What Helps and What Hurts

 This past year has been quite a journey for my family and me.  Learning about our teenage son’s sexual orientation was life-changing.  The heartache, questioning, and confusion was intense.  But oh – the blessings that came!    I feel my Savior’s hand in my life often – teaching me how to love unconditionally, how to comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and bear up the hands that hang down.  I like the “new” me so much better!  I have changed and grown more in this past year than at any other point in my life.  I think my Savior is proud of my progression, for I feel Him closer to me than ever before.

Our testimony and belief in the core of the gospel has not changed.  But some of our assumptions and beliefs about what it means to be Mormon have changed.  And the way other people perceive us has changed drastically.  People now view us as “fringe” or even “apostate” because we have a gay son who we love and accept completely.  This change has left many uncomfortable, and unsure of how to be with us.  This saddens me.  I feel an aching loss when I think of how past relationships used to be, and wonder if they will ever be that again.

We have been the recipients of much love, understanding and support.  But we have also received harsh criticism, judgment, and ugliness.  Most who have been harsh to us probably don’t even realize that their words and actions are being perceived that way.  They view it as defending the Church or staying in line with what past Church leaders have said.  But I can tell you – from painful first-hand experience – these words and actions cut deep, and often makes church feel like a hostile place instead of a refuge.

So I have compiled two lists, all based on our interactions this past year.  The first is what hurts.  The second is what helps.  This is not meant to be a comprehensive list on the subject, just what my own experience has been.  My hope in writing this article is for those that are caught somewhere in the middle and might not know how to respond to someone who is gay.  Maybe they will see that you don’t have to choose between the Church and your gay loved ones.  You really can love and embrace them BOTH!  Our lives are infinitely more colorful and rich for having these LGBT family and friends in our midst.

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Hurts:

  • Gossiping (even if you justify it by saying you’re talking about how to help that person)
  • Judgmental glances or looking at the individual as if they are deserving of your pity
  • Not making eye contact, or looking away
  • Being afraid/uneasy to enter into a conversation with a gay Mormon.
  • Saying things like: “Love the sinner, hate the sin” or “I love you, but this is still wrong”.  (Since when is someone else’s sins – real or imagined – any of our business?)
  • Using terms like “same-sex attracted” (SSA) or “same-gendered attracted” (SGA) or saying they “struggle” with homosexuality.
  • Trying to compare what they’re experiencing to other diseases, afflictions, defects, etc.  (The only thing homosexuality can be legitimately compared to is heterosexuality!)
  • Quoting prophets or church leaders (especially using outdated and faulty information from decades ago) as a way of proving you are right and shaming them into obedience
  • Promising a change/cure if they just pray harder or are more righteous
  • Telling them to have an eternal perspective, this life is short, your life will be better in heaven.  (My son will have a good life here on Earth!)
  • Telling them to read The Miracle of Forgiveness (Even the author himself said to his son he’d wished he’d been more kind in this book.)
  • Acting/being embarrassed to have that person around you or your family
  • Acting/talking like you know what’s best for gay Mormons

love-inspirational-daily

 Helps:

  •  Eye contact
  • A hug
  • Genuine concern
  • Open conversation (questions are welcomed and even encouraged if your end goal is to gain understanding and be supportive, not to try and prove them wrong)
  • Listening with the intent to HEAR, not with the intent to respond.
  • Doing whatever you can so they feel welcome in their family, ward or school
  • Say “I love you”. PERIOD.  (Not “I love you, but …”) There should be no buts, asterisks, qualifications or conditions.
  • People who say, “I don’t understand what you’re going through, but I still love you and support you.”
  • Showing empathy, compassion, and validating their feelings.
  • DON’T JUDGE.
  • When someone reaches out to you for help, support, or a shoulder to cry on, just listen.  Even if you don’t know what to say.  (There is a reason God gave us one mouth and two ears.  We should listen twice as much as we talk.)
  • Don’t offer judgment, righteous condemnation, or criticism of their choices.
  • Just listen and love them!

Some of the most in-depth coverage given to the subject of what helps and hurts is from the Family Acceptance Project’s brochure “Supportive Families, Healthy Children” for LDS families.  If you haven’t read it, PLEASE take a moment to do so.  It has the potential to do more good and prevent serious harm to our LGBT youth than any other resource out there.  Thank you to those truly fantastic people who researched and created this booklet for us.  If you are inspired by their work and would like to donate, here is a link on how to do that.

