If you missed Part 1, you can read it here.
I was 28 years old when I lost my mom suddenly. She wasn’t sick so it was totally out of the blue and to say it was a shock is an understatement. At the time, I only knew one other person who had lost their mom, but we weren’t close. My friends tried to be there for me, but they just didn’t understand what I was going through. I wouldn’t wish losing a parent on anyone, but oh how I wish I could have heard a “me too” back then.
Having someone that has gone through something that you are going through is like having a life preserver tossed your way. You cling to them for survival. It’s like you have a secret language that no one else understands. Sometimes words aren’t even needed…they just know. Sharing who you are or what you are going through and hearing a “me too” is like a huge weight being lifted off of your shoulders. You exhale and the burden you’ve been carrying gets a little lighter. Sometimes a lot lighter.
There are many things we carry that we might be afraid to say out loud…some might be…
I’ve had a miscarriage…me too.
I’ve been abused…me too.
I have depression and anxiety…me too.
I lost my job…me too.
I feel like I don’t want to be here anymore…me too.
I am LGBTQ+…me too.
I remember the very first mom I met that also had a gay child. I met her online in a private FB group for moms of LGBTQ+ kids. She lived in Pennsylvania and also came from a faith background. We met at a restaurant half way between our two houses. We met at 11am for an early lunch. During our time together her phone rang, and when she looked she saw it was her husband. She answered. “Where are you?” he asked her. She then proceeded to remind him that she was meeting a mom for lunch. “Do you realize it’s 5pm?” he asked. We “me too’d” for 6 hours and didn’t even realize that much time had gone by. I felt like my soul had been rescued.
There is another “me too” moment that really saddens me. I was friends with a woman from church who was a bit older than me. We would meet for breakfast and lunch over the span of about 8 years. Her kids were older so I had never met them. Shortly after my son came out, she and I got together for breakfast. I knew I wanted to tell her, but I was so scared. As we were finishing up and I knew that our time together was coming to an end, I told her I had something to tell her. The tears immediately came as I told her my son was gay. To my surprise, she said, “Me too.” For 8 years she held that secret because she didn’t think I was a safe person to tell. Why? Not because of anything I said…but because I went to church…the same reason I was afraid to tell her.
These “me too” moments are why visibility is so important to the LGBTQ+ community…especially the youth. It is why it’s so important for us to talk about it. There is so much controversy about doing just that right now. I can’t tell you how many people I have come across who have ranted and complained about the “gay agenda” being shoved down their throats and how they don’t want their kids to learn about it.
In every one of these conversations that I’ve had with people…every single one…they are unable to tell me what is happening that they are so upset about…or they have total misinformation. I can totally get where they are coming from given some of the misinformation they are receiving. If I wasn’t doing this for 15 years, I too would be wondering what in the heck was going on. I would also be alarmed. I guess the difference is that I am a curious person and if I heard what they were hearing I would be doing some research to find out what it was all about.
Many of the conversations revolve around transgender people. They are very flippant in their tone and words.
“Johnny is pretending to be a girl today.”
“Julie has decided that she wants to identify as a boy today.”
“Sharon really wanted a girl so she is making her son be a girl.”
“I can’t believe these parents are giving their 6 year olds hormones and chopping off their body parts.”
When I challenge these statements, it is clear that the person does not know what it means to be transgender. There is medical information that describes what this is and how it happens. This is not something that someone chooses. It is not something that any parent would force on their child. I have sat with parents who are devastated when their child comes out as transgender. It’s a process of grieving the child you thought you had and then embracing who the child becomes. It’s a painful process. They are also terrified for their child because people like those who make the above statements discriminate and judge without knowing what they are talking about. Young children are not given hormones nor are their body parts chopped off.
In Part 1, I mentioned the accusations of the LGBTQ+ agenda “grooming” children. When I’ve challenged people who have made these claims, they give me some interesting examples.
