Our oldest child came out to me in a heart wrenching phone conversation.
After an hour of tears and hopelessness she asked, “what if I’m gay?” This question came from our beautiful, inside and out, 27 yr old perfect child. A return missionary who excels at anything and everything she chooses to. Anybody would be lucky to spend time with her. I know it sounds biased, but truly, ask anyone who knows her!
She loves our Heavenly Father, our Savior and the Gospel of Jesus Christ the very most! And always has. She’s our obedient child. The one who cares about everyone in her life. Even those who aren’t easy to care for. She’s the glue, she’s the spiritual giant, and the one child we never need to worry about. I remember times in her childhood wondering if she was gay. But, it was a fleeting thought. I can’t even put my finger on why I wondered but she was different then the rest of my children and different then the other kids she grew up with. She has always been loved by friends, teachers and other adults. She’s super responsible, the kind of person you’d trust your life with. She went to all the school dances, but always as “a friend”. Never a kiss or love interest.
After her mission she knew it was time to move into the next phase of life, settle into something, so she chose a career and received her BSN at the U of U. Now, works as a nurse at Primary Children’s Hospital, and of course, loved by all. Truly, a perfect person.
Now that her career was set she felt immense pressure to date and find a good man to marry. Feeling massive anxiety she pushed through it and dated. A lot. She also spent time in therapy hoping to understand “what was wrong with her”. She really wanted to be married and start a family, but closing in on 30, in Utah, and being a member of the church she felt frustrated with herself. She was no closer to finding a man she could see herself spending eternity/the rest of her life with let alone the night! Her anxiety grew stronger and stronger. Grandparents, family and loved ones would ask the inevitable question while others would be on a constant prowl to set her up with the right guy, including me! Oh! We/She tried. Every man she brought home I didn’t feel was right for her. I never voiced it, always supporting a possible relationship but in my gut I knew he wasn’t right for her. I liked all of them but if I’m being honest, none seemed compatible.
Once her career was in place she knew it was time to try to settle into something, and then she suffered a devastating loss. Her biological father passed away unexpectedly and this was heartbreaking. It was a set back and, another excuse to avoid. Avoid. Avoid. Then one day, months after asking the question, “am I gay?” She was asked out on a date. This time it was by another woman. And this time she felt happy. Excited. Even giddy! She cried and cried. Wondering how she could ever find happiness. She knew she didn’t want to live the celibate life the church asks our gay friends to do.
Now, put yourself in her shoes, consider, you’re a straight person, knowing your world expected you to date the same sex. Or, You, a straight man asked out by another man on a date. Would you want that? How would you come to terms for yourself knowing this is what was expected? She had already spent so many years feeling like a lie to those who knew and loved her. Years of being lonely and felt like it was no longer an option.
So here she is, my perfect daughter, in conflict. The 2 most important ways she identifies with herself 100% completely in conflict… If she suppresses her sexuality so she can fully fit in the church she betrays sexuality. If she leaves the church to explore her sexuality she betrays herself. What does one do? I mean, really? Sure, it’s easy for many to say, “just be celibate and remain an active faithful member for the REST OF YOUR LIFE, then you’ll receive all the blessings God wants to bless you with”.
I’ve always had respect for a man who choose celibacy to become a Catholic priest. However, to me, it seems unfair for a church to ask this of a person. To deny companionship, marriage, fatherhood and all the important growth that accompanies necessary choices made with a partner seems like not part of “the plan”. In my opinion, It seems to be one of the most important abilities Heavenly Father has given us is to create families. As dysfunctional as families can be it’s the closest way we can become more like Him. The most optimal way to progress and prepare for the next eternal step. And yet, gay LDS people are asked to remain celibate for their whole life? It just doesn’t make sense to me.
After YEARS of torment, our daughter finely came out. The last year and a half has been that of growth full of tears, joy, and a lot of soul searching. As parents and extended family we’ve unitedly prayed and searched for peace and
understanding. Guess what!!!? We’ve received it and so much more! We’ve watched Madison thrive. She’s happier and comfortable in her own skin knowing her world understands her and still loves her. She is gay, she is a daughter of God and knows her Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love her. She still loves them and relies on them and the Holy Ghost more then ever. She understands personal revelation and Gods hand in her life.
So, after much prayer, study, and fasting she went out on that date. For the first time in her life is able to truly allow herself to feel joy and excitement to go. It’s been 9 months now of bliss and that feeling only being in love can bring.
As a mother who has been a lifetime member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, this was very different then I imagined for my oldest. I have been presented with a choice. I can either be embarrassed and ashamed or embrace and support. There is nothing that will ever come between me and my children. I am entrusted to be their mother and what a privilege it is. Ultimately, I know Love is always the answer, and, of course, I embrace and support her.
Little did I know how much the journey I walk with my LGBTQ bothers and sisters would benefit me. All I knew about them was taught to me by straight people and I see I was wrong. I’ve always believed I accepted, loved and didn’t judge. But little did I know I was about to understand our Saviors mission on a whole new level. I knew so little about loving others, unconditionally, without judgement. I suddenly saw the struggle these faithful, valuable and beautiful people have in this Mormon culture. I see so many having to make choices beyond my comprehension. I’ve witness again and again kids who have heard their whole lives in church and home how terrible same sex attraction is and if one acts out this “lifestyle” they would be considered apostates and excommunicated. I’ve seen children, kicked out of their homes or disowned by family. How? How can this be? Some even taking their own lives. What is this madness? Is this how our Heavenly Father and Savior wants us to be? We dig our heels in and “stand for whats right” regardless of what it does to our children? Does he love his LGBTQ children less? NOPE!
I remember the exact moment I truly began to understand the pain these precious souls feel and I cried and cried. Like, the ugly cry. I wept for hours. My heart truly broke. I wanted everyone to feel and understand this. And, I’m certain I’m only beginning to understand the love our Savior has for us all. I now know the sooner we, collectively, as the body of Christ, figure this out, the sooner we truly love and embrace ALL, the more useful we’ll all be to His plan of happiness. It’s time we truly listen to, learn about and love these beautiful people. We NEED each other! And, we will not be whole until we all get there together. Let’s not wander in the desert for 40 years. Let’s arrive now to where our loving Heavenly parents want us. Let’s respect and honor each other’s choices and journey without personally condemning. Let’s not believe it is our job to teach those WE feel make poor choices a lesson. Let’s give God his job back. Who are we to judge? I have truly learned I am here to love. That is my job. My only job. Boy, it’s a beautiful thing. Once I shed all the layers of what I thought I was supposed to be because I am LDS, I felt joy! Just like the Grinch I’ve literally felt my heart grow 3 sizes bigger.
If you find this is your journey as a parent, open your heart. Prepare to be taught. Know that love will take care of it all. I’ve had a personal revelation that all is well. I have faith our Heavenly Father knows what to do and I just get to love.
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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.