Houston we have a problem…

Love Matters

Being an empathic person has made things difficult lately. After the news of the shooting at the 4th of July parade in Highland Park, my body has literally felt like it’s been vibrating. It breaks my heart because I just can’t imagine what the survivors go through afterwards. I know how hard it was getting over what happened in this blog post that I wrote 3 years ago. I didn’t have to see injured people bleeding on the street. I didn’t have to run past dead bodies. The trauma these people go through in all of these mass shootings has to be monumental. I just want to shake our leaders and ask, “Are you paying attention?!” I feel like my insides are screaming. It just keeps happening again and again and again. I’m sharing this again because my state’s primary is coming up. I have been researching the candidates until…

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How have we come to this…Part 2

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.

How have we come to this…Part 1

I’m going to start this post with a statistic…
The Trevor Project estimates that at least one LGBTQ youth between the ages of 13-24 attempts suicide every 45 seconds in the U.S. I will come back to this later.

I’m pretty sure I’ve shared with you before that I have the craziest dreams. I mean there are some real doozies. Like the time Robert Downey Jr dipped his head in a bowl of chocolate and then a bowl of cheerios and ran around showing everyone his cheerio “wig.” What made me dream that? I have no idea. Sometimes, though, I can pinpoint where some of the themes originate. Because of this I am very careful about what I watch on television. I never watched the show The Walking Dead, but just seeing the commercials made me dream about zombies. I was so mad! And just the other day Bradley Cooper was on one of the morning shows talking about his road to overcoming addiction. That night I dreamed my friends were trying to get me to watch a horror movie. I never watch horror movies…simply because I don’t want to dream about it. I knew it was going to be awful, but Bradley Cooper. who happened to be in the movie, tried to trick me into watching it. Weird right?! Just seeing him on a morning program made me dream about him.

Recently I’ve been trying to catch up on some podcasts. I stumbled upon a compelling topic in doing so. It is interesting because this particular topic was on two different podcasts. They each had a different expert and they were recorded at different times during the year (as I am very far behind in listening). Maybe this was something I was supposed to hear? They both talked about trauma and how it can affect our DNA and be passed down through generations. So you can have symptoms of a trauma that you personally didn’t experience. It was fascinating. I actually downloaded a book that one of the guests wrote about the research that they did because I want to learn more about that.

So if I’m careful about what I watch because of the way my brain processes information at night you can better believe that I am mindful about the real stuff that happens out in the world and how that might affect me. I came across something this weekend that was so horrifying I thought for sure that it was not true. It has been plaguing me ever since. And yes…unfortunately I have dreamed about it.

I am not going to say who said these things because quite frankly I don’t want his name to get any more publicity than it already has, but I feel that what he said should be addressed. This was the headline that I saw: Pro-Trump Candidate Calls for Executing Parents of LGBTQ+ Kids

My first reaction was surely this can’t be true. They are using an outrageous title to get people to click on the article. I’ve seen that time and time again. Then as I read the article I thought maybe they are just using his words out of context to make it more sensationalized. But then I saw a video of him, and the words were coming directly from his mouth.

This person is a pastor in South Carolina running for Congress. He believes that parents and teachers that discuss LGBTQ+ issues with children are a national security threat to the U.S. He said that if he is elected he wants to hold people who do this accountable for treason to the Constitution. He will push to reenact HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee). He believes that people should be tried for treason, and then executed when they are found guilty. He says a lot more, but I will stop there.

My reaction was, “Are you freakin’ kidding me?!” In fairness, he was asked if he would do something about the “grooming” of our children by the LGBTQ+ agenda when he said these things. But all I could think of was when given time on television to say what he might do to benefit our country if he is elected, this pastor didn’t talk about helping the poor, or healthcare, or housing…or how we might stop an18 year old from buying an assault weapon and murdering babies in their classrooms. He chose instead to talk about killing people who support the LGBTQ+ community. Well if he gets elected and gets his way…it’s been nice knowing you. This blog alone could be used against me.

Now I can hear you saying…Lesa one crazy person does not make for many crazy people. I thought the same thing until at the end of his tirade the news anchor clapped and said, “South Carolina this is your man!” He’s not the only hateful pastor that I’ve seen regarding the LGBTQ+ community. I’ve shared before about the pastor that wants to round up all the gay people and put them in cages. He said he would feed them (thank goodness right?), but eventually they would get old and die off. Then there was the pastor that applauded the massacre at Pulse from his pulpit and said that it should happen more often. But to see someone on television…someone running for office…have such outlandish ideas is downright scary. It’s not just pastors of course. Just last week in Baltimore a Pride flag was set on fire at someone’s house. The list goes on about the dangers of being LGBTQ+ in this world.

This person running for congress seemed to especially have an issue with parents of transgender children calling it child abuse. I think it’s safe to say that this congressional candidate has never sat down and had a conversation with a parent of a transgender child or a transgender person themselves. Thinking that a parent would want this for their child or is forcing their child to be transgender is ludicrous. And this whole “grooming” idea. What do these people really think the LGBTQ+ community is going to do with all these “groomed” children…take over the world? Again any person that thinks any parent would wish this for their child has NO CLUE what it is like…for themselves and for their child.