“Ben’s teacher told the class that she has a wife.” I ask if that was the topic of conversation or did she casually mention it. No it wasn’t the topic. Was your son confused? No he didn’t seem to be. How do you know she mentioned she had a wife? She told the class that she and her wife were going to Hawaii over summer break. So what’s the problem? They are only in second grade. I think that is too young to learn about sex. Wait what? They are too young to be learning about THAT. Growing up did you ever have a female teacher mention that she had a husband? Well yeah. Did you picture them having sex after she mentioned it? Of course not! I didn’t even know what sex was at that time. So your teacher mentioning she had a husband was not teaching about sex, but Ben’s teacher mentioning she has a wife somehow was?
Another mom was beside herself that her daughter’s teacher read them a book about a dog with two dads. Again when pressed, she was upset that they were being taught about sex. But somehow if the dog had a mom and a dad, this was not teaching the children about sex.
I’m thinking maybe it’s adults that are obsessed with making these things about sex. The kids have no clue. When I was leading a PFLAG group, there would be questions about what to tell kids. “My cousin Mark is marrying a man and I don’t know what to tell my kids.” Tell them that when two people love each other they sometimes get married. They always came back to report that it was no big deal for the kids. They basically were like, “Ok.” We tend to make it so difficult. We are the ones uncomfortable with it.
Talking about these things gives some kids “me too” moments. My teacher has a wife…I like girls too. The dog in the story had two dads…me too. It not only lets them know that they aren’t alone, but it also removes the shame that is forced upon them when it’s kept hush hush. As much as some would like you to believe, being LGBTQ+ is not contagious. And the LGBTQ+ adults are not “grooming” young children. They have lived with the discrimination, name calling, etc. They would never want that for kids.
Something that we heard from the older kids in my PFLAG group over and over again was the wish that they had the language to put to how they were feeling. They were tortured because they knew they were different, but didn’t know how to articulate it to their parents. Now that it is talked about the younger generations are able to see themselves in the terms and they are given “me too” moments so they don’t feel so alone. They are also able to get help when needed instead of suffering in silence.
There is a county in my state that banned displaying Pride flags on school property. In the past, teachers have asked me how they can let their students know that they are safe to come out to and the first thing I tell them is to have a flag or something rainbow in their classrooms. We need to get past our misconceptions and be willing to have dialogue about how best to help the kids that are LGBTQ+ in schools and beyond instead of trying to shut everything down. Their lives depend on it.
Research from The Trevor Project shows that LGBTQ youth who felt high social support from their family reported attempting suicide at less than half the rate of those who felt low or moderate social support. LGBTQ youth who found their school to be LGBTQ affirming reported lower rates of attempting suicide. LGBTQ youth who live in a community that is accepting of LGBTQ people reported significantly lower rates of attempting suicide than those who don’t.
When I write, I do something that some people might find weird. I don’t write in silence…I actually listen to music. And most of the music on my playlist is from the 80’s (because it was the best decade ever!) (smile). I do that because it brings back memories of what it was like to be a teenager. I feel like it puts me in touch with those feelings and it gives me empathy for what I see LGBTQ+ youth going through.
As I wrap up this post, Drive by the Cars is playing. This song was popular the summer I turned 16. I can very clearly see the park in Baltimore where I hung out with my friends. Someone always had a boom box and we would blare our jams. The song Drive is playing and I’m on the swings. My boyfriend Brian is playing basketball with the guys. It’s a warm summer night.
Two months after my son turned 16, we were sitting in the ER waiting for a bed at a psychiatric hospital because he wanted to die. I don’t want any other child or parent to go through that. Because of the groups I’m involved in I literally see it every day. Every.Single.Day.
Love is a powerful thing. If you are one of the people that are outraged or think the world is going to hell in a handbasket because of the things you hear, maybe the most loving thing you can do is go to good ole’ google and do some research. Or better yet, find someone who has actually been through these things you are upset about and listen to their story. It may not be LGBTQ+ related, but maybe you might just find a “me too” common ground.
Get out there and love…because it matters.