Part of my purpose is to serve as a bridge of love, hope and healing between the church and the marginalized. It isn’t something I desire to do forever. There’s great pressure involved to treat both sides fairly and that sort of goes against human nature when you feel like someone is in need of justice. It requires being willing to walk together, extending hands to both parties, knowing there is terrible pain and disagreement on each side of the bridge and each person is valuable. It’s costs my comfort within the walls of some churches and in almost all of my oldest social circles. It cost me a spot on the worship team at my old church, which at the time was one of a very few things that brought me pleasure to be a part of and made me feel useful in faithful circles. It costs my physical well being as the tension can be so great….but it made me find yoga! Many of these people who are costing me something don’t know they’re hemorrhaging toxic attitudes as the rest of us can’t help but feel they have harshly judged gay people and their allies. Most are generally really good humans and they often help those in need. At least that’s what I keep telling myself. Now I go to a church where although it isn’t affirming, I am encouraged to love the marginalized and my pastor is trying to move people towards empowering women as equals, protecting the refugees, accepting not just tolerating lgbtq, and shining a light on the real and appropriate questioning that exists in faithful people when they look at the pain in the world. All these other people on the other side of the bridge, some in my church and most in other churches, they often communicate their “love” for marginalized, but limit their contact with them and won’t give them positions of leadership because they call their behavior sinful. I am therefore limited in my role to one of simple presence and that is really ok because it’s made me maximize my desire to run towards those set aside in even the slightest way. I chase after broken hearts. I race toward those who are older and have survived the repeated blasts sent their way by family, friends, and so-called Christians. I seek to understand what hurts the most so that I can effectively communicate with anyone who doesn’t want to bury their child over something small. Often people don’t realize gay people simply want to love someone who is the same sex….they want to build a good and productive life with a partner, having close circles of gay and straight friends, and possibly showering their own kids in love. Sometimes it’s not that simple, but simplicity still exists if you remain mindful that we are ultimately talking about your kid, my kid, the neighbors kid, and our future generations of humanity. You’d think pro-life, kind hearted people would get that, and it makes me terribly sad that they so often don’t. 😦
In the last year, I’ve seen that most young gay people are desperate to know their parents love them as they are. Completely. Not hoping they will change. Though I sit for hours with these young people, mostly in their 20’s, it only takes minutes to see that often, their eyes hold a story becoming all too familiar. I’m thrilled when this is not the case! I have only found it two times. I see parents don’t even realize this child of theirs wants to walk through life close to them. They feel their parents are inching away because of their sexuality. Maybe some just to figure out how they feel as individuals. But often for longer than that would seemingly take and without much reassurance or relationship. So I find myself listening and holding the adult hand of men and women. We talk and sometimes if they initiate it, we pray. I see the hands I believe God created and the hearts He would never abandon. The same hands were once tiny, chubby, satin soft and dimpled. Some parents held those hands through incubators praying for that little heart to keep beating. Some bent their backs for hours holding those tiny hands while fat baby toes squished in the sand and fatter feet dipped in the edge of the ocean. Those parents hands kept their beloved baby safe in many a setting, holding tightly. They opened up to express love and were an entension of arms that hugged those kids with such immeasurable pleasure and delight! They established a parental trust. Those babies grew to be kids who knew they were loved immeasurably. Parents managed the ups and downs of babies and toddlers, preschool all the way through high school, and all of the experiences. They advocated for their kids when bullied and agonized over it all in the night, only to wake up and relentlessly do it again the next day. They did school projects and lots of first aid. They celebrated achievements of all kinds; sports, academics, the arts, etc. They survived failures and heartaches. This is living, and this is what we do as parents. We send them off to dances, driving, and dating. There are times where we don’t always like them. Yet we remain faithfully present. We want to hear about who they like and why, or what class they’re enjoying or hating. Whatever they want to share, we want to hear! Until they tell us they’re gay or transgender. Capable hands held so tightly often end up opening completely. Feet that led step back and away. Only now these kids are grown enough to feel they’re being rejected. Some are adults and they know they’re being rejected.
