Friend or foe…

I got the sad news recently that a classmate passed away last month.  We went to middle school together.  We had reconnected three years ago at Mike’s 30th high school reunion because they also went to school together.  We became Facebook friends and caught up via social media.  He got cancer about a year after the reunion.  He left behind a wife and young daughter.  He sure did love his girls.

I was going through my messages yesterday and saw a private message from him on FB that I had saved.  In the message, he asked if I had a gay child or a close loved one that was gay.  He knew something was up from my posts on social media.  I told him my son was gay and shared a little bit about our journey.  He shared that he was an ally.  He actually owned a barber shop and told me that they were LGBTQ friendly and actually helped transgender people with their transitions.  It was so sweet.  I saved it so I could refer people to his shop.

Sometimes you find allies in the least expected ways or places.  Looking back at our time together in school, I would have never guessed he would become an ally.  In fairness, my memories of him were of being a bit of a trouble maker in school.  Not in a mean way…but he tended to be mischievous.  You kind of forget that people grow up and mature (smile).  It is also equally surprising where you find opposition.

Being harassed at work seems to be a theme lately.  I know a young man down in Florida who was treated poorly by a customer he was helping.  She had overheard he and a co-worker talking about their significant others.  He mentioned the name of who he was dating.  His love interest has a name that could be male or female so the customer asked him if this person was a boy or a girl.  He replied boy and she proceeded to tell him that he was going to hell and she did not want him to ring her up.  She got the manager involved and caused a scene right in front of this young man.  Luckily his manager told the customer that they don’t discriminate at their store.

I know another young man who was loudly shamed at his place of employment by a customer.  In this case, however, the manager did not stand up for him.  Things became so miserable for him there that eventually he quit.  These are both disturbing incidents, but I think the most disturbing is from a friend who lives in Virginia.  Her daughter has been harassed at work by former church members.  They come into the store and ask her how her walk with the Lord is going and then proceed to tell her that she is going to hell.  While she is at work!  She has come home more than once in tears.

What makes someone think it is ok to talk to a child this way?  How is that Christlike?  It isn’t.  And people wonder why the LGBTQ community is angry at the church…why many have stepped away?  It’s no mystery to me.  Did God really task them with being judge and jury?  And where does it stop…just with the LGBTQ community?

I don’t know about you, but when I was a teenager and young adult it took me time to develop confidence in myself.  Those first jobs were nerve-wracking.  I can’t imagine having someone confront me in this way while I was at work.  It is wrong on so many levels.  It is disturbing and shameful.

This is one of the reasons that allies are important.  Thank you to those of you who have searched God.  Done your own research.  Realized that many are going about things the wrong way.  Your kindness…your love…could literally save a life.

And I hope if you ever encounter one of these horrific scenes in person, you will stand up for the person being shamed.  Show them that not everyone is like that.  Show them some love….because love matters.

 

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Expecting the unexpected…

It’s been a while since I’ve been here.  As I mentioned last year, I left my admin job at my church. The young gal who took my place had a baby in October so I’ve been filling in and will be there until early January.  That’s part of the reason why I’ve been extra busy lately.  It seems like there have been lots of babies born or announcements of babies coming next year.  It brings back so many memories of when I was expecting.  I heard SO MANY stories…some good and some horrific…to the point where I was afraid to give birth (smile).

When I was pregnant with my son, my go to book was “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.”  Not sure if that book is still around, but it was chock full of information from the day you found out you were expecting until you gave birth.  But I have to say…no person and no book can really prepare you for what’s to come.  You realize that you are going to be sleep deprived.  You realize that your time is not going to be your own any longer.  You realize that you are going to love your child.  But there really isn’t any amount of preparation that can truly get you ready.  Mainly because every body and every baby is unique.

I had no idea that my baby boy would be so stubborn about being born.  I didn’t know that I was going to have to be induced…twice.  I didn’t know that my labor was going to take 22 hours…that I would push for 4 of those hours.  I didn’t know that the doctor would have several young residents in the delivery room showing them how to deliver a baby with forceps.  I didn’t know that my little baby boy would have colic so bad that he would cry for hours on most days.  I felt so helpless and many days cried along with him as I paced the floors with him.  I didn’t know what tired was until I had my baby boy.  I didn’t know that I would feel the intense protective feelings that I had for him.  I didn’t know that I could love someone with such fierceness.  It’s a different kind of love.

