Saturday, November 13, 2004

Dr. Dobson’s Issues

Michael Crowley has a profile of Dr. James Dobson, whom he calls “the religious right’s new kingmaker,” in Slate.

One passage of this profile jumped out at me. It seems that Dobson, who earned his honorific as a pediatric psychologist, is obsessed with homosexuality.

The subject of homosexuality seems to exert a special power over him, and he has devoted much idiosyncratic thought to it. When discussing gays he spares no detail, no matter how prurient. In [his book] Bringing Up Boys, he gleefully reprints a letter he received from a 13-year-old boy who describes wiggling his naked body in front of the mirror to “make my genitals bounce up and down” and admits to having “tried more than once to suck my own penis (to be frank).” Dobson believes that such adolescents suffer from what he calls “pre-homosexuality,” a formative stage which results from having a weak father figure. Dobson further contends that homosexuality, especially in such an early stage, can be “cured.” His ministry runs a program called Love Won Out that seeks to convert “ex-gays” to heterosexuality. (Alas, the program’s director, a self-proclaimed “ex-gay” himself, was spotted at a gay bar in 2000, an episode Dobson downplayed as “a momentary setback.”)

I read that and a little bell went off in my head. It sounds to me that Dr. Dobson’s interest in homosexuality has some deep foundation in his character. Seeing as how I’m not a psychiatrist, I can’t speak clincally, but I do have a doctorate in dramatic criticism and I know a repressed character when I see one. If he has some unanswered issues in his own gender identification, then he should deal with them openly and honestly. I’ve known too many people who have really fucked up their lives – literally and figuartively – by repressing their true selves. It’s like trying to compress water – it has to flow freely, or cracks will develop and the results are terrible to behold. Need I point out that the Catholic Church is now well aware of the consequences of this inability to cope with reality?

I’m not saying that Dr. Dobson is anything other than what he says he is or believes, and I certainly wouldn’t deny him the right to conduct his life or exercise his political point of view. But I think it’s hypocritical, dangerous, and voyeuristic for him to use the public airways and leverage with the White House as his psychiatrist’s couch so he can work out his personal problems. That’s what theatre is for.