top of page

My Journey as a Mom

Proposition 8 in California in 2008 (defining marriage as between a man & woman only) was the beginning of my journey to better understand my own feelings on LGBTQ individuals, their rights and the Christian response to them. I was not comfortable with the Christian community and their support of Proposition 8.  First of all, I was not in favor of any church putting the pulpit into the midst of political discussions.  But most importantly, the sentiment that I took away from the Christian response to Proposition 8 seemed to be one that spewed hatred.  It seemed to place any LGBTQ individual into the same category as Lepers over 2000 years ago.

 

Sad to say, it wasn’t until the summer of 2013 that I was able to set aside some time to write up my response to this lack of love being shown to the LGBTQ community.  I always felt I was tongue-tied when I wanted to respond to a Christian talking negatively about gays and lesbians. And so, during my 2-month summer break from my job in an elementary school, I organized my thoughts into a paper expressing support for gay marriage and my understanding that Jesus calls us to love everyone. His commands to love the Lord and to love our neighbor as ourselves supersede all else.  I couldn’t see the sin in a committed same-sex relationship and I was particularly struck by the lack of rights for gay partners, especially concerning medical care and inheritances.


These thoughts continued to brew within my mind, broadening to think of many other people with differences, often living on the fringe, but deserving of full acceptance and love from God and especially from His followers.


Then came the summer of 2015.  With the Supreme Court’s discussing and ultimately overturning the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) the issue was right in the middle of my summer free time when I could organize my thoughts about controversial issues. Reading my Facebook feed, I saw someone I respected at church had liked a posting by the Gay Christian Network.  I had never even pondered that there could be such a group. I went to the site, read it and found it to be very eye-opening. 


On June 27th I sent a copy of Justin Lee’s essay to my two sons and to my husband. I got a response from my husband who said, “Yes, it is all about love.”  My oldest son said, “Yes the church is also unfair to women in not allowing them in leadership." I heard nothing from my younger son.


Two days later, I had coffee with my Family Pastor.  Over the weekend, many supporters of gay marriage had changed their Facebook profile photos to rainbow images. He asked me my opinion about that since some church members had changed their profiles.  We had been discussing how the church had grown. I agreed that there had been much progress in our church community. I had been a member for nearly 30 years. There used to be fellowship groups that were so legalistic that it would be scandalous to be seen buying wine at the grocery store. I said that as far as the issue of Facebook and rainbow images, I was more concerned that people, knowing I am a Christian, would “assume” who I did not like, thinking me to be unloving and unaccepting.  Simply by wearing a cross, I was more aware of people’s negative opinions of Christians and their judgmental behaviors.


We talked about broaching the topic of same-sex marriage within families with children and teens. I replied that I thought that the conversation must be ongoing and like all training of children, it has to begin in the home, with the parents taking the lead. I offered that in talking with my family, “It has to be about love”, without revealing any details of my own investigation and thoughts. I did comment that I knew there were church members with gay relatives and thus, the issue is very real to them.  I don’t remember the details of all the conversation, it was only later that the meeting would seem to be important.


Three days later, my son and I went to see the movie, “Inside-Out” and later went to lunch at Burger King. He said, “Remind me that I have a conversation topic for during lunch.”  Lunch was quiet until I asked him about his conversation topic.  It took him forever to begin to say even one word and I finally said, “Once you get started talking, it will be easier.”  I am not sure what I expected to hear. I was afraid to hear something about drug use or that he had changed his mind about college and was troubled by it.  When he said, “I’m gay.” it was not anywhere on my radar.  I was surprised, but not shocked. It was unexpected as it had never occurred to me. He said he was not in a relationship, had never been and wasn’t even sure if he would. Perhaps he would be celibate. He just didn’t know at this time. We talked quite a while and I assured him that I love him and that nothing he said or did could ever change that.  When we left, I made sure to give him a big hug and he said that his dad had done the same thing.


