Read A Message Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Once Sent to a Questioning Teenager

A transcript has been found by Stanford University of a magazine letter Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once wrote.

It comes from a magazine advice section where the famous Civil Rights leader would give feedback and opinions based off of questions the readers would send in.

This particular topic between a teenage boy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was about the boy questioning his sexuality.

The boy wrote: “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 recognize the problem and have a desire to solve it.”

Bayard Rustin (left) and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

This response surely seems like its leading the boy down a path of depression and self-suppression, which may seem like a surprise since it is coming from a man who gave his life for the equality of all.

In addition, one of Dr. King’s most trusted advisors was Bayard Rustin, a known gay man.

That said, it’s also important to note that this was the mentality of the time when the two texts were written. While Dr. King’s response was misguided, we can at least say that it wasn’t written with hate.

Plus, Bayard Rustin may have been openly gay, but he himself did not openly advocate for the gay community until years after Dr. King’s death.

That said, while Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. never took up the flame to fight for gay rights, his wife and children did. Coretta Scott King openly fought for gay rights in as early as 1983 and continued to do so until her death in 2006.

1 thought on “Read A Message Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Once Sent to a Questioning Teenager”

  1. This was a common attitude at

    This was a common attitude at the time (letter is from late 1950s).  Dr. King was a Baptist minister, a politically liberal/radical one, but a socially conservative one.  He was not a psychiatrist.  I think if he had lived, his attitudes would have evolved along with those of the psychiatric/scientific community.  He was an intelligent, rational man.  His work with Bayard Rustin would have helped change his attitudes. 

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