Baltimore Pride 2018…

One thing I found challenging when my kids were young was leaving a place when they were having fun.  Every time it was, “Can we have 5 more minutes?  Pllleeeaaassseee?”  My husband and I eventually wised up and gave them the 5 minute warning before we were ready to go.  Surprisingly it worked (smile).

That’s how I felt on Saturday at the Baltimore Pride Parade.

As I mentioned in my last post, I just got back from vacation last weekend.  Although I was sad to see my vacation end, I was super excited that Pride was the following weekend.  I had been looking forward to it all year.  I have to say it’s one of my favorite days of the year.

We had a lot of new PFLAG parents join us this year for the parade.  It’s like watching your child experience something for the first time.  It reminded me of what my first parade was like and how emotional I got when the crowd cheered for the parents.  It’s also heart warming to see the support they are giving their children.  I’m not sure if they realize yet how important this is to their child and how much their kids appreciate their support.

But just like last year, the favorite part for me was giving out mom hugs.  It can be a little chaotic.  We had a group with drums with us again this year which makes it hard to hear (but really fun to march to!).  Some people just want to show appreciation for being willing to give hugs (not everyone is a hugger – smile).  So as I’m going along I try to discern who is asking for hugs.

Some people make it really obvious because they open their arms wide.
Some run up to me.
Some are shy about it.
Some call me mom.
Some ask for a hug just for fun.

Then there are the hugs where you can tell the person doesn’t want to let go.

Even though I’m moving along in the parade, the hugs are full embraces.  In some of those embraces, the person thanks me.  In some of those embraces, they tell me that appreciate my willingness to hug them.  In some of those embraces, since they are of all ages, the person will tell me that their mom has died and it’s been a long time since they had a mom hug.  And in some of those embraces the person will tell me that their mom doesn’t accept them.  I hug them extra tight and when we pull away from the hug I tell them that I’m sorry.  And then I tell them that this mom loves them.

It’s in these precious moments that I want to whine and complain…it’s not enough time!  Five more minutes…pleeaasseee!  I fight back the tears and catch back up to my group.  I smile through the emotions that are catching in my throat since Pride is a happy time.  And I happily give the next hug.

If you’ve been a follower for some time, you know that I left my position as a staff member at my church last June.  I still do work for them, but on a much smaller scale.  I’ve been contemplating what my next adventure will be.  I think God has finally revealed to me what that might be.  Stay tuned!

As I mentioned, not everyone is a hugger.  But everyone should be a lover…because love matters.

It’s not about the cake…

I just got home from a week away down in Avon, North Carolina.  My husband and I went down with friends that we’ve known for some 30 years now.  We rented a house right on the beach with the most beautiful views.  Sunrises over the ocean every morning and sunsets over the sound every evening.  We had picture perfect weather every day.  The only rain we got was in the evening once we were finished with our activities.  None of us wanted to leave our little piece of paradise, but alas we needed to get back to real life.

I tried to take a social media break while away.  I promised some friends that I would do that to decompress as a way to take care of myself.  I did pretty good.  I mainly posted pictures of my vacation and some quotes from books I was reading that I thought were really good.  However, on Monday while down at the beach I received a text that the supreme court sided with the Colorado baker.  My phone started buzzing as news was getting out about the decision.  I hopped online during lunch to try to discern what the facts were in the case.   There are many articles out there about this so if you want more info you can google it, but here is some info on what this case is referring to.

My friends and I with gay kids were somewhat dreading this decision.  It could mean major discrimination for our kids.  The outcome wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but the fact that the ruling was in the baker’s favor has already caused people to feel more inclined to discriminate.  Some of our kids (in my mom’s group) have already been denied service.

Sign in hardware store in Tennessee. It’s legal there to do this.

The baker stated that baking the cake went against his religious beliefs because same-sex marriage to him is a sin.  I’m just wondering where it would stop.  Should the baker have a checklist so that they know who they can biblically bake the cake for…things like…have you ever been divorced, have you had sex outside of marriage, do you live together? Where does the questioning stop to make it biblically acceptable? Should the baker refuse to sell to someone overweight because gluttony is a sin?  Should it be 10 pounds overweight, 50 pounds, 100?  Who decides?

