Response

By Meg Abhau

We received so many amazing responses to our blog post, ‘Closets are for Clothes’.  One response was very inquisitive.  This person responded anonymously, so I feel that I can post this response and break it down and answer a lot of these questions to the best of my ability.  I have a feeling this person is not the only one with questions like this.  I do this only to help educate or help others to understand where we (and maybe other teens like Jon) are coming from.  I apologize for the lengthy post, but these are complex questions and people are just trying to understand.  Here is the response in full and I will follow with my thoughts:

Anonymous May 15, 2013 at 3:25 PM

Wow. I wonder what I would do if my child told me he was gay. Especially at such a YOUNG age. With all the love I have, I’d like to address a few things in your story:
First, this part concerns me: “He told me a week after he found out. I think it surprised him as well, but he felt ok with it. It is natural to him and he did not feel shame or guilt. He just learned something new about himself, confirmed it with our dear friend, Andy and then told his mother.”
How did he “find out?” And who is Andy? Is Andy a hero to him? Is his gayness admired by Jon? Why would he go to Andy before his own loving parents? Is there a chance Andy encouraged this “coming out?” (i.e. told him he was gay?)

As far as this post is concerned, it sadly seems more attention-seeking on your part than an attempt to help your son. Are you going to encourage him to live the gospel standards? Or experiment with behaviors or lifestyles that cannot be eternal? And are you encouraging him to make HUGE decisions too early and TOO PUBLIC? He seems too young to be concerned about sexuality at all. I know I never could have made such a big decision at 13!

How do we tell the difference between biological gays and situational or behavioral gays? You have to admit, it’s become a fad. It’s stylish. I do not know your son, so I don’t know what he’s like. But I’ve met MANY effeminate males that are not gay.

I can’t help but wonder what he is exposed to on television, movies, and conversations and friends he or you might have. (In addition to Andy.) Does he hear you support the brethren and study scripture? Does he watch inappropriate media? Does he hear you give more time and support to controversial political issues?
I’ll be honest, I do believe some kids are gay. Even kids that come from families that support the brethren, read, pray, have FHE and protect their kids from harmful media. But I also think many kids are empowered and confused by the current culture. We have to teach them eternal truths. If they are gay, we have to still teach them to live the gospel. As a whole, as a culture, we have lost so much innocence. My heart breaks for the children and eventual adults who battle this. But there are many infirmities for which there won’t be complete healing until the next life.

You say, “If given the chance now, if I had the opportunity to make my son straight, I wouldn’t.” WHY??!! Why would you not want to spare him this trial? Wouldn’t you rather he be able to serve a mission, get married and become a father? Don’t those things bring you your deepest joy?

 Just some thoughts. I wish you and your son all the best. In fact, I am praying for you all. –An old friend

http://northstarlds.org/

http://www.mormonsandgays.org/” (the links here were provided by anonymous)

