Oh my goodness! I recently sent some VCR tapes to a company that can transfer them to something from this decade (smile). I haven’t had a VCR in years so it’s been quite some time since I’ve watched these gems. So. Many. Emotions. I’ve been watching the first one over the last couple of days (it’s four hours long). It starts with the first months of my son Kyle including his first Christmas and birthday and ends with his second Christmas at 18 months old. By that time, I had a big ole pregnant belly with my daughter. She was born in January.
It’s really cool to see who he is now in his little face as a baby and toddler. He made so many noises…and still does today actually. It’s funny to see how that hasn’t changed. And smart! That little stinker was too smart for his own good. You couldn’t get anything by him. He knew the entire alphabet by sight before his sister was born at which time he was 19 months old. It’s neat to see that on video.
Seeing my mom in some of the video was wonderful and hard all at the same time. The big grin that is on her face while she interacts with Kyle is what I envision when I think of her. Her expression is one of absolute, pure joy and it was a constant for as long as Kyle and then his sister were around. Boy do I miss her.
An emotion I hadn’t expected as I watched the video was one of great sadness. A memory came crashing back as my son’s face crossed my computer screen. I was transported to a time 13 years ago. A time when I popped this same video (and many others) into my VCR to scour the contents to see where I had screwed up. Where had I gone wrong? It brought me back to a time when I tortured my mind looking for a sign of what I had done wrong so that I could somehow fix it. I did this because I was told that it was my fault…or my husbands…that my son turned out to be gay. Christian resource after resource…story after story…made it seem that this could be fixed or changed…and somehow we had caused it. And since I was taught that it was wrong I desperately wanted to help my child. Especially because he wanted to die as a result of what he was feeling. He just wanted to feel “normal”…he wanted to be like us.
We just started a new message series at my church called “This Is Us.” If you go to our church website, underneath of our name is the question, “How will God be known In us, Among us, and Through us?” It’s what we base everything we do. In the intro for the series, our pastor talked briefly about the television show with the same title. He showed a clip from the series showing the “Big 3” which are the siblings in the family. There was some commentary from all of the different actors that play the characters at the various ages. The clip showed how they always have each others backs through all of the tough stuff. The “Big 3” are an “us”. Our pastor talked about how important it is to be a part of an “us.” In fact, we were created by an Us to be an us. We aren’t made to go through this life alone.
I’ve been watching church online and as I sat in my family room listening, the faces of the people I met the day before at a Pride event in Westminster for Free Mom Hugs came to my mind. As the event approached, I sat at my kitchen table a couple of nights and made some giveaways for my table. One of the things I made where these little clothes pin bugs that I called “love bugs.”
Each color combination represents one of the Pride flags. This is just a sampling. I had some rocks with some of the other flags painted on them. On the back of each “bug”, was a message of encouragement…hence the “love” part (smile). Throughout the day, people came up to the table and they were so excited to pick one. Several times there were tears of gratitude as someone would pick up a bug that represented them. They would hold it to their chest and tell me how happy they were to see one that was made for them. When they saw the message on the back…that was just the icing on the cake.
It was plain to see how important it was to them to be seen. It was easy to see that they felt like they had a place where they belonged. They were part of an “us.” And this is what struck me as I was listening to the message at church…how many times has the LGBTQ+ tried to be an “us,” but were told they are a “them” (and I’m not referring to pronouns here).
I have friends that reach out to me when someone they know comes out to them. It could be a friend or a family member. They ask me questions like how they should talk to that person. While I genuinely appreciate that they want to do and say the right thing, I often wonder why they think it has to be any different. This is the same person that they knew before they came out. I’m not talking about questions regarding pronouns or terms…they ask me questions about everyday things that have no bearing on the person being LGBTQ+. Suddenly now that they know this information a shift happens. It becomes an “us” (straight cisgender people) vs. “them” (lgbtq+ people). I don’t even think they realize they are doing it.
Another thing people ask me is “Why are there so many letters in the acronym? Why do people feel the need to have a label?” This is really an individual thing. Some people don’t like labels and consider themselves to be queer, while others prefer to have a label. I have met some people throughout the years that explain it like this…they knew they were different, but they didn’t know what it was about them that was different. When they hear the explanation of one of the letters or labels, it finally clicks and they exclaim, “That’s me!” It’s a way for them to be seen, but I think more importantly it’s a way for them to belong to a group. They are part of an “us.”
Many of the kids and people that stopped by my table that day have been told things like:
This is just a phase.
Are you sure?
I don’t agree with your lifestyle.
You’re an abomination.
Having a place to go like Pride is a place where they can be who they are and more importantly be believed and accepted for who they are. They are part of an “us.” And I was so happy to be a part of letting them know that they were seen and loved. My hope is that there will be a time in our society where things like Pride won’t be needed. Coming out won’t be needed. There won’t be an “us” vs. “them” mentality and people will simply just be people.
In the meantime, I will keep hugging and more importantly loving…because it matters.