Too many kids find themselves sitting next to a red haired woman asking them to tell their story because they are different and she seeks to understand. Why? Because too much of the world feels that what they do in their bedroom defines their overall worth. The hands that should be resting in their parent’s now rest in mine from time to time. That step back that parents and pastors and people of all kinds thought was a tiny quiet one will forever be remembered as a thunder that shook the heavens and the very foundation of established trust in the heart of their child. The longer that person feels their parent has stepped away, the more war-torn their heart and mind become until one day they give up in one manner or another. Give up on family accepting their sexuality, give up on the relationship, or give up on inhaling and exhaling pain for one more day. That’s not always the case. Sometimes parents work hard to understand and the distance becomes minimal or nonexistent. Too many can’t wait indefinitely, as it is hard for us all to deal with the uncertainty of when things will improve. I see no one who would choose this. Going home starts to hurt. Going to church feels like walking around with a scarlet letter on their chest. Unless we all cultivate places that feel completely safe.
MAKE NO MISTAKE. LGBTQ are strong enough to stand alone if they have to in order to be who they really are. They get tired of being made to feel less than, shamed, or second class. And it hardens their resilience and sometimes makes them angry, as it would anyone. One day they just might walk away from you. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
So what do I do? What can you do? If you can’t come up with anything, you can try some of these things I have tried. I have patience for a time with parents. I tell their kids what it is like to be a parent of a gay son and the terror we experience as we worry for their safety, their hearts, their acceptance, their love lives, their freedom and equality, their faith, their circles of friends, their family, their emotional well-being, etc. I point parents, friends, and family to helpful support groups like PFLAG https://www.pflag.org/our-story. I tell them they might enjoy Rob Bell’s podcast, as he offers more honest ways to see faith and life. https://robbell.com/portfolio/robcast/. I have lots of books and resources for studying theology for those who want it. Try http://canyonwalkerconnections.com/about-walking-bridgeless-canyon/ . I go to a church that isn’t open and affirming, but is in the process of loving all so I can be a part of the pioneering of something new and good, attempting to be full of grace and love and hopefully consistently safe in the mind of a gay person. I remind them we are all learning and hope they can be patient with us. I sit with gay people and we talk about this aspect of their lives. I hug them and sometimes I even kiss their cheek because they are so dear to me. I cry when they cry, or laugh so hard and loud I nearly lose my ability to breathe. I treat them like everybody else, except I’m not afraid to be raw with them because they often know what it’s like to be raw. We end up sharing all kinds of aspects of life and IT IS SO BEAUTIFUL! (Side note: more gay people have come to my aid offering support on a daily basis than straight people since my straight 20 year long marriage fell apart last year.) I remind them that on June 14, 2014, when my own son came out, I only knew one gay man and was acquainted with another gay man. TWO total. People learn and change very quickly when love, faith, and relationship is the priority and the motivation. Sometimes it takes telling them how their step back makes you feel. Everyone deserves their own experience in the process, parents, kids, and the rest of you. I wouldn’t dream of mandating what that looks like. But I do believe that we are progressing towards more people offering overall equality. Moms and dads usually, eventually realize these kids of theirs want them in their lives. It can be a difficult transition and is hard on everyone even in many good circumstances. I also seek to make it known that we all have to remain humble and full of relational stamina in circumstances where people are truly trying to understand each other. I weep for the division among good hearted people. Pastors, doctors, counselors, parents, teachers, and any person anywhere. Their continued refusal to ruthlessly open the issue and wrestle with it will burn down the very things they seek to build. So I am tenderly and humbly pleading with you for the sake of all of our children. Consider getting to know them before you decide it is a choice. Look for resources to help you along. You can imagine what you would do or what you would say if your loved one came out to you, so that you are ready if they ever do. You can teach your kids to be kind. Remember the sting of rejection you surely felt at some point in your own life and ask yourself if you want to be a part of the blast of dynamite to the soul or not. It’s a yes or no question. You either are or you aren’t. Maybe, there is a very, very fine line of shaky middle ground. I suppose true humility would say there is.
I know for myself what it’s like to begin to embrace political and theological differences instead of letting them divide me and those I associate with. It is incredibly freeing and before you know it you are overflowing with love for all of humanity in ways you never knew you could. As someone who calls themself A Christian, I do not doubt for one second that truly and deeply loving and accepting these people who are so different than me, is exactly what Jesus would have me do. I am increasingly aware that each of us is beyond treasured to a divine God. Our worth to him cannot be measured. And so for now I leave the walls of a church on many Sundays to share that love. Or sometimes I sit with them inside those walls!