“Wow. I wonder what I would do if my child told me he was gay.”
  • ·         I actually get this response a lot.  My answer: Use your great imagination.  Really imagine that this is your wonderful child that you gave birth to, wiped their tears away, lovingly consoled them when someone was not so nice to them on the playground, tucked them in at night, prayed for them daily, and a million other things we parents do.  Imagine now that they are gay.  Does that really change how you would treat them?  Would you really not support them?  Might you even tell them that they are unnatural and should live a different way than their inner self is telling them given the risks of suicide?  For me, I choose the human over the doctrine.  I know this will make some people uncomfortable, but it’s very comfortable for me.
“First, this part concerns me: “He told me a week after he found out. I think it surprised him as well, but he felt ok with it. It is natural to him and he did not feel shame or guilt. He just learned something new about himself, confirmed it with our dear friend, Andy and then told his mother.””
  • ·         This is a fair question.  I did not elaborate enough in my first blog post.  First and foremost, yes we admire Andy before and after we learned that he was gay.  Andy and my sister were setting up to marry.  He came out to her 2 months before Jon discovered he was gay.  We admire Andy because he is a good a decent human being.  We did not put extreme emphasis on his being gay.  We did not put it (his gayness) on a pedestal to be admired.  We admired his courage for doing the right thing and following his heart.  Of course we love Andy. Jon saw 2 guys kissing and this made sense to him.  It surprised him that it made sense to him because he saw himself as a straight Mormon guy who wanted to serve a mission and marry a girl in the temple.  He looked into those feelings instead of running away from them.  He wondered what it meant.  He questioned some thoughts he had about other guys the way he SHOULD have thought about girls.  He read some articles on the internet about questioning your sexuality (which does not mean sex), but wanted a personal opinion from a gay person.  Andy was Jon’s first gay friend that he knew of.  He asked Andy what he thought.  Andy was amazing and understanding and helped Jon to come to conclusions on his own in a very loving way.  I am forever grateful for Andy and his insight and willingness to share his thoughts and experiences with Jon.  I am also grateful that my son was willing to share his entire conversation that he had with Andy, and removed any reservations we might have had about what kind of information Jon was receiving.
Jon opened up to Andy and shared that he had some concerns that he was gay and asked for Andy’s advice.    Andy shared with Jon how he learned he was gay and we have asked that he share that on a blog post of his own.  We will post that as soon as it is ready.  But, here are some of the wonderful answers Andy gave to Jon:
“I’ll have to answer this very carefully.”
“First and foremost, you are not alone. There have been concourses upon concourses of people who have had the same struggle. Wondering whether they’re really gay. Or are they bi? Or is it all some big mental construction?”
“Every person’s experience is so different. Personally, it helps for me to know plenty of other Mormon boys have gone through the struggle of “what happens if I’m gay?” But. It’s still difficult, because it’s still my life.”
“I’m not trying to steer you in any particular direction. But in my experience, I sometimes thought I was bi. I was “attracted” to women, I suppose. I came to realize, for me, it was an attraction that wasn’t genuine. It was an attraction I had created to follow social and church regulations. When I let that go, I realized I wasn’t bi, and simply gay. While I’m not saying you are/aren’t bi, I think that’s something to consider.”
“As difficult as it is, and as personal to you as this is, I know how you feel. I remember the overwhelming thoughts. Every part of me said something different. It was frustrating. It made me angry and confused. I remember, many times, it felt that the only thing to do was end my life or run away. I usually ended up sobbing on the ground.. Jon, I know what that feels like.”
·         This conversation went on longer, but I wanted people to see how thoughtful Andy was in his responses.  Jon desperately needed to talk to someone who could understand.  Why didn’t Jon come straight to his loving parents?  Because he had a loving friend who could know EXACTLY what he was going through and feeling inside.  Andy never gave him opinions to convince him one way or the other.  Andy only gave him information and told him what he had learned about himself the hard way.  Jon then went on and did further research on the matter.  He looked into Mormonsandgays.org, he read articles for teens questioning their sexuality.  He did not want to bring this to his parents until he was certain.  Through his research and a week of learning, he understood enough that he became confident that he was gay.
“As far as this post is concerned, it sadly seems more attention-seeking on your part than an attempt to help your son. Are you going to encourage him to live the gospel standards? Or experiment with behaviors or lifestyles that cannot be eternal? And are you encouraging him to make HUGE decisions too early and TOO PUBLIC? He seems too young to be concerned about sexuality at all. I know I never could have made such a big decision at 13!”
  • ·         Again, a good question.  I am sure a lot of people wondered about this.  Coming out (I say this in ‘we’ terms because we did this as a family) was the hardest thing we have ever done.  I am usually a more private person.  Everything in me wanted to hide him from hurt or mean people.  When Jon came out to me, he told me about the dark and lonely place of the ‘closet’.  He had done some research on it and he felt it was not for him.  I told him that he deserved better and that we would do whatever he wished to facilitate this.  We decided we didn’t want to look over our shoulders and wonder who knew or didn’t know.  Or how people thought about it.  It seemed like the perfect way to protect him.  We could know EXACTLY how people felt and we could filter that for him.  I did my own research.  I read all day and all night.  I think I got 2 hours of sleep every 3 days on average.  I learned about countless children who felt they were not worthy to live and be gay and who killed themselves.  This is where I put the human first.  I will teach my son to live a Christ like life.  I will teach him to love his fellow man.  He will have his free agency, as I have mine, to make the best choices he can for his life.  He will be guided by loving parents who want what is best for him.  He will serve his fellow man, not because he is a Mormon, but because he is a good person.  I am not raising a heterosexual child.  I am raising a homosexual child and we will do what is best for his emotional and physical health.  This is not a ‘decision’ you make.  This is who you are.  You can’t remember making the decision to be straight because you didn’t have to.  It is accepted by society.  Gay people do not have this luxury.  They have to confront their biggest fears, somehow manage to accept themselves, and then announce it to the world in order to stay true to themselves.
Our friend Daniel Parkinson who is a psychiatrist told me this:
 “ There is a problem that is generational. This is the first generation that is able to access information independently to confirm and learn about their orientation as teens. Prior generations couldn’t label themselves, because they didn’t have the info. Therefore, even some older gay people recall being confused as teens. Well, teens are still confused, but not about their orientation. The research has shown that LGBT teens are figuring it out by 13 years old. If there is anyone who is even possibly confused about it, it is because they are bisexual, and those teens need full acceptance and support too at accepting and understanding their orientation, so if a bisexual child spends a year or two calling himself gay, there is zero damage done, compared to the damage of denying it or hiding it. (There might also be a very small group of teens who have suffered substantial abuse and who have more confusion about their sexual orientation, but this is a very small percentage, and once again, they only benefit from having parents that give them full acceptance, even if later they feel differently). In both these scenarios there is ZERO damage done by them adopting the labels (unless you believe they will go to hell for that), but there is huge damage done if they aren’t affirmed in what they see as their identities. So basically, it is a common criticism (they are too young to know) but it is misguided. I had a nice conversation with Caitlin Ryan  the other day and she helped me understand even better what the research is showing.”
(Caitlin Ryan runs the Family Acceptance project and has done extensive research on suicide risk factors for LGBT teens. Please download her important pamphlet on ways LDS families can lower the suicide risk at http://familyproject.sfsu.edu/publications)

