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…

 

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Something beautiful…

It was a simple request.  “Tell me something beautiful you saw over the weekend.”  It was a post that a friend of mine put on Facebook.  It didn’t take me long at all to think about it.  My something beautiful came to mind immediately…and it was Facebook.  I know right??  Really…Facebook?  Well it wasn’t exactly Facebook, but what was posted there.

This weekend was the GCN (Gay Christian Network) conference.  If you’ve been around for some time, you know that I went last year.  You can read about it in these two posts “On Holy Ground” and “The Best Parts” if you missed them.  I go into detail there about what the conference is about, but you can also check it out on their website Q Christian Fellowship (they announced their name change this weekend).  I want to get to the something beautiful (smile).

So this year I was unable to go, but I had a lot of friends that were there.  They posted on Facebook throughout the weekend and because I had been before it wasn’t hard to imagine being there.  I wish there wasn’t so much hurt in the LGBTQ community, but I’m glad that this conference allows for some “something beautiful” moments:

On Thursday night, they have an icebreaker and this year one of the moms got to sit at a table with about 11 LGBTQ young people.  She explained to them that she has a gay son who she loves and supports.  She told them that she has tried to shield him from the condemnation from the church.  A young man sitting across from her covered his face and wept.  She assured him that he didn’t deserve that kind of hurt.  Something beautiful…

One of the moms met a young woman who came to the conference because she had heard about the “free mom hugs.”  Stop and think about that for a moment.  You go to a conference to receive a hug from an affirming mom because yours isn’t.  So sad, but she was able to experience…Something beautiful…

Hundreds of people gathered for a worship service…hands raised and faces turned towards Heaven…tears streaming down their faces as they worshipped.  For some, it’s the first time they’ve been ALLOWED to worship with other believers.  Here they are welcomed.  It reminds me of this C.S. Lewis quote:

“If all experienced God in the same way and returned Him an identical Worship, the song of the Church triumphant would have no symphony, it would be like an orchestra in which all the instruments played the same note.”
C.S. Lewis – The Problem of Pain

Something beautiful…

Stories of children having to hide who they are from their parents.  Some who have recently come out and have been rejected by family and church.  When you spend your whole life in church, to then be rejected by it, where do you go?  You go to a conference that’s filled with love and acceptance and parents who give you hugs.  Something beautiful…

I’ve been a part of those hugs…at the conference last year…and also at the march in DC and the pride parade in Baltimore.  When someone collapses in your arms and sobs telling you that they’ve never felt so accepted, believe me when I say you are in the presence of God.  Something beautiful…

I’m so thankful for this conference.  When I went last year, it was life changing.  I hope to go next year.  In the meantime, I’m going to hug people who need them.  I’m going to love as God calls me.

Love is important to God…because it 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.

A picture is worth a thousand tears…

Well that isn’t exactly the saying is it?  It should be, “a picture is worth a thousand words”, but this morning that wasn’t the case.

Pictures are amazing things.  They can transport us back in time in a blink of an eye. Sometimes they are memories that make us laugh.  Sometimes they are memories that make us swell with pride.  Sometimes they reduce us to a puddle of tears.  That’s what happened to me today when Facebook decided to remind me of a memory.

The picture that greeted me this morning was one that most people would think would be a happy memory.  After all…it’s a picture from a vacation 8 years ago.  But it was a reminder of one of the darkest times my family has experienced.  And in light of losing another young person to suicide this past week, it hit me hard.

Here’s the picture.  We are at the beach having our yearly end of vacation bonfire. img_1193Roasted hot dogs and of course smores were on the menu.  You can see how happy McKensie is with her marshmallows.  Now look at Kyle’s face.  Can you see it? When I look at this picture, the pain I see is palpable.  It crushes me.  And it brings me back to the fear and desperation I felt.  This was taken 3 months after we learned he was gay, and just four months before he landed in the hospital for suicidal thoughts.

I share this because of the suicide I mentioned that happened this week.  The young man who took his life was afraid to tell his parents that he was gay.  I don’t think people understand what a traumatic experience this is for the LGBTQ community.  I posted this on Facebook, but wanted to share it here as well in hopes that it might prevent another tragedy.

Why would a child be afraid of their parents?

