I don’t know where I’m going…but I sure know where I’ve been…

These lyrics from Whitesnake’s song “Here I Go Again” have been stuck in my head for quite some time.  It’s true…I don’t know where I’m going, but I sure know where I’ve been.  The last several weeks have made me more aware of that fact.

Trauma is a sneaky thing.  We are very aware of it while it’s happening and for some time when it’s over, but I think it throws us through a loop when it resurfaces after being stored in our bodies and our subconscious minds after many years.  This was very evident to me over the summer and it’s taken me some time to process through it.

First my son experienced it.  One day at work he received a phone call from his friend letting him know that her mother suddenly passed away.  She wasn’t sick.  It was one of those instances of having something in your body that isn’t detected until it’s too late.  Even though my son had just turned 3 when my mom passed away, his body and subconscious mind remembered it and this event brought it all back to him in a big way.  There were similarities.  My mom wasn’t sick either.  She was sitting on the floor playing with my kids and had a brain aneurysm.  She was only 50.  He of course was really sad for his friend…but he also had to process through his feelings of loss all over again.  It also scared him because I had just turned 50 and he couldn’t help but wonder if it would happen to me too.

I also had an experience this summer.  It’s really strange what can trigger a memory of trauma.  When my son got out of the hospital after being suicidal, there were a couple of things I had to do.  The first was to change the ring tone on my phone.  Because we got a lot of phone calls regarding my son before we made the decision to hospitalize him, the calls after he got home were just about throwing me into a panic attack.  Changing my ring tone sort of retrained my brain that phone calls weren’t always going to be bad.  The other thing I had to do was stop listening to music that I listened to during the 5 years that he really struggled.  It wasn’t all music, but you know how you can find a song that really speaks to you or brings you comfort during a difficult time?  Those were the songs I couldn’t listen to anymore because they brought me right back to the stress and heartache that I experienced during that time.

So what does all of that have to do with the summer?  Well I told you trauma is sneaky.  You just never know what’s going to trigger it.  And for me it was a phone call this summer.  It was an innocent enough phone call.  It wasn’t even about my son.  But there was something about it that was familiar to me and it took me back to my son’s hospitalization…like right.back.there.  And my brain didn’t stop there.  It replayed every painful conversation, every tear, every sleepless night listening to make sure my son was safe in his room at night, every morning I waited for a text message reply from him while he was at college to make sure he hadn’t taken his life, my anger at God…it just went on and on.  It was pretty brutal and it took some time to get over it.

I know so many families that have similar stories.  This is why I am so passionate about helping other parents and those who don’t have parental support.  This stuff is really hard.  It’s also why I’m passionate about things like marching in the Baltimore Pride Parade and participating in National Coming Out Day.

Last week our community college had some events for the students in what ended up being  Coming Out Week not just day.  I’m really impressed with everything they do for the LGBTQ+ community there and I’ve been honored to be a part of many of them.  Tuesday they had two viewings of the National Geographic documentary Gender Revolution.  It was great to see the amount of people who came out for the documentary…both students and faculty.  It was really well received.  I was asked to come back the following day for the event “Come Out, Come Out Wherever You Are!”  It was on National Coming Out Day.  It was a fun day of crafts, documentary screenings, and resource information.

I saw some “talk” on the internet about not needing a National Coming Out Day.  The point being made was if gay people want to be treated like everyone else then why do they need a day like this.  The same kind of sentiment went around the internet during Pride month.  If the LGBTQ+ community had the same rights as everyone else and were treated like everyone else, then we wouldn’t need things like Pride month and National Coming Out Day.  When they can walk down the street hand in hand with the person they love, and not be harassed or even have cars accelerate towards them showing aggression…then we won’t need events like these.

What I wore to the college for National Coming Out Day.

National Coming Out Day shows solidarity in the community.  Coming out is stressful and knowing that you aren’t alone is empowering.  So I support this day and all the other days that show this community that they aren’t alone.  My Facebook will be filled with rainbows and memes showing that support.  And I will proudly wear my rainbow “gear” to show that I’m an ally and someone safe to come out to.  I dream of a day that these things won’t be necessary, but we have a long way to go.

 

I’ve mentioned before that I am no longer working for my church.  I left my position in June.  So…I really don’t know where I’m going…but I sure know where I’ve been.  One thing I  will continue to do is fight for this community with everything that I have until the day it is no longer needed.  No more sadness, no more fear, no more trauma.

