What would you tell your kids if they told you they were gay?

Dear Ask Mormon Girl:

I’m gay and Mormon. I think I’m a relatively rare breed. I am fairly open about it in my young single adult ward. I blog about it. I’m also very active in the church. I just finished a year and a half stint as ward mission leader, which was not an easy thing for me to do. Before that I was Elder’s quorum president in my ward. To me it seems that there are plenty of gay Mormons who are out and choose not to actively participate in the church and there are plenty of gay Mormons who choose to stay closeted and marry the opposite sex, but there aren’t many who are openly gay and active. I think these factors contribute to perpetuating a lot of misunderstanding and ignorance on the subject of homosexuality in the church.

I’m curious what your thoughts are on the church’s approach or lack of approach to homosexuality. It seems content to deal with it largely in the political realm, which I think is a big mistake. There doesn’t seem to be any real overt attempt to minister to gay members on a more personal/spiritual level. What you would do if one of your own children approached you and told you he/she was attracted to his or her own gender?

HJ

Dear HJ:

You have a question for me?

Really, now, I have questions for you. Like, how do you do it, HJ? How do you stay active and hopeful? Right now, I’m dreaming of an endless Sunday dinner where we could sit down and share plates of frog-eye salad and Jello-Cool-Whip desserts and I could listen to your story. I’m sure I would have a lot to learn.

Alas, the bloggernacle is not the dinnertable. But if it were, one of the questions I’d ask you is what you heard or might have liked to hear your own parents say when you came out to them.

Which is not to say I haven’t given my own serious thought to the issue. Lesbian and gay people have played and continue to play a significant role in my life and in the lives of my children. Moreover, my husband is Jewish; reform Judaism does not consider homosexuality sinful. Our home is a very welcoming and accepting place.

Still, I know that the world is often unkind to LGBT people. Whether they are Mormon or not, gay young people face very real challenges, and family reactions can compound them.

Studies in the journal Pediatrics report that LGBT youth who experience high levels of family rejection during adolescence are 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide, 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of depression, 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs, and 3.4 times more likely to report having engaged in unprotected sexual intercourse compared with peers from families that reported no or low levels of family rejection.

I’ve also read Mormon resources for families with gay members like Family Fellowship, founded by Gary and Millie Watts, who acknowledge the great difficulty of negotiating the divide between Church teachings that homosexuality is immoral and the tremendous dignity and morality they witness in the lives of their gay children.

What I’ve learned from them is that for anyone who both loves the Mormon tradition and loves someone who is gay, there are no easy answers, except for the words “I love you.” That’s something my kids can always be assured they’ll hear from me.

Readers, it’s your turn. How would you answer HJ’s question? And what (polite!) questions about being gay and faithful would you ask HJ at the Sunday dinner table?

Send your queries to askmormongirl@gmail.com, or follow askmormongirl on Twitter.

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9 Comments

Filed under family, lgbt

9 responses to “What would you tell your kids if they told you they were gay?

  1. wow, i am amazed/happy to hear about an openly gay Mormon who functions as a leader in his ward. i don’t know how you do it, but i am so grateful that you’re able to.

    i had this conversation with a group of friends on friday – the question of what we would do if one of our kids were gay. many said they would encourage their children to leave the church – to leave an institution that fails/hurts them on so many levels.

    i came to the conclusion that i wouldn’t necessarily encourage them to leave, but that i would support whatever path they decided was best for them. i think your path is such a brave one. i think the church needs more brave people like you. it’s so much easier to change an institution from the inside than from the outside. but i worry so much for those gay members who decide to stay in the church. i want them to feel accepted, loved, and completely whole.

    i do have one question: do you date? just curious how your ward feels about this. i wonder if your bishop is fine with you dating as long as you follow all the same rules expected of heterosexual couples?

  2. HJ

    I think the path I’m currently on isn’t the best path for everyone (openly gay and actively Mormon). I think some are better served outside of the church. I think you are right, Lisa, to take the approach of encouraging your children to do what works best for them (should that need ever arise). I think the most important thing for your kids to know is that you love them no matter what. If they feel your unconditional love, you’ve given them a little sliver of what the atonement is all about, and that’s probably the most important thing you can give them.

    I also think that although my current situation works for me, I realize that won’t always be true. I’m in a single adult ward in a fairly liberal city and so the ward is pretty open and accepting. My situation will definitely change over time though, and I can’t say how that will affect my relationship with the church. My relationship with the gospel though, is pretty constant. Learning to separate those two things (church and gospel) also has helped. Even though others can determine my status with the institution, no one else can determine my relationship with the gospel.