No amount of reading, video watching, or people talking prepared me for what it was like to be a mom.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t do all of those things because it is helpful.  Just expect the unexpected along the way.

I can tell you that I never expected the journey that I’ve been on once that little baby boy got to adolescence.  Talk about being unprepared!  I’ve shared the beginning of that journey with you already, but there is a part of that journey that I haven’t shared.  My husband and I didn’t know what to do with the information we learned about our son.  We wanted to help him because it was so obvious that he was in desperate need of help.  So we read books, and visited websites, and talked to elders in the Christian faith.  The thing that was recommended over and over again is what we later learned to be called conversion therapy (or reparative therapy).  A simple definition of it is this:

Conversion therapy is the pseudoscientific practice of trying to change an individual’s sexual orientation from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual using psychological or spiritual interventions.

Specifically what was recommended to us was an organization called Exodus International:

Exodus International was a non-profit, interdenominational ex-gay Christian umbrella organization connecting organizations that sought to “help people who wished to limit their homosexual desires”. It was founded in 1976 and ceased activities in June 2013.

Remember the feelings of protecting my child I mentioned earlier?  Well I was willing to do whatever it took to help him change… because that had been his prayer for years.  I’ve mentioned before that I never thought being gay was a choice.  I had known too many gay people along the way to hold that belief.  I did, however, think that something happened along the way to cause them to be gay.  The problem was that I had been wracking my brain for how this happened to my son and I was coming up empty.  So some help from an organization that dealt with this issue seemed reasonable.  My husband spoke to someone from Exodus for several hours one evening.  He relayed the conversation to me and something in our spirit told us this was not the route we should take with our son.

This type of therapy comes in many different forms.  It wasn’t until years later when I actually met people who had been through conversion therapy that I realized the disaster we had avoided.

I know a young man who went to his pastor and told him of his same-sex attractions.  His pastor told him to attend a meeting at his church.  Here he met other men from his congregation that struggled…with pornography.  He was confused because he didn’t struggle with pornography.  It wasn’t helpful to him at all.  He was told that his “sexual sin” would be cured if he would just marry a woman.  “Fake to you make it” school of thought.  So, he started dating a young lady from his church and they did get married.  He stayed in the marriage for several years until he just couldn’t take it any longer.  He loved his wife…but not in the way a wife should be loved.  She was more of a friend.  He had zero sexual desire for her.  She was devastated when he asked for a divorce.  It wasn’t easy on him either.  He felt terrible hurting her.  Yet his church is what got him into this mess.  It’s what his pastor recommended he do.  When he went to his pastor to let him know he could no longer pretend, he was promptly told he could no longer worship there.

I know a woman who went to counseling for same-sex attraction and gender confusion.  This was many years ago.  The solution they had for her was shock therapy.  Imagine signing up for that!  Yet she did.  She was desperate to change and her prayers weren’t working so she didn’t know what else to do.  She trusted the therapist.  I forget how long she subjected herself to the therapy, but it didn’t work.  It took her decades to step into another therapist office.  She was terrified.  But hiding her identity was killing her, so she felt like she had no choice.  Thankfully she got one that knew conversion therapy is harmful and she is doing much better today trying to live out her last years as her authentic self.  She is in her sixties.

I know of another person that went through 30 exorcisms to not be gay.  30.

If you look, you will find very severe cases of conversion therapy and then some that seem less harmful.  They are all harmful.  It has been proven to not work.  Yet this practice is still legal in many states…even for minors.  Alan Chambers, one of the leaders of Exodus International issued this apology when they closed their doors.

Last month, I went to see the movie Boy Erased based on the book by the same name written by Garrard Conley.  I found myself holding my breath as I watched knowing that we came so close to exposing our son to this kind of treatment.  The program was called “Love In Action.”  Sounds good right?  It wasn’t.  I’ve read articles whose authors say that the movie took liberties and it was over-dramatic.  In an interview, Garrard tells the audience that they left things out because they didn’t think people would believe it.  In fact, he said the scene where his mom comes to take him out of the program was much more dramatic in real life.  In the movie, his mom played by Nicole Kidman, says, “A mother knows when something isn’t right.”  I totally agree with that statement.  It was an informative movie.  It was hard to watch, but I think it’s important for the information to be out there.