We can argue over this and debate this until the cows come home.  It’s messy…I get that.  But here’s the thing…I think Jesus would have baked the cake.  Even if Jesus considered gay people his enemy (which I don’t think he does), I think he would bake the cake.  In fact, maybe he would bake two (wink).

As I mentioned, I have been posting some good quotes from a book I’m reading called “Tattoos on the Heart” by Father Gregory Boyle.  It’s excellent and I highly recommend it.  Here is one of the quotes that I posted:

“The strategy of Jesus is not centered in taking the right stand on issues, but rather in standing in the right place – with the outcast and those relegated to the margins.”

I got this response from one of my son’s good friends:
“So you know me, I’m not a religious person, but I find myself liking more and more of your posts that include religious themes, mostly because they’re about being a good person and standing up for what’s right ”  

And this was my response:
“You know I think Jesus’ message has been hijacked by religion. He didn’t come here to start a religion. He came here to show us God’s love and how God wants us to treat others. I think humanity was getting it wrong and God sent Jesus to set it right. He was always for the marginalized, the outcast, the poor and sick. In fact, his harshest words were to the religious people of his day. So, I guess you could say I’m glad you’re not religious because that’s not what being a follower of Jesus is all about. 

“Being a good person and standing up for what is right” is what draws people to Christ.  Making a stand and not baking a cake turns people away from Christ…in my opinion.  Is humanity getting it wrong again?

So you see…to me it’s not about the cake.  It’s about giving people permission to discriminate.  It’s about not showing Christ’s love.  It’s about bearing bad fruit instead of good.  People are watching and listening to how you treat others.  Are you going to attract them to Christ or push them away?

I’m gearing up for Baltimore Pride coming up this Saturday.  I think we are going to need to spread a little extra love that day.

A little project my hubby and I worked on while on vacation.

Because love matters…

Looking for love…

While I was running errands last week, an old song came on the radio.  It’s called “Lookin’ for Love” by Johnny Lee.  I’m an 80’s girl so of course I knew the song (smile).   I think it was in the movie Urban Cowboy.  In one of my recent posts, I asked if anyone had questions.  It seems people really struggle with stereotypes.  In the crazy way that my brain works, this song reminded me of that struggle and something that happened a few years ago related to it.

If you watched the mini series “When We Rise” last year, you got to see what being LGBTQ was like throughout history beginning back in the 70’s.  It ended with the supreme court’s decision in 2015 to make marriage a right for the LGBTQ community.  It was a good series.  Parts of it were difficult to watch.  Saying it was rough for the community is an understatement…on many fronts.  I am so very thankful for the people who fought so hard for their rights.  We still have much farther to go, but things are better than what they were back then.

Since I was born in 1967, I wasn’t aware of what was happening to the LGBTQ community back in the 70’s and even the early 80’s.  Watching the series helped me to understand where that generation got their ideas about the LGBTQ community.  Unfortunately, those ideals were passed down to younger generations.  Until I met gay people as I got older, the only information I had about them was what I heard the older generation say about them and it seemed to me that it all had to do with sex.

In many areas of our country,  it is still hard to be out even today.  Back then, however, it was even more difficult.  The LGBTQ community had to hide.  The series showed what it was like for them.  There were bars and bath houses that they would frequent to basically find people like themselves.  I am sure it was a very lonely existence.   Alcohol and drugs flowed in these places.  It seemed that promiscuity was the norm.  If you look at that era in general though, I think it’s safe to say that this was across the board…straight or gay in many places.

When kids come out, I have found that a big concern for parents is they wonder when their kid is going to start with the behaviors that they’ve been accustomed to hearing about the LGBTQ community.  They think their kid is going to change.  This is why education is so important and something that our PFLAG  chapter stresses to parents new on this journey.  We assure the parents that their kids are the same as they were the day before they found out they were LGBTQ.

