As a faithful LDS/Mormon family, we expected our son Will to follow a
certain path. He would grow up, get married, start a family, and be a
faithful and active member of the church. But for our family, a
different story began around the time our son Will turned 2. We began
to notice that anytime he could, he would choose all things "girl."
He loved everything pink and sparkly. What we soon learned was that
he was gender-nonconforming, a child whose behavior and preferences
didn't fit with how he was expected to act based on his gender.
We spent a great deal of time and energy researching this and trying
to figure out what this would mean for our family. With the help of a
pediatrician, we were able to find an online support community that
showed us how to truly love, support, and guide our son. We also
learned that many kids who are gender-nonconforming like Will would
be gay when they grow up.
Armed with that knowledge, it didn't come as a surprise when, at age
9, Will began to tell us he had crushes on other boys. As an active
LDS family, the fact that our son may be gay had many implications for
us. We worried, and still do worry, a great deal about what the
future would hold for Will and for our family. What would other
church members think, and how would they react to this? Could we fully
support Will and still stay active members of our church?
Around this time our family was introduced to Dr. Caitlin Ryan of San
Francisco State University and her Family Acceptance Project (FAP).
FAP's research laid out the facts for us: that our decision to love
and accept Will for who he was meant that he was far less likely to
attempt suicide, experience depression, or abuse drugs, and far more likely to have a happy
life. It was incredible that the decision that my family has made --
not an easy one in an LDS community -- to fully support, love, and
accept our son can literally change his life for the better. Seeing
her research helped give us the courage and permission to celebrate
Will for the incredibly strong and brave person that he is -- exactly
as he is.
Now FAP is releasing a new version of the original pamphlet that
helped us, Supportive Families, Healthy Children, aimed specifically at LDS
families of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) children.
This pamphlet enables LDS families to keep their focus on the
well-being of their kids by letting them know the consequences of the
their acceptance or lack thereof, written in language that will be
familiar to LDS readers. One of the best features of the pamphlet is
its guidance on what acceptance can and should look like: Supporting a
child's identity, advocating for a child when he or she is mistreated
because of that identity, and connecting your child with LGBT
resources and organizations are just a few of the ways parents can
Sometimes we, as active LDS members, don't really know how to support
LGBT children. We love them so much but often hear conflicting
messages. We get confused about which way to go with our kids.
Oftentimes, it feels like we are being forced to make one of two
impossible choices: support our kids and leave the church,
or stay in the church and risk sending our children the message that
their very existence is wrong because they are LGBT -- and we are well
aware the harm that can cause to them.
Nearly every day as active LDS people, we feel as if we are living
a double life. Somehow we continually find ourselves needing to
justify supporting our child. As parents, we think this pamphlet could
be the bridge between these two impossible choices -- a bridge that
connects the LDS church to information that could save the lives of
LDS kids like Will, in a way that is accessible and meets LDS
families where they are, instead of from a place of judgment.
Right now, our family's struggles are a secret, and we are forced to
use a pseudonym because we are, simply put, afraid -- for our son, for
our other children, for all of us. Armed with information such as
this, perhaps we could find the acceptance we so desperately want and
Will is 13 now and only out to our family. We have no idea
what the future will hold for our family. We love being a part of the
LDS community and have strong faith-based beliefs. We desperately
hope that when and if Will chooses to come out to other people, he
will be met with love and acceptance. No matter what, we will be there
to support him.
We hope other members of our LDS ward family will understand the
choices we have made and will make in support of Will. We are so
thankful for Dr. Ryan's research and hope that it will open people's
minds and hearts.
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