I love the beauty, dignity, faith and gut-wrenching pain that is the Mormon LGBT community, of which my son is a part.  Some of my favorite people come from or are allies to this community.  I have learned more about Christ-like love from them than from any Sunday School lesson or Sacrament meeting talk.  I am grateful for their example.  I will leave you with a quote from the very insightful Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

 

14 comments for “What Helps and What Hurts

  1. Dean Tingey
    March 2, 2013 at 7:40 am

    Thank you for sharing these lists. Thank you, also, for being an example of love for your son.

  2. Yvette
    March 2, 2013 at 8:14 am

    Perfectly said Wendy. This would make a wonderful and needed relief society lesson or sacrament meeting talk!

  3. Anonymous
    March 2, 2013 at 10:34 am

    This is a great list, and a great post. I admire you so much for your bravery. I don’t dare tell anyone outside of my family and a few close friends that I’m gay. I can’t imagine going to church with people who know. Thank you for being such a good example.

    • Anita
      March 3, 2013 at 4:29 pm

      Anonymous. I am so sorry you do not feel safe in your ward.Ti is not what our savior would want. I hope you know that there are many of us here for you if you need us.As a mother of a gay son, tis breaks my heart to know that he probably experienced many of these same feelings, and he has since left the church because he “feels he does not fit”

  4. Gretta
    March 2, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    Wonderful. Thank you.

  5. Mary sheflo.
    March 2, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    I thought your message was great. I try to treat everyone like I would like to be treated. I liked you list, that was great. It really made me think, am I doing those things to people, I hope not. Thanks for sharing a part of your life with us.

  6. Debbie
    March 2, 2013 at 8:20 pm

    Excellent post!

  7. PerriL68
    March 2, 2013 at 8:59 pm

    Thank-you so much for sharing this beautiful message. I wish this could be a talk in every single one of our wards. May we one day see the end of discrimination, judgment, hostility, fear and unkindness in our wards and in our communities, and may we always remember to be kind…period. :)

  8. Helen Duff from Dumfries
    March 3, 2013 at 11:11 am

    What a pity more people can not read this
    You are wonderful people to know

  9. Anita
    March 3, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    So grateful for you Wendy, You always seem to be able to put into words exactly how I feel. I hope you don’t mind if I use some of them.

  10. Wendy Montgomery
    March 4, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    This is from my mom:
    As Jordan’s grandma I guess I can say that I’ve been a part to some things on both of Wendy’s lists…..first let me say that I could not love this young man more …. He is as he always has been, our happy, smiling, loving Jordan. NO ONE in the family treats him differently, loves him less, or wants to avoid him, and the last thing we want to do is hurt or offend our daughter or grandson.
    We’re on a new, rather foreign, journey and have hit bumps and hills on the way, but we are trying…..really we are. I am not embarrassed to say I have a gay grandson, I would be able to welcome gay members in my ward, if I knew their situation, and would try to be extra friendly. Maybe they’re there already and I just don’t know. I’m not real comfortable with the “social media” aspect, but that’s just me, I’m old, so this will probably me my one and only post like this, but I think the main thing that has been reinforced in my mind this last year is that the gospel of Jesus Christ is for EVERYONE … ALWAYS AND IN ALL WAYS, That our Heavenly Father knows us and LOVES US with the perfect love we can’t comprehend, that faith is crucial in everyone’s life (gay or straight) and this life is not the end, and that tolerance is a gift we should all receive, and freely give.

  11. Merrilee Shafer
    March 5, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    Thank you for helping me get closer to my son. I love you.

  12. Lisa
    March 31, 2013 at 2:55 am

    I am a straight active Mormon who is seeking to better understand, and found this site through a friend’s blog. What a beautiful and helpful list. Thank you.

  13. michele386@yahoo.com
    August 3, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    Wendy ,
    It was a pleasure to meet you on Wednesday. My son is gay and I am so proud of him. I want to get this message out to our ward leaders but I’m afraid our bishop wouldn’t be open to it. My husband served in the bishopric with him and he felt it was necessary to go and excommunicate 2 women who are supposedly gay. My husband disagreed and suggested that we welcome and love and serve them. Anyone have any ideas on how to approach our ward leaders.
    Michele

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