HRC Blog

Oddly Normal: One Couple’s Powerful Journey with their Gay Son

Oddly Normal One Family's Struggle to Help Their Teenage Son Come to Terms With His SexualityPost submitted by Dan Rafter, former HRC Associate Director of Communications

LGBT youth face immense challenges as they navigate a society that remains very hostile at times, despite the tremendous progress we’re making on advancing equality. Many LGBT youth still feel isolated in school and lack basic support structures. That’s why it’s so important for our youth to have adults in their lives who fully support them and love them unconditionally. And that’s exactly the type of story New York Times national correspondent John Schwartz shares in his new book, Oddly Normal.

The book offers an honest and emotional look at the experience of John and his wife in raising their son Joe, who is gay. Despite the love and support from his parents, Joe faced challenges because of his sexual orientation – something to which many LGBT youth can relate. After one particular conflict with a group of students in school, Joe attempted suicide. Oddly Normal chronicles the journey Schwartz and his wife go on, from their initial inklings that their son might be gay, to the painful agony of wondering what they could have done differently to prevent his suicide attempt, to embracing their child for who he is while still trying to keep him safe from those who lash out against LGBT people. The book recently earned a glowing review from the Times.

HRC’s groundbreaking youth report expands upon the challenges that Schwartz and thousands of other parents across the country are faced with. We learned earlier this year that a jaw-dropping 92 percent of LGBT youth hear negative messages about being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender – with their schools or the internet among the top sources of those messages. Sixty-eight percent of LGBT youth hear those negative messages from our nation’s elected officials. Nearly a third of LGBT youth are afraid to come out to their family because they view their family as either unaccepting or homophobic and transphobic. And LGBT kids are more than twice as likely as their peers to be physically assaulted in school.

Schwartz’s account in Oddly Normal and the results of our youth survey are reminders that we have so much work ahead of us. We are working for a day when all LGBT kids feel safe being themselves, and realize that they can achieve their dreams without being held back simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Learn more about the obstacles facing LGBT youth at, and check out Schwartz’s new book, Oddly Normal.

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