A SPECIAL MESSAGE TO LGBT YOUTH:
Dear Moms and Dads,
I am one of you; I am a parent. I have two adult children, Andrew, 25 and Sami, 24. This is a picture of us on Mother’s Day. You and I well understand the depth of love a parent has for a child; it is unmatched in any other relationship. We parents all quote from the same “handbook” saying that we would give our lives for these, our offspring. Nothing holds more value than our children.
Some of you have been given children that are not quite what you pictured on the day they were born. You are a parent to a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) child. Some of you have accepted your children and take no issue with their orientation. For some of you, however, things are not going very well. There’s distance, frustration, anger, shame and even fear.
You are the ones I am addressing.
First, the disclaimers: no, I am not L, G, B, or T; I am straight, and always have been. Both of my children are straight. I am a devout Jesus-follower, no weird beliefs, got the marked-up, written-all-over Bible, was saved twenty seven years ago, have gone to the same church for over twenty years, attend weekly Bible studies and live what would be considered an admirable “Christian lifestyle”. You might even like me; I am pretty normal.
Ten years ago, I was firmly planted in the can’t-be-gay-and-Christian camp. I had the answers, kept the rules, and could go toe-to-toe with most people on any verse. And then, events in my life knocked me off that know-it-all pedestal. Concurrently, God, the Great Orchestrator, placed Netto, an agnostic lesbian, on my hiking trail. Not many people used that trail regularly and we began hiking together.
It took an additional five years for God to crack my deposit box of assuredness open so I could even consider that I might possibly be wrong about sexual orientation as it relates to Christianity. All to say, I understand the arguments and opposition when dialoguing about faith and sexual orientation/gender identity. Believe me, I have held most of those opposing views as my own.
For more than five years now, I have been advocating for understanding, acceptance and inclusion of LGBTChristians within the church. I am vocal, I am visible and your kids find me: on Facebook, YouTube, The Gay Christian Network and on my blog.
Several times each week, I receive communications from LGBT youth whose parents reject them at some level due to their sexual orientation. Your kids are coming to me because they are seeking a parent figure to listen to them, encourage, to love and accept them. During the single greatest struggle of their early life, many of these youth are at risk of having the three things every person needs–love , acceptance and security–withdrawn from them in varying degrees by their own parents; all because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
This is a typical scenario. Most LGBT people know between 5 and 8 years old that they are “different”. Around puberty, they begin realizing they are not reacting to the opposite sex as their friends do. Times have changed since you and I were teens and young adults. We could not have labeled that “feeling” in terms of sexual orientation differences. Youth now are more aware; and even in that, they may not come out to themselves for several years. Lots of praying, denying, bargaining with God will have taken place. By the time they tell you, their parents, they have looked at this issue from every angle.
Do you recall your own teen years? I sure do. It was tough for me to find hope in the future burdened by my own issues; I could not see my situation ever changing. For your LGBT youth, multiply that normal teenage angst and dread.
If your family is involved in a faith community, your LGBT youth’s struggles are even greater.. Many of them will seek answers in a church youth group where they hope concerns can be openly discussed. The subject of sexuality will come up there. Most youth leaders will speak directly about homosexuality as something that must be fixed, changed. When at home, they surely hear more of the same. You may not have been overtly angry or hateful in your language, but please consider the message your child has “heard”. The disapproving body language, the mocking tones and words you utter as you watch television and movies, or see gay people in public. This is what your child has heard, what he or she has clearly heard. For years. All the while, they are trying to come to grips with their own orientation and terrified to lose the love and acceptance of their own families. This can be absolutely frightening.
When you first heard your child was gay, lesbian, bisexual or struggled with gender identity, many of you immediately went to your pastors; or, maybe you are the pastor. You’ve visited or were directed to programs or websites like Exodus, Love Won Out or Love in Action. Read the words on those websites very carefully. Not one will claim they can change a person’s orientation. Not one. And if you do find one that you think offers the results you seek, be diligent in your research. Make sure you check to see if the results are peer-reviewed and check the claims of the results.
Most of us know God as the perfect Father. Could you imagine that He would create His homosexual children and tell them that all of the most beautiful aspects of relationship are off limits to them? Thinking about love, sex and marriage in the life of your LGBT child is going to stretch you. You will be challenged to consider all of these concepts in the context of your interpretation of the Bible, while holding in tension the reality of having a LGBT child. This will no longer be a slam dunk, pre-processed answer. This is your child. It is time to really think these concepts through.
