A while ago I sat down on a quiet Wednesday morning to write this blog post, sharing how I would respond if I found out that my children were LGBTQ. My hope was to try to humanize an issue that my fellow Christians have largely dehumanized, and to try to set the table for productive new conversations, using the commonality of love for family as our starting place.
I couldn’t have imagined where those eleven hundred words would take me, both literally and figuratively since then. They brought me into the homes and iPhones of millions of people throughout the world in a matter of weeks; to CNN and Atheist radio shows and coffeeshop tables across from Southern Baptist pastors and Gay Christian conferences and living rooms of local families, and to all sorts of disparate, yet equally holy patches of ground.
This week those words took me to one of the most sacred spaces yet; a private online support group for a couple hundred Christian moms of LGBTQ children. Each day they gather virtually, to share a unique, incredibly difficult journey. I was there as a temporary guest, to be a resource for those present; to answer questions, and to encourage them in any way that I could. During my three days with these amazing women, I was incredibly moved by their honesty, their vulnerability, their thoughtfulness, their strength, and most of all their deep and abiding faith. It was inspiring and humbling.
I thought that rather than writing to you on their behalf here, I would let their words say the “stuff that needs to be said”.
Knowing they were safe to speak honestly in anonymity, I asked these moms of LGBTQ children one simple question: “What do you want Christians and church leaders to know about you, your kids, and your family?”
Here are their responses:
They need to know that since my daughter came out, I’ve never been stronger in my faith, have never done more Bible study and reading, never been “closer” to God in every other way, but yet have never felt so alienated and distanced from my brothers and sisters in the Church. My comments have been dismissed, my absences have been ignored, and the “Amens” in church have grown louder and more frequent whenever there is a remark against homosexuality. I need support from my church family, without all the negativity.
I want folks to know my 23-year-old gay son is not broken. He doesn’t need to be ‘fixed’. He loves the Lord with his whole heart. He didn’t ‘choose’ to be gay. He isn’t defined by that word, or by his orientation. He is a living, breathing human being who feels all the same things straight people feel. He is loving, kind, considerate, funny, and smart. He doesn’t deserve to be ridiculed, hated, attacked, or bullied for being himself; nor does any LGBTQ person.
I want them to know that even though I put my relationship with the Lord above everything, I put my family before a church, so don’t make me choose. My sons are the same people you have watched grow up, so stop acting as if they don’t exist, now that you know they are gay.
I wonder if they ever lose one minute of sleep worrying about those who are so devastated and hurt by non-inclusive denominations, that they secretly plot their own deaths? Do they feel any responsibility in this whatsoever? Do LGBT+ lives have any value to them? When they visualize the life of Christ, and view this issue through the lens of the Cross, how does this make sense?
I’m visualizing the specific Christian friends who are politely distant after years of close friendship. I don’t feel like I have their permission to tell our story honestly, but when I do…
I want them to know that I care as deeply about honoring God with my life as ever; that I still take the Bible very, very seriously and am just as wary of “twisting” it as they are. I want them to know that my son likes himself again, after years of internal turmoil that we couldn’t figure out; that my support of LGBT people is the result of my faith, not an abandonment of it. I want them to know that the last couple of years have indeed been hard for us, but not because we learned our son is gay.
When we learned how very common it is for gay kids in Christian families to believe God doesn’t accept them, or that their own family will reject them, or that they feel that there’s no way life can work out well for them; and when we learned how many suffer serious depression or anxiety, engage in cutting, and consider suicide, we assumed people in our church would care as we do.
Our church friends after all, are loving, faithful, kind, and compassionate people, and we felt sure that when they saw what we see, they would care and begin to at least ask some difficult questions about what the Church is communicating. That was not the case—at all.