A couple of years ago I was reminded of how big of a hurdle the LGBTQ community has in overcoming old stereotypes that are out there about them.  I shared my journey of having a gay child at my church on July 5, 2015.   I talked about our journey, this blog, and the mom’s I’ve met along the way.  My message was about love.  The following Sunday, one of our church members stopped me with a question.  This person went home and did some research on gay people.  I’m not sure what kind of research they did, but they focused on sex.  They were surprised that statistically gay men are having more sex then straight men.  They asked me if I knew why.

As you can imagine, I was quite taken aback by this question.  I felt defeated.  Is this really all this person walked away from when hearing my story??  It took a bit for my brain to catch up to answer their question.  At first, all I could think of was…

Why?
Where did they even find a survey like this?
And Lord help me be gracious as I answer because deep down I wanted to scream, “Why does everyone make it about sex?!”

I reminded them that I wasn’t an expert, but I had a few ideas.  I turned things around and asked them a few questions:

Do you think the research you read took into consideration the kids that have been kicked out of their homes?  Do you know what they often have to resort to in order to survive?  Many of them have to work the streets as prostitutes in order to have food or a place to stay.

If you were told over and over again that you were disgusting and didn’t deserve to live, how do you think you would feel about yourself?  Do you think you would look for love in healthy ways feeling that way about yourself?

If you came from a faith background and were told you were going to hell, would you care about how you lived your life moving forward?

If you were told that love was not for you and someone paid attention to you, do you think it would be easy for that person to take advantage of you?

They admitted that they hadn’t thought of things that way.

Taking all of these things into consideration is another reason why the number one piece of advice that I give parents new to this journey is to make sure their kids know that they are loved.  Granted that isn’t romantic love which many of them crave, but it will help them to have a healthy view of themselves.  Straight or gay that is helpful.  And it doesn’t matter what their sexual orientation is when it comes to whether or not they are going to have sex, when they start having sex, or how often they have sex.

The chorus of the song I heard last week is this:

I was lookin’ for love in all the wrong places,
Lookin’ for love in too many faces,
searchin’ their eyes and lookin’ for traces
of what I’m dreamin’ of.
Hopin’ to find a friend and a lover;
I’ll bless the day I discover 
another heart lookin’ for love.

The only way to break the stereotypes that we’ve been taught is to enter the stories of the LGBTQ community.  They need our understanding.  They need our love so they don’t have to look for it “in all the wrong places.”

Because love matters…

Welcoming AND Affirming…

I posted an article on my Facebook page this week and got a good question in response.  Since I’m sure others have thought this, I thought I’d answer my friend in a blog post.  The article that I posted was in the Advocate and you can read it here.  If you don’t want to take the time to read it, the article explained why the difference between an affirming church and a welcoming church is huge.  The person sharing their story had been through conversion therapy.  Here is the question that I got:

It could be 300-600 or more people sitting in a church for mass or service. Who would know who is different, in what ever way? 
Why does there even need to be a necessity to know anyone’s sexual preference, in a crowd, a bus, or in a church? 
This always confuses me about how people complain about not being accepted. 
Isn’t it someone who is unsettled or self-conscious about something that has the feeling of being unwelcomed?

I’m genuinely interested in the feelings people go through. 
I’d feel unsettled or self-conscious say… if I’d enter a room of tall, slender runway models. 
Of course, at my age now, it wouldn’t bother me as much because I’m much more comfortable being me. Authentic, shortness and all.

Great question right?  And I love that this person stated that they are genuinely interested in the feelings that other people go through.  Just like a skinny person may not understand why it might be a bit awkward to walk into a room full of runway models if you aren’t skinny…a person who is straight is not going to understand what it’s like to be LGBTQ walking into a church.  So it’s good to have conversations to try to understand each other.

First let me say that I am straight.  So I also don’t understand what it’s like to walk into a church being LGBTQ.  I do, however, have some experience as a parent of a gay child.  I’ve also been on this journey now for 10 years and I’ve been in lots of different situations, met lots of people, and heard countless stories of what others have been through.  I just want to make it clear that I’m not an expert, but I think I can speak into this question at least a little bit.  I am just going to scratch the surface on this because there are too many layers to go into in one blog post, but if you’ve been following me for a while you know that I’ve touched on many of these things in other posts.