Is there any wonder why the suicide rate is so high among this community? They aren’t prone to suicide because they are LGBTQ+…they are at higher risk because of how they are treated in our society. LGBTQ+ youth are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide then their peers. 1.8 million LGBTQ+ ages 13-24 seriously consider suicide each year. If trauma can be passed down in DNA, how many generations will be affected by the damage done.

It seems as if the people who share ideas like this candidate wish for the LGBTQ+ community to be erased. They have been here since the beginning of time and aren’t going anywhere. In Part 2, I will discuss why it’s important for there to be visibility for this community.

Going with the statistic I started with…160 LGBTQ+ youth attempted suicide while I wrote this blog post. I would like to remind this pastor/candidate that he will never look into the eyes of someone that is not loved by God.

Folks…we need to do better. This is not loving.

And love matters…

Let’s talk about Pray Away…

“I was asked ‘What do you think about the blood on your hands?’ Right now all I know is I’m afraid to look down at my hands.” Randy Thomas, former executive vice president of Exodus International.

I heard a story on the Today show on Sunday that caught my ear. It was part of their “Life Well Lived” series and it was about an extraordinary athlete named Joan Joyce. You can watch the story here. Some of the highlights of her career are that she started as a fast pitch softball player when she was just a teenager. During some exhibition games during her 19 year career in softball, she struck out greats like Ted Williams and Hank Aaron. She was also an amazing volleyball player, basketball player, and even a good bowler. She tried her hand at golf and discovered that she was really good at that as well and set records in the LPGA tour. She is considered one of the greatest athletes of all time. Simply amazing. Most athletes excel in one area, but she seemed to be good at whatever she tried.

Some people are just born with natural talent. That’s not to say that they don’t have to work at it, but they can make it look effortless. My daughter is a natural born artist. She has been creating since she was able to hold a crayon in her hand. And she doesn’t just draw…she can paint, sculpt with clay, make jewelry, photography, etc. When she was in kindergarten, they were allowed to play with soft moldable clay called model magic. Sort of like playdough, but doesn’t get crumbly when it dries out. Everyone else had to put their creations back in the container when they were done, but her teacher always let her take her creations home because she didn’t have the heart to destroy them (smile).

Where my son excels without seemingly any effort is music. He took piano lessons when he was very young for a short time. He took lessons again as a teenager…again for a short time and he far exceeded me when I took lessons for years. I have to really work at learning the songs. He can hear a song and pick it up very easily. Don’t get me wrong…he has to practice, but it just seems to come naturally to him.

Well I can say with confidence that I am neither an artist, a musician, nor an athlete (smile). If you have been following me, you have read the stories of my athletic ability…or lack of it. And it wasn’t for lack of trying. I would practice catch with my dad, shoot hoops with friends after school, play kickball with neighborhood friends…as hard as I tried…I just wasn’t any good. I absolutely hated gym class in middle school…especially when we had to play baseball or kickball. There were many times that it was just absolutely humiliating.

As humiliating as it may have been, you know what I didn’t have to worry about? I didn’t have to worry that I would be called evil or disgusting for not being a good athlete. I didn’t have to worry about being called an abomination. I didn’t have to worry about my parents disowning me because I wasn’t a good athlete. I didn’t have to eat, sleep, and breathe learning how to be a better athlete to be accepted.

Last summer Netflix premiered the documentary Pray Away. This is the description: Five evangelicals in the 1970s break away and form Exodus International, a group that claims that gay people can become straight through prayer and conversion therapy. It is still available on Netflix if you didn’t get a chance to see it.

If you have been a follower of my blog, you might remember that when my son came out we were referred to Exodus International. My husband talked with someone from the organization for several hours on the phone. I hate to fly, but I was willing to do anything and go anywhere to help my son. I’ve said it before and I will shout it from the mountain tops THANK GOODNESS we didn’t follow that path. Something in our spirits stopped us.

I am so glad that we didn’t put our son through that. I do wish, however, that at the time I would have had the Christian resources that are available today. The only thing that I could find was information from places like Exodus which means that the only thing I was exposed to was along the lines of conversion therapy. Pray enough, be disciplined enough, deny yourself enough and you won’t be gay any longer. So although we didn’t put our son through it physically I was sharing what I was finding because it seemed hopeful. I mean…they were saying that they changed. I wanted my son to have a life where he didn’t have to worry about being discriminated against…or worse.

Watching the Pray Away documentary was harder than I thought it would be. I had watched the movie Boy Erased and although that was hard to watch, it didn’t bring stuff up for me like this documentary. I thought I had dealt with all of that, but this proved to me that I had not. I had a lot of processing to do afterwards. In fact…I watched it 3 times and it took weeks for me to work through my feelings. I am in no way comparing my journey to the journey of a LGBTQ+ person who has been through conversion therapy. There is no comparison. None. I’m sharing because I have been asked what I thought of the documentary. I’m not going to go into great detail because honestly I would like you to watch it for yourselves (only if you personally have not been through conversion therapy).

