all apologies

Psychologist Dr. Jeff Gardere Didn’t Mean To Say Having Gay Kids Is A Parent’s ‘Worst Nightmare’

Psychologist Dr. Jeff Gardere is very sorry he said having gay kids was the “worst nightmare” for both straight and gay parents on CNN. Please allow him to apologize!

A segment on one mother’s defense of her son’s Daphne/Scooby Doo Halloween costume had Gardere opining on the proper way to raise children, where — besides telling mom Sarah that she shouldn’t have outed her kid on the Internet — told viewers “it is the worst nightmare of both the heterosexual and the gay couples to have to fathom that their child may be gay.” Oops! Gardere now says he takes “full and total complete responsibility ” for his poor choice of words and that he feels “horrible” about it. Just like parents with gay kids!

“What the full statement should have been and what I always say because I do work with straight and gay parents, it is a real issue for them because they are afraid, and this is the part I didn’t say and what I should have said, and you can go back and research it and you’ll see that I’ve said it in every other place,” he tells AfterElton. “And that is my fault and I accept complete responsibility for not saying that. Those parents, even gay parents say it, as controversial as that will sound, do not want their children to have to deal with the pain and the isolation and a lot of the emotional trauma that they have to go through as far as coming to terms with their sexuality. They know that they went through it and they prefer that their kids not go through it. And that’s what the full statement should have been.”

As for telling Sarah — Halloween’s most awesome mother — that she did a disservice to her five-year-old boy for speculating that he might be gay, Gardere says, “It was never my intention to criticize this mother. I think what she did as far as supporting her child and allowing him to express himself in anyway possible is 100% admirable. I think at this point in our history this is what more people need to be able to do, to step up in that way.”

So next time Gardere will phrase his words better. Or say nothing at all.

What’s clear from Gardere’s apology, and his previous psychological work (dude is a big time, nationally known head doc), is that he does not actually think malicious things about gay children, or homosexuality, or parents who embrace their children’s otherness. So we needn’t attach the hatemonger label to him. But for a man who is so used to speaking publicly about childhood psychology, one would expect he’s well rehearsed in choosing appropriate language.

In the meantime, Sarah appeared on Today this morning to continue telling her story:

CNN’s Psychologist Jeff Gardere: ‘Worst Nightmare’ Of Gay + Straight Parents To Think Their Kid Is Gay

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    What sux is that I kinda sorta agree to some degree with his original statement…..

    Seems like a genuine brain hiccup on his part. But because of many other professionals who make deliberate and calculated statements which spew hatred and bigotry upon Gay kids one would have to actually feel what he said makes a bit of sense, only because of the potential torture some Gay kids go through…….

  • david kaufman

    There is something inauthentic and disingenuous about this posting.
    While it’s true “worst nightmare” may have been extreme in description, I think it’s fair to say that a large number — if not the majority — of parents have a negative reaction to their kids’ coming out.

    White-washing this fact may make for a nice politically correct, finger-wagging blog posting, but it does nothing to prepare closeted folks to deal with this reality and successfully navigate its complexities.

    Most parents do come around eventually. But it’s fair to say that — although poorly worded — that the gist of Gardere’s statement has a whole lot of truth.

  • declanto

    @PLAYS WELL WITH OTHERS: Agreed, even when liberal-minded parents are confronted by the reality of a gay child, their primary concern is for the child’s physical and emotional security. It takes huge courage to face this struggle with no trepidation.

  • Kieran

    If a white CNN psychologist ever asserted his opinion that it was a white parent’s “worst nightmare” to have their child marry someone black, he’d be an EX-CNN psychologist today.

  • c

    fuck this guy

  • MickW


    That was a stupid example, sorry but it was.

  • eagledancer

    Look—even if your own “worst nightmare” (which is the language “Dr. Jeff” used—and remember HE’S apologizing all over the place for realizing he screwed up in a major way) is that your child turns out to be gay (or transgendered, which is something that keeps getting dropped as a concern, since most Americans aren’t educated enough to distinguish between gender and sexuality basics—which is one of the reasons why there’s a “T” in “GBLT”–in which case, I hope you aren’t a parent yourself)—that’s not the point. Some of you are responding to his apology, and not to his original verbal and non-verbal statement that required the apology.

