In 1957, Ebony magazine invited Martin Luther King, Jr. — then a civil-rights upstart known for leading the Montgomery Bus Boycotts — to write a monthly advice column. King agreed. In 1958, a young reader asked him the following question:
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?
The King of our popular imagination may have told the boy that there was nothing wrong with his feelings, that his inclinations were part of the human experience, that anyone who told him otherwise was on the Wrong Side of History. But for all the popular hagiographies, King was a real person, and answered as any Christian minister in 1957 would:
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 recognize the problem and have a desire to solve it.
How long before our new Jacobins tear down King’s statue?