The critics say that there are people who have changed.  I say check with them several years from now.  Alan Chambers from Exodus admits that he still has same-sex attractions even though he is married to a woman.  And John Smid, the leader of Love in Action, left the program and married a man.  Mel White, the author of “Stranger at the Gate,” was married to a woman for 25 years.  He was counseled, exorcised, electric shocked, prayed for, and nearly driven to suicide trying to be straight.

Praying the gay away looks good on paper.  It seems simple.  Love God, believe that He can guide you, have faith that He can change you and you are good to go.  Follow these steps and you will be on the path to happiness.  What works on paper or in theory doesn’t always translate to an expected outcome.  Sometimes we are faced with the unexpected.  Like when a person embraces how God made them to be and the bad fruit is cleared away and good fruit sprouts and grows.

There really is SO much to this topic.  Even I don’t completely understand it because I have never been through it.  I can tell you that I’ve seen first hand the damage that it has done.  I’ve seen people try their best to do what was expected of them and it brought them nothing but pain and almost (and in some cases did) destroy their relationships with God and their families.  Let’s let God be God and not assume we know His plan.  Let’s expect the unexpected.  And let’s love with an expectation that it will heal those who have been hurt.

Because love matters…

 

Growing up trans…

A few years ago, three brave moms that I know shared their family’s journey regarding having a trans child.  I think it’s important to revisit these posts given what has recently come up with policies regarding their rights.  I know many people who don’t know what it means to be transgender.  I have been in many conversations when someone will tell me that they don’t agree with someone being transgender.  When I ask them what it means to be transgender, more often than not they have it wrong.  That’s why I feel it’s important to share these stories.  Please read them and share them.  These precious lives matter.

The Voice of a Mom Part I

The Voice of a Mom Part II

The Voice of a Mom Part III

The Voice of a Mom Part IV

I love these families…and it matters.

#WontBeErased

Love listens…

You would have to be living under a rock to miss all of the bickering going on these days…especially on social media.  Everyone has an opinion about everything.  Now don’t get me wrong…having opinions is not a bad thing.  However, how we express those opinions or how we treat each other when expressing them is another thing.

With all of the divisiveness…it can be easy to get sucked into arguments and misunderstandings.  One of those misunderstandings comes about when discussing opinions and beliefs related to the LGBTQ community.  A question that I’ve been asked a lot recently is this…

“Lesa how can I let the LGBTQ community know that I love them, but also let them know that I hold to my beliefs about what the Bible says about homosexuality?  It seems that they think I hate them because I don’t agree with their “lifestyle.”

When I press in to that question and ask if the person they are communicating with has actually expressed that they feel like the person hates them, the answer is usually no.  They tell me that the person hasn’t said those actual words, but they tell me that the discussion usually makes the person upset.

I have to tell you…I hear this A LOT.  People I know in the Christian community think that because they have a certain belief that the LGBTQ community thinks they hate them.  Now don’t get me wrong.  The community does get hate directed at them from some in the Christian community.  Sadly it is really bad especially in some areas of our country.  What I think is more accurate in these conversations is not the LGBTQ person thinking the person is being hateful…I think the LGBTQ person is trying to convey that they are being hurt by the conversation.

Here is something to remember when having these conversations…

By the time someone shares with you that they are LGBTQ, chances are that they have known this about themselves for years.  It is a secret that they have kept…and in more cases than I can count…keeping that secret nearly kills them…literally.  Even though no one knows their secret, chances are great that they have experienced a great deal of shame.  Where does this shame come from?  It could be from their parents.  Possibly overhearing them speak poorly about the LGBTQ community.  It comes from society saying that they are disgusting, that because they can get married they are ruining the family and society in general, etc.  It comes from the church.  Even if it isn’t preached from the pulpit.  Most of the time the message that is communicated to them isn’t that acting on their “gayness” is bad.  The message that they hear is that “they” are bad because they are gay.  It’s the first thing that my son said to us when he came out.  “I’m a bad person.”  He was only 15 years old.  He hadn’t done anything bad.  He hadn’t even acted on his feelings.  But the message he had gotten was that because he had same-sex attraction he was a bad person.