    This is not about “oh, yeah, being Gay is often a challenge.” His original statement is something that creamed the panties of homophobic extremists who firmly believe most of the people on a site like this are too stupid or too sinful to know they can become “good human beings” (i.e., heterosexual fundamentalist Christians) if they just pray hard enough (and give a lot of money to their church). His original statement is exactly the sort of ammunition anti-gay marriage and anti-gay everything are hungry to hear, because it upholds their beliefs Gay people should be eliminated. As an American Indian, that sort of attitude is chillingly familiar…our Native American history of the federal government is: “Exterminate, Assimilate, and Legislate out of existence.”

    I’m a Family Therapist with a background in child development. The other terrible problem with his original statement is the fact children—particularly young children, are what we call in psychology “ego-centric”—they are at the stage of development where if their parents divorce, they blame themselves, because if they were “better” children, their parents would still be together. They are at the most vulnerable stage where hearing a “grown up” explain on television “You are your parents’ worst nightmare” is toxic. Queerty just posted information about another kid’s suicide that belongs in the category of “we killed one more” who died after a diet of statements like the original one of Dr. Jeff.

    I’m happy he’s apologized…but his original words are the ones extremists are going to use. And if you know how the Internet works, a young person hitting the computer is going to read those original words as the first set of “hits” before discovering the apology—particularly if the apology has been buried by fundamentalist sites crowing over the fact “Dr. Jeff” has told them what they already “know.”

    And as a therapist and sex researcher, I find unacceptable anyone with professional training can start off with the implication a 5 year old playing “dress up” is going to end up gay. In some studies, only 15% of self-identified gay and lesbian adults were gender non-conformists (i.e, boys who play with dolls, girls who play with trucks)as children.

    Young children as mentioned in the Today clip are more “fluid” in their concept of gender, but what that actually means is they are developmentally unable to have a “fixed” point around gender the way adults do. Developmental psychologist Piaget called this “conservation.” Pour water from a tall, thin container into a flat, shallow one, and little kids think you’ve done magic. They aren’t developmentally ready to understand the volume of water (content) remains the same despite its container. Just so, a (gay) friend of mine is a pre-school teacher with 3 year olds. For Halloween he came to work in drag, and literally scared some of his students who were convinced he had turned into a “girl” because of his clothing.

    This is something very hard for a lot of casual adults to understand. When a little kid plays “dress up” and “pretend,” he/she is not processing these actions as an adult or an older child would. They are in the process of becoming what they imagine. Little kid A becomes Batman. Little kid B becomes a Disney Princess. Then, when play time is over, they go back to being a little kid. There is a VERY different dynamic when a child consistently insists he or she is NOT the gender he or she has been assigned. If you have been following the stories of both “Beau/Daphne” and “The Princess Boy,” their behavior is well within the “standard” range for their age group.

    In other words, “Dr. Jeff” when asked, did not respond to the ACTUAL FACTS of the situation, but used his national forum to give even more poisonous reasons for young people to kill themselves because they’ve been labeled the “worst nightmare” of their parents.

    “Dr. Jeff” had a national moment of opportunity to say “This is well within the standard range of healthy behavior for children, and how fortunate your child is to have a loving and supportive parent.” He blew it. He did what we in psychology call “projection” where he tossed his own sexual insecurities on the American stage, which is frankly, unethical for someone who is supposed to promote mental health. This isn’t about him not being “PC”–that’s so not the point. It’s about him being wrong…and his apology is an public acceptance of being having been wrong.

  • eagledancer

    @Kieran: Actually, my first thought is that Fox TV would offer Dr. Jeff a large salary to say similar things on their shows…but he probably blew his potential promotion by admitting he was wrong.

    Btw, for those of you who have actually been following the whole store on Queerty,, and similar sites, you know that he’s been sending out “boiler plate” responses to those of us who had e-mailed him right after his CNN comments. They are almost word for word the statement he issued that Queerty shared. Perhaps it’s because I self-identified as a person of color myself, that I also got an e-mail from him asking me to review his comments on an African-American site, that I notice has not been mentioned by any of the other posters.

