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A young woman I worked with last week told me three thoughts that kept playing in her head like a tape:

I’m not special.

I’m not good at anything.

It would be better if I were just dead.

Listening to those voices took her down a familiar path to depression and self-destructive behavior.  She admitted the suicidal thoughts were mostly directed at attracting the attention of a guy she’d been dating who now ignored her.  Maybe if she didn’t exist, he’d finally notice.  And that would somehow mean she’d gotten him back – so she could feel like she was worth something again.

I proposed another path.

I asked if she could formulate counter-voices to answer those tapes.

She said it was hard.

The best she could come up with was:

I’m a nice person.

and

I’m a good friend.

It didn’t seem like much.  But it was a start.

In fact, those two observations represent some sort of universal human bedrock.  The beginning of everything else.

You can’t achieve anything in life – anything meaningful – unless you like yourself.  That means believing in yourself, and considering yourself someone worth being.

It begins with sitting down with yourself – just as you would with anyone else – and deciding you’re someone worth having as a friend.

A person worth having as a friend is someone who tells you the truth, and holds a connection with you.  Someone who is real.

This young woman told me she is a nice person, and a good friend.  And she likes people who are nice people, and good friends.  We all do.  That’s the basic bedrock – when everything else, all the clutter, is cleared away – it’s why you like another person.

Where do you go from there?  Anywhere.

This young woman’s favorite performer happens to be Lady Gaga.

If you look at Lady Gaga’s biography, one prominent fact jumps out at you:  it didn’t have to happen.

There was never any guarantee that Stefani Germanotta was going to become a humongous pop sensation.  Actually, it seemed next-to-impossible.  Somehow or other she found the strength to ignore all the nay-sayers – and the odds – to drop out of college, and work night and day at her song-writing and performing.  She also followed her heart to create an outrageous persona, locate the wildest conceivable costumes and pull off something new.

Obviously, we can’t all become Lady Gaga.  She’s a talented musician, dancer and performer, and most of us are not.

But you can take a page from her playbook – and believe in yourself.

My young patient reminds me a bit of her hero.  She is delightfully unconventional, with pink hair and tattoos and a stunning eye for outre fashion.

If she can learn to take another path, away from self-attack and towards self-acceptance, there’s no knowing where she’ll end up and what she’ll accomplish – the possibilities are endless.

You can’t create talents and aptitudes – you’re born with those.

But you can learn to believe in yourself, and nurture and support the talents and aptitudes you have.

Like every single person on this Earth, you are an original work of art.

Your life can be a work of art, too.

It starts with giving yourself a chance.

So go ahead – stop beating yourself up.

If it worked for Stefani Germanotta, it might work for you.

Get in touch with your inner Gaga.

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Sometimes I feel like I might be the greatest therapist in the world.

Like when I help a gay person out of the closet.

The results are amazing.  If I could put what happens to a gay person when he comes out of the closet into a bottle and sell it, I’d be a multimillionaire.

Depression lifts.  Anxiety disappears.  Authenticity is restored.  Self-esteem soars.  It’s like a super mental health tonic – it never fails.

How to account for this miracle?

A person in the closet is a liar.  He’s being forced to lie to everyone around him, and he is being forced to lie about who he is, which implies there is something wrong with him.

That’s incorrect because there is nothing – NOTHING – wrong with being gay.  In fact, it has many advantages – including admission into the gay community, a diverse collection of people with a proud history.

The lie of the closet isolates the closeted person.  No one knows him, so he doesn’t know himself – or them.  He’s living outside of the world, alone.

That isolation is devastating.  It is a terrible waste of a human life.

Coming out fixes everything in one easy step.  The results are astounding.

It isn’t easy to overcome the fear and take that leap.  Certain elements in our society are committed to keeping gay people from telling their truth, and to achieve that end they do their best to scold, frighten and intimidate LGBT people into hiding the beauty of their authentic souls.

Over the years I’ve heard every reason in the book for why it isn’t quite time yet – or why this particular patient is the exception and can’t come out like everyone else.

It’s all nonsense.  Everyone must come out.

Here’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on the topic:

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

I’ve helped people of all ages, all religions, all ethnicities and from all over the world to come out.

To my knowledge not one single mother has clutched her chest and dropped dead of a heart attack (although a patient recently – and seriously – predicted to me that this would occur.)  Not one father has committed suicide upon hearing the news either (another patient’s grim prediction.)

At very worse, they might freak out, and it might take them a while to overcome their ignorance and become educated about the nature of sexual orientation.