What does a parent do when they find out their child is gay? Well 14 years ago, if you were a Christian, the first thing was to not dare tell a soul. Then you google how to help your kid because you feel like you can’t go anywhere else. And this is what the internet tells you (when you only seek out Christian advice – I will say that 14 years later there is much more helpful Christian information out there which you can find on my resource page): Being gay is caused by trauma as a child whether that be child abuse (physical or sexual) or inadequate or toxic parenting. If you can resolve those issues, you won’t be gay.

Well I knew my son was not abused. So…that meant that our parenting was inadequate or toxic. There are many posts on my blog that talk about the torture I put myself through trying to figure out what I or his dad did wrong. In the documentary, they show a room full of men in a classroom with the person upfront drawing a diagram of how this plays out. There are people who have gone through this type of therapy that hate their parents because they were told that their parents made them that way. These leaders had no qualifications by the way. I remember holding books in my hands with these same diagrams.

During the documentary, they showed clips of leaders from Exodus over the years on different talk shows telling how they overcame being gay. I remember back then trying to get my hands on any story of a person claiming to have changed. Stories that ended up being lies. And I shared them with my son…giving him hope that one day he wouldn’t have to hate himself (because at the time he did because of what was said about gay people). Only to later find out that these people didn’t really change. I beat myself up for a long time for doing that to my kid. Giving him hope that was false. Busse (one of the founders of Exodus) left in 1979 because he could no longer pretend that he was changing or that the people he was helping were changing. Exodus unfortunately continued to grow. The organization had weekend conferences where you could go and “learn how not be gay.” They showed a clip of one of those conferences that took place in 2009 the very year that we would have been there with our son had we gone.

What happens to people when they do everything they are told to do and they don’t change? What happens when trusted people have told you that they have changed and you can too? What happens when someone prays to exhaustion and they are the same that they were when they started? They wonder what’s wrong with them. They wonder why they aren’t changing. They have panic attacks. They attempt suicide. They feel guilt and shame because they couldn’t change.

I found Julie Rodgers story to be very compelling in the documentary. I don’t want to give it away here, but it is powerful. I had always known her to be a gay Christian that held the ‘Side B’ position. That you can be gay, but you can’t act on it. And she tried very hard to live that life. When it got to the point where she was burning her body, she knew she needed to do something different.

I personally know people that have been through these types of programs in their churches (not Exodus related). They have married people of the opposite sex because they are told to “fake it to they make it.” They are told that God will bless their decision to deny themselves and He will make them straight. It doesn’t work. They can only do it for so long and they end up hurting people that they love…they just don’t love them “that way.” I always think of Mel White who was married to his wife for about 20 years. He is the author of the book Stranger at the Gate. He was highly regarded in the Christian community. A little bit about him…

Until Christmas Eve 1991, Mel White was regarded by the leaders of the religious right as one of their most talented and productive supporters. He penned the speeches of Oliver North. He was a ghostwriter for Jerry Falwell, worked with Jim Bakker, flew in Pat Robertson’s private jet, walked sandy beaches with Billy Graham. What these men didn’t know was that Mel White—evangelical minister, committed Christian, family man—was gay.

When he could no longer live the lie of being a straight man to the point of almost committing suicide, he came out…and the leaders that thought so highly of him before they found out dropped him like a hot potato. My point being that a person can pretend for a long time…but eventually it catches up with them. One person in the documentary described it as losing their soul trying to do the right thing.

Exodus closed in 2013, but the practice of conversion therapy is alive and well. It is banned in many states, but many churches are still getting away with it. It comes in many forms. Approximately 700,000 (a number from 2018) people have gone through a form of conversion therapy in the US alone. A national survey found that LGBTQ youth that experience conversion therapy were more than twice as likely to attempt suicide.

I’m not saying that trying not to be gay is the same as trying to be a good athlete, artist, or musician. It’s not the same. I am saying that maybe you know what it’s like to want something so bad and no matter how hard you try you can’t achieve it…whatever that might be. Chances are though that it isn’t life or death for you. Why is it life or death for a gay person? Because they aren’t accepted for who they are and to feel loved we need to be fully known. If they have to hide a part of themselves…if they have to check a part of themselves at the door before they enter…if they are welcome to a family gathering, but their partner isn’t…they will never feel fully loved no matter how many times you say it.

A lot of people I know said that they weren’t going to watch the documentary. Some stated that they already knew that conversion therapy was wrong so what was the point. Some said it made them too mad to watch it. I go back to the statement from Randy Thomas that I started with…he is a gay man who hurt his own people…and because of that some of those people are no longer on this earth. I watched it for those precious souls who are no longer here and the ones who are still suffering from the abuse…to bear witness to the people who were part of the movement say they were wrong and they were sorry. I know it’s not for everyone and especially if you went through conversion therapy yourself. But if you haven’t…watch it to educate yourself because it’s still happening out there.

There’s been a lot going on so I’m late getting this out there. It was a long one so if you made it this far thanks for hanging in there with me.

Let’s let the LGBTQ+ community know that they are fully known and loved…because love matters.

A part of us…

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.”

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.