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Son Of "Proud Homophobe" Professor Comes Out Of The Closet.

| Filed under: Gay Gay GayInspirationLGBT


What an incredibly brave young man.

Over the summer, Washington University Professor Jonathan Katz was kicked off a panel of scientists originally brought together to help stop the BP oil spill for an essay he wrote and posted back in 1999, in which he justified and supported homophobia, as well as blamed the outbreak of AIDS on the 'chosen' gay lifestyle.

Some of the more infuriating passages include:

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.

Despite his father's opinions on the matter, Katz's son, Isaac, a 22-year-old graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, has publicly announced that he is, in fact, a homosexual, and wrote the following essay on his coming to terms with his sexuality and his relationship with his father.

It reads:

When I was perhaps 10 years old, my brother called me a faggot. 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. My father overheard him, however, and reacted in a manner I had never before seen. He was genuinely angry: not with violence (he never has been violent), but with pure, unadulterated offense. Profanity was rather strictly forbidden for us children, but the word "faggot," to my father, was simply beyond the pale.

Why was the slur so offensive to my dad? Not because the anti-gay slur is so contemptuous but, rather, because to merely call another person homosexual is to insult him or her in the worst way. My dad was angry not because my brother used a curse word — but because, simply and literally, he said that I was gay.

In the past month, a 13-year-old Minnesota boy named Seth Walsh, who had been taunted for being gay, died in the hospital days after hanging himself from a tree; a 13-year-old Houston boy named Asher Brown shot himself after repeated homophobic bullying; 18-year-old Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge after his roommate secretly filmed him having sex with another man (though it is not clear that the roommate was specifically homophobic or would have done the same if Clementi were with a woman); and a 15-year-old Indiana boy named Billy Lucas hanged himself in his barn after being tormented by classmates.

After Lucas' death, advice columnist Dan Savage launched an online campaign entitled "It gets better." Countless gay men and women have now posted videos on YouTube, telling — and demonstrating — that life does get better for gay teens.

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. Further, I, personally, was depressed throughout much of my adolescence. Although anti-gay bullying was never a problem for me as a student at Clayton High School, being in the closet hardly helped my mental well-being. I was hospitalized for depression the summer after my sophomore year in college and tried to overdose on pills later that fall.

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.

At the height of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill this past summer, Energy Secretary Steven Chu nominated my father to a small and elite group of scientists working to help plug the gusher; when gay rights groups protested, he was forced out of the position. As it happens, I don't believe that anyone's personal opinions have any impact on whether they can help fight oil spills. At one point in the summer, engineers used a procedure called "top kill" to try to stanch the oil spill; my father predicted that it would fail — it did — and suggested an alternative, later tested successfully on a small scale, that might have worked. Would my father have helped stop the gush of oil if only he had remained on Chu's team? That's presumptuous. To me, though, it is undeniable that removing him from the team for reasons unrelated to his scientific knowledge, academic credentials or intellectual capacity was a mistake.

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.

Last spring, almost three years after attempting suicide, I graduated cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania. Once I accepted myself, coming out to my parents was a rather easy thing to do. Telling them that I wanted to use my outrageously expensive college degree to move to Los Angeles and try to make it as a screenwriter was rather more difficult for me to work up the nerve.

Americans' increasing acceptance of homosexuality is proof that, indeed, it does get better. I still live in St. Louis and am hopeful and optimistic that I will begin film school next fall — my parents did manage to convince me that hurrying off to LA with little more than the clothes on my back and a dream would probably not be the best way to break into an industry as insular as the film world. I am happier than I have been in many years. To struggling gay and lesbian teens in St. Louis and beyond, then, as a young gay man I gladly repeat Dan Savage's words: It does get better.

— Isaac Katz

We are unbelievably impressed with this young man's perseverance, given his situation, and the bravery he exuded to write such a touching, honest, and inspirational essay.

Jonathan Katz is lucky to have such a well-adjusted, smart and talented son. We sincerely hope that he can see that.

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42 comments to “Son Of "Proud Homophobe" Professor Comes Out Of The Closet.”

  1. 1

    The thing that you are most against, trust me, your children will be it. It's how the world stays balanced.