  • They may hear them speak about the subject of being gay in an unfriendly, unloving manner.  Watch how you speak about it.  At least 50% of the parents I come in contact with had no idea their child was gay.  It totally threw them through a loop.  Why?  Because they have a stereotypical idea of what being gay is in their minds and their kid didn’t fit that mold.  Be careful what you are against because it could be the very thing you love most in the world.  Our.Kids.Are.Listening.
  • If they come from a Christian home, they may have heard that it’s a sin and that gay people are going to hell.   Let’s commit to love our kids towards God…not away from God.   Let your kids know you love them without putting the word “but” in the sentence.
  • They may know kids that have been kicked out of their homes for being gay, and they are afraid their parents will do the same thing.

There could be many more reasons.  Silence can be deadly as well. Talk to your kids. Having a difficult conversation with them is sure as heck better than burying them.

Of course parents can do all the right things and still may face the tragedy of their child taking their lives.  I’m not here to place blame or shame anyone.  I just ask us all to think about how we treat others.  This could have very easily happened to my family and I want to prevent it to happening to any others.

Fast forward almost 9 years and look at this picture.

15873064_10210942955391587_3781901443963125537_n

 

I hope you can see the difference that I see in Kyle. This is the face of love and acceptance.  Not just our love and acceptance, but the love and acceptance that he has for himself.  He couldn’t have gotten there without our love and support.  We went through such a dark time. This is what love, acceptance, and freedom look like. You can get there too.

 

If you have thoughts of hurting yourself or ending your life and feel like you have no one to turn to, contact The Trevor Project.

trevor

 

 

 

Again, this post isn’t to place blame on anyone.  It’s just a reminder that words matter. Attitudes matter.

But most of all…love matters.

 

The best parts…

“What was your favorite part about the conference?” It’s the question I’ve been asked the most by my friends who know how much I wanted to go.  If you read my last post, On Holy Ground, you know they are referring to the GCN Conference.  I’m on week two since being home and I’m still processing.

img_1121I would have to say I have a favorite parts.  The worship was powerful, the speakers were inspirational, the breakout sessions were informative, meeting some new moms and reconnecting with others was fun, the vigil was moving…it was all really good stuff.  A time that I will remember forever.  But what were my favorite parts?…the atmosphere and the people.

The atmosphere was relaxed, affirming, loving and well…fun.  So many smiles.  A place where you felt totally free.  You could be yourself.  It felt really good being there because I didn’t have to worry what anyone thought about my family, I didn’t have to worry about what anyone thought about my parenting, I didn’t have to hold anything back or feel censored in what I wanted to say…it was amazing.  I was so happy for the LGBTQ people who were there.  If I felt the way I did as an ally and parent there, I can’t even begin to imagine how they felt. Being your authentic self is healing.

My other favorite part…the people.  They were genuine.  There is something so intimate about being invited into someone’s story…someone’s pain.  I mean think about…we didn’t know each other, but in one of the breakout sessions we sat in a circle and they shared their deepest img_1120feelings and experiences.  I just wanted to scoop every one of them up and bring them home with me because in the midst of the smiles there was also pain.

And the hugs.  I want you to think about this for a moment. How many strangers would you go up to and hug?  It’s perfectly normal to hug our family members, and we tend to be ok with hugging our friends…but strangers?  That might seem a little strange.  But for some of the people at the conference, this is a healing thing for them.  Human contact that they are denied on a daily basis.  Several of the people who shared at the mic night on Saturday mentioned how much they liked the “mom hugs,” …one even saying that a hug from a mom is better than Prozac.

So…atmosphere and people.  Since I’ve been home these two short weeks, I’ve learned of a mom in Brazil who stabbed her 17 year old son to death because he was gay, a young man who was attacked outside a Target and hospitalized because he is gay, and a young transgender girl who took her life because of bullying.  Being in an atmosphere that is accepting and being with people who are affirming is not only life changing as many attested to…but I would venture to say…is life saving as well.

I leave you with this post from the lesbian daughter of one of my dear friends in reference to the inauguration.  Many are told to get over it, but this is what the LGBTQ community lives with on a daily basis and why this conference is so important:

“I love my job, I really do. I figure as long as my back allows me too I will keep my CNA license and use my gifts as a caregiver. Yet tonight as I made my way from room to room, every TV tuned to the event I did not want to see, I held my breath and thought this could be it. In a state with no statewide LGBTQ anti-discrimination law, at a Christian non-profit organization, working an already high-turnover position, serving a population with a drastically different worldview, though I love those I care for dearly and feel loved dearly, I worry. I worry I will slip up when I give my standard why I don’t have a boyfriend answer, or why I cut my hair like this. I worry a coworker will intentionally or unintentionally “out” me at work. I worry the lady ranting about how the “gays” are ruining America will see that twinge of pain in my eyes as I gently lay her down in bed. I worry someone will ask me about it and I will have to lie again, because it has happened and I’m worried about that day coming when I could be told you are not allowed to use your gifts.”