    As far as dating goes, I guess it all depends on your definition of dating (not to get all Bill Clinton on you). I associate with a lot of other gay Mormons in the area. I do stuff socially with them in groups and one on one. I guess so far I haven’t met anyone who I’d want to be in an exclusive dating situation. If I did though and decided to pursue that, I’m pretty sure my bishop wouldn’t be OK with me continuing to hold the types of callings I have. Like I said though, the opportunity hasn’t really presented itself since I’ve been on this path in the last couple of years of embracing two worlds. I guess I’ll have to figure that out when/if the situation arises.

  3. hkobeal

    I’ve thought about this a lot. I hope I wouldn’t actively ENCOURAGE my child to leave the church, but I kinda think I’d have to nudge them in that direction. The church seems like a miserable place for gay/lesbian people. I want my kids to experience life to the fullest–not be chained to an organization that marginalizes them. Life’s too short to spend it trying to make yourself find happiness in places that don’t want you–or who only want a piece of you, or want to pick & choose the pieces of you that they want.

    But if he/she could honestly find happiness within the church, I would be fine with that. I would be confused/puzzled, but fine.

  4. MH

    HJ, you’re the MAN! I have a child who is already manifesting homosexual tendencies, so this question weighs heavily on my mind. With what I know about the plan of salvation, and our true purpose here on earth, I would encourage him to do what he can to live up to that plan. Unfortunately, the ordinances of the Gospel are essential in successfully navigating the Plan, and homosexual behavior isn’t congruent with the ordinances. That will be his path to walk. The one thing that I will never cease to ram down his, as well as my other children’s throats is that morality/chastity is a constant no matter what or who you are attracted to. Sexual relations outside of marriage (or whatever committed relationship akin to marriage is available to homosexuals) are simply wrong, and not to be trifled with. Sexual promiscuity cannot be taken lightly. Period.
    All that, and that I love and adore him.
    And Applebee’s.

  5. I concur with much of what has been said before. It would be up to him/her to decide if they could find happiness while living in the church. And whatever their decision might be, my strong belief is that I should love them just the same. My personal hope is that most Mormon parents would react in this way. Nevertheless, it will not be an easy pill for parents (many) to swallow.

  6. I agree with hkobeal. Until there are serious changes in LDS culture and doctrine, staying within the church won’t do much for the well-being of LGBTQ members. Deceiving a straight spouse is an evil thing to do, and making homosexual people think they have no other option is just as bad.

  7. SAlad

    This is a topic I have wrestled with my whole church life. I joined the church in South Africa 25 years ago and was taught by church leaders and my parents/family that homosexuality was not only wrong but evil and perverted. The way they carried on sometimes was as if it was a sin worse than that of murder.

    We were taught that gay men and woman are to be loved but they are confused, somehow ill and that they need to lots of love, attention and councilling if they are going to correct their “illness”.

    Now I realise South Africa is very homophobic and this could have influenced our church leaders at the time but damn church policy seems to have softened these days.

    What I want to know is with modern day revelation like “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” how can gay and lesbians ever be allowed to be married or live a normal life in our church?

  8. SRuth

    Hasn’t the church said that being gar or lesbian is not a state of being but a temptation, just like any other temptation. And every temptation can be overcome through the atonement of Christ. Just because you deal with the temptation, does not mean you are a sinner, it’s only if you act on it. Why wouldn’t a professed gay or lesbian person be able to live a normal life in the church since the promise is that if they strive to overcome their temptation, the Savior will help them?

  9. I agree with a lot of what has been said. I agree that I would love my children no matter what, though it would certainly be difficult and something I would have to reconcile myself to. My answer will always be, “I love you”. I agree that sexual promiscuity is NOT something that should be experimented with before marriage and I would let my kids know that (no matter whether they’re straight or gay) it is one of the most serious sins because it tampers with the salvation of other spirits and the right for children to be born into a loving family. I would NOT encourage my children to leave the church. I would encourage them to follow HJ’s example – stay close to the gospel and to God and be the best church member they can be while being open about the fact that they are gay. The spirits born in today’s world are some of the most courageous, the most valiant, the most faithful and I have hope and faith in my children’s strength of character to do something so brave. And I would defend them fiercely from those who would be hurtful. I personally agree with the fact that homosexuality is (in most cases) a temptation. Similar to the way that very few people actually have major clinical depression (most go through depressive phases and then move on), I believe that there are few people who are legitimately attracted to the same sex, that most find a fascination with the idea and experimentation or simply giving in to what others say they are (it’s happened to two of my friends) is how they ‘become’ gay

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