Those of you who don’t struggle with this and are already giving equality and making a difference in other areas for those who need justice and love, thank you so much. The sons and daughters of so many need your voice now more than ever. All our kids do really! Please stand with them as allies. We think it’s their world but I have had many a gay person tell me, “We can’t do this alone. We need our straight allies.” PLEASE consider investigating how you can be an ally if that seems right to you. It simply means being a friend. I know we can’t all champion every good cause. But it isn’t hard to just be a friend.
If you’re a pastor, or a person in a position of influence and leadership, would you consider giving us under your influence a chance to grow and think for ourselves by creating visibility and a voice for parents of gay people and MOST importantly gay people themselves. Do this by simply letting gay people be seen as the humans they are instead of just opening your door to them. Why on earth do we care what they lovingly do in their bedrooms? Can’t we just let them be and unite forces for good, chasing after how to care for the sick, the poor, the windows, and the orphans? Or will we all continue to needlessly make our gay people spiritually poor and orphaned?
I can only look at bloodied hearts for so long. I have no college education or training on how to handle the view into the pain of others. All I have is a gay son, a bunch of gay friends, a kind heart and the offering of love. No one is making me do this. It is actually an honor. I am not complaining at all. I choose to be a peacemaker for now. But I am telling a story in hopes that you will be compelled to reconsider your views, your actions, and the facts. For now, I possess the grace to be strong on the bridge between us all as I attempt to live out Micah 6:8 one day at a time.
Micah 6:8English Standard Version (ESV)
8 He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,[a]
and to walk humbly with your God?
I can do that. And so can you if you want.
I would add some practical steps you can take as a call to action:
•Parents of LGBTQ kids, don’t be afraid to initiate a conversation with your kids, but let them set the pace in their readiness to answer. They are more than likely wanting to discuss it with you if they feel safe It’s scary for both sides. Stay committed to loving and working out the relationship over time. Understanding follows patience.
•Go to a Pflag meeting (they’re held monthly everywhere) and just listen if you’re too afraid to speak.
•Ask your pastor how you can help your church be more inclusive of LGBTQ people. Ask him to look at Kathy Baldock’s book in the link above for Canyon Walkers. OR, face the strong possibility your kid will become an atheist because they’re so sick of hearing the phrase, “Love the sinner but hate the sin.”
•Rememeber that the Bible is a book that has been altered in translation. Are you willing to look at that? What would happen if you found it had even one error? That really rattles some. Your kid is worth the work of thorough thought if that is the basis for your lack of acceptance. I don’t pretend to have all the answers for those who seek them. I simply and gently ask you to evaluate how much you are willing to risk over faith verses facts. I am a person of great faith! It is of high value. Ask why you believe what you believe in the first place! That can never be bad.
•Willingly educate and have open dialogue with your kids about who gay people are. When Cooper came out, Jack was 7 and said, “Does that mean you want to wear a dress?” And Cooper replied, “No, it means I want to marry a man when I grow up.” So simple!
•This Sunday, there is a RESIST MARCH. STAND AS AN ALLY in West Hollywood! Message me for more info or google it. THIS IS AN AMAZING CHANCE TO GET OUT THERE AND BE A PART OF THE PROGRESS IN OIR SOCIETY! I can’t think of a better way to spend a day many of you would normally be in church. Share your love! It will multiply!!!
PS – To my GLBTQ Treasures – Hearts and minds can and are changing. GOD is working on your behalf to unshackle you in the eyes of the church. Some churches are already there! Thank you so very much for sharing yourselves with me and loving me in all my inexperience. I stand alongside to encourage you, this month especially, to hold your heads high! Not as victims or those who shouldn’t be seen. But as one with PRIDE, dignity, and great, equal worth. Your courage is astounding!!!! I love you with all my heart. I really do. ❤️
PPS – Parents of gay kids, please do not take this post as a criticism of wherever you’re at in your transition with your kid. It is simply meant to tell my personal experience with gay young people. So whether you’re just finding out your kid is gay or you’ve known for 50 years, I completely respect your individual process. If you have been following this story, you know I come from an ultra conservative background politically and religiously. I have only recently been this loving and open to the gay community. So I won’t judge those of you who aren’t sure what to think or do or feel. I love you right where you are and I know how difficult it is to be where you are. BIG LOVE to you.