By Anita Stephens
It was February 25 2011, I night I will never forget and the day we embarked on a journey we never expected.
That is the night we discovered our 2nd son Tyler was gay. We belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or as many know us as “Mormons”.
Why am I just now writing this? Well, for many reasons . First was because it took us some time to work through the many emotions that come. First shock and then denial, then ‘We can fix this’, to ‘I am not sure how people will receive us or our son’.This is my experience and hopefully at some point my husband will share his specific experience, as it is different from mine.
The next biggest reason was that I am not a writer. I enjoy teaching and public speaking, but it is very clear to me, that is not one of my stronger characteristics. So I felt I could not articulate this very well. I am not afraid to talk about it, but just couldn’t put it in writing.
What changed?? This weekend I had the privilege of attending the Affirmation conference in Salt Lake City.
My amazing husband agreed to come with me at the last minute as I had sprained my ankle badly and was on crutches. He became my driver, door holder, purse holder, security to keep me from falling on my head or knocking someone over, and just all around company.
While at the conference since I did a lot of sitting ,watching and listening, it came to me that the story of our journey might help another parent. As I saw the pain in some of their eyes as they talked about parents who just can’t seem to understand or really accept them, I thought…We didn’t handle this really well initially either, but look where we are now. We are not perfect and we have not done everything right I’m sure, but there is no manual for this. There is no guide that says this is how you handle having an LGBT child. We all are just doing the best we can. I use an analogy frequently about a journey down the river, and that we each are in our own boat. (I will write a separate post explaining that in more detail later.)
If we can understand that we are each unique in this journey, we can be more patient with ourselves and others.
For almost a year I struggled with this in silence. I knew of no other LDS families who had gay children. Yes, I could talk to my husband, but he too was traveling this journey differently than myself. Tyler was very patient with us, and cooperated as I took him to therapy and suggested meeting with the Bishop.
A very profound experience for me was the next morning (Feb. 26th) when Tyler came home from School, and for the first time in many months was smiling and happy. The son we had known for 17 years had returned. He no longer carried that burden of hiding this piece of his identity. He could just be …Tyler.
I immediately went to Deseret Book and looked for anything they had on the subject. It wasn’t much, although each thing I read helped to plug little holes in my boat that I traveled in on my journey.
I researched the Internet, I went to the library. There was so much confusing information. He wasn’t neglected or abused by his Dad. For me I just couldn’t buy into the notion that this was a choice for him. Really??? Someone would choose to be picked on, bullied, beaten, ridiculed. singled out?? There was no way this was a choice, so that meant that he came this way from Heavenly Father.
Why would Heavenly Father do this to him? What does this mean for him? our Family? It brought so many questions, many of which we still don’t have answers to, and maybe never will in this life.
But here is where we have come to now. The weekend of Sept 6th for the 2nd year we marched in the Las Vegas Pride Parade. WE had about 50 people with us.
I always thought I had a big heart and was compassionate, but on this journey it has increased ten fold. As a young women on the parade route said to me, “I wished my mom loved me”. All I could do was hug her and tell her “I’m sorry”. As others have told me their stories and I see the pain in their eyes, I just want to take it all away for them. I want to help and protect.
These are God’s children too.
When saw we thee naked and clothed thee hungry and fed thee ? In as much as ye have done it unto the least of these ye have done it unto me.
I apologize if my writing is not eloquent or my punctuation or grammar is incorrect, but I hope you can see a glimpse into my heart and the feelings behind them. Maybe this will help someone else who is struggling in this river, or who has yet to get in their boat.