That’s a wrap…

Where do I even begin?  How can I put so many emotions into words?  I’m not sure that I can do it.  At the very least, I can let you know why I’ve been silent for a few months.

If you’ve been a follower for some time, you know that I’ve gone to Baltimore Pride the last 3 years and have given out mom hugs.  When I did it in 2018, I knew that something bigger was brewing.  I wasn’t able to share it then and honestly it’s been such a whirlwind I’m not even sure if I mentioned it here when I could (smile).

In October 2018, I started an official Free Mom Hugs Maryland chapter.  Free Mom Hugs is a non-profit that was started in Oklahoma and it became so popular that state chapters began to form.  I got permission to start the Maryland chapter.  Boy what a ride that has been!  For our first year, we attended 10 Pride events throughout Maryland (in just a month and a half!).  We had 406 volunteers that marched in parades, gave out information at our table, and of course gave hugs.  It’s been amazing!  Our last event was on Sunday.  I’ve been one tired mama ever since!

Some of my takeaways…

I hugged way too many people who told me their mom or parents don’t accept them because they are religious.

I had several young people approach my table tentatively.  The first thing they asked was, “Is this a religious organization?”  When I said no, they hugged me…hard.  When I told them that there were moms who were Christians, but they were affirming, they hugged me again.  And thanked me over and over again.

It’s interesting how things work out.  So many of the people who approach me have lost their mom.  Some have had supportive moms and miss their only cheerleaders, and some were never able to reconcile their relationships.  Maybe they sense that I know what it’s like to have lost a mom.  Then there was the event where a mom, who just a year ago could not accept that she had a gay child because of her faith, came out to volunteer because she became affirming and wanted to help out. She had a young lady…I would say early 20’s…approach her and when she hugged her the girl just sobbed….for what seemed like forever.  She couldn’t even speak.  Her friends told us that this girl’s mom tells her every day that she is going to hell.  She got several hugs that day.  As she walked away, my co-leader and I looked at each other…we just grabbed each other and hugged and cried.  We just can’t wrap our brains around how any parent can do that to their child.  Just thinking about it brings those tears back.

We don’t just have moms at our events.  We have dads that hug too!  There was a dad that joined us this past Saturday.  It was the first time he’d ever come to a pride event and therefore the first time he ever offered hugs.  Every time he tried to thank me for allowing him to participate he got emotional and couldn’t speak.  He knew that kids were rejected, but he had no idea the scope of what that looks like.  He said he would be at lots of events next year to let these kids/adults know that they are loved.

Due to the protesters at the last two events, I can assure you that there are dozens of young people that will never step foot into a church.  It will be a miracle if they ever give God a chance.  The protesters (some of them middle school aged children) held signs that had to do with God and faith and how they needed to repent and change.  They weren’t the worst signs I’ve ever seen, but the damage was the same.   At each event, there was a man with a speaker that read Bible passages and told the crowd how God’s love was conditional and if they didn’t change they were going to hell.  At one of the events, myself and two other moms stood at the barrier that was placed between the protesters and the entrance to the event.  We tried our best to block them and give hugs to the hurting people who had to pass them to get into the event.  We stood there for hours.  There was a young man who was there the entire time yelling at the protesters to the point where he lost his voice.  We tried to get the kids to ignore them and go have fun, but you could tell they just wanted to be heard.  There was a young girl who stood in front of one of the men.  He was talking to her and she stood there for about 15 minutes and listened to him.  She was very respectful (I will admit that not everyone was).  When he was finished, she tried to speak and he shut her down.  She came to us in tears.  She told us that she always listens to what they have to say, but they never want to hear her side of things.

Standing there was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  I kept my back to them and faced the crowd to let them know I was there to support them.  It took every ounce of self control I could muster to not say something to those men.  I knew without a doubt that it would not have made one iota of difference.  It makes me not want to associate with anything Christian.  I struggle with that a lot because of the pain and damage I see done in the name of God.

Pride events are supposed to be safe spaces.

I think the faces of the people I hugged this year (and every year for that matter) will be imprinted on my mind and heart forever.  I am humbled that I am allowed into this sacred space.  The pain I feel radiate off of these precious humans is palpable.  My hope is for that brief moment they can feel that they are loved just as they are without conditions or strings attached.