“How do we tell the difference between biological gays and situational or behavioral gays? You have to admit, it’s become a fad. It’s stylish. I do not know your son, so I don’t know what he’s like. But I’ve met MANY effeminate males that are not gay.”

  • ·         This is a question that I have a hard time answering.  I can only answer this question with a question.  Would you experiment?  Do you think any straight guy would ‘experiment’?  It might seem more like a ‘fad’ because kids are coming to terms with their sexuality and trying to gain acceptance.  I was unaware that being gay was ‘cool’.  It seems quite the opposite in my world with how they are treated.  I don’t know anyone who would risk losing what most gay people lose to try out a fad.  These are just my personal thoughts on this.
  • ·         ”Situational gays don’t actually exist in substantial numbers. An important study showed that by age 21, 67% of self-identified heterosexual male teens had engaged in heterosexual sex, but only 1% had engaged in homosexual sex. In other words….straight teens are also not confused about their orientation, and are not actually experimenting with ‘gay’ sex. And of that 1% who is experimenting, many of them are likely gay or bisexual, but simply unable to admit it to themselves or in the survey.  The point is this. If teens were so confused about their orientation, then more of these teens would have tried out same-sex activity. Meanwhile, a huge proportion of them tried out the activity that interested them. When a 13 year old girl has a crush on the cute guy at school does anybody wonder if she is confused? When a 13 year old boy starts being obsessed with the figures of their female classmates is anybody suspecting that they are confused about their orientation. People only pathologize it in the case of gays, but we are now realizing that young LGBT people are just as aware of what their attractions are, and we are also realizing that these attractions are stable and persist with minimal change throughout the rest of their adolescence…and the rest of their lives.”
“I can’t help but wonder what he is exposed to on television, movies, and conversations and friends he or you might have. (In addition to Andy.) Does he hear you support the brethren and study scripture? Does he watch inappropriate media? Does he hear you give more time and support to controversial political issues?”
  • ·         Part of me wants to say that it is none of anyone’s business how I have raised my son, but I feel I must address this.  I raised my son as a typical Mormon kid.  I might have been a little lenient with super hero movies because he loved them so much, but he did not watch television that I did not approve of, he watched PG movies only if I approved of them.  I was probably stricter than other Mormon moms out there.  We have a strict policy when it comes to ‘media’ and what he is exposed to.  I think this helps keep his innocence a little longer and he doesn’t have to grow up faster than needed.  Youth is far too fleeting.  As far as our political preferences, which are usually personal and private, we were very conservative.  I’m ashamed to admit, even, that we were far right.  We are facing the gray now and listening with the intent to understand where people are coming from and that feels more fulfilling and loving.
“I’ll be honest, I do believe some kids are gay. Even kids that come from families that support the brethren, read, pray, have FHE and protect their kids from harmful media. But I also think many kids are empowered and confused by the current culture. We have to teach them eternal truths. If they are gay, we have to still teach them to live the gospel. As a whole, as a culture, we have lost so much innocence. My heart breaks for the children and eventual adults who battle this. But there are many infirmities for which there won’t be complete healing until the next life.”

