By Diane Oviatt
In his powerful book, “Far From the Tree”, Andrew Solomon explores the experience of parenting a child who is very different from you. The overarching theme gleaned from the real stories he presents of parents raising children that do not share their core identity, is love, and a fierce love at that.
I experienced this love first hand at a retreat last week in southern Utah for a group of women who refer to ourselves as “Dragon Mamas”. We are the LDS mothers of LGBT children. For many of us this was a completely unexpected journey we embarked upon when our children came out; one with a steep learning curve that has put us through the classic stages of grieving and brought us into the light of unconditional love and unequivocal acceptance of these children with a core identity different from our own. It has been, at times, a journey seemingly at odds with the plan we grew up counting on as Latter Day Saints.
There is power in shared stories and share we did, with all our fire breathing hearts. Our children were everybody’s children as we laughed and cried with one another, and yes, mourned and comforted beatitudes style. I was especially struck by the vulnerability and openness of these women.
For many this was a long awaited chance to unburden the pain of rejection by friends and family in their church community. Some of us have been traveling the Dragon Mama path for years; some have found themselves on it fairly recently. The predominant feeling present for those three days was unconditional love, acceptance, and respect for our respective journeys and feelings. In light of the fact that we are from different walks of life and at varied crossroads on our journey with the church and our gay children, the mentoring that took place during our time together is an inspiration to me, and it continues through social media as well as in personal connections that have the potential to last a life time.
These are brave women, most of whom are attempting to stay and make a place for all the gay children in the church. This was anything BUT a retreat. It felt more like an advance, a gentle, loving, but certain and purposeful advance for understanding and yes, equality in our church community and in the world.
There was commiseration, laughter, and fire, (breathed from our collective nostrils!) There are letters being written and sent to church headquarters, testimonies being borne, parades being marched in, hugs being shared and prayers being said on behalf of our vulnerable offspring.
We are dragons, hear us roar, and we will not be slain. For we are also the knights in shining armor, working to rescue all of God’s children from the pain of exclusion. As Andrew Solomon says, we “do not accept subtractive models of love, only additive ones”. My association with these women means the world to me. They are my mentors. They are my sisters. They are my heroes. Their children are my children. This is the church of our Savior in action.