The journey of my family since my son came out last year has been a roller coaster ride of highs and lows. The spiritual, intellectual and emotional investment required to make sense and find peace between two polarizing worlds is challenging to say the least. We have been willing to pay that price and see what can happens when both the religious and LGBTQ worlds collide. With a foot planted in each, we have followed the bread crumbs of answers we have received and moved forward.
Creating “Families Are Forever” with Dr. Caitlin Ryan of the Family Acceptance Project has been a defining labor over the course of the past year. She has truly had an inspired vision of the happy existence of LGBTQ kids supported in their homes and families. Her work integrates seamlessly into any religious context without threatening or challenging one’s religious beliefs or principles.
That such a thing could exist is a miracle in and of itself. Her work will first and foremost save lives, but more dramatically is its potential to elevate and raise the quality of living for LGBTQ youth (and adults). Her work has at its foundation in the fact that LGBTQ youth are best served being loved and supported within their families.
As a Mormon, this speaks volumes to me. Families are the center of our theology and my gay son will always be a part of our family. I do not mean to throw out all other theological arguments regarding homosexuality. However, with a strong, supportive family unit and a strong, loving relationship with the Savior, my gay son (and others like him) will be able to make constructive life choices and receive the guidance they need from the Savior.
So in that spirit, I wanted to share my families experience from this past weekend. We were in Berkeley and San Francisco at two showings of the film “Families are Forever”. One was primarily to a supportive LDS audience of 100+ and the other was to a packed LGBTQ audience at the Victoria Theater in San Francisco for the film’s debut at the Frameline37 LGBTQ film festival.
The response at the showing to the largely LDS audience was great. In the Q&A afterward many thoughtful and progressive questions were asked regarding the changes and direction the LDS Church and Mormon culture are making. Certainly there has been dramatic change in the past year. Examples are www.mormonsandgays.org and the Church’s support of the new BSA policy regarding gay scouts. I am appreciative of the long decades of work and the broad shoulders of those who have worked and suffered before us paving the way for such changes. Carol Lynn Pearson told me she was excited to see a new generation of pioneers forging ahead. Her effort to be there for us was remarkable.
The next night was the debut of the film at the Fameline37 film festival. This was in the heart of the LGBTQ homeland in the Victoria Theater (In the Mission District of San Francisco). I am not sure what I expected. With Prop 8 pending a decision from the Supreme Court, I feared we might have a crowd with largely negative feelings toward religion, especially Mormons. Prop 8 has been the most polarizing subject in California for over 5 years. My expectations were dim.
So “Families Are Forever” played to the LGBTQ crowd at the Victoria Theater. . . . and the crowd applauded and roared with approval. At several points during the film there was clapping and people crying out. Afterward, the crowd rose to a standing ovation. This was a tribute to the work of Dr. Caitlin Ryan and the Family Acceptance Project.
I was a participant but I was also an observer. So many are seeking to heal the rift between themselves and their religious roots. So many want healing between themselves and their families. I was overwhelmed. The LGBTQ community drank up every ounce of the film and we spent the next four hours speaking one by one with individuals and couples.
This wasn’t about me or my family, but it was about the desire and need for LGBTQ people to stay connected to their families and their religious roots. This was about family. This was the best of what it means to be Mormon mixed with the love and inclusiveness of the LGBTQ community.
On the stage of the Victoria Theater, my son was asked why he wanted to be involved with “Families Are Forever”. He said, “I just wanted to help build a bridge between the LGBTQ community and my Mormon community.” At that moment I felt that as a Mormon (and a proud father), we finally got something right.
To see a preview of “Families are Forever” and to see the other video in the same series click on video
To download “Supportive Families: Healthy Children” LDS version click on publications
The documentary will be screened in Salt Lake City on July 31 as part of a free public lecture sponsored by Sunstone and the Smith-Petit Foundation. The lecture, scheduled for 8:00 pm at the Saltair Room of the University of Utah Student Union, will feature Dr. Caitlin Ryan of the Family Acceptance Project, along with Mormon allies Robert Rees and Erika Munson, blogger Mitch Mayne, Ogden’s OUTReach Center director Marian Edmunds, and Tom and Wendy Montgomery.