My name is Sheri Barker. I’m ashamed to say this, but it took me 35 years to learn how to love better. My brother Troy, came out gay in 1982 and I was tolerant of him. How kind of me and how open-minded I was!? I loved him but I knew he was making bad decisions with severe religious consequences. I loved him but not the things he was doing and I told him so. (wow what an amazing steadfast LDS woman I was by telling him how wrong he was). But I still loved him so I was good.
Fast forward 34 years and my 16 year old son came out to me. My 1st thoughts were not good…. “I’ve been through so many tough trials that God wouldn’t do this to me”. I cried nonstop for a few weeks (okay months) because I knew what this meant for our strong LDS upbringing. It was wrong. What did we do wrong raising him to be gay? Why was he choosing this? Why didn’t God tell us sooner so we could have stopped his bad feelings? No, we’re not going to Pride Parade. No I’m not going to be an advocate for equality. No, no, no! are you sure you’re gay?
But…this wasn’t about me. This was about my beautiful, precious, son that God sent only to me, to be his mom. To our family. I watched my Zac over the next few days & weeks. He was actually happy. His stomach aches that he had for years went away. He floated around the house. He smiled a lot! He would ask me why I was always crying all the time and I told him that I was sad that he had to go through all these complicated feelings alone when he was younger. But deep down I was also crying because MY plan for my son had changed drastically. I wanted him to serve a mission, to marry a girl and have kids, etc. You know the plan right? I had a wise counselor (thanks Lisa) tell me that we just needed to make a new plan. I could do that.
EVERYTIME my husband and I prayed the only answers we got were to Love Zac. Hey this is my specialty, my talent! I love my children. I can do that and it’s super easy! So that’s what I did. I realized my heart was like the Grinch 34 years ago and now it has grown at least 3 sizes because of my amazing, very loving, patient-with-his-hardheaded-mom, strong son teaching me how to love. Without conditions.
Yes, there’s still hard days like when I was making two boutonnières for prom. Like when my other son left the LDS church because he didn’t like how the church treated his little brother. Like when I wonder what Zac’s children would have looked like. There are also many, many days filled with so much love that I can hardly breathe.
It’s a wonderful life.
Yes, I apologized to my dear brother Troy and I attended his beautiful wedding to his partner Joe. I adore, support, and just plain old love all the LGBT people that I’m privileged to have in my life. There is a whole world full of loving LGBT people. Don’t wait as long as I did. Please get to know them. Please listen to their stories.
Please let them teach you more about 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.