for why the Kelsos abandoned their 10-year-old son: lack of support, their own emotional state, their unpreparedness for their life with him as a son, the severity of the disability.
In any other than the disability world, this would be viewed as blaming the victim.
On New Year's Day I tried a little experiment. I was out for brunch with a group of gay men (Brunch, for gay men, is a town hall meeting.); I knew that one of the men had been placed into a private psychiatric institution when he was 12 or 13 years old so that he could be cared for by professionals. The professionals would be able to fix him. He would learn to love differently.
I knew his story from years ago, and during brunch I brought it up. He, having a lot of distance from this now, took my opening and told the story himself, replete with descriptions of his incredible sense of abandonment and rejection by his parents, with whom he has never really reconciled.
After he was done I used the language I'd heard being used to excuse the Kelsos. I said, "Well, we need to understand where the parents were coming from. They might have been suffering from some kind of shock to the discovery that their son was gay. They might have felt that they couldn't be expected to raise him, that his care would be better done by professionals . . ."
I didn't get any further. There was an eruption at the table. People were furious that I would even suggest that abandonment was an appropriate response to the discovery that your child was gay. People shrieked -- I'm not exaggerating -- that a lot of street kids are abandoned gay kids, abandoned by parents who "couldn't cope."
Yes, I expected this reaction. What I was really interested in, while I was being chastised, was the look of absolute peace that came over the man whose story prompted this discussion. He was basking in the understanding and support of his friends, his community.
How must it feel to be a 10-year-old abandoned by your parents?
But there's another question we need to ask ourselves: How must it feel to be abandoned by your community?
Dave Hingsburger is involved with the self-advocacy movement for people who have developmental disabilities. The author of 21 books, his writing appears regularly in disability rights magazines.