We were horrified, and we still struggle each day to make sense of it. We’re not sure what to make of their silence now that we’ve left our church, so we suspect they’re relieved that we’re gone and have written us off as heretics. We don’t have very many local friends anymore. We’re confused about why friendships with church people are so much more conditional than friendships with old college friends and neighbors. We’re not sure whether we’ll ever really trust a church community again. That is why the last couple of years have been hard for us.
But I also want them to know that I dream of being able to seek God’s will together in this, admitting none of us have all the answers, acknowledging the strong emotions we all bring to the table, and realizing we may end up disagreeing. I want them to know I miss them, and I hope one day we’ll be able to share our lives again.
They need to know that they have no idea the pain that their words cause. They need to know that they have no idea what we go through. They need to know, at least for Transgender people; the high suicide rate, the fact that often times the only work they can get is in the sex industry, and that even using the bathroom means that they may be beaten.
I want people to know that my gay kids are not gay because they were abused in any way, or because I’m “overbearing,” or because my husband was negligent and/or didn’t “man-up” in his role as father. I want people to know that my gay kids are not believing lies about themselves in being gay, but are living into the truth of who they are.
I would want them to know we are just two parents raising two boys, and our oldest kid is gay. We are normal folks, really. We have the same challenges any other family does with two working parents. We are not freaking lepers. My kid is not going to rub off on your kid. We don’t have cooties. Oh, and don’t discriminate against the siblings who are not gay.
We are lives. We matter. I think we would all say that this is not a choice. You could ask any one of us, and we saw signs at an early age. We can have our faith and love our children well. Some of us miss corporate worship. Please welcome us. Take the word “but” out of your vocabulary. Leave the judgment at the front door and be gracious instead.
I would like them to know when they try to make me feel better by saying, “we all have a besetting sin”, that while I might agree with them, being gay is not our child’s besetting sin.
They need to know that we need love and support, not just Bible verses, and not to be told to “start reading the Bible and stop reading Science” (my sister told my other sister that about Trans issues). They need to try to step into our shoes when they refuse to use my daughter’s preferred pronouns. They haven’t heard the conversations about how hurtful being called her given name is, or that it makes her want to die. They don’t understand gender dysphoria, haven’t heard their child say they wish they could chop off their genitals. No, they simply say that it’s just because something is “mentally wrong” with her. She has just “chosen” this. Do people honestly think anyone would choose any of this?
For me, it’s not about what I want the church to know, it’s what I want the Church to “un – know”. I want Christians to ask the hard questions: How are we “saved”? What is salvation? What is the gospel?
“Gospel” means “good news”. What is that good news?
The Church has told us that faith is not about following rules, but the “gay issue” calls its bluff. The Church says God loves us unconditionally, but they don’t believe it. In my opinion, our beliefs about Hell, and punishment, and judgment, and salvation are the core problem. The fact that the Church cannot get past the “no same-sex” rule, only exposes it.
I want them to know that the silence feels like rejection.
I am a woman married to a wonderful wife with two incredible kids.
My wife and I are not intrinsically disordered. Our relationship is not depraved. In fact, the love and respect we share leads us to be better, healthier people. Our relationship brings us closer to God.
We are not promiscuous or lustful. In fact, we are monogamous. We are committed to each other and steer clear of those things that would damage our relationship. We are not one step removed from pedophilia or incest. In fact, my wife and I have worked for child protective services and women’s resource centers, to put an end to those wretched things. We are not one step removed from bestiality. In fact, neither of us can even stand it when the cat sleeps at the foot of the bed.
Our marriage is not unnatural. In fact, our marriage represents our very natural love for one another. We see our marriage as an equal partnership and a lasting union. We fought hard for our marriage. We intend to uphold it and honor it.
We are not a counterfeit family. In fact, we planned our children very carefully. Long before they were conceived, we loved our children and dreamed of giving them the best life possible.
We would never harm our children. In fact, we go above and beyond to keep them safe and protected from household injuries, malicious strangers, bigotry, and every other concern that creeps into a responsible parent’s mind.