  • ·         The only thing I can say to this is to do some research.  Ask hard questions. Like, why do so many GLBTQ kids kill themselves?  What message are they receiving?  Are they receiving a message of love and hope?  Calling this an ‘infirmity’ might be one example of why GLBTQ people do not feel loved or accepted.  What matters most in life to me is that my son knows who he is, accepts who he is and shares love with the world around him.  I asked my father in heaven in my darkest hour, “Who could deny such a soul as this?”  He replied, “Not I.”  I feel very strongly that I received personal revelation that day.  We as a church preach that we are entitled to personal revelation. (James 1:5)   I am being led by the spirit to do what is best for my child and my family.  Jake and I both are.  Some people might just have to trust that.  But, not accepting us will not make us change our course.  We are confirmed in the road we are on.  It is a road that leads to unconditional love.  The love that Christ teaches.
“You say, “If given the chance now, if I had the opportunity to make my son straight, I wouldn’t.” WHY??!! Why would you not want to spare him this trial? Wouldn’t you rather he be able to serve a mission, get married and become a father? Don’t those things bring you your deepest joy?”
  • ·         I cannot speak for Jake, but I do feel the same.  Jon is so special to us.  His being gay is a part of him.  I don’t know who I would get, were I to take this away from him.  He is kind and loving and accepting.  He is smart.  He has dreams of becoming a doctor someday and has the brains to do it!  He is an accomplished musician.  All of these things are a part of him and I would not change one hair on that head or one part of who he is.  When he was born, we had all these hopes for him.  (mission, temple wedding, children)  We did not raise him to be gay.  He was born this way.  Of course we had to go through a sort of mourning for the loss of that future.  But, we feel that his new future can be just as fulfilling.  He is teaching us to love unconditionally and we are better for it.  We simply do not see this as a trial anymore.  It is the biggest blessing of our lives.  (if you are interested in Jake’s opinion, please see his post titled An Undeserving Prophet)

11 comments for “Response

  1. Duck
    December 10, 2013 at 8:17 am

    Just because someone is gay does NOT mean they cannot serve an honorable mission. I knew since I was six that I am gay, I served a mission, and even had leadership positions, as a woman.

    • Meg
      December 10, 2013 at 10:41 am

      I agree, but this will be Jon’s choice, not mine. A mission is not mandatory in or home. I’ll be interested to see if that is the part he chooses.

  2. December 10, 2013 at 10:44 am

    Thank you for these beautiful responses, Meg! Your beautiful, open heart helps me feel more at home, more loved in the world and in the church.

  3. Rachel
    December 10, 2013 at 11:03 am

    Wow! That was awesome Meg. I was cringing as I read the comment from anonymous and I was cheering you on as you responded to all of anonymous’ concerns. I was born into a very faithful LDS family. I grew-up the daughter of a bishop, stake president, and now my dad is a patriarch. My mother has been the president of every auxiliary at the ward and stake level. I was faithful to the church and believed with all of my heart. I wasn’t rebellious, didn’t watch R-rated movies, didn’t watch any media related to being gay and honestly was not around openly gay people at all. All I wanted with all of my heart was what my 5 brothers had: a temple marriage and a happy family. For anyone to say that I decided to follow a “fad” makes me more angry than I can express in words. Why would someone from a background like mine, throw away the dream they had for their life and risk being rejected by their church and family for a “fad”?

