important words from parents of LGBQT kids: what hurts, what helps

I had the privilege of spending a few days with an online support group for moms of LGBQT kids of all ages. What a gift! These are amazing women of hope and courage. As we all know, many strains of Christianity have not been kind to these kids and parents. The judgment, the ostracizing, the scripturizing has been extremely painful and has catalyzed many of them to experience painful (and freeing!) faith shifts. I loved listening to how people are finding their way, and a lot of the questions from them centered on how to bravely keep moving forward both in and outside of traditional church systems.

One of the things I wanted to do was share their wisdom and experience on what hurts and what helps when it comes to relationship with LGBQT friends and family members. It’s so important to hear directly from these women who are on the front lines, honoring their kids, speaking up and advocating and educating, wrestling with faith, finding their way.

We can be part of making a difference.

Education and relationships are everything when it comes to change.

And one of the best ways we can be safer people, safer communities is to listen and learn.

Here’s how friends and family members have hurt parents and LGBQT kids and also how they can help:

WHAT HURTS:

  • The silence. It often hurts much more than words.
  • The isolation. The loss of friends and church community who no longer want to associate with us.
  • The rejection. So many people just turned their backs on us, and even those close to us often never asked how we were doing.
  • “Love the sinner, hate the sin.”
  • The assumption that we have been led astray by the evil one or that we just changed our mind about our theology and same sex relationships because our child is gay. (The truth is having a child who is gay has made us ask tougher questions, study longer and harder, to listen to more perspectives, pray more, be more thoughtful, and seek God more).
  • When friends and family fear God’s wrath if they accept our child.
  • When people say they love LGBQT people but do not want to worship with them.
  • When family acts as though our kids don’t exist and ignore their accomplishments on Facebook for fear of “accepting their lifestyle” or ask about the straight kids but ignore the gay ones or just ignore what we are saying when we talk about our gay kids.
  • The myth that we must have done something as parents or left something undone to “cause” our kids to be gay or that somehow our kids are “less than, disobedient, have a dominating mother or an absent father, out of the will of God or are sinners.”
  • Those who refuse to even try to educate themselves.
  • When people say “I will pray for them” but no prayer request has been made.
  • When friends and family members refuse to attend our child’s wedding.
  • When former church friends just disappear because our faith has evolved. (We wish they could understand that our thoughts haven’t shifted overnight, on a whim; it’s been years of seeking, learning, praying, reading, grieving, and letting go of faulty doctrine).
  • When someone treat us like we’re not Christians anymore, like we’ve turned away from God.
  • The clobber verses.
  • The whispers, the eye-rolls, the shunning.
  • That some of our children have to fear for their safety.
  • When people talk about our kids’ “lifestyle choices”, never realizing that no one would choose something that causes so much difficulty in their life.
  • When friends and family members don’t try to educate themselves or bother to challenge their beliefs in any way.
  • When people hold on to the “gay agenda” mentality.
  • Not having a community in real life who gets it and wants to talk about it.
  • The gossip and talking behind our back.
  • The lack of knowledge about transgender children and the consequences of not allowing them to be who they are.
  • Teaching that our kids aren’t saved.
  • Friends and family tell us we should kick out, isolate or discipline our children for being gay.

WHAT HELPS:

  • When people want to hear how we got from point A to point B and really listen, ask good questions, seek to understand, and engage in an ongoing dialogue with us about what it means to be a Christian family with an LGBQT member.
  • When people tell us our stories matter. (Then “I love you” has greater depth and meaning).
  • When friends and family members say, “Teach me what I don’t know.”
  • If churches listen to real-life stories instead of just “talk about” LGBQT issues.
  • When people treat our children the exact same way they did before they came out.
  • Talking openly and honestly.
  • Our family is a package deal; we all count, we all matter, you can’t just choose some of us.
  • When people are willing to educate themselves.
  • Kindness; it goes a long way.
  • Our support group and having a safe space to share honestly and know we’re not alone.
  • Communication with respect and consideration.
  • When friends and family apologize, admit their mistakes and reach out in love.
  • When we’re treated the same.
  • When people ask how our child is doing, call them by name, and show an interest in them.
  • Finding an affirming church.
  • Feeling we can be part of the solution by educating others.
  • Sincere apologies.
  • When close friends make sure that the people they are dating are also affirming before they get serious.
  • When people are honest with their discomfort about issues related to LGBQT people but are willing to be honest and ask questions.
  • Christians who actually see the harm “the church’s” view on homosexuality has caused and are working to change that.
  • That more gay Christians are being vocal.
  • When people check in with us, ask how we are doing, how our kids are doing.