I love this girl…and I love her mama and the many, many more who I have crossed paths with and even those I haven’t.  I invite you to do the same.

Because love matters….

Love you to life…

01e9a0a2a24b4d1145d1518bce5df01bba8048fa80Last summer this was a vibrant, beautiful plant.  I usually take my plants off of my deck for the winter, but last year I never got around to it.  This pot sat outside all winter through all kinds of snow, sleet, and rain.  Now normally at the beginning of spring, I will bring all of my pots out of the garage and get some nice spring flowers to plant to make my deck look nice.  Well, if you are friends with me in real life, you know that my deck was in dire need of repair.  In fact, the whole thing needed to be replaced (except for the structure).  Since I wasn’t sure when that was going to take place, I never got around to planting flowers.  So, this pot sat on my deck with dead twigs in it.  I don’t know if you can tell from this picture, but there are some twigs in there that have zero life sprouting from them.  And that’s how it looked all summer.  I did plant flowers for my front porch so every day I would go around and water my flowers…and the dead twigs on my deck.  I wasn’t really sure why I was watering a pot of dead flowers. Something in me just knew that flowers are supposed to have water…and although these were just twigs I felt compelled to water them.  And they stayed dead…all summer…until the first week in October when these beautiful little red sprigs blossomed.  I couldn’t believe it!  All that tender care all summer and it waited until the fall to spring to life!

I can’t help but be reminded of the people I have met along my journey when I think about this plant.  So many of their stories start with thoughts of death, despair, hopelessness, and they are barely clinging to life.  It’s when someone comes along and offers them unconditional love without fail that finally brings them back to life. They regain their spark, their zest for life, their love for themselves.  I have seen it happen in my own son, and in many people who I have met along the way.

I have been in a deep struggle lately.  It’s why I haven’t written much.  It is becoming increasingly more difficult for me to be a part of the church…Big C church.  It is getting harder and harder for me to separate myself from what I’m seeing happening in the lives of so many.  There are too many lifeless twigs that are dying from the lack of love and my heart just can’t take it.  It is a daily struggle and I have to keep reminding myself that these people…”church people” do not represent the God that I know and love.  People have accused me of being divisive.  They say that I talk too much about the bad parts of the church.  I’m sorry, but I can’t ignore what is happening.  There is too much at stake.  Too many people that need love to thrive.

But rather than me share with you what’s happening, I invite you to watch this video to hear from the people who are actually living it.  It is an hour and a half, but it is worth every minute.  I sobbed through most of it because I have met people in these situations.  I have entered their stories.  I have shared their grief.  And some are no longer part of this world because no one loved them back to life.

If you call yourself a Christian, I urge you to watch this video.  Especially if you are a Christian that thinks you can’t be gay and a Christian.  I’m not sure what path God is going to take me on next…but I know that the status quo just isn’t going to work for me anymore.  If you watch the video and have questions, I’d love to sit down and have a cup of coffee with you if you are local…or we can chat via email.  Be the love that so many desperately need…because love matters.

Sticks and stones…

Did you have a nickname when you were growing up?  Maybe you still have it to this day.  I had several…the first of which I gave to myself…unbeknownst to me.  My name is Lesa Page (yes my parents spelled both my first name AND my middle name incorrectly).  When I was little, I couldn’t quite pronounce the two words and they came out as Esa Peach.  So, Esa Peach was my very first nickname and some family members to this day will sometimes call me by that name.  When I hit my teenage years, my nicknames became more related to the fact that I am vertically challenged.  A few of those names were:

Little
Little L
Stump – I of course didn’t care for this one too much
L – my dad calls me this today – I think he’s just lazy (smile)
Lesa Page – as a teenager there were so many Lisa’s that my friends called me by my first and middle name.  Kind of wish I would have stuck with that as an adult…I kind of like it.

When my son was a baby and toddler, his nickname was Booper.  My mom was so afraid that was going to stick.  I’m not even sure how Mike and I started calling him that, but it just seemed to fit him.  He was a pudgy little guy and Booper just seemed to work.  I’m sure he is happy that it was short-lived.  His nickname now is Kai (his name is Kyle).

It seems like yesterday that he was that little baby.  I remember holding for the first time.  To be honest, he looked like a little old man…kind of wrinkly and very little hair.  He quickly grew and like I said was a little pudge.  He unfortunately had colic as a baby.  And not the kind where the baby would cry during a certain time of day…it seemed to bother him all the time.  It made me feel so bad for him.  As I held him, his little legs would bunch up and he would throw his little head back with the most heart wrenching cry.  There were many days that I would cry right along with him as I bounced and paced the floors with him.  Man did I do a lot of pacing.