Our children do not suffer from having two moms. In fact, we are very complementary individuals. We each bring very different qualities and skills to the table. Hiking, fishing, baking, creating, exploring, learning – between the two of us, we will give our children a very well-rounded childhood experience.
We do not threaten anyone else’s family or marriage. In fact, when we see other couples struggling, we do our best to offer help and speak in support of their marriages.
What do I want the Church to know? The list goes on and on… but it’s like shouting into the wind.
What I want to know is why so many churches continue to target and attack the marriages and families of same-sex couples. It’s not stopping people from falling in love, getting married, or having families. Instead, it’s wreaking havoc on the overall mental health of the LGBT community, it’s preventing us from being fully integrated into society, and it’s driving people away from God.
But my biggest concern lately is this… What in the world do we tell our kids about the Church?
Remove the word “abomination” from your vocabulary. Words hurt.
They need to know that often times we find ourselves in situations we never imagined, (court, doctor’s offices, mental hospitals) because of the consequences of the way our children have tried to cope with the pain, and of being afraid to be who they really are. Because in the past, we believed much differently, and preached those things at them before we had any idea of their sexuality; that we have guilt for realizing the unintentional pain we caused.
I would want the church to know that I needed someone who shared my faith, to tell me it’s OK to accept my son, and that we are important to the Church. Instead my entire family is now out of the church we served in and called home for over 20 years, because of the alienation and separation.
I want them to know that Christians and Christian communities continue to hurt LGBT people. As a mom whose son who is gay, these things hurt me too.
It hurts me when I hear Christians saying and doing things that cast LGBT people as less-than, as broken, as second-rate.
It devastates me when I hear that LGBT Christians who don’t believe that Scripture condemns a loving, monogamous same-sex relationship, are excluded from membership and/or service opportunities at a local church.
It crushes me when I read about a same-sex couple who has to have their otherwise happy time of planning a wedding, tainted by the need to interview bakeries, florists, and caterers to find out if they are willing to offer their services to a same-sex couple.
It grieves me when I hear families tell me they had to stop going to church because it wasn’t a safe place for their LGBT child, and was causing their child to be depressed, hopeless, and even to have suicidal thoughts.
It is overwhelming when an LGBT person kills themselves, because it is easier than living with the shame, oppression, and marginalization that has been perpetuated by their Christian community, their Christian family, their Christian peers, their Christian school.
It hurts me and makes me angry, when someone assumes someone must have done something wrong if their kid is LGBT.
As I stand before God with other Christians I wonder what they think God sees?
What is it that they believe He would call just, loving, generous, kind, hospitable?
Who do they believe that He would consider to be a good example of his love and grace?
To have had someone in the faith community tell me years ago, “It’s OK. Love your children. Don’t try to change them. Don’t make them feel unworthy. They are accepted here and welcome here.” Wow! What a help that would have been, instead of rejecting my children, and having all of us leave the church. Now I have no desire to be involved in organized religion, even though I still have faith and still believe. My “church” is the people I am able to help, the people I love (most especially the LGBTQ community), the donations I give to other help organizations and people in need. Life could have been so different for many of us, if the churches had been more loving and accepting.
I just want them to actually read the book I gave them. Don’t take it and put it on a shelf to gather dust or hide it in a drawer. Read it because I thought enough of you to buy it and give it to you; hoping for you to care, for a little understanding, a little effort to open your heart, even just a crack.
I want them to know how my precious daughter wept and agonized for years, praying to change, and how she almost took her own life because of the shameful messages directed at her by her “Christian” friends, when she shared her secret with them. I want them to know how she felt when the pastor she believed truly cared for her, and who knew her sexuality, preached that being gay was a sin. I want them to know what it was like for her to hear people she believed cared for her in that congregation, cheer and clap at the pastor’s statements. I want them to know that her many non-believing, Atheist, or Jewish friends have modeled Christ’s love to her unconditionally, but that not one of these “Christians” who have known her most of her life, have ever called, written, texted, or reached out a hand in friendship, all because this precious woman is gay.