As a parent, you have been delegated to “train a child in the way he should go”. The Hebrew meaning here is “the way of him”. The word “him” uses a small “h”. “him”. The way your child was created to be. You don’t get to pick “the way of him”. God already did that for you. If God has given you a gay child and you are trying to make that child heterosexual, that is not “the way of him”. If you try to impose change on your child or reject who he is (yes, that is really what you are doing when you tell them to “not be gay”), there are some general, predictable consequences.
If you reject your LGBT youth, they:
- Are EIGHT times more apt to attempt suicide than those who are accepted
- May suffer depression SIX times more often than those who are accepted
- Are THREE times more likely to get involved in drug abuse than those LGBT that are accepted
- Are THREE times more likely to contract HIV and/or STD’s than accepted LGBT youth
Are you catching the key words here? “…than those who are accepted.” The unhealthy, risky behavior is a result of rejection. Mom and Dad, you are completely in control of that dynamic. If you withhold love, acceptance or security from you LGBT youth because of their sexual orientation, you will, in all likelihood, be damning them to these statistics. I cannot imagine any parent knowing this and choosing to ignore it.
There is a point I must interject here: homosexuality is not a sex act any more than heterosexuality is a sex act. It is an orientation. I did not need to have sex to figure out I was attracted to boys. Think about your own past; did you need to have heterosexual sex to know you were heterosexual?
I want to relieve many of you parents of the guilt that has been laid at your feet by junk church and wholly discounted psychology. Absent fathers and overbearing mothers do not make a child gay. I am very sorry for the shame imposed on you by people who feel the need to blame, assess, or give answers. It’s a lie. No parent is ideal. Gay kids come from great parents and straight kids come from dysfunctional parents. So Mom, stop looking at Dad in his flaws; and Dad, stop looking at Mom in her flaws. None of us parents did it all correctly. Stop blaming each other and don’t accept the burdens that others try to lay on your family. About 5% of children will be LGBT. You have a child in the 5%. Reject the shaming and get on with the process of healing.
Okay, now take some time and look at a picture of your child. Yeah, really; go get one.
Stare into that beautiful face, those eyes that you saw on day one, that heart that was bound to yours even before the first breath was taken. This is the child God gave you.
You may be swirling in confusion, but, can you start to love and accept your gay child from what you do know? You know you were given this child as a gift from God. You know God entrusted this creation to you, specifically. You know the essentials of healthy life are love, acceptance and security. Most of you, at the core, knew in their early life that this child was gay. This is not trivial. You cannot reject your son or daughter and then stand in judgment wondering why they are not making healthy choices.
And now, back to the statement all us Moms and Dads say: “I would die for my child.” How about we dial that back a bit? Would you be willing to die to yourself, to the possibility that you may be wrong in your ideology and/or theology for the sake of your child? Would you be willing to hold out to the Lord, your belief about what you think the Bible says about homosexuality?
If you are a person who only feels comfortable and operates in blacks and whites, always needing and having the answer, oh boy, you are in for a ride! The process will be a massive challenge to your ideology and theology.
With respect to faith, we all know that Christianity is a choice. Sexual orientation, however, is not a choice. If you force your LGBT child to choose between the two, they may well make a choice that will impact their entire lives and their relationship with God. Most LGBT people walk away from God because we tell them that sexual orientation and a relationship with God are not congruent. Remember, you are the ones making them choose. Not God. You.
There are five sections of Scripture (two in the OT and three in the NT) that are comments on a form of same-sex behavior. (I would encourage you to read VERSES.) Simply put, all those sections appear in the context of extremes: prostitution, rape and violence, abuse, and sex within worship to idols. I hope none of you picture your LGBT child in any of those extreme situations when you consider his or her sexual orientation any more than you picture your heterosexual children participating in such abusive forms of sexual relationships.
I believe God looks for malleable people; people who are willing to say, “Lord, I don’t have all the answers. I want to know You, Your heart, the depth of Your mercy and love. Teach me Your way.” I know how much I changed as a Christian when I was finally willing to doubt some of my strongly held ideological and theological beliefs. I had always been the right one, the one with the answers, the smart one. Meeting Netto on that trail ten years ago was the start of my questioning, the beginning of a transformation to grace. My view of God and of others has been completely altered. All because I was willing to risk being wrong.