We first need to understand the terms we are talking about.  Churches may understand these terms in their own way, but generally this is what they mean:

A church that is welcoming, in the context of the LGBTQ community, is open to welcoming everyone.  There is a distinction because there are churches that would not allow an LGBTQ individual to cross their front door (I will go into the question of why does anyone need to know in a bit).  So if a person sees that a church is welcoming, they know that they can attend there if they are LGBTQ.

A church that is affirming is not only welcoming, but they are accepting of the LGBTQ individual completely.  The church does not believe that it is a sin to be LGBTQ.  The church would allow the individual to be married, and they can serve in whatever capacity God has gifted them.

Now to the question.

If you are LGBTQ, you have the right to keep that to yourself.  No one expects you to announce it to the world…let alone the church.  But not knowing where a church stands  can be harmful.  For instance, there have been pastors that have said that all LGBTQ people should be thrown in jail, some that have said they all should be hung, and some that praised the shooting that happened at the Pulse nightclub almost two years ago.  These are normal, run of the mill churches…not extremists like Westboro Baptist that we are all so used to hearing about.  If you know that a church is welcoming, you at least can be somewhat guaranteed that you aren’t going to hear something like that from the pulpit.

I was incognito as a parent of a gay child in my church for some time.  If you asked people at my church what they thought about gay people, I think they would tell you that they loved them.  But yet, I heard things like:
“Gay people are freaks.”
“Gay people are going straight to hell.”
Referenced as “He, she, it…whatever they are”
“It’s just gross…we don’t need to hear about that or see it.”

That doesn’t feel good.  Call me names all you want, but don’t mess with my kid.  I’m an adult and I’m not gay.  Imagine hearing those things as a young person who is gay.  So yes, they can sit in a pew of 300-500 people incognito, but is it a healthy environment for them?  And what about when they do finally tell someone their secret?  If it is not a welcoming church, they could be kicked out.  Young teens have been kicked out of youth group when they come out because leaders think it is somehow contagious.  People have been fired from their church jobs.  So you could potentially attend a church for years…build friendships, and that is all stripped away when they learn this one thing about you.

So let’s now say that someone is in a welcoming church.  People know that they are LGBTQ and they have felt loved.  No one has said anything mean to them.  There haven’t been any condemning messages from the pulpit.  Life is good.    People tell them all the time they have a beautiful voice and they really like singing.  They decide to audition for the worship team.  They are told that although they have a lovely voice they can’t be on the worship team.  The church doesn’t want someone who is LGBTQ upfront on Sundays.  Although the church is welcoming, they believe being LGBTQ is a sin and you must have your act together if you want to represent the church on stage.

That hurts, but you really feel connected in this church so you try to let it go.  God has given you a passion for the homeless and the church has a ministry with the local homeless shelter.  You sign up and once a month you serve this important ministry.  God has grown you in ways that you couldn’t have imagined through your service there.  Your life outside of church is going really well too.  You’ve met someone and have gotten quite serious with them.  When the church finds out, they tell you that you can’t serve any longer.  You are welcome to serve if you stay single, but they can’t condone your relationship.  You are willingly sinning and they can’t overlook it.  In this church, that kind of love is not for you.

This is what it’s like to not feel accepted.  It’s not a matter of being comfortable in your own skin.  It’s dealing with this over and over again.  It tears a person down.  This is why affirming churches are so important.  These things don’t happen because the person is fully accepted.

To go back to the article…this person had been through conversion therapy.  The comment that someone from the welcoming church made to them reminded them of the horror they went through in that kind of therapy.  Conversion therapy has many different forms.  It could be “praying the gay away.”  Being told that you just aren’t praying earnestly enough.  You don’t have enough faith and that is why God isn’t “healing” you.  It takes much darker forms as well.  In some forms, they give the LGBTQ person a drug that makes them physically ill while they show them gay porn.  And in others, they put electrodes on their genitals, show them gay porn, and shock them if they get aroused.  Conversion therapy has been outlawed in several states, but there are many that still allow it to continue.

So that was a lot of info and it is just scratching the surface.  I hope that this gives at least a little bit of a glimpse into why this is important.  A church has the right to believe what it believes.  Although I would love to see all churches be affirming, I know that isn’t going to happen.  My son said he would never set foot in an non-affirming church.  I wouldn’t want him to.  I don’t want him ever to receive the message that God thinks less of him.  I don’t ever want him to get the message that he isn’t loved completely.