  2. 2

    Jonathan Katz is a professor of physics at Washington University in St. Louis, not University of Washington.

  3. 3

    Re: JasonDiggy – Yeah, im sure Hitlers kids came out Black and Jewish.

  4. Emesa says – reply to this


    See, this is exactly what I don't understand about people who say homosexuality is a choice. I'm a straight woman and I know that I could never choose to be a lesbian. I just don't like girls that way. I guess anyone who rants on about gayness being a choice must think that they, themselves could choose to be or not be gay.

  5. 5

    Jonathan Katz is a professor of physics at Washington University in St. Louis Missouri NOT the University of Washington in Seattle!!!

  6. 6

    wait…he got kicked off the bp spill response team becasue of ant-gay comments on a paper he wrote? what does that have to do with the oil spill?!?! everybody says STUPID and UNINTELLIGENT things, but if he was one of the best guys for the job, why did they let an UNRELATED topic decide that he couldn't help?? i'm so confused…

  7. 7

    Anything you hate will find it way into your life. If you are racsit, homophobic, someone close to you that love will end up gay or married to that race you hate. its lifes way of waking you the fuck up to you ignorance.

  8. 8

    Re: rinzler – They may not have become black or jewish but they may have married and had children with them giving hitler black or jew grand-kids

  9. 9

    Perez - Great article. Just be careful…the man is a Professor at Washington University, not University of Washington (my alma mater). The former is in St. Louis, the latter in Seattle (home, happily, to Dan Savage.)

    Not a huge deal, just important to be accurate. Plus, I don't want a hateful idiot to be attributed to my alma mater.


  10. 10

    It's very rearely I saw this about the "gay heroes" championed on this website, but this boy should be looked up to, I'm so glad I was born in England and with parents so accepting and proud of who I am, me being gay didn't make much of an impact on them, because they saw it as nothing different from me being straight, they still expect the same things from me (good grades, good job etc) and I see no reason why it should be a problem at all. The main problem is that America is a Theocracy, not a democracy.

  11. 11

    Fired over something you said, or believed back in 1999? Seriously? Now that's actually bullshit.

  12. 12

    Love this!

  13. 13

    Isaac - that is one of the most courageous and eloquent essays I've ever read.
    Best of luck to you.

  14. 14

    He's hot!

  15. 15

    Re: jesalinda – I think it was because hate speeching is illegal and they wouldn't want someone on their team that's commited an act of prejudice.

  16. 16

    Seth Walsh is from Tehachapi CA. Not Minnesota. Just a quick correction. Love you.

  17. 17

    Because the BP oil spill has everything to do with being anti-gay. It's just as dumb as getting fired from a retail job for not liking the color purple.

  18. 18

    This guy is great, I feel bad that he has such a scumbag for a father. His father was one of many scientists hired by Obama for the spill and once the Obama cabinet got a hold of this guys hateful rantings they let him go, that was the right thing to do. He was replaceable and Obama was elected with many gay votes and to hire this disgusting filth was inexcuseable. You will notice that with many of the homophobic trash on the republican side they have kids,brothers,sisters … that are gay and the way they deal with it is hate and hateful propaganda. Newt gingrich-gay sister, Rush -gay brother it goes on and on. Anyway conservatives and rightwing religous people are a hateful bunch. I'm not giving the black community a free pass either.

  19. 19

    Any deserving parent would be proud to have him as a son.

  20. 20

    Re: Natanya – That was such a beautiful thing to say

  21. 21

    Re: Wenchtits – Well not really…Liking the colour purple isn't illegal. Say for example if you were known as a 'proud racist' and still are, despite the fact that that essay was written years ago, would you want someone like that working for you? They'd be a liability and it'd cause a lot of drama, I think. Also, what he did was illegal and when you apply for a job they always choose someone without a criminal background over someone with a clean past. Sorry if I'm sounding rude and I'm not saying that it's completely justified, but I can see why they'd do it…Of course it wasn't compulsary for them to fire him, but I can see why they would.

  22. 22

    I'm really glad I read that! I wonder if he'll be able to change his fathers mind about what homosexuality is? If anyone could it would be his eloquent and thoughtful son. It is interesting how a man (the father) could be so obviously smart and yet equally as unintelligent about a basic premise in life.

