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Is anti-gay letter to ‘Dear Abby’ latest hoax

Dear Abby, then and now
Dear Abby, then and now
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You got a “gay” problem: Who you gonna call? Not Ghostbusters. Not Dear Abby either.

It’s hard to know whether “Unhappy in Tampa” is another invention by a well-meaning but misguided liberal who was “attempting to spur a healthy discourse on a highly passionate topic” by manufacturing a couple who disapproves of the gay lifestyle. The letter, to advice columnist Abigail Van Buren, certainly has all the earmarks of a hoax:

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I relocated to Florida a little over a year ago and were quickly welcomed into our new neighbors' social whirl. Two couples in the neighborhood are gay — one male, one female. While they are nice enough, my husband and I did not include them when it was our turn to host because we do not approve of their lifestyle choices. Since then, we have been excluded from neighborhood gatherings, and someone even suggested that we are bigots!

Abby, we moved here from a conservative community where people were pretty much the same. If people were "different," they apparently kept it to themselves. While I understand the phrase "when in Rome," I don't feel we should have to compromise our values just to win the approval of our neighbors. But really, who is the true bigot here? Would you like to weigh in? — UNHAPPY IN TAMPA

DEAR UNHAPPY: I sure would. The first thing I'd like to say is that regardless of what you were told in your previous community, a person's sexual orientation isn't a "lifestyle choice." Gay people don't choose to be gay; they are born that way. They can't change being gay any more than you can change being heterosexual.

I find it interesting that you are unwilling to reciprocate the hospitality of people who welcomed you and opened their homes to you, and yet you complain because you are receiving similar treatment.

From where I sit, you may have chosen the wrong place to live because it appears you would be happier in a less integrated neighborhood surrounded by people who think the way you do. But if you interact only with people like yourselves, you will have missed a chance for growth, which is what you have been offered here. Please don't blow it.

What are the telltale signs that “Unhappy in Tampa” doesn’t exist, except as a figment of the imagination of Jeanne Phillips, the daughter of the late Pauline Phillips, who began dispensing dime store therapy as "Dear Abby" in 1956 (Abigail Van Buren was a pseudonym)? It’s certainly not the idea of the letter itself. People too unsure of themselves to deal effectively with life’s wrinkles are all too common. So are people so unsure of their values that they are willing to seek and accept validation of the sane from a total stranger.

What suggests that no such person exists is, first, Jeanne Phillips’s (and her mother’s) well-known support of gay marriage:

Perhaps her latest high-profile stance has been the support of gay marriage. While Pauline Phillips brought attention to Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays in the 1980s, when she referred a distraught parent to PFLAG, Jeanne Phillips has made tolerance of gays, lesbian and transgender readers a frequent topic. Still, she was surprised when she was honored by PFLAG last year, and her open support of gay marriage in an interview made national news.

"All of a sudden, there was this firestorm of publicity, 'Dear Abby believes in gay marriage,'" Phillips says. "I said to people, if you read my column with any form of understanding, you would understand that this is no surprise."

Second, it just seems too convenient that “Unhappy” would refer to withholding approval of certain lifestyle choices, thereby setting up Phillips’s pseudo-scientific claim that “sexual orientation isn't a ‘lifestyle choice.’ Gay people don't choose to be gay; they are born that way.”

Is it possible that “Unhappy” is real and missed the "Dear Abby" columns lamenting virulent anti-gay sentiment? Sure, just as it's possible that Barack Obama was telling the truth about missing each and every one of Jeremiah Wright's anti-Semitic and anti-American invective.

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