I went to pick up some pumpkins today and the Doobie Brother’s song “Long Train Runnin'” came on the radio.  I couldn’t help but notice the line that goes like this:

Without love, where would you be right now
Without lo-o-o-ove

If you have been lucky enough to be loved for who you are, where would you be without that love.  I’m guessing your life might look a little different.

Get out there and love…because love matters…

What do you want to be when you grow up…

If you have kids, or nieces and nephews, did you ever badger them with question after question when they were younger to marvel at the progression of their little brains? What does a cow say?  What does a duck say? What color is this crayon?  What color is your hair?  Where’s your nose?  How old are you?  What’s your name?  The list goes on and on and you can tell when they get just a little more than perturbed at answering all of your questions.  The question I think kids hear the most though is this:  “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  Some kids know right away…for others it takes a bit longer to figure out.  Heck…I’m still trying to decide what I want to be when I grow up (smile).

Have you ever known a kid that was really talented at a sport? Someone that everyone keeps their eye on because they just know they are going to be something great when they get older.  Their parents dream of college scholarships and before they know it scouts are checking them out. They get to college, they are playing great, their future looks bright, their dreams of playing professionally are within their grasp and then it happens.  An accident. Whether on or off the field…it doesn’t matter…the dream they’ve had since they were a little kid is done. There’s no chance of them grasping it now.  The future they always dreamed of looks very different now, and they are faced with coming up with another plan.

I read a post recently that stated the following:
“We are told we don’t accept LGBTQ people for “who they are” when they can’t accept themselves for who they are.”
There is some truth to that for many, but I believe that is grossly simplifying things. Many LGBTQ individuals discover they are LGBTQ when they are a child.  It ranges anywhere from very young to the teen years.  It is rare that a person doesn’t realize it until they are an adult.  I won’t say it never happens, but it’s not the norm.  I’m sure it was years ago when it wasn’t talked about, but today kids are coming out…well when they are kids.

Since I know others have had this thought, here are some things that I’ve learned and even witnessed in many cases on this journey…

As I’ve already mentioned, we are talking about children.  Can you imagine processing being LGBTQ as a child?  Hang around some middle or high school kids for a day and it doesn’t take long to realize that gay kids are made fun of and bullied.  When a child realizes they are gay (using the term gay to make it easier), it is terrifying to think that they will be treated that way.  They hear gay people called pedophiles, gross, disgusting, etc.  Hiding who you are is exhausting and stress inducing.  Try processing all of that as a child.

The other thing that they deal with is the fact that their future now suddenly looks very different.  The little girls that dreamed of growing up and marrying their “knight in shining armor” now realize that this isn’t going to happen.  They wonder if they will ever find love now.  And remember…this is a child processing this. The future they dreamed about suddenly is different.  It takes time to envision and adjust to this new future.  When I asked my son about this, he said that it would have been helpful to him to have some examples in media of gay people being in love.  It would have helped him realize that love was a possibility for him too.  When they begin to go through this, many feel like they are the only ones in the world going through it.

If they grew up in the church, this adds another tension to the mix.  When some evangelists call them “a plague on the nation”, an abomination, that they are destroying family values, they are sick, demon possessed, etc., this is a heavy load to carry as a child.  It’s hard enough as an adult. Sadly sometimes the advice parents are given by their child’s youth leader is to ground them, beat them, put them in counseling and seek out conversion therapy,  home school them, pull them out of youth group, and if none of that works….kick them out of the house.

Sadly there are parents out there that are listening to this.  Punishment and beating your child is not going to change anything about their sexual orientation.  It’s going to create a child that develops self-hatred.  Conversion therapy has been proven not to work and has been outlawed in several states because it is harmful.  Let’s take them out of youth group and leave them isolated without any friends when they need them and God the most. Kick them out of the house. Is there any wonder why a child would have trouble accepting themselves??

Listen…I know this example is pretty extreme, but it doesn’t have to be this extreme to do damage.  People get upset with me for bringing this up.  I know that not all Christians are like this.  My Christian friends find this behavior appalling.  And there are affirming churches out there, but the fact of the matter is that it is happening, more than we would like to believe because it seems so unbelievable.  Just because we ourselves are not doing it, or the people we know are not doing it, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.  There are pastors calling for the murder of LGBTQ people for goodness sake. These are the kinds of things that bring that lack of self acceptance and depending on the damage done…it goes with them into adulthood.

These are some reasons that make it difficult to come to terms with being LGBTQ.  I am filled with compassion when I think of what these young people go through.  I hope you are too.

You know what kids want to be when they grow up?

LOVED.  And I bet you do too.