  23. 23

    Hollywood is the new SIN CITY!!! HAS ALL TYPES OF EVIL there! Devil has the stupid people believe all types of crazy stuff. Dick and Jane, not Dick and Dick. Come on EVIL LOSS PEOPLE. FEEL sorry for the righteous that have to 'fake' they believe in the rights of the 'evil, lost, weirdos', in order to be accepted in Hollywood.

  24. 24

    What a hard way to grow up. I admire his bravery in admitting he has an alt lifestyle to that rigid close minded father. Plus this guy is CUUUUTTTTE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  25. 25

    Looking forward to reading Isaac's future work and watching the movies he writes!

  26. 26

    A well spoken fellow! Pleased to have him on our team.

  27. 27

    I don't think it's that much of a stretch to assume that the father is gay himself. He thinks way too much about gays to not be one. Textbook really.

  28. 28

    So gay people getting kicked out of the army for being gay is wrong but a man

  29. 29

    So gay people getting kicked out of the army for being gay is wrong but a man who doesn't approve of gay people should be kicked from his job? SEE THE PREJUDICE???I myself do not approve of gay people,I'm a christian and those are MY BELIEFS, I do not disrespect you as a gay person but I will state what I think cause that's MY RIGHT as well. Stating that I do not approve of what you're doing does not make me a bad person but just a person with another point of view. So, why can't you respect WHAT I BELIEVE as long as I don't interfere with you? That's the only thing I hate about gay people, the fact that you expect us to respect you, what you believe but you respect us just as long as we agree with you.

  30. 30

    Re: knowitall – Not all christian people are hateful persons. The fact that we follow our beliefs does not make us bad or hateful persons. Why can't people respect that? I just don't get why most people have this attitude against christians. Have you been to a church lately? Have you met a GOOD, REAL christian person? Stop it with the prejudices!!!

  31. 31

    Re: Lauren Finn Design
    Writing an essay about your personal opinion is not a crime. Sure the guy is close minded, but he didn't do anything illegal. He never was accused of taunting fellow employees or doing anything malicious. The point was he shouldn't have been fired simply because of his opinion. That is called discrimination, which is illegal.

  32. 32

    Re: PwnNoobs – Don't flatter yourself bigot. I certainly didn't say anthing bad about christians but I sure did about religous rightwing conservatives. Lots of Christian leaders support gays and gay marriages. Many gays are serving in churches so I find it puzzling when a lowlife like you claims to speak for "christians". As long as you decided to join a cult of gay haters you can be called on it. Gays are not campaigning to kick rightwing christians out of the military or not letting them marry. Gays are not saying it's ok to fire rightwing christians if you find that out. This was a job , The president should not have anything to do with hatemongers ,go google all the hate this scumbag has said and get back to me.

  33. 33

    Re: Wenchtits – Oh are you whining again about discrimination against bigots? YOu really are a disgusting patehtic brainwashed fox news victim.

  34. 34

    What a great young man - so intelligent and thoughtful.

  35. 35

    Re: knowitall

    Equality sweetheart. It's not just for homosexuals.

    Again, the opinion is not a crime, acting upon it is. You can't just reserve it for the people you like or don't like. Deal with it.

  36. 36

    Re: PwnNoobs – Agreed

  37. 37

    Wow, What a wonderful young man! I would be very proud to call him my son! I feel sorry for his father, his father has a missing gene, he has no empathy, He is close minded, and so very wrong! I am sure the father did not choose to be a total asshole, he was born that way!
    Its wonderful that such a wonderful child, so forgiving and caring can be born from such a small minded father!

  38. 38

    :) Im glad that evil ma's son is gay so now the dad knows not 2 be a jerk

  39. 39

    This is a gay story that has nothing to do with Celebs.

  40. 40

    he's a hottie YUM

  41. 41

    Re: Wenchtits – And a business is not about free speech moron. No one owes this hatemonger a job ,especially when he is so offensive. Free speech and freedom to hire and fire who you want to when they are embarassing you at work. Thanks.

  42. 42

    Re: RubbinIsRacin – well you can always go somewhere else if it bothers you that .