When someone shares their secret with you and you tell them that you love them, but you don’t agree with their “choice” it doesn’t feel like love.  I think part of this is because you are jumping too quickly into making a judgement about what they just told you (not talking about being judgmental here).  I think you need to enter their story more and learn what it means to them to be LGBTQ.

Another piece of this puzzle is this…

Suppose you grew up in the church.  Got baptized as a child who was old enough to make that decision.  Enjoyed serving with your church.  Enjoyed going to church services as you grew into an adult.  Loved Jesus with all of your being.  When you share that you are LGBTQ, you are told that you can’t be LGBTQ and Christian.  People tell you that you can’t be Christian because you are sinning by choice.  You, however, know that you wouldn’t have chosen this in a million years.

The LGBTQ Christians that I know have studied the “clobber” verses extensively (as have I as a parent of a gay child).  They have searched God on the topic.  They have prayed their guts out.  In some cases, had yelling matches with God.  They reach a place where they finally feel accepted by God.  Because of their studies, they theology changes and they no longer think homosexuality is a sin.  They feel loved by God and they finally feel comfortable in their skin.  And then they have these conversations that tell them they are sinning and the people they love can’t accept this part of them.

Take all of the history that they have been through…the shame, the rejection, the bullying in many cases, the struggle with their faith in God, and hold it up to those words that you’ve just said to them.  You’ve just told them that their struggles, their searching, their prayers, their faith….are wrong.  You read the Bible one way…and they read it another.  It’s a difference in theology.  You are telling them that your theology is right and theirs is wrong.  You are telling them that what they have felt from God and the Holy Spirit is wrong.

This isn’t so much about hate…but hurt.  Are you really listening to what they are telling you?

Going back to the original question…

“Lesa how can I let the LGBTQ community know that I love them, but also let them know that I hold to my beliefs about what the Bible says about homosexuality?  It seems that they think I hate them because I don’t agree with their “lifestyle.”

You are projecting your beliefs onto them.  And your message is that your beliefs are the only ones that matter.  It’s not what they need and therefore why they don’t feel loved.

I’m not saying you can’t have your beliefs.  Of course you can.  Just as they can have their beliefs.  Just know that it doesn’t come across as love at times.  Some LGBTQ people can live in that tension.  Others can not.  I have found that it really depends on their history and how bad things were for them as to whether or not they can be in relationship with someone who thinks the fact that they want to be loved is wrong.

Of course this is just scratching the surface.  There is so much more to this…and I know it’s not easy.  And I can only speak from what I’ve seen…I can’t speak for the community.  Which is why it is so important to listen.  And listen for a long time before jumping in to giving your opinion on what you think the Bible says about it.

You may find that by being heard…they feel loved.  And love matters…

What would you do…

Some day…when you least expect it…someone who has been in a lifeboat for years may show up at your front door.  What will you say?  What will you do?

I’ve talked about the amazing B.T. Harman (Brett Trapp)  here before.  You will find his story on my resource page.  He has it in written form and as a podcast.  It’s called “Blue Babies Pink.”  Weird title…right?  I had that title in the back of my mine the entire time I read and listened to his story.  When he reveals the meaning at the very end (don’t cheat if you ever read or listen to the podcast!), I wept.  It perfectly described my son.

Well I am very excited that Brett has turned one of my favorite episodes into a short film (it’s less than 5 minutes – you gotta watch it!).  I can’t read, listen or now watch this episode without crying.  I have the written form of it printed out and I take it with me to every PFLAG meeting and event that I go to where I may run into a parent who has just discovered a child who has stepped out of the lifeboat.

Please watch this powerful film and share it far and wide.

Brett talks about love in this film…it matters.

Here’s the film…

It’s not a phase…

Me sitting on my grandmother’s backyard steps.

