Ever since Just Because He Breathes was printed here on the Huffington Post, I've been getting emails. Lots of emails, packed with questions from gay "children" who want to have a good relationship with their Christian parents. A lot of you, like me, are people pleasers... and almost all of you want to have open, honest, respectful relationships with your parents, whatever your age. In this two part blog, I am going to try to answer some of the questions, for use by any gay "child" who has a Christian parent -- or even any parent -- with whom they want to be in relationship.
Things to Remember About Parents
Parents, particularly Christian/Catholic/conservative parents, are probably going to need some time -- maybe a lot of time -- to figure out how they feeling after finding out that their son or daughter is gay/trans/queer.
The list below is not a list of excuses for bad behavior on the part of parents, but it is my attempt to help you have some understanding of where they might be coming from. Families require a lot of grace, hopefully given by all parties. Unfortunately, the reality is that you as the child may have to be the one who gets the grace going.
I think this is for a lot of reasons, but here are some of the biggest ones:
1. No parent wants his/her child to have a harder life.
Inarguably, the life of an LGBTQ teen/adult is more difficult than the life of a straight person in America -- and immeasurably more difficult in many other countries. This is something any parent is going to feel, even if they don't have any concern about your sexuality otherwise.
2. Most parents have the "dream" that their child will someday grow up, marry and produce grandchildren.
When I found out that my future wasn't going to necessarily include four heterosexual children and four spouses, all happily married with their own children (obviously, this is ludicrous, in hindsight), I had to surrender that dream to God, to give that up for the better dream that He had for us. But that took some time. Allow your parents some time to grieve the loss of that dream, if you can.
3. We parents can put way too much importance in how our family and friends see our children, and, consequently, us.
It is true that "good parents" are often deemed worthy of that title by the spiritual, moral and academic success of their children. This is a complete fallacy, but it is a very real pressure that parents face. It takes time, and a lot of strength (for us, that came from God), to be able to let go of what our friends and family think, and to only listen to what God is saying to us. Most likely, you won't be able to convince them that what their friends at church think doesn't matter. You might be able to tell them that you need to know that you are more important than their friends, though.
4. Christian parents have been taught that being gay means this: You will reject God. You will live a dangerous, life-threatening "lifestyle."
You will never be truly happy. You will abuse drugs and alcohol. You will have repeated, random hook-ups with complete strangers. A lot of them. And again, you will reject God, which means, to many Christian parents, that you will spend an eternity in hell.
None of the above is true, but it was exactly what I was taught. And what I believe is still being taught by many churches and Christian organizations. This lie -- what I like to call propaganda -- is largely what caused my severe reaction of fear when Ryan came out to us. I believed all the Christian pastors and leaders who had told me that these were the facts. Again, it took time for us to realize that this was not true -- not true at all.
5. Parents can sometimes be incredibly hurtful and cause you unspeakable pain.
We can do this, all the while thinking that we are doing what is "best" for you, because we are "speaking truth." Too many of you have told me of horribly painful things your parents have said, done or posted on Facebook. Although it is easy for me to think, "At least we never kicked Ryan out, or told him he was going to hell, or said he was abomination... at least we weren't that mean"... the truth is we did do things that, unintentionally, broke Ryan's heart. I could make you a list (not without crying). But we never did stop loving Ryan, we just hadn't learned, yet, what the kind of unconditional love God was calling us to looked like.
6. Your parents, if they are Christians, will probably need the support of other Christian parents with LGBTQ kids.
For conservative Christian parents, PFLAG isn't usually the right fit. In order to truly work through their own questions, your parents will probably need other Christians who are farther along in their process to come alongside them. Unfortunately, you can't really find this kind of support in an evangelical church...yet.
In the past month, we have started a small network of Christian parents who love Jesus and who also love their LGBTQ child. Right now, the parents are literally and figuratively all over the map -- where they live and where they are in their process of learning to fully love and relate to their child. But since we're all on the journey, we are able to be there for each other, providing support, prayer and understanding that we haven't found in our local churches. We are praying for the resources needed to allow this network to grow and include more parents; we must come alongside parents of LGBTQ kids and give them a safe place to figure out how to truly love their child... just because they breathe.
My good friend, Susan Cottrell, also has a great blog with lots of resources for Christian parents of LGBTQ kids: www.FreedHearts.com
7. You are going to need a lot of patience and a lot of faith.
We parents are slow to learn things sometimes, but just as God doesn't give up on you, He doesn't give up on us. It was God who did the "heavy lifting" in what Rob and I needed to learn; He was the one who really hammered the hard lessons home. He never abandoned us, even when we were way off track, following the trail of our own fears rather than following His voice.
Coming Next...So I've Come Out to My Christian Parents... Now What...? (Part Two: Things to Know About Yourself as an Adult Child)
Linda blogs at: JustBecauseHeBreathes.com