Normally, my reading of William Raspberry's column is punctuated by nods of agreement. But his Oct. 14 diatribe, "A Special Case of Discrimination," leaves me shaking my head in sorrow and anger. Writing about ACLU efforts to support the rights of gay men to serve as Big Brothers or Boy Scout leaders, Raspberry writes that antigay discrimination in these areas is simply "common sense."

I write not as a legal expert but as the mother of a fine young woman who happens to be gay. As such, I take strong exception to Raspberry's claim that homosexuality and pederasty are "two different aberrations." In "the case of adult males who abuse young boys, they happen to reside in the same individuals," he adds in snide parentheses. Well, heterosexuality resides in the same individuals who rape and abuse young girls. Lumping together homosexuality -- a naturally occurring variation like left-handedness -- with the crime of pederasty is repugnant to me.

Leaving aside questions of child abuse, Raspberry continues, gay adults, per se, cannot and should not function as role models.

His words are an ironic counterpoint to the recent efforts of gay men and women to demonstrate their human worth in the gay rights march here. Raspberry gives lip service opposition to "arbitrary discrimination against homosexuals." But his column perpetuates the stereotype that gays are not really people like the rest of us. It is reminiscent of the words of white bigots who say they are all for ending discrimination against blacks -- but that the presence of blacks in their own schools or neighborhoods would lower education levels and property values.

My daughter, a college senior, enjoys drama, hiking and backpacking and since high school has worked with retarded youngsters in the Special Olympics. Presumably, Raspberry would bar her from such volunteer work as a dangerous "role model."

When our daughter "came out" to her father and me last year, I joined Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays -- an educational and support group composed mainly of mothers and fathers of gay people. There I learned, through educational materials, and discussion with other parents and with gay young people, that persons who are lesbian or gay do not become so as a matter of choice. The sexual orientation of the 10 percent of the human population that has been homosexual throughout history is an integral part of their makeup, and is usually a matter of self-knowledge by late childhood. To ask gay men and women to deny their sexuality is to ask them to opt for a life of loneliness or lies.

Likewise, the attraction to members of the opposite sex felt by heterosexual boys and girls is also fixed. Straight youngsters will not choose a life of gay sex because of exposure to gay role models.

(The one case where an adult role model could make a difference is to the 10 percent of teen-agers struggling with the knowledge that their attraction to members of their own sex makes them not only different, but potential outcasts in the world of teen peer pressure. Such youngsters suffer a high rate of depression and even suicide. In these cases, acquaintance with a gay adult leading a contributing and satisfactory life could mean the difference between life and death.)

For the vast majority of straight youngsters, association with responsible gay adults only provides them with an opportunity to rid themselves of stereotypes.

Disclosures of child abuse in recent years do indeed suggest the need for rigorous screening of applicants for positions with young people, but let this screening be done by an individual check of character and background rather than by excluding an entire category of people as "aberrants."

The aberration here, to my way of thinking, is Raspberry's column.

Shelly Schwab