But that’s their job.  They have a gay person in their lives, and they need to learn more about gay people.

One of the best things about coming out is that you stop apologizing.  You learn to look people in the eyes without shame. Suddenly you are truly present, authentically present.  It’s the real you.

For a gay person, when you come out is when your life truly begins.

A few weeks ago, President Obama promised he would dismantle Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – the military’s current policy towards its gay soldiers, pilots, marines and sailors.

The military has been functioning for nearly two decades under this rule, under which gay people are permitted to serve, so long as they live in the closet.

As a psychotherapist, I know that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell does more than endanger the careers of brave, hard-working American service members – it endangers their psyches as well.  Overturning this policy is not merely a matter of social justice – it is a matter of psychological well-being.

Many of these service members are young and impressionable, and grew up in a climate that was especially repressive around issues of sexual orientation.  In psychological terms, the military is in the position of a parent to these young soldiers.  By telling these young people to hide who they truly are, the commanding officers are telling them there is something wrong with their authentic selves.  If they believe this nonsense, they will become prime candidates to develop depression by bottling up their anger at the military – anger which they feel is forbidden – and turning that anger in on themselves, assaulting their self-esteem.

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is an insult to soldiers who put their lives on the line to protect our country.  It is also a real and present danger to their psyches.

It is an obscenity.  It must end now.

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The first researchers to observe chimpanzees in the wild were left with an idyllic impression of our close ape cousins.  They appeared to be a peaceful tribe of vegetarians, who cuddled and groomed and cared for one another in extended family units, sharing fruit and showering their young with affection.

Only later, when in-depth studies were attempted, did it become clear that this was merely part of the picture.  These serene vegetarians were also capable of shocking violence towards members of their own species, including murder.

Chimpanzees are gentle, loving and family-oriented within their own territorial mating group.  But with chimps from outside that circle, they can turn vicious.

In this respect, chimps resemble humans.

You, for example, would never display intentional cruelty towards another human being.

That is – unless you knew that other human being wasn’t like you.  Then you might be surprised at what you could do.

Welcome to in-group/out-group psychology.

Consider the guards at Auschwitz.  They thought of themselves as nice people.

An album of photos was made public in 2008 containing photographs taken by members of the SS who worked at Auschwitz. These pictures are not what you would expect.  Dating from 1944, they show laughing, singing, smiling people reveling at Solahütte, an SS recreation home located just outside the death camp.

There’s even a shot of an SS officer lighting the Auschwitz Christmas tree only a few miles from the place where millions were being starved, beaten and gassed.

The question becomes how you convince yourself that other human beings are not like you – that they are outsiders.

One common method is to place them outside of your religious system.  Religion is often credited with teaching morals and enforcing good behavior among human beings.  More often, it is used to justify the abuse of out-groups by defining the parameters of an in-group.  As Freud put it:  “a religion, even when it calls itself the religion of love, must be hard and loveless against those who do not belong to it.”

Freud watched Hitler march into Austria during the Anschluss in 1938, as the powerful Roman Catholic church stood by offering no resistance whatsoever.  As Peter Gay describes it:

“The Austrian prelates, keepers of the Roman Catholic conscience, did nothing to mobilize whatever forces of sanity and decency still remained;  with Theodor Cardinal Innitzer setting the tone, priests celebrated Hitler’s accomplishments from the pulpit, promised to cooperate joyfully with the new dispensation, and ordered the swastika flag to be hoisted over church steeples on suitable occasions.”

Freud managed to escape to England with his immediate family.  Four of his sisters, each of them over 70 years old, were not so lucky.  These helpless elderly women were murdered in concentration camps.

In-group/out-group psychology, coupled with religion, explains a lot about wars, inquisitions, crusades, burnings at stakes, pogroms, terrorism and the ugly history of mankind in general.

Another way to ostracize a group is to link them to disease.  When Glenn Beck calls Progressivism a “cancer” in America, he implies that Progressives, those people like myself who believe in Progressive causes, are the embodiment of that cancer.  He is borrowing a page from Adolf Hitler’s playbook.  One of the Fuehrer’s favorite tropes was to compare Jews to tuberculosis bacilli infecting the German nation.

If people are tuberculosis bacilli – or cancer cells – it becomes much easier to abuse them.

Still another way to justify dehumanizing a group of people is to isolate them because they have a different ethnic background, or physical appearance. This country began as a slave colony, based on the firm notion that people with dark skin could be beaten, abused, tortured, murdered, and bought and sold as chattel because they weren’t really “human” at all – they were more like animals.  This is another example of in-group/out-group psychology at work.