Interestingly, one of the consequences he discussed was his involvement teaching young children during summer clubs.  He assumed they would not allow a gay person to teach children. He also asked me if I thought I would still be able to teach children’s Sunday School.  My answer, without much thought, was that if they didn’t allow that, then that would be ok, that my son was more important to me than any teaching I do.  To be honest, that consequence had never crossed my mind, but my son had clearly spent a lot of time thinking about the impact of his coming out (see Other Journeys)


I went back to the Gay Christian Network and read more from Justin Lee, listened to more of his speeches, and ordered his book, Torn. When the book came, I read it in 2 days, thinking it must have been what my son felt.  When I gave it to him he said that the first six chapters were identical to his experience.


My son continued to share his truth with his friends, one by one.  I prayed for him, thinking that although everyone had been supportive, I could imagine that someone would disappoint him.  I also told him that word spreads quickly, but he assured me that everyone was sworn to silence. I shared with him that I knew of many so-called trustworthy people “outing” their friend's children, under the guise of prayer. 


I waited for someone to contact me, working to prepare my response, while I worked to learn more about how to support my son and make sure he knew my love for him is endless and unconditional.  God’s love for him is the same. Reading more and more helped me to solidify the opinion I wrote about back in 2013, two years earlier.


I thought about talking with friends, but it is sad that my first thought was not to call on one of my friends at my church.  I already assumed that most of my Christian friends would not be supportive or helpful.

 


Some questions that I imagined friends would ask.


Did you know that your son is gay?  Yes.


What have you said to him? We said that we love him no matter what.  In fact, his announcement has helped me to solidify my thoughts about gays not choosing their orientation. It may not be God’s initial design, just as he doesn’t intend for people to live with depression all their lives.  This is one aspect of him and shouldn’t define everything about him.  In general, my thinking is that it is possible that gay monogamous relationships are not in sin. They may not be in the initially designed marriage that God intended for us, but they can still be following Christ.  My son has clearly followed Christ, has a relationship with him and is gay. There was no broken family, no abuse, no trauma, no promiscuity. This was how he was made.


We had been told that we had done a great job raising our boys in June (just a month earlier). Does that now change?  I don’t think so. Not in my mind. However, there are some who may think differently.  Let them…


Why can’t he still teach Bible clubs?  He is still a young man who follows Jesus and is a great teacher.   He is teaching young children just as he was trained.  The kids love him and the adults he has worked with have said he does a great job. What has changed? 


As his mom, will I not be able to teach Sunday School?  Why not?  Give me some reasons.  My son loves Jesus and knows he is loved. What better person to teach children than a parent who loves her child?


What can we do to continue to support my son?  I want him to be safe and feel supported. I want him to find a gay Christian group where he can both grow his faith and know that he can continue to follow Christ at the same time he can live the truth that he knows - he is attracted to the same sex; he is gay.  He has yet to decide/know if he will be celibate or choose otherwise. That is fine for now.

 


I am concerned just as I was about my first son going to college. He could be easily swayed to unhealthy ideas. I want him to enter college knowing who he is and with the freedom to have both gay and straight friends.  I don’t want him to be categorized; rather I want him to be known for the full-of-character guy that he is.


My son is unique in that he is clear in his acceptance of God’s love and his need for Christ.  He had strong mentoring during middle and high school and has lived his life in line with his understanding of God’s plan for him. Others have seen him as a leader and a dedicated friend to others and teacher of Bible clubs. His Christian witness has been clear and public.  Do others in the church plan to negate that?


As the summer progressed and he shared with nearly two dozen individuals about his sexuality, each in one-on-one meetings.  I was impressed by the confidence and trust he placed in each of these friends, as they were each sworn to secrecy until his formal “coming out” on Facebook.  Without exception, everyone responded in love, sharing that their friendships/relationships would not change and in many cases, vowing to stand up for him and protect him if necessary. 


Being a millennial, he understood the common time that kids his age checked for Facebook updates. He knew that Sunday night at 8 pm would be the quickest way to announce to the most number of people at the exact same time.  This was the night before high school was to begin in August, although he was now preparing for his freshman year of college.  He prepared a statement and pressed “enter” and watched the responses. Over 400 and nearly all were supportive.  A few responses generated meetings to talk more and a few initiated a dialogue over the consequences of his “choice” – as labeled by these people, in spite of the fact this is his natural state since birth, from Johnny’s point of view.


