Here is what Martin Luther King told a teen struggling with his sexuality
Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. once answered a question from a boy who was struggling to cope with his sexuality.
The rights hero openly discussed homosexuality while writing an advice column for Ebony Magazine in 1958 – while the government was still openly discriminating against LGBT people.
According to a transcript released by Stanford University, the boy asked: “My problem is different from the ones most people have.
“I am a boy, but I feel about boys the way I ought to feel about girls. I don’t want my parents to know about me. What can I do? Is there any place where I can go for help?”
Dr King responded: “Your problem is not at all an uncommon one. However, it does require careful attention. The type of feeling that you have toward boys is probably not an innate tendency, but something that has been culturally acquired.
“Your reasons for adopting this habit have now been consciously suppressed or unconsciously repressed.
“Therefore, it is necessary to deal with this problem by getting back to some of the experiences and circumstances that lead to the habit.
“In order to do this I would suggest that you see a good psychiatrist who can assist you in bringing to the forefront of conscience all of those experiences and circumstances that lead to the habit.
“You are already on the right road toward a solution, since you honestly recognise the problem and have a desire to solve it.”
Though Dr King’s response may seem ill-informed by modern standards, his advice to the boy is remarkably calm and polite, given the fears and active scaremongering about gay people at the time.
The rights activist was tragically assassinated in 1968, one year before the Stonewall riots birthed the gay rights movement – so we will never know his true considered feelings on the matter.
But Dr King’s wife Coretta Scott King carried on his work, and dedicated her life to fighting for LGBT rights alongside civil rights – believing that he would have done exactly the same.
As early as 1983, Mrs King was urging for gays and lesbians to be protected from discrimination – and she remained ahead of her time until her death in 2006.
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She backed same-sex marriage in 2004, declaring it a civil rights issue, before adding that her late husband would have also been in favour.
Mrs King told gay rights activists at the time: “I’m proud to stand with all of you, as your sister, in a great new American coalition for freedom and human rights.
“With this faith and this commitment we will create the beloved community of Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream, where all people can live together in a spirit of trust and understanding, harmony, love and peace.”