Apparently when I was a little girl I was a bit of a flirt.  My aunt was only 10 years older than me so when she was 16 years old I was 6.  There were boys that would hang out by my grandmother’s house…clearly to see my aunt.  I can remember standing at the fence talking to them and at one point I announced that one of them was my boyfriend.  I believe his name was Chuck (I remember the last name too, but I will keep that to myself – wink).  I think they all got a kick out of it so he went along with it.  Very innocently of course.  When he would stop by, he would tell everyone he was there to see his girlfriend (me – smile).  I can remember standing at that fence like it was yesterday.

It’s been fun to see all of the back to school posts from my friends and family on Facebook.  I am no longer in that phase of life so it’s fun to relive those times through the posts.  The stories are fun as well.  The answers to the question of “How was your first day of school?” have been funny at times.  One of my friends posted that her daughter came home and was just going on and on about a boy in her class.  When my friend questioned her further about it, her daughter just simply said, “Oh he’s my boyfriend.”  She’s in kindergarten (smile).

In my last post, I shared that 9-year-old Jamel killed himself four days after school started.  He was being bullied for being gay.  It was disheartening to me to see the response this story received.  There was a lot of outcry about it, but not because 9-year-old children bullied a classmate to the point he couldn’t take it any longer.  The outcry was about how a 9-year-old could know he was gay.  There was also a lot of shaming of the mom for “letting” her son be gay at that young age.

You know…when I was six and announced that one of the boys visiting my aunt was actually my boyfriend…not her boyfriend…no one batted an eye.  No one was shocked or appalled.  No one told me I was too young to know whether or not I liked boys.

I’ve seen the same response with the Facebook post of my friend.  No one questioned her daughter’s age and declaration of liking her boy classmate.  When young children come home and announce that they have a crush on someone of the opposite sex, people think it’s adorable.  They know that it’s innocent.  They know that these kids aren’t thinking about sex.  It is puppy love pure and simple.

I’ve written before about the first boy that I “dated.”  I use quotes because we were in 6th grade and didn’t even hold hands.   Despite that…we were considered a couple.  I thought he was cute.  I liked him.  We danced together at the rec dances and that was it.  My mom and dad didn’t sit me down and tell me that it was a phase I was going through.  They didn’t tell me that I couldn’t possibly know that I liked boys because I didn’t have any experience in dating.  They didn’t tell me that you needed to kiss a boy or have sex before you knew for sure you were attracted to them.  They didn’t suggest that I date a girl too to make sure I wasn’t confused about this boy that I liked.  Yet, this is what gay kids are told all of the time…

Are you sure?
You’re too young to know whether or not you are attracted to someone.
It’s just a phase.
Why don’t you go out with (insert name of someone of the opposite sex)?  You might decide you like them instead.
You’re just confused.
You haven’t had sex yet…how can you know for sure.

That’s disgusting…you can’t like (insert name of same-sex person).
You just haven’t met the right person (of the opposite sex) yet.

The list goes on.  And instead of their attraction being described as sweet or adorable, they have shame heaped onto them for having feelings that they didn’t ask for.

If you grew up attracted to the opposite sex, did you need to explore with someone of the same-sex to make sure your attraction was real?  Did you need to have sex to know you were attracted to the opposite sex?  Of course not.

So yes…young Jamel knew that he liked boys.  He was excited to share with his friends…just like we as straight people like to do.  He was shamed for it and told to kill himself.  And he did.

How many kids will have to die?  How many kids will have to walk around thinking that God hates them?  How many kids will destroy themselves with their secret because they are afraid they will lose your love?

Love matters…

 

How many tears…how many lives…

My kiddos are 19 months apart.  Man was it hard at first, but it worked out because they are the best of friends and have a lot in common since they are close in age. Towards the end of my pregnancy with McKensie, I would take Kyle to McDonald’s on Fridays for breakfast.  He loved the pancakes and sausage (maybe I did too).  I would get an order and we would share it.  I didn’t mean for it to become a “thing” for us.  The first time I went it happened to be during the time that the retirees were there eating breakfast and drinking coffee, visiting with each other.  They fell in love with Kyle and asked me to please come back.  So I did (smile).  This tradition started when he was 16 months old and they were just amazed at how well he sat and ate his breakfast.  He used his fork and not his fingers.  He said please and thank you.  They called him a little man.  He was a smart cookie, but more than that he just liked to do what I did so he paid attention and did what I did.