The Tea Party movement lends itself to in-group/out-group psychology because it is a homogenous population – an excellent candidate for an in-group.  According to a CNN poll, active supporters of the Tea Party, those who have attended a rally or donated money, are much more likely to be wealthy, male, have graduated from college and reside in rural areas that are already GOP and conservative strongholds.  According to a Quinnipiac University poll, 88% of the Tea Partiers are white.  They are also almost entirely Republican.  It’s a fair guess that most of them are Christian, too, and probably fundamentalist.

This might explain their obsession with attempting to prove that Barack Obama, the President of the United States, was somehow not born here or is somehow not American.

He’s different from them.  That makes him a member of an out-group.

Mr. Obama’s out-group status, in turn, permits the Tea Party people to justify treating him in ways they would never treat one of their own.  That explains shouting “You lie” at him in the middle of a joint session of the US Congress, or flaunting firearms at events where the President is speaking.  Since he is an out-group member, they can justify treating Mr. Obama with a level of disrespect that might otherwise be difficult to fathom, especially from people who claim to respect the office he fills.

More disturbing, perhaps, is the way the Republicans treat their fellow Americans who happen to lack healthcare.

If another human person were injured or ill, and needing to be taken to a hospital, it is hard to imagine anyone, whatever their political or religious beliefs, refusing to come to that person’s aid.

But the Republicans have managed to convince themselves that denying healthcare to their fellow Americans is morally defensible.  Perhaps it’s a Christian doctrine that an atheist outsider, like myself or Sigmund Freud, could never comprehend.

More likely, for the Republicans, it’s simply that any American living without healthcare must be a member of an out-group.  Perhaps they are all Socialists, African-Americans or Progressives, or even part of the “cancer” that Glenn Beck battles on tv.

The latest example of in-group/out-group psychology at work has appeared in the form of threats of violence by radical Right-wingers against Democratic politicians who supported the healthcare bill and voted it into law last week.  Black and gay politicians have had nasty names shouted at them.  One Democratic congressman was called “baby killer” by his Republican colleague on the floor of the US House of Representatives.  There have been death threats and acts of vandalism.

You wouldn’t do these things to someone whom you considered an equal.

The truth seems to be that, for the Republicans, anyone who disagrees with their political agenda is an outsider.  The code word for “outsider” is that you are not a “real American.”  Sarah Palin warned you about those people, the “fake Americans” – the outsiders.  You can place gun targets over their faces.  You can threaten their lives.

As I’ve said time and time again, this column is strictly without political bias.

But perhaps it is time for the Republicans and their Tea Party minions to rise above the level of chimpanzees and Nazis, and to recognize the humanity of their fellow citizens.  For decades, tens of millions of us have been denied access to decent healthcare.  As a result, each year tens of thousands of us have died.

The issue of healthcare is finally being addressed with a mainstream political solution, thanks to President Obama and the Democrats.

But the Republicans still need to learn a basic lesson in citizenship.

They are not the in-group, and everyone else is not the out-group.

There is no out-group.

There is one America, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

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I wrote a column a few weeks back on Prince William and Kate Middleton.

I possess no expertise in the British royal family.  I merely stumbled upon an article in a gossip mag comparing the Prince’s girlfriend to his mother, and it provided an excuse to discuss why you might choose a spouse who resembles your parent.

The column became a best-seller.  I still get hundreds of hits each week from a stream of readers fascinated with the British royal family.  I’ve been posted on royal chat sites, Prince William discussion forums, Kate Middleton fan blogs – the works.

It was so popular that now I’m writing another column on the British royal family (or, as I’ve come to know them, Elizabeth, Philip and the kids) to explain why the first one did so well.

You – or a great many of you – are fascinated by these people.  It doesn’t take a genius to see why:  you want to be them.

Everyone does.

That’s because the British royal family are treated like children.  And you want to be treated like a child, too.

How are Elizabeth, Philip, Charles, Andrew, Edward and the others infantilized by their role as royals?

They live the life of a pampered young child.

They do not work – and they do not have to work.

They have everything they could ever want, let alone need, provided for them.

And most importantly:  they have your attention focused on them like a laser beam.

Someone’s eyes are on a small child perpetually – or they should be – making sure he doesn’t get into trouble, and celebrating his every achievement.  A child’s first pair of shoes are bronzed, and his first lock of hair preserved.  His first steps are photographed and met with applause.  Like Louis XIV at Versailles, even his bowel movements are cause for furious activity.  And a young child never has to apologize for demanding so much attention – it is simply taken for granted that it is his due.