Relieved is not even an adequate term for how I felt.  All along, I felt pain and heartache for him, knowing that he had to navigate his feelings about his sexuality all by himself.  Obviously, it is a process for all of us, but as a mom, thinking of my son in emotional pain for four years as he pondered what he thought was a difference that might cause God to hate him, my heart broke.  I questioned him many times, asking if we could have done anything differently to help him in this long process.  He recognized that he needed that time.  All through high school in our high-achieving community, I tried to limit the stress that he felt. I tried to focus my conversations and concerns around, “Are you eating right? And have you gotten enough sleep? And make sure you turn off electronics at a decent time.”  I hadn’t known that I should have had additional concerns.  Thinking back, I realize that these concerns about his sexuality and worries that people might reject him were huge and could have led to depression, anxiety, and even suicide.


Now he was able to head off to college with a strong sense of self and knowledge of being accepted by his friends and family.  He seemed so much happier “in his skin”.  Who would have known?  Not me.


I continued to read books and online sources, striving to learn more and more and being committed to sharing so that other people would feel comfortable talking with me. I wanted more parents to be aware so that there would be fewer youth struggling and coping with lack of acceptance in their own home.


Before he came out on Facebook I was able to meet with our Family Pastor and share with him the changes in our household.  Within a week of our late June meeting, all of this had come to pass.  He was encouraging and let me know that my work as Sunday School teacher would not be impacted.  After his Facebook post, I had several friends contact me and want to talk. Some wanted to encourage me that their opinion of my son had not changed and that he was 100% welcome wherever they were. One said, “Just let me know if people are unkind and you want to talk.”  Others wanted to know more about our conversations; they were thinking of their own children and the possibilities that they, might be a sexual minority also. Some wanted to talk about my response – nearly all were very positive.


Interestingly, my closest friends, who more than likely had seen the Facebook post, maintained radio silence. Later on, some said they didn’t know what to say or that “It just never came up in the conversation but I have wondered about how you have managed.”  I had spoken privately to my dearest friends but I was somewhat surprised at the response of these others.


I was ready to share at each and every opportunity.  At a Prayer group that I had attended for 6 years, I shared and told them it was public information, that we were 100% supportive of our son and wanted them to know that. I would continue to pray for him just as I would pray for the straight children in our group, but I didn’t want any secrets.  Interestingly, immediately after I shared, another Mom shared that her son is gay and she had not shared it with the group before.
 

I shared at a second mixed-age Christian fellowship group I am a part of, with the exact same result.  When I finished my story, another person in the room shared that her son is gay.  These were not coincidences but were evidence that God was working in what was happening in our lives.


Throughout that first year, whenever I had a chance, I would share.  If someone asked about my son and his first year at college, I would say, “He is doing great. Did you know that he came out as gay this summer?  He went off to school comfortable with who he is and has been able to connect with friends with a variety of interests. In fact, he even has a Gay Christian fellowship he is a part of.”  Some people have looked at me strangely. Others have shared about gay people in their extended families.  A year later, as I interacted with other moms of new college students, I would find out about other children in the exact same situation. They had come out, shortly after high school, and were navigating the world quite well, feeling more comfortable with who they were.  It seemed that everyone had something to share. As long as I brought it up, the conversation could be on the table and we could learn from each other. No-one else ever brought it up to me, first. I was always the one bringing up the topic.


This is what is wrong. So many families are hiding behind these newly recognized identities of their children.  Not that we should be sharing details about the sexuality and gender preferences of our children, but when there are such negative feelings and judgments out in the world and lack of acceptance, I felt I needed to continue to bring it up and give people a chance to hear from someone who is both strong in her Christian faith and strong in her understanding that LGBTQ individuals are fully accepted and affirmed by God and therefore, we must do the same.


I found that I needed to learn even more about this issue so that I could converse with others and help them to find a way toward acceptance.  There were six, so-called “clobber verses” that Christians used to justify their anti-gay stance.  These are some of what I found during those early days.  This is just a quick overview - Matthew Vines and Justin Lee have many more details in their books (God and the Gay Christian and Torn).