Because love matters…

 

Figure of speech…

The English language is a complicated thing to master.  Think about it.  We have so many words that sound the same, but are spelled differently and have different meanings:

pair, pear, hole, whole, their, there, right, write

The list goes on and on.

In spelling class, we are taught “i” before “e” except after “c”…
and here’s a sampling of that not working out:

beige, height, leisure

Weird right?  (see what I did there – wink).

How about the figures of speech?  Yikes!  These were interesting when my kids were younger.  I would forget that they hadn’t quite mastered all the nuances of language yet.  They took things quite literally.  Like the time my daughter told me her leg was hurting.  I had her show me where and then I asked what the pain felt like.  She couldn’t quite explain it so I asked her if it was a constant pain, was it achy, or did it feel more like a shooting pain.  She looked at me with eyes opened wide and said, “I don’t know mommy…I’ve never been shot.”   Not exactly what I meant.  We were at the beach on vacation and we had just eaten lunch.  The rule was that you had to wait a half hour before you got in the ocean to give your food a chance to settle so you wouldn’t get a cramp.  I have no idea if that’s a thing, but that’s what I had to do as a kid so I passed it along to mine.  I was standing at the shore line with the other adults and my son kept coming up to me over and over again asking if he could get in the ocean.  Finally in exasperation I said, “Go ahead…knock yourself out.”  He looked at me with his little head cocked sideways and said, “Why would I do that?”  I just knew that figure of speech was going to land me on Dr. Phil one day.  “You know Dr. Phil…the trouble with my mom began when she told me I should knock myself out.”  The audience gasps.

Figures of speech can end up in some funny misunderstandings.  There are times though, where speech isn’t so figurative.  This type of speech has the ability to cut someone to their core.  I saw the effects of this first hand recently.  I can’t emphasize enough that entering someone’s story is the best way to gain understanding.  The labels just don’t stick when you are sitting face to face with someone you thought you had all figured out.

I had an opportunity to meet two young ladies who identify as LGBTQ.  They were both in their 30’s.  They both discovered that they were LGBTQ in their early middle school years.  I listened to them as they described what it was like to discover this about themselves.  They talked about the fear they felt of being found out.  So I asked them how they knew it wasn’t safe to come out.

For one of the women, it was when she was watching a movie with her mom.  The movie showed two men kissing.  She said it was a quick kiss, but her mother’s reaction let her know it wasn’t safe.  She was around 12 when this happened and her mom said, “That’s disgusting!” when the kiss happened.  She immediately thought, “Oh my god!  I’m disgusting!”  For the other woman, it was during a church sermon that she realized it wasn’t safe to come out.  The preacher yelled from the pulpit that being gay was an abomination.  She didn’t even know what that meant so when she got home she looked it up.  From that moment on she knew that people would think she was disgusting and would hate her.  She attempted suicide.

I could tell that as they were telling their stories that those feelings had stuck with them.  Even though they had moved on and were in loving relationships, the damage of those reactions and statements were being carried by them to this day.  I could feel it.  They took these words to heart.  They took them literally.  This was not a figure of speech misunderstanding.  Because of this, as I’ve stated before, coming out is a scary endeavor.  I am amazed by the harsh statements people make when someone comes out.  This is a very personal aspect of someone and they are trusting you when they come out.  Most of my experiences of telling people I have a gay son have been good.  But I have had people respond with, “I don’t agree with that.”   Really?  I was not asking you if agreed with it.  Then they go on to tell me that he is going to hell.  Well I don’t think I asked you about that either.  It’s happened to countless parents that I know and their children unfortunately.  I just can’t imagine saying this to someone.

How do you think things turn out for kids that don’t have support?  Being told over and over again that you are going to hell, that you are an abomination, that you are disgusting.  Do you think it ends well?

There are several passages in the Bible that warn about the tongue.  Maybe people should heed that since they can apply it to themselves and worry less with others.  Let’s leave that up to God.

Words stick with people.   Respond in love…because love matters.