Because love matters…

 

 

Baltimore Pride 2017…

It was an amazing day just like last year and the previous weekend’s march.  It was another scorcher of a day, but that didn’t stop seas of people from attending.  The parade was much larger this year so it took a lot longer to walk it.  I was especially pumped about the group that marched in front of us.  It was a dance team that had several drum players that provided their music.  The drums were LOUD!  And I LOVED it.  I’m not sure if I’ve ever shared this, but I secretly would love to learn how to play the drums. It’s on my bucket list.  So to have this group provide some beats for us to march to was awesome.

The only downside to the drums was the fact that it made it hard to hear people calling out for mom hugs. I had my sign again and unlike the march where I marched along with everyone else…I was in the parade and there were spectators on each side of the parade route watching us.  People would see my sign and call out asking for a hug.  One of our PFLAG moms was gracious in helping me keep track of everyone that was calling out.  It was a special time and although it was hot and tough moving so slowly, it allowed for lots of hugging.

I lost count of how many hugs I gave out.  It was fun stepping out of line…giving some hugs…and then jogging to catch back up to my group.  There were hugs given after the parade as well.  But probably the most meaningful hug of the day was one of the first that happened.  Mike and I were standing on the corner waiting for the rest of our group to arrive. There were four young girls (I would say 14 or 15 years old) that bounded over to us very excitedly because they saw my sign.  They all asked in unison if they could have a mom hug.  And when they saw that Mike was wearing a “Free Dad Hugs” button, they asked him for a dad hug.  When the third girl hugged me, I kind of felt her exhale.  That’s the only way I know how to describe it.  She kind of just sunk into me.  It was as if she had been carrying a weight and she let it go.  We released our hug and I hugged the last girl. When I stepped back from that last hug, I noticed that the 3rd girl was crying.  I asked if she was ok and she explained through tears that she felt so accepted.

This simultaneously made me extremely happy and intensely sad.  I remembered how she hugged me.  I do believe it released a heavy weight in her.  And although it made me feel good that she was able to attend Pride so she could experience a place where she could be herself, it reminded me of how much she must struggle at home or in her social circles.  I imagine that Pride is a boost for many people giving them the strength to continue on in a world that misunderstands them.  And for others I can imagine that it is quite depressing when they get home because it reminds them of what they are missing on a daily basis.

I would like to point something out here.  She did not tell me that she felt like her sexuality was accepted at Pride.  She said that SHE felt accepted.  She wasn’t there celebrating a “lifestyle.”  She was there celebrating life.  The LGBTQ community gets up everyday.  They go to work or school.  They come home and eat dinner, maybe watch their favorite show on TV, do their homework if they are in school, go to bed and wake up to do it all over again the next day.  Their sexuality is just one piece of who they are just like straight people.

Free mom hugs are just one way to love this community.  Stepping into their stories, really listening, and learning from them is another way.  Let’s do better at this…let’s do better at loving them.

Because love matters…

Why I marched on June 11th…

This past Sunday I marched in the Equality March in Washington, DC.  This is how their website describes the event “the ‘Equality March for Unity & Pride’ is a grassroots movement which will mobilize the diverse LGBTQ+ communities to peacefully and clearly address concerns about the current political landscapes and how it is contributing to the persecution and discrimination of LGBTQ+ individuals.”

Mike and I went on a bus with 32 other people who were marching either for themselves or for a family member.  We knew only a few people, but that didn’t matter. Really we are a family.

I wish I knew how many people were there for the march.  It. Was. Packed.  We stood in the heat of the sun (man was it HOT) with thousands of other people as we waited for the march to start.  You know how cars are bumper to bumper in a traffic jam?  Well we were shoulder to shoulder.  It was difficult to move at times.  We had to wait for quite some time before the march started.  Someone would periodically blow a whistle and the crowd would roar with cheers.  We were ready.  In the crowd, I saw anger, hurt, resolve, determination.  Tears flowed as the crowd united for the task at hand.

There were lots of messages displayed on shirts that people were wearing and signs that people were carrying.  Many of these signs portrayed people’s frustration with the president.  Some signs depicted reasons why that person was marching…either an actual person like their child, or a policy that they felt needed to change.  People marched for themselves, they marched for family members or friends, they marched for those who couldn’t march for themselves like the 49 victims of the Pulse shootings.

I had a sign, but I took a different approach.  I knew that there would be many people there at the march that didn’t have support from family.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’m part of two private Facebook groups of moms of LGBTQ children.  When we go to events like this, we like to take buttons and/or signs that say “Free Mom Hugs” so that we can show support to those who don’t have it.  This was my sign (which my artist daughter McKensie was very sweet to make for me).