William and Kate exist in a similar world.  They can’t go swimming without a paparazzo recording each stroke through a telephoto lens.

That must be just awful (you say to yourself, tut-tutting sympathetically.)  They can’t get a moment’s peace.

And they rebel sometimes, too, don’t they?  Spitting fury when an annoying scandal breaks, an embarrassing revelation about a legitimately personal aspect of their lives which none of us has the least right to know anything about.

At this point they become like teenagers, rebelling against adoring parents – insisting that when they lock their bedroom door they bloody well want mum and dad to stay out and leave them alone.

Poor things.

And yet…you never had that problem…because…it’s a good problem to have, isn’t it?

You never basked in one ten-thousandth the attention – or the adoration – to which William and Kate are subjected on a daily basis.

It must feel like heroin, directly into a vein.  A major rush.  All that attention – directly on YOU.  And you don’t even have to ask for it – let alone apologize for taking up everyone else’s time.

So you fixate on them.  And identify with them.  And dream about winning the lottery of life and actually BEING them.

It would be heavenly, wouldn’t it?

Let’s not kid ourselves, either.  You cannot love people intensely without also being angry at them.  It’s Newton’s Third Law of Motion translated to emotions:  for each and every emotion there is an equal and opposite emotion.

You adore William and Kate.  And you are angry at them, too – because they are receiving what you never received.

You deserve that attention, too.  You always have.  You are just as good as William or Kate, and you know it.

Your anger is expressed as an aggressive sense of entitlement.  You are entitled to photos of them swimming.  You are entitled to juicy bits of gossip about their personal lives.  Fair’s fair – isn’t it?

It all works out in the end.

The royals seem to be doing just fine – and your celebration of them is a way of celebrating yourself.  Lavishing attention on William and Kate (and dreaming of being them) amounts to lavishing attention on yourself because you are dreaming of being them all the while.

That’s why it feels so good.  It’s nothing more than play.

It’s perfectly natural for adults to unwind and relax through healthy regression – playing at being children – just as children prepare for the challenges of life in the opposite way, by playing at being adults.

No harm in fantasizing about being the royals – the most pampered children of all – so long as it doesn’t become an obsession that occupies your every waking moment.  (For most of us that isn’t an issue – it’s just a hobby.)

So go ahead and have your fun.

Imagine what it feels like to step out of that Rolls Royce and into the bursting flash bulbs.

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Watching the most recent Oscars ceremony was a healthy reminder of the most fundamental instinct in human nature – the desire to please.

You want everyone to like you.

Admitting that is a big step towards authenticity.  Because it’s true.

It is also true that everyone will not like you.  Not even such masters of public relations as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama can make everyone like them.  Some people have their own issues – they might dislike you simply for being liked by so many other people.

Why do you want to be liked so much?  It relates back to the evolutionary necessity to please your parents.  A young animal must please his parents in order to survive.  Often, in the wild, where food and care can be in short supply, only the young animal who pleases survives to adulthood.

You crave delighting others because it regresses you into a happy child, secure in having pleased his parents and thus surviving and flourishing.

Even as an adult, you have a place in the back of your mind where everything you do is still directed at pleasing your parents.  That promotion at work, the book you published, the shiny diploma on your wall – there’s some part of you that’s hoping mom and dad will notice, just like those folks up on the stage at the Oscars, thanking their mom and dad.  And you’re watching those people because you enjoy identifying with them – pretending to be them for a few moments of rapturous pleasure in receiving approval.

Some part of you also wants to experience that cliched but endlessly replayed scene from every “feel-good” movie ever made.  It’s the scene where, after a lifetime of commitment and hard work, the unsung hero is finally recognized by…everyone.  Think “Mr. Holland’s Opus” or any of thousands of other cheesy Hollywood films.  Finally, after quietly doing your part to improve the world, you get your standing ovation.  The entire auditorium (or the stadium, if it’s a sports flick) is on its feet, cheering, applauding, weeping with joy – for you.

Moi?

I’d like to begin by thanking the Academy.

The problem with this instinct to please others and seek their approval is that it displaces your source of assurance about your own value onto other people.  They become the arbiters of your value as a person.

It’s lovely to receive accolades – the little kid within you dances for joy.

But the judgment of others cannot become a referendum on your value as a human being.  An adult needs to look within himself for approval.  And you can only achieve that approval by becoming your best self.