And I want them to know that, even if I could, I would not change one single thing about my daughter. She is one of the kindest people on the planet, and she would still be there for any of those who have rejected her, even now.
I wish they would take the time with an open heart and mind, to read and educate themselves on what the Bible really says about LGBTQ people. Most of us were forced to do this when our child came out, and I know I was amazed at what I learned. There is way too much fear regarding this issue for many people to take the time, because it could cause a lot of questioning in all areas of their belief, and that can be a scary thing. Although I no longer attend Church, I still have a very close relationship with God and love Him dearly.
I want our church’s pastors and leaders to know that our church’s recent motto; that we are a church “Where No One Stands Alone” was NOT true, as I have tried to engage them in conversation about gays.
I would like to ask every Christian who has made an ignorant assumption or made reference to a grossly exaggerated stereotype: “Have you ever really gotten to know a gay Christian? Have you tried to understand their point of view, their pain, or really listened to their story?” I believe that many “straight” Christians would change how they view people with same-sex attraction if they would just take the time to really listen and get to know, and at least try to understand them. There is so much misunderstanding and so many assumptions made, because the Church doesn’t even want to talk about sex in general, let alone issues concerning same-sex attraction.
Can they just trust the story of the person that is different from them? Do they think these differences come from a lack of enough faith, or not enough love for God? How is it that they know our kids are not doing enough? Are they ever willing to give up their relationships, just to walk the road they assign to our kids? Do they think that God takes pleasure in asking our kids to love Him and yet never have a partner? Does this mean God has a rating system?
Raising a teenager who is gay is challenging enough. Doing so in a small conservative town in the South is isolating at times. I’d ask people to get to know us as people and families. We are surprisingly normal.
Whatever they believe, do not under any circumstances make a child that has come out feel guilty or bad about themselves; especially someone who is a parent. This is not happening to the parent. It took a lot of nerve for the child to come out, and they feel one hundred times worse than a parent ever could, in most cases. Only show love and support. If a parent needs to fall apart, do it with friends or another support group, not in front of the child. The gay community is just like everyone else. We all want to be loved and accepted. Pretty simple.
I’d like my church pastors and leaders to know they have lost my trust, and a portion of their credibility for not being totally honest with what they most likely know about the meaning of the “clobber verses”, about the Sodom and Gomorrah story not being about gay men but about rape, and for using the word “homosexual” rather than sexual immorality (which most men if honest, would have to admit they have committed adultery based on Jesus’ definition) and etc.
I want them to know that my beautiful daughter loves God with all her heart, and speaks to her LGBT friends with a strong voice of faith, and to her Christian friends with the confidence of a young woman who knows she is who God made her to be. I want them to know, that because of her, and the studying I have done to really understand what “those verses” in the Bible are and are not talking about, God has given me a ministry calling to work with other Christian parents of LGBT kids, to help to bring wholeness, peace, and joy in those families as they learn to celebrate their kids.
I want to thank those pastors who are meeting behind closed doors. I understand that your family can go through hell for that, and I pray for them to find a way to stop the fear.
One other really hurtful thing is to be corrected/rebuked for affirming our child, and then being told, “I’m telling you the truth in love.” Well people, the love is certainly getting lost in translation.
I would like people to know that as I prayed for God to change my son, he changed me instead. I am grateful for the work God has done and continues to do in me.
Christians, these are the real people, the flesh-and-blood families on the other end of our incendiary sermons, hateful blog comments, hurtful gossip, off-the-cuff jokes, and shunning silence.
This is the human collateral damage of our Christian theology of sexuality.
This is what Christians are doing every day to other Christians, supposedly in the name of love.
What you do with this knowledge and with these words, and how you choose to express your faith convictions in light of them, is between you and the Jesus you claim faith in.
Pray and tread carefully.
God is a witness.
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