Did I mention how hot it was on Sunday?  There were lots of sweaty hugs given and received (smile).  You can tell a lot from a hug.  There are the “what a great idea hug – I want a hug” hugs.  There are the friendly “thank you for your support” hugs.  Then there are the hugs that linger.  The person holds you tightly.  You can feel the emotion in it. Even though it may be brief, you can feel that the person NEEDED that hug.  It’s a chance to tell that person through touch that they matter, that they are important, that they are seen, and most importantly they are loved.  I gave hugs while walking to the march starting point.  I gave hugs while waiting to start.  I gave hugs afterwards at the festival…and even a hug at the train station where we were meeting our bus.

So why did I march?  I marched for my son.  I marched for my LGBTQ friends.  I marched because I think things need to change.  There is too much discrimination and violence towards this community.  I did it in a respectful way.  I was a presence so that this community knows that someone cares.  The following is an Instagram post by one of the young teens that were with us that day.  This…this is why I was there…

“I just want to say today was one of the most impactful , beautiful and moving days of my life. I was surrounded by strangers who felt like family.  I met some of the kindest, strongest people ever.  Thank you to everyone who made this possible because I am more than grateful to you and I am so so blessed to have been able to come out here and have this experience today. Much love to everyone that shared this experience with me, you made it possible.  Everyone who was there was part of my day.  I was so proud of who I was instead of being ashamed or afraid.  It was a liberating, once in a lifetime moment.  I seriously recommend attending a march or pride event in your area if you can and are LGBT or a straight ally.  One of the most powerful days of my life.”

These gatherings are so important because it is the one place that this community can truly, totally, be themselves.  The teen that wrote that has great family support and it was still so important and impactful to her.  There are some kids that can’t even be themselves in their own homes.  That’s why I marched.  That’s why I was present. That’s why I shared sweaty hugs that spoke of love without words.

Because love matters.

The search is over…

Would you be willing to save a life?

Have you ever lost something and had to search for it?  The older I get the more often this happens (smile).  How about losing something precious to you?  Ever have that happen?

When my dog Lucy was a puppy, we called her the Houdini dog.  She could escape through the smallest hole in the fence.  In fact, she could escape even when there wasn’t a hole in the fence…she would just dig her way under it!  There were times when I would let her out and moments later find her in my neighbor’s yard “asking” if her doggie friend could come out to play.  She loves their dog.  Sure enough I would see a fresh hole dug under the fence.  Then there was the time when I thought I lost her forever.  She wanted to go out and just as I let her out the phone rang.  I stepped back inside to grab the phone and when I went back out…she was gone.  And she wasn’t in the neighbor’s yard this time. My heart sunk.  I always hate seeing the “lost dog/cat” posters on the street light poles in the neighborhood.  Makes me so sad, and I didn’t want to see my Lucy girls face on one of those posters.  I immediately ran out to try to find her, but she was no where in sight.  I grabbed her leash and made my way around the neighborhood calling her name.  I walked the same streets looking for her as I did when we would go out on our nightly strolls together.

It was a very stressful time when we got her, but she was a good distraction.  Training classes and the homework we were given kept my mind off of things.   We got Lucy about a year after I found out my son was gay, and I didn’t know anyone else with a gay child…it was very isolating.  The people I once felt safe with I was no longer sure I could trust with this piece of news.  Walking Lucy each night, I would look at the houses and wonder if the people living there had a gay child.  I would walk her in the evening so no one would see my tears as I pleaded with God to change him.  It wasn’t just that I didn’t want him to be gay…I didn’t want him to suffer…and he was suffering badly.  As strange as it may seem to those who aren’t dog people, Lucy kept me sane back then. She could make me smile no matter what the circumstances were because she just simply loved me no matter what.  I could tell her my secret and she didn’t care.

Halfway through the neighborhood, my phone buzzed with a text message.  It was my daughter McKensie telling me that she found Lucy.  Relief!  I thanked God the whole way home.  I just couldn’t imagine losing what felt like part of my lifeline back then.

June is Pride month and this time of year seems to be a common time for kids to come out.  They are going to be searching for someone safe to share this truth about themselves.  If you are chosen, how you respond is important.  I invite you to read Brett Trapp’s words about what it’s like for them to tell you.  He wrote his coming out story in “Blue Babies Pinkand this is an excerpt from it about a child coming out to a parent…but kids (or adults for that matter) don’t always choose to come out to a parent so the person they choose may be you. Here are Brett’s words:

I think a lot of really good parents act really terribly towards their gay kids because they’re reacting out of their own pain.