That means staying conscious of who you are at all times, and checking in to be certain it is your most authentic identity, the person you want to be – the person you can look back on afterward and be proud of.

Your respect for yourself must be earned.

The respect of others is nice, but it can be fickle.  Back in 1985 , when Sally Field won the Oscar for Best Actress for “Places in the Heart,” after having won in 1980 for “Norma Rae,” she didn’t actually say “You like me, you really like me” – although that’s what she’s remembered as saying, and that’s what she still gets made fun of for saying.

Here’s what she actually said in 1985: “I haven’t had an orthodox career, and I’ve wanted more than anything to have your respect. The first time I didn’t feel it, but this time I feel it, and I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!”

Perhaps it was her putting it so bluntly – telling the audience that they liked her – that made them flinch, and change their minds, and switch to making fun of her.

Sally Field probably realized once and for all in 1985 what will always be true – that you must look within yourself for the approval that matters. No one else – not even your parents – can satisfy your craving to be accepted as the person you truly are.

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Sarah Palin’s nickname in high school was “Sarah Barracuda.”

Supposedly, this reflected “her competitive streak.”

Charming.

How did this happen?  How does a child grow up with a grasping nature so extreme that she becomes nicknamed after a vicious carnivorous fish?

There aren’t many clues in Palin’s early biography, which reads like a carefully pruned and polished star cheerleader’s resume…which, of course, it is.

Sarah was born the third of four children.  That’s our one clue.  Perhaps she had to compete for attention with older and younger siblings.

At some point in Sarah’s life – I’d guess the first five minutes – she decided there wasn’t enough out there for her.  At least, not enough out there for her if she was going to share any of it with anyone else.

Maybe it was a sense of poverty.  Maybe the Palins were poorer than their neighbors.  Or maybe competing with those siblings was enough.  But somewhere during that childhood, profound feelings of deprivation developed in Sarah’s psyche, and a famine mentality set in.

After that, all we can do is sit back and watch a mighty appetite gobble everything in its path.

When people are subjected to a severe deprivation, like a famine, they hoard and deny others and generally act in ways they aren’t proud of.  During the famine in China that occurred as a result of Mao’s Great Leap Forward campaign in the late 1950’s, widespread starvation led to cannibalism among the rural peasantry.  Hunger can drive people to do terrible things.  They can turn vicious.

A bit like a barracuda, tearing off hunks of flesh to gulp down its maw.

A bit like Sarah Palin.

Here’s a charming quote from the Barracuda herself:  “I love meat. I eat pork chops, thick bacon-burgers, and the seared fatty edges of a medium-well-done steak. But I especially love moose and caribou.”

The mental image is of a gaping mouth, with sharp teeth.

How about her politics?  Could they even be considered politics?  Mostly, it boils down to Sarah, Sarah, Sarah – and making money for Sarah.

She quit her job as governor to give speeches to the highest bidder, write a book and work on tv – all for enormous sums of cash.

She was willing to speak (and no doubt thrill and inspire) the Tea Party wackos – for many, many thousands of dollars.

Even when she was working for John McCain, it was clearly all about Sarah – her expensive clothes, her big family (she has five children), her gigantic super-church, her enormous state – even the humongous “big box” stores she enticed to the little town of Wasilla to replace its now-moribund downtown.

Something in Sarah’s background left her feeling hungry – deeply hungry – and she is still grabbing up everything at the table.  Her “politics” are a philosophy of greed.  She can get married – but gay people can’t.  She doesn’t want to pay taxes – even to help other Americans survive.  She’s got her healthcare – if you don’t have yours, well, tough luck.  She’ll drill for every drop of oil in a nature sanctuary until her giant SUV is purring like a kitten, slurping it all down, belching, and demanding more. Immigrants can stay out – this country is Sarah’s, securely stolen from indigenous peoples and guarded with guns guns guns and more guns, wonderful guns.  Sarah doesn’t like government – she wants to go it alone, because she’s got hers, and you can worry about yourself, thank you very much.

Sarah wants to get a gun and go out in nature and kill something beautiful and devour it.

A couple more charming quotes:

“If God had not intended for us to eat animals, how come He made them out of meat?”

“I always remind people from outside our state that there’s plenty of room for all Alaska’s animals – right next to the mashed potatoes.”

Sarah is a predator.  She’s earning a lot of money chomping her way through a frightened minority of mostly older, white Americans who are terrified of the future and will buy all the double-cheeseburgers, super-size fries and giant cokes they need to maintain a secure perimeter of human fat cells.  Hunkered down in their gated retirement communities, clinging to their beloved guns, they crouch by the glow of their wall-size flat-screen plasma tv’s and defend what’s rightfully theirs – which is to say, everything.

