My name is Jennie Brown. When my husband and I started our family, I thought I was going to have all sons because it’s kind of in my genetic make-up. For generations on both sides, every family only got one girl. I was ready to be a Boy Mom Specialist! Growing up with all brothers, I knew about burping contests, the drool trick, and swirlies. Imagine my surprise, when 3 wonderful daughters later, I found myself surrounded by Barbie dolls, rhinestones, and tutus. Danny was born into a family of feminine and powerful women. His dad was a great role model of healthy masculinity: hard work, fly fishing, power tools, service to others. But Danny was intrigued by his sisters’ world: fairy dolls, make-up, dance costumes. I didn’t worry about his masculinity. He was a delightful child with an incredible mind and a fun loving heart. I could see, even when he was three years old, that his mind was gifted. He saw connections and patterns in the world that most people overlooked. He was incredibly analytical and literally played himself sick one Christmas day when he overloaded on Lego building projects.
When he was an infant, I used to lie beside him on my bed and in my mind’s eye, would see a full size spirit: as big as an adult, but very innocent, very pure. It was around this time one day when I was rocking him in my arms when a voice in my mind said, “Lay down a track of unconditional love in his brain right now. He’s going to need to come back to this place later.” I sent out loving energy and imagined pouring a golden pavement somewhere in his psyche, a bedrock of unconditional love. And I promised him that nothing in his future could change the beautiful and overwhelming love I felt for my sweet baby boy. It felt very guided by the Holy Spirit. When it was over, I stood up and thought, “Wow. That was beautiful. But I wondered what in his future will make him need that kind of unconditional love?” And immediately the thought came to me, “Well, maybe he’ll be gay.” I was startled by the thought, as it was not my own.
As Danny grew up, we realized he had a very sensitive heart. He wasn’t a lightweight. He just had so much compassion and such big emotions that he avoided cruelty and violence. The worst birthday he ever had was when I forced him to go to a World War II movie that was so historic and inspiring that I felt everyone should see it. Millions of moviegoers loved Unbroken, but he hated seeing darkness and abuse anywhere. He cried himself to sleep that night.
Danny tried on the boy things–sports teams, dating, scouting, kissing girls. But they just didn’t stick. Then there was his love for dancing. Honestly, I suspected he might be gay and I didn’t want to be blamed for making him gay by putting him in ballet. But he danced anyway-at home, in the school halls, in the church gym. He would make up tap dances for visitors. He would drop into the splits in the foyer at church. Danny had a flair for the artistic and dramatic. As I saw his personality take shape, I told him about the unconditional love I had for him and let him know that it would be okay if he turned out to be gay, as the Spirit had suggested years ago that he might be.
It took a lot of introspection and honesty for Danny to admit he was gay. We all knew life would be easier if he could choose a straight lifestyle. But it was not a choice for him. For years, Danny would talk about growing up with disdain. He spoke of his future, responsible adult self with resentment. We were confused by this and tried to point out the good things about being an adult. Once Danny came out to himself and us, he stopped hating his future self. He realized he had been trying to force his Future Self into the typical straight Mormon Dad role and that’s why he felt resentment. He knew that wasn’t him. Danny courageously came out near the end of his Senior year and all of a sudden he was excited about his future. He was motivated and happy about a future that included romance, companionship, and love.
And that is where the inner turmoil started. It did not cause me pain to know my son was gay. I was pretty much told that he came that way. He now understood himself and was moving toward a future that made sense to him. Danny has been prepared all his life to be a caring father, to sacrifice for his family, to be a loving husband, to serve others and spread the light of Christ. In accepting his attraction to men, none of those goals have changed. And there is the rub. The current policy of our church is for gay members to remain single for life. This is the crazy making part for Danny: He has been taught all his life that Family is central to God’s plan and yet Danny doesn’t get one. What does this mean? God doesn’t think Danny is worthy of a family? God wants Danny to skip the whole family experience and then get one in the afterlife–after having his gayness “cured”? What if we like Danny just the way he is–compassionate, creative, dramatic, sensitive and gay? Right now there are no good answers.
What I wish church leaders could see is that we all have the same goal: strong, happy families. Gay people are not out to destroy families. They just want to worship and love like anyone else. But in an attempt to “defend the family”, the church is pushing out the very members they should be ministering to. They are actually weakening families–families like us, who have devoted our whole lives to Christ and the church. Danny is not an outsider trying to bring down the church or traditional families. He is a Latter Day Saint guy who happens to be attracted to guys. A guy who wants to raise a family with strong values and bonds of love. But under current policy, if Danny starts a family, he will not have the support of church membership to help teach his children values of kindness, honesty, and service. You would think the church would want to strengthen all families.
I know that Danny is not broken in God’s eyes. He has special gifts that the world needs. He is full of creativity, vision, compassion, style and sass. I just want my precious son to one day have a family of his own and to be able to practice his faith the way he was raised. We are so grateful that our local church members have been compassionate. The issue brings up strong feelings and we don’t have a lot of answers. But the appropriate response is always Christ-like love. Our church community has shown that kindness to my Danny Boy and I love them for that. It makes me hope that he might be able to raise his family in such a loving community of followers of Christ some day.
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This In My Own Words story is a contribution from Let’s Love Better, a Facebook group dedicated to helping people learn to better share love, while fostering an atmosphere of understanding. When we know better, we do better.