A few months after my mom passed away, my aunt and my cousin took my kids out to lunch to spend some time with them and to give me a break.  McKensie was two and a half at the time.  As they were eating lunch, someone pushed back their chair from the table and it made a loud scraping noise on the floor.  McKensie exclaimed, “Oh that startled me!”  My cousin was amazed that she would use such a big word being so young.  She also was a little sponge and soaked up what was done and said around her.  In fact, my kids are not special in this regard.  I think ALL kids do this.

Unfortunately, not all kids learn good things from the adults around them.  I know many parents of kids who are LGBTQ that get nervous this time of year.  Why?  It’s time to go back to school.  There have been some good first days, but even though school has just begun…there have also been some awful days.

A family in Oklahoma is moving for the safety of their 12 year old transgender daughter.  Moving.  The school district had to shut down for two days because of what parents were saying in a Facebook group that were threatening to the 12 year old girl.   ‘Adults had referred to her as “this thing” and a “half baked maggot” threatening to “make him a female” with a “good sharp knife.” ‘  You can read the full article here.  They encouraged their kids to bully the girl so that she would leave the school.

Who do you think was watching these parents?  Listening to these parents?  Their kids.  So is it any wonder that we are finding  kids younger and younger bullying others…to the point where they take their lives?  Nine year old Jamel Myles from Colorado took his life four days after school started.  He had come out as gay to his classmates and the bullying was horrible.  Classmates told him he should kill himself…so he did.  (Instead of being outraged over the bullying, people were debating how a 9 year old could know he was gay.  I’ll address that in another post)  A mother of an eleven year old found her son crying himself to sleep after reading that story.  The previous year he had been urinated on in the boys bathroom by several boys…some of which were his friends…some from his church.  When that happened to him, he contemplated jumping off of an interstate bridge to end his life.  He felt survivors guilt that he was still here.

Is it any wonder why the beginning of the school year would cause stress for parents and their kids?  Kids learn from their parents, but they also can get caught up in bad situations.  They go along with the bullying because they don’t want the bullying to turn towards them.  Talk to your kids about this.  Give them some tools to learn to step away from a bullying situation, or tools to stand up for the kid being bullied.

Unfortunately, bullying doesn’t just come from an individual.  Sometimes it’s from something much bigger than that.  Like the Church.

My friend’s son came out last summer.  This year when he went back to college she was rearranging his bedroom.  When she moved his dresser from beside his bed, she found this written on it.

As you can see, it is written in the handwriting of someone young…not in college so it’s been there for some time.  I can’t speak for my friend…that is her story to share.  But I can say that this breaks my heart.  To think that this precious boy laid his head on his pillow next to what he had written every night for years is beyond what my heart can take.  Where did he learn this?  The Church.  And let’s be clear here.  You don’t have to say the words “God hates you” for this message to get imprinted onto a young person’s (or old for that matter) soul.  The Church can think that they are handling things with “truth and grace,” but that is not the message that is heard.  This happens when the person giving the truth and grace doesn’t really know the person or their story.

I would say that silence is just as deadly.

There are LGBTQ youth sitting in church pews hearing that they are destroying America.  They hear that wanting to be loved will destroy straight marriages and family values.  They are wondering what in the world they are doing to cause this.  They wonder why people think this about them.  I would go as far to say that there are people I know that have suffered emotional and spiritual abuse from the church.  And because it comes from people within the church, these kids see it as what God believes about them.  “God hates me.”  If you are abused by your earthly father, it is hard enough to come to terms with that and heal from it.  How much harder do you think it is when that abuse comes from God (through God’s people)?  We tell people who struggle to go to God for help…that He loves them…that He’s for them…that He never leaves or forsakes them.  He can get them through everything and anything…but then tell the LGBTQ person that the same does not apply to them.

What hope do they have?  You feel abuse by the One that is supposed to save you.

I’ve said it before…I’ll say it again.  We must do better.  Lives are at stake.

This month is National Suicide Month.  If you are LGBTQ and need help, reach out to The Trevor Project.  You can call, chat, or text.

Love matters friends.  How we love matters.  Lives depend on it…