Isaac Katz, the son of Washington University physics professor and notorious bigot Jonathan Katz, is gay. And he just told an entire newspaper audience about it — including how, three years ago, he tried killing himself.
“When I was perhaps 10 years old, my brother called me a faggot,” Isaac writes in an essay published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Neither of us was old enough to understand the concept of sexual orientation; he was merely teasing in the way older brothers do and using a word that had surely passed from the public sphere into his vocabulary via sheer osmosis. But now, “More than a decade has passed since my brother used that notorious homophobic slur. I am now 22, and, as it happens, I am gay.”
Isaac says that while he wasn’t bullied in high school, he did struggle with coming to terms with his sexuality. And it’s the recent string of LGBT youth killing themselves that made him decide to come out publicly.
That’s got to be quite a shock to his father Jonathan, whose paper “In Defense of Homophobia” included completely reasonable thinking like:
Homophobia is the moral judgement that homosexual behavior (most of the arguments in this essay refer specifically to male homosexual behavior) is wrong. Homophobia is not like ethnic, racial or religious prejudice, which deny the intrinsic moral rights and value of other people. Rather, it is a moral judgement upon acts engaged in by choice.
[…] What of those cursed with unnatural sexual desires? Must they forever suppress these desires? Yes, but this is hardly a unique fate. Almost everyone has desires which must be suppressed. Most men and women think adulterous thoughts fairly often, and find themselves attracted to members of the opposite sex to whom they are not married. Morality requires them to suppress these desires, and most do not commit adultery, though they feel lust in their hearts. Almost everyone, at one time or another, covets another’s property. They do not steal. Many people feel great anger or intense hatred at some time in their lives. They do not kill.
I am a homophobe, and proud.
(The essay was updated in 2003, after gay students on campus protested exclusion from blood drives: “In order to satisfy their demand for full acceptance by society, the homosexual movement demands to kill some transfusion recipients by infecting them with AIDS, or to kill patients who need transfusions by making it impossible for blood banks to collect blood.”)
Katz, you’ll recall, was part of Obama’s BP oil spill think tank — before being let go following the exposure of his homophobia. (For what it’s worth, Isaac says pulling him off the team was a “mistake,” homophobe or not.)
So what does young Isaac, a new University of Pennsylvania cum laude grad, think about daddy’s bigotry?
My father is a physics professor at Washington University. Years ago, he wrote an article on his personal website in which he justified homophobia as a “moral judgment” about a person’s actions. Even if one does not accept Judeo-Christian morality, he wrote, gays should be shunned because they are physically and morally responsible for the AIDS epidemic. Any person “cursed with unnatural sexual desires” should suppress those desires. Further, even if gays are thoroughly safe and monogamous, they are still morally culpable for the promiscuity that spread AIDS in the past, just as people who join the Ku Klux Klan without physically engaging in violence still share the responsibility for past Klan actions. Though one should “not engage in violence against homosexuals,” my father argued, one should ‘stay away from them.” The last line of the essay is as follows: “I am a homophobe, and proud.”
It is harder to stay away from homosexuals, I would imagine, when your son is one. When I told my dad I was gay, his immediate response was, “No, you’re not.” (My mom, by the way, was and is more supportive.) When my insistence finally overrode his denials, he echoed his online essay that I should deny who I am rather than to engage in an act so abhorrent as to love another man.
[…] I can’t change my dad’s thoughts about homosexuality overnight. Underlying his opinions and those of other homophobes is the belief that homosexuality is not ingrained within gay men and women, that someone attracted to people of the same sex should simply choose not to be a “practicing homosexual.” That this idea is absurd should be obvious to all straight people, unless they can identify a time in their lives when they chose to be straight and not gay, and would gladly become intimate with a same-sex partner if only they chose to.
Happy Coming Out Day!
NB: Professor Katz’s essay, once hosted on Washington University’s servers, is now offline.