At the events, we have a board where we post notes of affirmation.  People are encouraged to take a note that speaks to them.  They are also encouraged to leave a note for someone else.   This note was left by a gay man who lost his mom recently.  She was supportive and he appreciated that we were at the event.  If you would like to get involved with a group by you, go to Facebook and do a search for Free Mom Hugs – with your state name.  Or you can go to the Free Mom Hugs website that I linked above and search for a chapter near you.

Sometimes the simplest act can have a lasting impact.

These events are a reminder to me that love matters more than ever.  Be that love to someone.

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.

 

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…

 

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…

 

It will get better before you get married….

This was my dad’s mantra growing up.  Actually there were two…

Don’t do that…
And
It will get better before you get married…

If you went to him with an injury and said something like, “Dad it hurts when I bend my arm.”  He would respond with, “Don’t do that then.”
Or if you went to him with a bruise, cut, or some other minor injury he would respond, “It will get better before you get married.”
Or if your friend got mad at you…he would just simply say, “It will get better before you get married.”  Sigh…
(He did take care of serious things…these were minor)

I have no idea where he got this saying.  Knowing him he made it up because he didn’t have a solution.  His answer could be annoying at times, but at the same time it seemed to be a sufficient answer for my sister and I.  Since neither of my kids at this time want to get married, I can’t use this “cure-all” for them.  For those minor ailments or problems I’m left with something lame like, “I don’t know what to tell you.” (smile)

It will get better before you get married…

What if the fact that you are getting married is what causes the problem?  What if those closest to you aren’t happy with who you love?  What if they refuse to attend the wedding?  Even worse…what if they cut you out of their lives because of it?

Some say that gay people getting married is ruining marriage and family values.  One thing I know for sure…the legalization of same-sex marriage three years ago has not impacted my marriage at all.  In fact, in about four weeks Mike and I will be celebrating our 30th anniversary.  What I have seen is families torn apart by not accepting who their child or family member loves and intends to marry.

The thing most often said in these situations is…
“I love you, but I can not accept this lifestyle that you are choosing.  I can not go to your wedding because that would mean that I’m ok with it.”  People will defend their stand saying that they can love someone and not be ok with everything that they do.  Well I think it’s pretty safe to say that just about everyone that we love does something that we may not agree with at one time or another.  The difference here is how differently the person who is LGBTQ is treated.

Once again, I would like to point out that people do not choose this.  It is not a lifestyle.  It is who they are and when you don’t accept all of who they are…when you don’t accept who they love…it doesn’t feel like love at all.  Your words are hollow and meaningless.  You can argue your love to the cows come home.  It won’t matter.  You just don’t understand the depths of pain you cause them.

And it saddens me because so many don’t try to understand.  If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone say, “I just want to follow the truth of the Bible,” I would be a very rich woman.  As if those who support the LGBTQ community have just completely thrown the Bible out of the window.

I can give you examples of thousands of parents and LGBTQ individuals who have scoured the Bible on this topic.  We are accused of listening to what our “itching ears want to hear”.  We don’t research the Bible trying to figure out how to be “ok” with having a gay child or being LGBTQ.  I would say for many of us we start out trying to figure out how to “fix” our loved ones or ourselves.  What we learn is that it isn’t something that needs to be fixed.  You don’t have to agree with that, but knowing that may help you to understand why your love isn’t felt.

So many people I know join Bible studies.  People (some famously known) who have studied certain topics or passages and develop classes, DVD’s,  or books with study guides to explain what they’ve discovered.  People flock to these things.  I’ve been part of some of them.  Learning the original language and historical context of a passage is exciting.  Sometimes you learn that looking at a particular verse in the historical context looks completely different from how you were applying it today.

Sadly many of these same people won’t touch a book that delves into the scriptures used to condemn the LGBTQ community.  We refer to them as the clobber passages.  These books also look at original language and historical context.  These books, however, are seen as un-biblical.  Did you know that reading a book like that shows love to an LGBTQ individual?  The fact that you are willing to even look at them?  You can read them and still not agree with them.  You might be surprised, however, at what God will show you.

I’ve seen too many families broken.  I’ve seen too many children take their lives.  Too many kids kicked out of their homes (two just in this last week).  There have been too many empty chairs at weddings.

God loves these children…are you better than God?

There’s hope…If you find yourself in a situation where you don’t have support, there is an ever-growing group of mama bears that are willing to step in and offer that support.  Just send me an email via my contact page.

It will get better when we all learn how to love better…

LOVE MATTERS