Genesis 19 and the story of Sodom is more of a lesson on the importance of hospitality. When the visitors threatened to gang rape the angels, it had nothing to do with being gay, it was more about dominance and attacking with the most demeaning action. This continues in wars today, where men will rape both men and women, having nothing to do with gender preferences but being based on humiliating the conquered people.


Judges 19:22 and Gilbeah is similar.  The threat to rape the Levite traveler was about domination  And how can you even discuss this when the response was to offer up his own virgin daughter as an alternate?
Some say you must give up your sexuality to the Lord. Others have to give up many things in order to follow God, so why not make gay people give it up?  But we don’t make an infertile woman stay infertile and childless because God made her so. We allow modifications and everything that science can provide.


The verses in Leviticus 18-20 include lists of not having tattoos, not wearing mixed fabrics, not shaving, not sowing different crops in the same field, no sex during a woman’s menstrual cycle as well as an admonition to a man not to lie with a man as he does with a woman.  Once again, many of these are about the culture of those days and admonitions against idolatry and prostitution of cults. 


Romans 1:18-32 talks of men being consumed with passion for each other and this is also more about shameful idolatry sexual rites.  The focus is on not doing something that was predominant in idolatrous groups of the day.


1 Corinthians 6:9-11 uses the word arsenokoitai and has to do with men taking advantage of young boy prostitutes in the temples of the idols.  Pederasty was something that Paul was preaching against, and this is definitely not a consensual monogamous gay relationship.  This was taking advantage of younger, weaker beings, and temple promiscuity.


1 Cor 11:14 says it is shameful and unnatural for men to have long hair. These are the same words for shameful and unnatural as from the first chapters in Romans.  If this is the same word choice, then it some of this discussion seems to be a discussion on the culture and morals of idol and temple worship which included long hair and pederasty. Monogamous gay relationships have never been an option for people over the years of history. Until recently, the common man knew of gay behavior but not gay identity.  How many people hated themselves because of their gender differences? It is only now that there is a chance for these people to fully accept themselves and live freely.

 


How will we ever know if God planned for only heterosexual relationships?  I don’t think it is necessary for us to know all of God’s plans.  The spectrum of humanity is quite broad.  All women are not alike; neither are all men. There is a wide continuum of desires and behaviors and we don’t fit into cookie-cutter molds.  The past fifty years have seen us accept those with learning differences, whether with Downs Syndrome, ADHD, Autism or Sensory Processing Disorders, without passing judgment.  We accept that they were born different and it is up to us to learn how to integrate them into society. The same is true with accepting infertile women without casting them out, and women as more than a husband’s property, but as humans, fully able to participate in life in the world, and in church leadership. In years past, not only were scriptures used to justify slavery but also to counter inter-racial marriages.  Years ago, those who were left-handed were ostracized. What kind of people are we?


Today, people rarely blink an eye when talking about a divorce between two Christians, whereas not too long ago, divorced individuals were not welcome in the church or were excommunicated if they could not get a marriage annulled. Which, by the way, how can you annul a marriage that produced children?  Today, there are well-known church leaders who have been divorced and allowed to continue their ministry.  Clearly, there have been changes to the interpretation of scriptures and to who the church accepts.


There has been much progress over the years, and the time has come for gender fluidity to be understood and accepted within the realm of these preferences being the “natural God-given state” in which they were born.  There are so many of us that don’t fit into the “male” and “female” cisgender category.  Transgender, intersex, non-binary,  there are new terms every day.  That doesn’t mean that people are making this up. It means in today’s society, in contrast to the past centuries, they have been given the freedom to look deep within themselves, and identify their ‘natural’ state and that is how God made them.  It is not our role to identify anyone as unacceptable. God loves them and so must we. 


The group that I meet with is helping me to learn more about how I can best help others to learn that when Jesus said to “love our neighbor as ourselves”, he meant everyone.  When he said “for God so loved the world”, he meant everyone in the world. And when it is declared, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made”, that includes everyone.  And now I want to help others understand more about their friends and relatives and most importantly, to reach out and actively include them in our lives, and especially in our churches, where God accepts us completely.

bottom of page