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Understanding Gay Life and 'Real America'

Saturday, October 2, 2004; Page A19

Thank you so much for your series on young gay people in rural America [front page, Sept. 26 and 27]. As a gay man who grew up in Oklahoma (I graduated from high school in 1994), reading the articles has brought back some painful and bittersweet memories. Most profound among these memories is a sense of deep loneliness and isolation -- the fear that I was the only person in the world dealing with those feelings. If your articles can reach even one gay teenager somewhere in rural America and let him know that he isn't alone, then you will have done a tremendous service.

-- Konrad Riecke

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Gaithersburg

I was sympathetic to the plight of Michael Shackelford and his mother until I was stopped cold by this: "Michael can't quite grasp the concept of same-sex marriage. He wonders about the domestic arrangements. Who would do all the stuff women do? 'I can't really picture myself folding the laundry,' he says."

So, this is a teenager who grew up in a household run by a woman who holds down two jobs, and it has never occurred to him that he might have to learn basic skills of survival and hygiene? Who taught him that only women do laundry? I think Michael and his mother have a lot more to talk about in the area of misplaced priorities than sexuality.

-- Mary E. Butler

Ellicott City

Your use of the phrase "Real America" in the series "Young and Gay in Real America" is misleading.

Why is the Bible Belt more "real" than the rest of America? This kind of language does a disservice to all the very real, hard work of lesbian and gay activists in this country who have struggled for decades to win the kind of justice that all Americans deserve.

The America that looks forward, that believes in social justice, is at least as "real" as the one that withholds it.

-- Chris Nealon

Washington

I am a second-generation American. I pay taxes, I always vote, I read to my children. I did, however, grow up in New York State. Please explain how I am not a "real" American, or how my children, growing up in New England, are also not "real" Americans. Enough of this careless, simplistic and divisive language, if you don't mind.

-- Janet Linder

Auburndale, Mass.


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