Mitchell Gold is a friend and a terrific man who does outstanding work with Faith in America, which battles against “religion-based bigotry.” I attended a benefit he held at his SoHo furniture store on Monday. The proceeds went to not only FIA, but to the Tyler Clementi Foundation, named after the gay Rutgers student who committed suicide after he was surreptitiously filmed in an intimate situation by his busybody roommate. His lovely and gracious family was there and we learned how they are working with Gold’s organization to stop the harm caused by fundamentalist religious teachings.
At the event, I had the pleasure of meeting Rosie O’Donnell who was funny, engaging, and all-around sweeter than a sugar spoon. Additionally, I was able to meet a hero of mine, Dr. Ruth. When I was 16, in 1986, I was deeply closeted and terrified of coming out. One evening, there was a man who called into Dr. Ruth’s show in his late 30’s who was just as closeted as I was, and it had made him into a big neurotic mess.
It was at that key moment that I realized the closet provided no light at the end of the tunnel and meant being stuck, running in place. The man on the phone had wasted his life living inauthentically and it had brought him nothing but shame, hopelessness, and helplessness. Did I really want to turn into that guy?
Dr. Ruth told the distraught gentleman that is was time to make up his mind and come out — that he needed to stop living a lie before it was too late.
I’ll never know what the caller decided to do with his life. But, fortunately, there was a 16 year old listener in Honolulu who took her advice and never looked back. On Monday, I finally got a chance to express my deep gratitude.
Unlike Dr. Drew and Dr. Oz, who give platforms to “ex-gay” quack therapists and “pray away the gay” zealots, Dr. Ruth didn’t pretend that there were two equal sides in this debate. She was pro-gay and a huge help to vulnerable teenagers, and their parents, who needed reassurance from an authority figure.
Today’s TV shrinks should listen to some of her old shows to see how it is done.