Some of you may have something to add, too, from your own experience and story, and we’d love to hear those additions.

Oh, I hope we listen to these important words!

That there’s a continued movement of people who help, not hurt.

That we participate in turning the tide.

That we aren’t afraid to educate, agitate, advocate.

That we keep widening our tables and restoring dignity in any ways we can.

That we become the change we want to see.

Thank you for sharing, brave mommies. There’s so much all of us can learn from your words. We are with you!

//

ps: If you or someone you know is interested in this support group or other resources for parents and allies, contact Liz Dyer here and put “Mom’s Facebook Group” in the subject.  She’s an amazing mom, advocate, friend, and facilitator of hope.

pps: I had a fun conversation about faith shift-y stuff with Fundamentalist Escape Podcast last month that just went up yesterday. You can listen in here.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

7 Comments

  • I love the compassion, empathy, and deep listening in your post Kathy! We definitely need to be a little more serious about love over judgement.

    Reply
  • How could you not be part of that group? We’ve heard good reports on the group. Maybe you can tell us more when we see you.

    Are there any groups like this for dads? The homeless and runaway LGBTQ kids we know often say that they ran away because they were afraid of dad, or dad threw them out. Even if mom appeared to go along with dad, usually the kid knew dad was really the one behind them not being able to stay at home. Maybe those dads aren’t into “sharing feelings” and wouldn’t participate in such a group.

    Does the moms group talk about mom standing up to dad when he wants to throw out the LGBTQ teens? We know that some moms are afraid they also get thrown out if they stand up to dad, so they allow dad to sacrifice their child, which is often exactly what happens when the kid gets thrown to the streets. Oh yeah. Sacrificing your children to the idols like the Canaanites did was just horrible, but sacrificing them to the streets (and what usually happens to the kids there) is so Christian if the kids are gay. Right? – Not!

    Reply
    • it was so fun to see you! i think there are some parents groups, too, that are moms or dads, that susan runs or is connected to? yes, sometimes it tears apart families in such a horrid way, but the good news is the tide is turning because of the amazing advocacy work that so many are doing and i am hearing more stories of love and connection with parents and kids than before. but we’ve got a long way to go, that’s for sure. grateful for you!

      Reply
  • Reading this from the perspective of an Auntie who just wants to love on her nephew. He has shrunk away from the family and I am dying to be able to reach to him and tell him that my heart holds so much more love and acceptance than what he believes. He was raised with all the traditional teaching of the church. I can only imagine the fear he must experience.
    Continually looking for the words to say “I am for you.” Without being a butthead.

    Thank you for creating space for this.

    Reply
  • I was just about to read this in hopes of gaining some enlightenment on how I can be gentler and more helpful – but immediately she blames Christians. No other religions (who can be just as hard on these folks) were mentioned. So she is doing to me and my kind (Christians) what she herself does not want to experience.

    I think Michael Jacksons says it best “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change”.

    To achieve what we all want, acceptance (no, not tolerance but acceptance) we must be examples ourselves. Jesus instructs me “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I loved you.” (John 15:12). I do not see this followed by of list that says “Except for the the following:…” So, therefore, I love you and all people who are loving, peaceful, accepting, kind, gentle, regardless of anything. (Working on the haters…. but sheesh!)

    We are not “strains” of Christians, we are “sects”. Wow – You use hurtful words – but you do not want me to do the same to you. Please practice the gentleness and kindness you espouse. Swallow your anger – it gets none of us anywhere – and pray for the resolve to continue your mission of education and enlightenment towards others with patience and the strength of character (which I am sure you have, because I see that you want to help make this world a better place!) to turn the other cheek towards those who do not understand, or fear, or whatever it is that describes how they feel towards LGBT folks.

    The goal, I hope, is a peaceful place for all of us to flourish, to be whomever we can or want to be, to grow, create, learn and all the wonderful things we experience in this human existence. Down with war, hate, the assumption of negative intent and manipulation or words, anger, and fear. We shall overcome. Together. 😀

    Reply

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