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Michael Walker

May 1998

"Truth and Chasms"

"April is the cruelest month", or so T.S. Eliot tells us. I have always trusted poetry to be enlightening if not entirely truthful in its information, and whenever I find that the given truths in life can let us down, I go back to those notions such as poetry, where I have no standing expectation of truth. This past April has been a month where I have seen truth -- whatever truth may be -- tested once and again. Kate is in the midst of changing her clinical practice to allow for a total dedication to her HIV/AIDS education efforts, therefore she did not have time to write a column for this month. She expects to return to writing this column in June, perhaps July, depending on the other affairs in her life.

Getting back to the issue of truth and perception, Kate, along with the rest of Oasis, are plaintiffs in a joint-action lawsuit against the State of New Mexico due to a law which recently passed in that state governing the provision of "offensive materials" on the Internet. Under this law, much of the sexually-related educational information that Kate offers would be illegal in New Mexico. Of course, we cannot restrict who has open access Oasis -- or any site on the Internet -- so if we offer something to the rest of the world, technically it is offered in New Mexico as well. Therefore, if we limit what we offer in order to comply with the law in New Mexico, we would have to limit our offerings everywhere.

Although the case is rather complicated, the basic premise is that the law in New Mexico is unconstitutional because it places restraints on freedom of speech and also would force Internet sites based in locations outside of New Mexico (and thus, to use the legal term, out of the jurisdiction of the laws of that state) to be limited by what lawmakers in New Mexico believe to be correct. Why should an Internet site located in California or Florida conform to a law in another state.? We have the concept of state's right and the authority of each state to pass laws unique to its own situation for the very purpose of allowing greater freedom and autonomy.

The Internet is one of the most free platforms for communication and the dissimulation of information which has ever existed and to constrain the usefulness of the Internet on a national --even international-- level due to the reasoning of a small group of people in one state is unthinkable. Oasis is not alone in its suit, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and several other Internet sites which contain materials that would be prohibited under the New Mexican law are also co-filers of this suit. I'm sure that Jeff will provide more information on the nature of the suit and its progress in court.

The reader questions this month -- which I will answer in Kate's absence -- also raise the issue of truth and how we perceive truth in our lives. The first question is from a young reader in Cleveland, Ohio:

Dear Dr. Fordham:

Hi. My name is Cory and I am a fourteen year-old in Cleveland. I have known that I am gay for a long time and told my mom last summer but she won't let me tell my dad who is divorced from her and lives in New York and she even tells him stuff like I like girls in school and everything. I think she is afraid that he will think it's her fault that I'm gay because he's more religious than she is. I don't want to lie to my dad and I want to tell him, but my mom even listens when we talk on the phone. What should I do?

Cory, you are dealing with a problem that is not as uncommon as you might imagine. Your parents are divorced and there are apparently some power struggles and important differences between the two of them. While these differences don't concern your sexuality directly, your being gay is the sort of issue which might become the center of a heated debate between your mom and dad. I think your mom is looking to avoid any further problems or arguments with your dad, based on what you said in your e-mail. While no one can blame her for wanting to avoid a stressful situation, it is not fair that she is preventing you from being truthful with you dad and that she will not allow you to come out to him when this is something that is important to you. You have been very brave to come out at your age and that choice should be respected by your mother, even if she does not completely agree with your decision in coming out.

I would suggest talking to your mother once again about this matter. Tell her that it is important to you that both of your parents are aware of your sexuality and that you want to talk to your dad about these things, whether his reaction is positive or negative. Perhaps your mother has some valid reasons for not wanting you to discuss your sexuality with your dad and if she offers you such reasons, please listen to her and respect her wishes alongside your own. I would imagine that your mom -- like most mothers -- really has your best interest in mind but her actions may strain your relationship with your father. Coming out to your dad may also put a strain on your relationship with him, but it is far better that you make the decision about coming out than having your mom or anyone else make that choice for you. At the same time, don't ignore your mom's advice because she may have some really logical reasons for telling you what she is about all of this.

Dear Dr. Fordham:

My name is Alica and I am a sixteen year-old girl who is in a relationship with a boy and another with a girl. Both these people know each other but they're clueless that I am seeing them both now. But I am afraid they could find out or something because most of my friends know I'm seeing the boy but not many know about the girl. What should I do? I like them both and don't want to lose one of them or hurt anyone.

Alica, the real problem you have here is not so much a gay topic as it is a matter of you dating two people at the same time and not being entirely truthful with either of them, from what you have said in your e-mail. I would look at this situation the same way whether it was two boys whom you were dating or the actual situation of a boy plus a girl. The bottom line is that you have elected to date two people and have lead them to believe (maybe not intentionally, but still) that you are only dating one person. You are very right in thinking that either of these romantic interests may be "hurt" if he or she finds out about the other person second-hand, so the best thing to do here would be to break the news to each of them privately and honestly. I know that may be tough to do, but I see no other choice if you plan to be truthful with these people while also avoiding the possible problem of someone finding out something behind your back. If neither of them mind you dating the other (unlikely, but possible) maybe you can continue both relationships at some level but in any case, telling the truth and being forthright in this case is the best option.

Either Kate or myself will be back next month for the June edition of this column, so keep sending in your questions and comments because we do like to get them and read them. And as always, keep things safe but fun in your lives.   


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