    Here’s the most recent e-mail from him I’ve gotten:

    Hello Ty,

    Please go to and take a look at what I have written concerning homosexuality and the black church. I think that speaks to itself as to what my views concerning sexuality are.

    Just to let you know, I have responded to every email sent to me, have apologized to each ad every person, have apologized on and GLAAD. I have reached out to CNN to go back and explain my words. The reality is that I do not have a free pass to go on. It is up to them.

    Bottom line Ty…I am doing my best. Feel free to call me and discuss.

    Dr. Jeff

  • Cam

    Oh please, this guy says it was a poor choice of words. It was only a poor choice of words because it exposed his bigotry.

    I know gay couples and straight couples that have kids. Trust me, if any of their kids turned out gay it is not their worst nightmare. Raising a gay kid, according to this bigot is worse for these parents then say…having a kid end up in jail? A drug Addict? Dying of an illness?

    this guy is a bigoted fool and is just upset because he got called out on it.

  • beergoggles

    What a total douche. Cam is absolutely right. He’s only sorry because he got called on his homophobia.

    If this guy is one of the top head docs, it’s further proof that psychiatry is a total quack profession of the same kind as homeopathy. Then again, if Deepak Chopra can get on tv to babble his bullshit, why not this guy; at least it’s marginally better than a Dobson or Perkins.

  • EdWoody

    Thank you to ME for pointing this out to Queerty. You’re welcome.

  • V

    As a psychology student and the sister of a bisexual woman I really don’t think this is some gay-hating shrink, because if he were he wouldn’t work with gay people.

    Psychology doesn’t move quickly enough for my taste. I feel like gayness tends to be attributed to early life experiences rather than genetics or in-utero hormone exposure. I live in a latinamerican country and I just feel like slapping people who make bigoted remarks, although things have been moving along much faster as far as gay acceptance goes, over the last 10 years.

    Despite all this, having a close gay family member is extremely stressful because quite simply society isn’t as advanced as it likes to think it is. You go through a phase of “life is hard enough, it sucks that now were in this position” something which sounds amazingly selfish I know, but its like over night the entire family is in a closet and more importantly, you are constantly aware of what a hard time your family member is having. You feel every single homophobic comment like its directed at you. I love my sister but as soon as I started confiding in people and telling them that she was gay, everything changed socially for me, which in a way is alright, because I don’t like talking to narrow-minded hill-billies, but it sort of got lonely. I think thats what people are afraid of, isolation. But in the end, it works like a filter and you end up with people who really are worthwhile.

    I hope this wasn’t offensive to anyone, take care

  • JoeyO'H

    I’m done with allowing people to apologize because they think they can make these kind of comments knowingly they can retread their comments later on. You say what you say and that’s it. No more apolgies from these idiotic morons.

  • B2010

    A parent’s worst nightmare is getting a call and having the person ask “Are you the parent of _____ ?” and then after confirming that yes, _____ is my son/daughter, the caller saying, “This is the coroner’s office…” I knew someone who had that happen. No one wants their child to have any physical or social issues whether it’s from being disabled, having learning problems, bad eyesight, birthmarks, bipolar/depression, sexual identification, etc., but that’s what life is about: gleaning happiness from our difficulties. Sounds like Dr. Gardere needs to re-evaluate what’s really important; life. I bet Tyler Clementi’s parents would give anything to have their “worst nightmare” be that their son is gay.

  • reason

    If he some how lied where are all the people falling over themselves to give us our rights? I don’t blame him for backpedaling, he isn’t the one that has to live with the truth. People don’t want their kids to be gay, if you polled the county what do you think you would find?

  • CNN Watcher

    Jeff Gardere is a sick man !! Notice how i didnt adfress him as Dr.? He needs a real Dr.. I hope he is investigated because i bet he had many skeletons in his closet!I never blogged before but the trans gender debate on CNN was so disturbing on how he agrees on using preschoolers as test rats for his own issues!! SICK SICK SICK!!

  • the crustybastard

    My very heterosexual daughter told me the other day that — far from being a nightmare — she thinks having a gay son would be “ideal.” Her words.

    She thinks that because of her background and sensitivities, she’d be a particularly good mother to a gay kid. She is most certainly correct. That would be one very lucky boy.

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