what civil rights are about.

-- Jordan Horowitz

Given the recent controversy regarding Ayelet Waldman, with one side decrying her blog as an altar to the gods of narcissistic exhibitionism, another suggesting there ain't nothin' wrong, I'm wondering which side has more evidence today after reading her column about her desire for a gay son.

How nice that she can at least acknowledge that her wish might be the product of stereotypes -- stereotypes that are seen as evil when furthered by conservatives, but that strangely must be celebrated by liberals. What's much more troubling is Waldman's admission that she hopes her son is gay so that he will be more likely to maintain an "inappropriately intimate" relationship with her. The honesty is, well, scary. But honesty alone does not make a good columnist, mother or person. You gotta do something with these little bits of truth, Ayelet, like figure out why you want an inappropriate relationship with your son -- and fix it, so that he'll have a better chance at being his own man -- gay, straight or Republican.

She hopes the cold, cruel world won't change her son's tolerant heart. Here's to that, but let's hope her self-centered one gets a much-needed bypass, quick.

-- Jeremy Valdez

Good for Zeke!

First, Let me give you my background. I am a black lesbian, with children, grandchildren, and a host of nieces and nephews. Given what I know of the young people in my family, with the background Zeke has he will grow to be a staunch defender of his friends (all of them). Children can be uncannily aware of what is right and sum it up all in a few words. Whatever the right does, my children continue to love, honor and argue with me. My mother still thinks I can do no wrong and my brother thinks I am the best (can't argue with him on that). My grandchildren have spoken up for me in schools and playgrounds. They continually challenge me to be the best I can be.

Don't worry about Zeke; he is definitely on the right road.

-- Denise F. Alexander

I'm a little uneasy about this latest column. Of course Waldman's son wants to be gay. She wants him to be, and he wants to please her! It seems to me that deliberately or unwittingly, Waldman has given signals to her son that indicate that gay is the way to be, and praises him when he does or says something that fits her ideal (a gay son). Children want to please their parents.

Furthermore, what if her son turns out to be straight? Will he feel the disappointment, subtle or not, that gay young people have been feeling from their narrow-minded straight parents for years? In trying to mold her son into something that she wants him to be, and that he may not, she is doing him a disservice. She should think about that and then start saving up for his therapy bills.

-- Michele Deniken

"When I started blogging, I discovered a compulsive need to open the tattered edges of my emotional raincoat and expose the nasty parts beneath. But at what cost to my kids?" The author wrote this in her previous article, and she needs to ask herself this question again.

Gender is confusing enough for young people these days, the last thing a son needs is for his mother, with whom he has an "inappropriate relationship," telling him she "wishes he were gay." This little guy is emotionally attached to her, and is probably going to try to give her whatever she wants. After all, he's "afraid you'll kill yourself" (previous article by author).

Isn't it entirely possible that the son is attracted to the pretty girl (after all, why would he bring it up otherwise), but that he, having overheard his mother say it before, is trying to be a "good boy" by saying he is gay?

Finally, as a father of two daughters, I ask -- why is her son even aware of gender/sexual politics at this age. It is too much for him.

-- John

It seems like this column has to be a spoof. What a twisted creature; this is truly p.c. gone mad. It's no wonder the Republicans can get away with anything.

-- Les Visible

Ayelet Waldman is so deluded I actually found myself laughing out loud -- she thinks her son saying "I might be gay" is an indication of his future sexual orientation and that his mighty cheer at the news of a judge striking down the ban on gay marriage is proof of his generation's tolerance? Looks to me more like too many episodes of "Will and Grace" and any child's natural propensity toward parroting back whatever they know will make Mommy give them a second helping of dessert and a pat on the back! That Waldman openly admits to wanting a gay son for his future stylish witticisms and fabulous fashion sense is among the most grotesque assertions I have ever read. She would apparently wish on her son: an insular dating pool with a significantly higher rate of HIV infection, a lifetime of discrimination, and a harder time having children of his own -- but wouldn't want a gay daughter because it just isn't as cool. She should wake up and realize that it is the horrifying shallowness of articles like these that causes moderately conservative, intelligent, otherwise-tolerant people to loathe the gay-rights movement and redouble their efforts to ban gay marriage.

-- Vladimir Talanin

After the last round of Ayelet Waldman's narcissistic excesses, I almost didn't click on her new article. I won't be tempted again. My morning newspaper pointed out that today's kids are the first generation to grow up subject to wide-open, potentially permanent chronicles of their fragile moments, making them vulnerable to future employers and anyone else. I am sensitive to the fact that Zeke is not old enough to understand that thousands of people are reading about the most personal aspects of his development. And now that I am on notice that his mother is airing matters about which he is "already embarrassed," I am not willing to be an audience for his further exploitation. To repeat what others have said: Shame on the columnist and on Salon.