If you have a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender child, you have far more reason than did I to grapple with this issue. When you know the stakes are as high as they are with respect to the emotional and spiritual health of your child, are you not compelled to be sure you understand this issue both Biblically and psychologically?
Will you insist that you are right and risk pushing them from you and God? Please let God allow you to struggle with this to get His answer. Do you realize that this child, the very one that you see as a hardship, could be a gift to your family so that you might all better understand God’s mercy and love? Could it be that this very kid is your ticket to becoming more like Jesus? Yet, you may insist that they change (an impossibility) instead of letting God reshape you. The stakes here are just too high to be lazy.
I offer you some practical steps:
- Talk with your child and actually LISTEN to him or her. Ask them when they knew there was something different about them. Really listen. Most parents tell me it breaks their heart that their child struggled for so long without confiding in them. I hurt when my children hurt. To think that I could have been absent in their deepest pain would upset me tremendously. Remember, they are scared of losing your love. They have heard every single anti-gay comment with clarity. Each poison dart pushed them further back into fear and dishonesty.
- Educate yourself. If there is an affirming church in your area, make some time to visit with a pastor to get insights and maybe even accompany your child to a service. The spirit in you will likely resonate with the spirit you find there. This seemingly simple action is powerful. When I first stood in a room with over 400 LGBT Christians in worship, the Holy Spirit in me convicted me to the core that these indeed were my brothers and sisters in Christ. Be brave. Go.
- Study the Bible for yourself. Use only a Bible, and a Concordance. The concordance is mandatory. Read all the verses around those in question. Get the context of the verses. Don’ t be lazy. Study it as if your child’s life depends on it, because, you know what? It does. Most versions of the Bible underwent a translation adjustment in the late 60’s and 70’s. The word that was then most often translated as “male prostitute” was changed to “homosexual”. I hope any sensible person would say the two are not the same. Why would this have happened?
- Read anything I have written on my blog—you will gain insight from each post. I write from experience, relationships and always with my Bible. Engage me if you need help or need direction. I suggest lots of resources.
I am completely willing to listen to your kids when they come to me. I am honored to hear and share their fears and tears. I am humbled that God would let me mother kids beyond my own two. I have done this over and over in lieu of you doing it. I see broken young adults that struggle to gain the acceptance of their parents; they drag it into every relationship they have. Many do the work needed to get healthy, in spite of your rejection.
Just consider what I have written. Your kids need you and your love and your safety. Go beyond yourselves to ensure that you have God’s heart on this. Don’t lose these precious ones in your life, in your family, in the family of God. And, if you are the parent of a grown gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender child, it is not too late. They have been begging God for a healing of the rift, for full acceptance and unconditional love from their Mom and Dad. I listen to and read those stories daily as well.
I am in awe of Christian LGBT people that find a way to God or remain in relationship with Him. We straight Christians seem to do all we can to destroy that bond or to ensure that it never happens. Some of the finest Christians I know are in the LGBT community. I do not know any group that comprehends and exudes mercy and grace better, as a whole, than the LGBT Christian community. Get to know them.
I am one of the most blessed people I know. I know my Mother fully loves me and it is a knowledge that affects me every day. More importantly, I am sure without a doubt that God is crazy, nuts, wild about me. I cannot imagine living without either one of these assurances. Do not deny your child the opportunity of both of these blessings.
Please, please be humble enough to ask God to help you to love your gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender child the way He would love them. In the meantime, I do hope they find me. I want them to see themselves as God sees them–wonderfully made and in His image. He desires to walk with Him; don’t stand in the way.
In His service,
Andrew and Sami’s Mom,
A beautiful post from my friend, Michele. A wonderful person and Mom of a gay child in rural Montana
* Support for stats from Pediatrics http://bit.ly/teenglbtrates
[ If you, as a parent or ally, know this to be wise advise because this is how you approached the issue, you will also know the damage that has been/is being done to the LGBT community by OUR desire to make them change to be acceptable to God. Would you consider joining the “Str8Apology Action” in your city during Gay Pride? Go to this post with all the details : “Hurt by Church? Get a Str8 Apology Here”. You’ll find the tee shirt order form, handouts, a full list of Gay Pride Events in the US and Canada, links to a Story Telling page, twitter and Facebook for ongoing pictures and entries. You CAN make a difference that will restore and repair. As if their lives depended on it, because . . . they do.]
* Support for stats from Pediatrics http://bit.ly/teenglbtrates