He eventually grew out of that and became a happy little guy.  I can still see his little face when I would walk into his room in the mornings to retrieve him from his crib.  He would say my name with his pacifier pushed to one side of his mouth and would give me the biggest smile.  It was as if his whole world just walked through the door.  I remember his first steps…arms stretched out like Frankenstein, teetering from one foot to the other with the biggest grin on his face.  He was so proud of himself.  He was a stubborn little bugger too.  The terrible twos are an understatement.  He was so smart which I swear made it worse.  Once he got something in his mind, boy was it tough to re-route him.  And the older he got, the harder it got.  Once he hit the elementary school age, it took a lot of creative thinking to stay one step ahead of him.  And when we really got stuck in a battle of the wills, it seemed like humor was the ONLY thing that would snap him out of it.  Good thing I’m a goof ball (smile).  It just took a little humor to break things up and then you could have a conversation with him.

He was always well liked in school by his teachers and classmates…especially the girls.  He was a straight A student all the way through high school.  I think he got a B or two in college, but seemed to always make the deans list even though he struggled terribly with anxiety and depression.  I’m really not sure how he did it.

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, we noticed a change in him around the age of 14 and things came to a head when he was 15 and we found out he was gay.  My friendly, preppy, kind boy turned into an angry, depressed, anxiety ridden boy.  The music he listened to changed, the clothes he wore changed, the kind of friends he had changed.  It was as if the internal struggle that he had been going through for years that we were unaware of came out to the surface in every way.  It was terrifying.  It was as if aliens had come in the middle of the night and replaced our child with someone who we didn’t recognize.  All of the hurt that he had hidden for so long was now out in the open.

I wish SO BADLY that I had the resources back then that I have now.  I would have done things SO differently.  I know I hurt him…before I knew he was gay…and after I found out.  You see, I lived in the place where I thought being gay was something that needed to be fixed.  I felt that way because that is what I had learned from the resources I had at the time.  I was given a lot of hope from those resources…unfortunately it was false hope.  Stories of change that were told later turned out to be lies. And I transferred that hope to him.  It gave him hope and when things didn’t change it only added to his frustration, hurt, and depression.

Society gives gay people a lot of grief about being gay.  Names are hurled at them like butch, fag, dyke, fairy…not exactly endearing nicknames.  And despite the little saying of “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me,” they do indeed hurt.  The hard part though is when a gay person’s family is the cause of the hurt…not by name calling necessarily…although that does happen, but by attitudes and statements that are made.  Something I’ve heard more than once from a young gay person before coming out in regards to their family is this….

“They don’t like me….but they don’t know that they don’t like me.”

What we need to understand is that they are absorbing every remark, comment, facial expression, body language, etc. when it comes to our attitudes about gay people.  The first time I heard that from someone…my spirit was crushed because I know that my son felt that way before he came out.  Looking back…it explains a lot.  I’ve never said anything bad about gay people. I’ve worked with them, have a gay family member in my extended family, etc. and I’ve never felt anything but love for them.  But when you come from a place where you think they are broken and can be fixed, it is hurtful.  And I know my son overheard comments from me regarding this.

I don’t write this to make you feel guilty if you have a gay child and have gone about things differently then you would have like to or feel like you have messed up.  I can tell you that I messed up.  You can move past it.  You can ask for the person to forgive you…and then do what is hard and forgive yourself.  I still struggle with that part.  This post is more for everyone else who may or may not have a gay child, family member, or friend.  Be careful what you say and how you say it.  You never know who is listening…and if they are struggling they will be hyper sensitive to your speech and demeanor.  Let’s not have another child think…they don’t like me…but they don’t know that they don’t like me.

Today my son is a young adult.  The other day we were leaving for work at the same time (he is living at home to save money to one day move out).  I was sitting in my car as he walked down to his car that was parked in the cul-de-sac.  As I watched him in my side mirror with his slouchy hat (to control his curls), skinny jeans, and messenger bag slung across his shoulder, I was overwhelmed with thankfulness for his forgiving spirit for a mom who didn’t have a clue when he first came out.  I’m so thankful that his spark is back and I once again have my funny, happy boy.  He knows without a doubt that I love him.  But he can also say…

She likes me…and I know she likes me because she shows it in her words and actions.

Love each other…because it matters.