Sarah represents insecurity in love.  Somewhere along the way, early on, she decided there wasn’t any love out there for her.  So she had no love to spare for anyone else.

Kill or be killed.  Eat or be eaten.

There’s room for you next to the mashed potatoes.

That’s the barracuda’s creed.

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When gay people come out of the closet, they usually run into some variation of the “but that’s unnatural” argument.  This is the apparently sensible claim that it doesn’t make sense to be gay.  Isn’t sex for procreation?  Why would two males or two females become romantically involved if they can’t have a child together?

It seems like a reasonable argument.  You can point out that some sort of gay behavior occurs in every species in the animal kingdom – which is true – or that gay sex is simply fun – also true.  But that only begs the question.  Why?  Why are there so many gay animals, and people, in the world when reproducing your own kind is the basis for a species’ success?  Having fun doesn’t seem to explain this apparent contradiction.

The answer is that gay people help nature hedge its bets.  A successful species typically keeps extra cards up its sleeve because the rules of the game can change without warning.  Gay people represent some important extra cards.  They are a natural, genetic variation that helps guarantee the successful raising of young.

Many species show wide genetic variation.  Dogs, for example.  You can breed a chihuahua that weighs 2 pounds.  Or you can breed an Old English Mastiff that weighs 300 pounds.

Why should canine genetic material be so mutable?  Because being tiny – or being huge – might come in handy.  You never know.

The ultimate disaster for a species – extinction – happens when its members fail to adapt to an altered environment.  That’s why you want to have as much flexibility as possible to respond and survive when something unexpected occurs.

It could be a meteor striking the Earth.  Or a volcano erupting.  Or a pandemic disease wiping out three-quarters of the population.  The game can change – and a species has to change too – sometimes a lot – in challenging new circumstances.

Having gay members of your species could make the difference between survival and extinction.  Gays are unique – and vitally important -because they do something no other members of that species will do.

I don’t mean have gay sex.

I mean raise other people’s children.

Gay animals are perfectly happy to pair-bond and mate with members of their own sex,  so their sexual relations are non-procreative.  They do not have children with their partner.  That means they are available to raise another animal’s children.

Say a heterosexual zebra, or otter, or muskrat or human is killed and leaves behind a helpless child.  Heterosexual animals, who can have  children of their own, will probably refuse to raise this other animal’s child, or at best do so grudgingly.  They have their own children, who are a higher priority because they will pass on their genetic material.  But a gay member of the species will happily step in and raise that helpless child.

He has no reason not to.  He is not caught up in the battle to mate and reproduce.  His preoccupation is caring and nurturing within a relationship.

If a male animal loses a female partner and is left with children who need care, he might have trouble locating another female willing to raise these children.  But a gay male would happily accept the job.

If a female animal loses her male partner and is left with young to raise, another male might reject the task of raising those children.  But a gay female would, similarly, be happy to help out.

Gays play a role in increasing the success rates for child-rearing in all species.  In the event of a large-scale disaster, resulting in many adult deaths, gays could fill an especially vital role in helping to raise the young.  They would not compete for sexual partners.  But they would help out with the kids.

It could make the difference to a species’ survival.

That’s what’s happening right now, with humans.

Many heterosexual human couples have children they are unable or unwilling to raise.  These children are put up for adoption – but there are too many of them to be cared for solely by heterosexual volunteers, who usually prefer to raise their own children.

That’s why, throughout the world, gays are the unofficial backbone of the adoption system.  Without them, many children would suffer terribly, never finding wiling, dedicated adoptive parents.

It is an open secret that in most states, the adoption system would collapse without the participation of gays and lesbians.  In 2007 it was estimated that there are 270,000 children living with same-sex couples in the USA.  Of these, one-quarter, or 65,000, have been adopted.  Gays are a small minority, perhaps as few as 4% of the general population.  But there is no question that gay people do a lot of adopting and provide loving homes for hundreds of thousands of children who desperately need them.

Unfortunately, in a few states, right-wing religious zealots have persuaded politicians to ban gay adoption.  It is not clear whether this misguided attack on children and the rights of gay people is constitutional.  A court battle is raging in Florida.

Meanwhile, these laws prevent gay people from playing a role nearly as ancient as life itself.  That is a tragedy, which could result in a calamity.

It’s also unnatural.

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