The news has a victimizing effect on parents I think. And victims don’t empathize well with other victims. This is tragic because a child never feels more like a victim than they do in that very vulnerable moment. And victims need help. They need someone to listen and ask them what they need. They need long, enduring empathy and tears from someone who is trying—albeit imperfectly—to understand their pain.

I wish I could find every parent who will eventually have a child come out to them, look them in the eye, and tell them:

When you least expect it, a battered child who’s been lost at sea will show up on your doorstep. This is your child, but it’s a version of them you’ve never met.

They will be haggard—long tangled hair, skinny, ragged clothes, dirty feet. They look like this because they’re worn out—exhausted—from many years at sea, alone in a lifeboat with no water, no map, and no paddle. You had no idea, but that’s not your fault. 

Next, welcome them inside. Offer them a drink.

After a few moments, they’re going to swallow hard and tell you they’ve been on a journey. Know that by the time they get to your doorstep, they will have had to muster every last ounce of courage and energy. In fact, getting to your doorstep may have been the hardest part of their journey. 

Your next job is to listen. And believe what they tell you. 

When they tell you they were on this journey for all those years, alone and scared, believe them. 

When they tell you they never asked to be on that boat believe them. 

When they tell you they tried to get off that boat many times and swim to shore, for God’s sake, believe them. 

If they feel like talking, ask them what it was like out on those seas . . .

Ask them about the storms. Ask them about the wind and the rain and the swells. Ask them if they were scared. Ask them what they did to survive. (Remember, this child of yours is very strong, otherwise they wouldn’t have survived this journey.)

Ask them about sleeping in a raft alone under midnight skies.

Ask them if God was there—if they felt him, if they talked to them. (They might have, but you must remember that God feels very distant for people in lifeboats alone at sea. They might even be mad at God or think he doesn’t exist at all. That’s okay.

Remember that theology lessons aren’t helpful when their clothes are still wet with seawater.)

Regardless, remind them that God loves his little lost sailors very much, and that he never stopped loving them, even on those nights when it was just them and no moon and big shadows circling in black water. Remind them. 

And dear parent, whatever you do, don’t lecture them.

Don’t shame them for being in that boat. Don’t tell them that God hates people in lifeboats. Tell them that God loves those few souls in rafts just like he loves the rest on land. And remember, that you aren’t the survivor here. They—THEY—are the ones that have been on a long, lonely journey. Remember this.

Ask them if they ever saw land in the distance.

Ask them if they ever saw land-dwellers on the horizon and if they ever screamed for help. Apologize for those people that didn’t hear them or the ones who held up giant signs saying, “GOD HATES PEOPLE IN LIFEBOATS.” Tell them you’re sorry they had to see that and that you would have ripped up those signs if you could. 

Ask them if they ever put a message in a bottle and tossed it into the sea, hoping it might reach someone on land.

Tell them you wished you’d found that message. In fact, grab them by the shoulders, look them right in the eye, and tell them you would have done anything to find it if that meant getting to you sooner. Tell them you would have drowned yourself to get to them. Then tell them you wished we didn’t live in a world where scared kids had to put messages in bottles. Tell them that’s unjust. 

And finally, tell them they’re no longer alone, no longer out on those high seas.

Tell them they’re on land now and land has homes. And homes are filled with love, and love is the thing that makes the boat stop rocking. Love is the thing that calms those storms. Love is the thing that scares off black shadows in black waters. And that as long as they are breathing, they will have a home, and they will never ever be alone. 

I wish everyone would read Brett’s story.  I encourage you to do so…even if you don’t have a gay child.  It is a quick summer read (way shorter than a book)….just 44 of what he calls episodes.  You can also listen to it as a podcast.  Many people ask me for resources, or ask how they can get involved in helping the LGBTQ community.  I say start here.  Read his story.  And if you do…let me know what you think.  I would love to chat about it with you.

Losing my dog for that brief time was hard, but I can’t even begin to imagine losing the very people who are supposed to love me.  As you can see, this coming out process is a tough one.  And the people coming out are searching for a safety net or life-preserver to cling to.  Some will lose the very people they love and trust the most in this world.  They will search for a community that they feel comfortable in…somewhere they can be their true authentic selves.  Something precious to them.  Be that person.

How you respond can save their life.  Will you be their life-preserver?  Can they step out of the lifeboat into your loving, caring arms?  I hope so. They are searching to be understood…and most of all loved.

Because love matters.

*If you find yourself without a safe place to land, please know that you are not alone.  In this world of modern technology, there are ways to communicate that are more personal than a letter in the mail, or a text message on your phone.  Contact me via my contact page.  I would love to chat with you.