-- Kim Corum

A mother saying she wants her son to be gay is certainly not something you hear every day. And frankly, I worry that such statements are fuel for the anti-gay reactionary forces that are gaining more steam these days. But, that's not Ms. Waldman's fault; she is talking about personal feelings. What bothers me here is the reasoning -- that a gay son would be more attentive to his mother. She admits this is a stereotype, but there is a bit of truth there.

One of the main reasons for this is the lack of legitimacy we give to gay marriage. The only "family" a gay man has in the eyes of society is his birth family. In my case I can say that after 25 years with my partner, my family still considered me single and still expected much more attention from me than they would had I had a wife. My mother even intimated that should she become disabled and need someone with her around the clock that I would move there (from another state) with no thought about leaving my partner behind.

Ironically Ms. Waldman advocates for gay marriage in the article, but I think she should consider that a world where gay marriage is accepted will take away from the attachment gay men have to their mothers.

-- Larry Firrantello

I have loved all three of Ayelet Waldman's articles in the past couple months and I'm delighted this will be a regular feature. I have just happily discovered that our public library carries several of her books. Thanks, Salon, for introducing me to another fantastic writer!

-- Kim Vaughan

I rarely submit letters, but am compelled to at this time. Ayelet Waldman should be ashamed of herself for her betrayal and humiliation of her son, and Salon should be ashamed to aid and abet her selfishness.

As refreshingly enlightened as her son is with regard to homosexuality, the reality is that there will come a day when his classmates' knowledge of his pink peignoir set and his innocently expressed desire to be gay will come back to haunt him.

-- Lainie Bardack

When I read Ayelet Waldman's first Salon column, I wondered about the depth of her selfishness. Having read her second -- I'll not be reading her third -- I wonder no more. Her self-absorption is bottomless. It is entire; it is complete. It encompasses even her children's gender identities, which Waldman boils down until they are distilled into questions that really matter to her: Will she have a shopping buddy? Will her personal grooming choices be endorsed, or criticized? Her children's happiness is secondary to her self-obsession (at least you have to hope it rates that high) and their privacy is nothing next to her desire to share her obsession with us.

With editorial space at a premium, I wonder just what it is Salon thinks Waldman brings to the table. A weekly primer in narcissism we can do without.

-- Robert Kuntz

It is beyond me why Ms. Waldman's musings are published by a high-quality magazine like Salon. The New York Times seems more and more attuned to this sort of lifestyle nonsense, so I was not at all surprised to find her self-centered scribblings in the Style section Sunday. Now she wants her son to be gay so that she can be assured of his attention. What foolishness.

Those of us with gay children could tell her the real facts of life. It's really hard being gay in most areas of this country. It is not about joking around and shopping with your mom, or amusing her with drag queen outfits. As a matter of fact, it is not about you at all, Mom! You can be the most tolerant parent in the universe, with many gay and lesbian friends, and still have a child who suffers terribly in this life because of his sexual nature.

So please spare me the silly talk from this ignorant woman.

-- Ann Henry

Stop the presses! Ayelet Waldman has admitted that she, like every other human being on the planet, harbors some stereotypes. Also, she hopes her son is gay.

This might be the most self-absorbed, not to mention boring, column I've ever read.

-- Daniel Jones

Where to begin with this article? Ms. Waldman hopes her 7-year-old child is gay. Well, I guess we should all aspire to something in this life. Being the parent of gay children is nothing to be particularly ashamed of -- however, is it really something to which we should aspire?

I understand parents who have gay children accepting and loving them, but wanting such a life for them strikes me as more than a little odd. I'm not at all sure that 7-year-old children should have any real concept of sexuality in the first place, and if this thought places me outside the mainstream of Salon readers, I can certainly live with that. Maybe it's the Neanderthal, right-wing side of me that believes children should be allowed to get out of second grade without being subjected to the intricacies of the gay marriage debate, but then again, maybe it's just common sense.

People can raise their children any way they choose, so long as it is consistent with local child welfare standards. People can think anything they want. Indeed, people can write about any thought that may pass through their heads, with very few, limited exceptions (threats against the president's life, etc.). But occasionally, people should ask themselves: Is this a good idea? In the case of the article at issue, my response is a resounding "no." I doubt I'm alone in this response.

One thing seems certain: Ms. Waldman is much more likely to get her wish, to have a gay son, than most parents who simply let their children grow up without such notions permeating their lives.

-- Michael Martin

Ayelet Waldman tells her friends, and us, that she hopes her son grows up to be gay. In doing so, she is setting her son up for pain. She can't help what she hopes for, but if she goes around telling people, the message is likely to get back to him. He needs to find out who he is without any pressure from her, but knowing what his mother wants him to be will pressure him. So many homosexuals suffer because they want to be what will please their parents -- we don't need heterosexuals suffering too.

Furthermore, this article invades his privacy. Does the world need to know that he would like to grow up to be gay? Isn't that his personal business? And if he is already embarrassed by certain things, is it really a good idea to tell the whole Internet about them?

-- Greg Littmann

Salon Staff

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