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Dr. Laura, Heal Thyself
Published on Friday, May 12, 2000 in the Toronto Globe & Mail
Dr. Laura, Heal Thyself
by Richard Burnett
Some people accuse me of wanting to be straight. Well, let's get one thing straight: I have never been, am not and do not ever want to be straight. And that, according to syndicated radio host Dr. Laura Schlessinger, is what makes me a "biological error.

"If you are gay or lesbian, it's a biological error that inhibits you from relating normally to the opposite sex," Dr. Schlessinger once said on her radio show, wherein she daily dispenses pop psychology to more than 20 million listeners on nearly 500 radio stations across the United States and Canada.

"The fact that you are intelligent, creative and valuable is all true. The error is in your inability to relate sexually, intimately, in a loving way to a member of the opposite sex."

Well, Dr. Laura, if God made everyone and I'm a biological error, that means even God makes mistakes.

I'm reminded, when I listen to crackpots such as Dr. Schlessinger, that I'm not the one who's the biological mistake. And, in a decision released this week, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council agrees. The self-regulatory body that administers professional broadcast codes on behalf of Canada's private broadcasters ruled Dr. Schlessinger's comments about gays and lesbians to be abusively discriminatory on the basis of their sexual orientation.

Dr. Schlessinger -- whose PhD is in physiology, notpsychology -- wrote of the ninth commandment (thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour) in her bestseller The Ten Commandments:"On a more apocalyptic scale, 'The broad mass of a nation will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one.' These words written by Adolf Hitler are living testament to the idea that the bigger the lie the more believable it becomes."

Hitler, huh?

I say Dr. Schlessinger gives moral force to the lie that queers are an evil abomination. Her rhetoric inspires hatred and that's how queer kids, otherwise happy and healthy, are taught to hate themselves. In a society where gay and lesbian youth -- not to mention youth perceived to be gay or lesbian -- make up a third of all teen suicides, that is tantamount to genocide.

While the CBSC also believes Dr. Schlessinger's on-air rhetoric may fuel gay- bashing in the streets of Canada, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission apparently does not.

In response to a complaint about Dr. Schlessinger on Montreal radio station CJAD, the CRTC -- not beyond dispensing a little pop psychology of its own -- ruled on April 27 that "open-line programs tend to be controversial and we do receive complaints about them. We note that Dr. Laura expresses strong personal opinions on her program that some listeners may not share."

The federal broadcast regulator later added, "We listened to the tapes of the three days of Dr. Laura programs in question [Dec. 20-22, 1999] and found nothing that could be construed as 'anti-gay' or 'hateful.' "

There is no room, of course, for discrimination or censorship in ostensibly democratic nations such as Canada and the United States. Which brings to mind the George Orwell quote: "If large numbers of people believe in freedom of speech, there will be freedom of speech, even if the law forbids it.

But if public opinion is sluggish, inconvenient minorities will be persecuted, even if laws exist to protect them." In other words, we must all come out and speak up against hate and intolerance.

I will defend Dr. Laura's right to speak her mind, no matter how reprehensible her views. That said, I'm also thrilled that the CBSC is forcing radio stations CJCH in Halifax and Talk 640 in Toronto to apologize on-air during their peak radio listening hours.

She has a lot to be sorry for.

Richard Burnett writes a nationally syndicated column (Three Dollar Bill) on gay and lesbian issues for Hour magazine.

Copyright 2000 Globe Interactive


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