    I made a choice along the way, but it was not the choice to be gay. It was the choice to be open and to be me. Coming out hasn’t been easy, but I have never spent another dark, depressing, awful minute in that closet. Since I have come out I haven’t once had the thought that maybe I would be better off killing myself. Since I have come out of the closet I have been able to feel emotions that I didn’t even know existed. I have let myself be vulnerable and let people pass judgement on me and I have stopped hiding and worrying about what others think.

    I’m so glad that Jon never had to spend a single second in the closet and I am proud to be friends with his incredible mother, who puts him first and worries about his well being before anything else.

    • Vicki Johnson
      December 10, 2013 at 2:58 pm

      No words could tell you how much I loved reading this, I just love you all the more. You have changed who I am forever and I could never thank you enough.

  4. December 10, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    You answered this letter with such grace. I loved it.

  5. One-Who-Resigned
    December 10, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    Honestly, at this late date, I don’t know how anyone has the patience for this kind of ignorance. If there actually is a Celestial Kingdom, Meg (and Jake and Wendy and Tom, et. al.) will have a special place waiting for them in the hereafter.

    There are so many jaw-droppers in Anonymous’ post that I hardly know where to begin. And really, what’s the point? I get the impression that nothing, absolutely nothing, would penetrate.

    There is one comment I want to single out, though.

    Anonymous wrote:

    “. . . But there are many infirmities for which there won’t be complete healing until the next life.”

    To the extent that this kind of thinking still permeates Mormon culture and Mormon belief, I would argue that such an environment is still a deeply unhealthy one for GLBT people and especially GLBT youth — apparently better than when I was a young Mormon, but still something a caring, responsible parent should be gravely concerned about. Framing a young gay person’s sexual orientation as pathological or deficient (or temporary until a “fix” can be implemented in the next life) is an attack on their sense of self-esteem. It seems to me the correct response is, no, I will not subject my child to that kind of poison. GLBT adults, of course, can make their own decisions and are better able to defend themselves in matters related to Mormonism, but children deserve and need protection from this virulent, archaic type of thinking.

  6. Wendy Montgomery
    December 10, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    Absolutely beautiful, Meg. You eloquently expressed how many of us moms of gay children feel. Our children are in no way a burden. They are one of our biggest blessings. I’m grateful every single day for having a gay son. He teaches me daily. My church didn’t teach me how to love, my son did. Love you so much, dear friend!

  7. Mark Steele
    December 10, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    Thank you for your thoughtful response to anonymous’ questions. I believe your careful, patient responses are the only way that person will have a real opportunity to revisit their thinking. So much of what you said made sense to me.

    On confusion, I will say that our child at first thought she was gay, but later earned the understanding that she was actually transgender. He is succeeding now in his true gender identity, but understanding didn’t come immediately.

    One side thing, I believe your shaming and being ashamed of–gasp!–having been far right is a distraction from the core of your message of love and acceptance.

  8. December 10, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    Meg, I am so happy to hear about parents of LGBT youth with your attitude! Great post. It sounds like Jon is so fortunate to be raised in your home. Over a year ago, I read of Christian (though not LDS) parents who similarly responded with great love and support upon learning a child was gay. Their courage and love inspired me to write this short poem:

    If only every family had a gay child
    The cancerous shame
    That begs for deception,
    That builds walls of loneliness,
    That even takes young lives,
    Would be gone in a generation
    Because no falsehoods can survive
    A parent’s love.

    Best wishes to your family.

    • Sara Cook
      December 11, 2013 at 10:36 pm

      Meg what amazing answers to all those difficult questions we have had to face. I have felt all of what you have felt but have never been able to express it all as well as you did. Thank you for your comments. I especially appreciated the things Andy shared with Jon, it is so eye opening to learn the real experiences of Lgbt people and the hell they go through. My love to you and your family, you guys are the best! You are such a positive example and help to me.

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