Alyson Paul Deussen: Our experience has been one of rejection and loneliness from a group I always thought was supposed to walk by our side.
How does a young 13-year-old reconcile the fact that he is no longer welcome amongst his peers/leaders at church? We’ve experienced a suicide attempt, being told if he goes on a scout camp out, other parents won’t allow their boys to go. Or that he can attend overnight activities only if he sleeps elsewhere (away from other kids). When many leaders won’t reach out to him or include him in any activities at all, what is a parent to do? If these things don’t make a mothers heart ache I don’t know what does.
I have tried on many occasions to meet with my ward/stake leaders to increase awareness and acceptance over the past two years without much success. Unless these leaders are willing to reach out to the gay members in their wards with love and understanding we will continue to see our LGBT youth and families feel rejected and unwelcome in a place that should be a haven.
That fight for me will not end. I don’t want to see another person, family or child go down that road without endless love and support. For this reason this mama will fight like a dragon to ensure all members or non members feel love and kindness and not the pain and suffering we have felt.
Glenda Crump: Many people, including my Bishop and Stake President, say being gay is like being a drug addict…you can love the child but not accept that they are doing drugs. For me that theory does NOT work. I had a child who was a drug addict, the drugs tore away at who he was, and he was in a dark place. The drugs were a choice and a harmful one at that. My daughter did not have a choice to be born gay or not; it is the way her Heavenly Father created her and she is perfect in His eyes. There are a few options for our LGBT kids; they can choose to take their lives (which many of them do especially in the LDS Faith), they can marry someone of the opposite sex (most of which end in broken families and the leaders have now counseled against the attempt), or they can be alone–which is against everything our religion teaches and usually leads to depression and suicide anyway. Those are the only options the LDS church supports. My Bishop and Stake President called me in to discuss my daughter and how I felt about her choices. Because I refused to openly call my daughter a sinner and also refused to condemn her for being in a same sex relationship, they threatened to take away my temple recommend. My Stake President said negative things about Harry Reed and his support for gay rights. It was a hurtful, contentious meeting and he shamed me and made me feel like I was not worthy to be a Relief Society President. Less than a week later, I was released. It was a hurtful time in my life and in the life of all my children who were already struggling with the church. I have come to understand that though the Gospel is true, the church has a lot of faults because it is ran by men who are imperfect. At first I felt ashamed to let people know about my child, and I faced the long hard road mostly by myself. Now I am a Mama Dragon.
Jen Blair: I watched conferences with hope that there would be positive instruction about this issue. Each session ended with nothing but condemnation for the politics surrounding this. The only message that we could find was that it was okay to BE gay as long as you didn’t really ACT gay. Allies to the community are clearly painted as adversaries to the gospel. As my son has come out publicly, we have had very little direct confrontation. For the most part, we have simply become invisible. There is a palpable tension now. Many members don’t really know how to relax around me any more. They don’t really know how to relate to the mother of a gay son. This has been very difficult. A recent letter from a family member caused upset. Instead of a letter expressing pure love, a collection of church quotes were used as well as a copy of Boyd K. Packer’s testimony and an expression of love for Elder Packer. I have gotten text messages including “I’m a one-on-one true friend, but not a public friend,” and “Don’t translate my public silence as judgment.”
I have lost closeness with many because I am unable to talk about the advocacy and education that I feel passionate about. My relationship with specific family members will never be the same as they now openly question my parenting where they never had before.
Christy Cottle: When my son came out to me as gay at the age of 13, I realized that he had been sitting hearing from the pulpit and in classes for his entire life that he was an abomination. I cannot express the pain that this realization caused me. I had no idea where to turn for help and how to proceed forward. I was terrified for his safety both physically and emotionally. I knew we could not go to our Bishop or other leaders; I didn’t want them to tell me in their ignorance that my son was not whole and perfect the way he was born. We kept the news private within our family for a time. I started reaching out, looking for resources. I wanted to find a book titled: How to Raise Your Gay Son in The LDS Church, but nothing like that existed. Everything that I found written by the leadership was vile and hateful towards those that are gay. I couldn’t and wouldn’t allow my son to ever be abused by the ignorance of the LDS leadership ever again. I grew continually more worried by the phone calls and texts that he sent me expressing the anguish he was experiencing during a lesson at church that was referring to gay people as an abomination. We decided that for the time being that it was safer for us to not attend regular meetings or associate with those that cannot be supportive of us raising our son in a gay-affirming household. This has brought much peace into our hearts as we have found other resources and support outside of the church. There are days that my heart yearns for fellowship with the group and religion that formed and influenced much of my life. It is tragic that the Church of Jesus Christ as a whole cannot provide that safe haven to many.
I am finding more and more that the general Mormon population think that “the gay issue” has been taken care of. That the church is loving and accepting of homosexual people and has a place for them. Sure they aren’t “allowed” to act on it, but it would seem that most are assuming that LGBT people are otherwise openly accepted in Mormonism. This truly could not be further from the truth for the majority LGBT people and their family members or friends who openly support them. Instead, the best-case scenarios commonly reflect Elder Oaks’s recommendation on how to treat LGBT family members or friends: ‘Yes, come, but don’t expect to stay overnight. Don’t expect to be a lengthy house guest. Don’t expect us to take you out and introduce you to our friends, or to deal with you in a public situation that would imply our approval” (1). I honestly don’t know how LGBT people are to feel welcomed and loved if such restrictions are suggested in the way to “love” them. There’s about as much love and acceptance in that scenario as allowing a hungry mosquito to bite you for as long as you can tolerate it before shewing it away, and yet this does appear to be the best that most Mormons can muster.
This isn’t just to make LGBT people comfortable at church. This is literally to save lives. The following study was done by Caitlyn Ryan of the Family Acceptance Project and San Francisco State University. Their research and conclusions concerning LGBT children raised in highly-religious families were peer-reviewed and published in the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics:
“Higher rates of family rejection were significantly associated with poorer health outcomes. On the basis of odds ratios, lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults who reported higher levels of family rejection during adolescence were 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide, 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of depression, 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs, and 3.4 times more likely to report having engaged in unprotected sexual intercourse compared with peers from families that reported no or low levels of family rejection. ” (2)
Utah has an estimated 5,000 homeless youths, about 40 percent of whom identify as LGBT people–50 percent of whom were raised in LDS families (3). What needs to be realized about the staggering nature of these statistics on homeless teens is that only 7% of teens in Utah identify as LGBT, so for them to make up 40% of the homeless youth in Utah is problematic beyond words.
It is clear that “loving the sinner and hating the sin” is pretty much the worst way to love someone. Instead we need to love the sinner (realizing we are all sinners) and only hate our own sin. There is no cause to judge or reject others for homosexuality when truly, its nature and purpose here on earth is beyond any of our comprehension. Everyone is free to come to their own personal conclusions on the sinful or nonsinful nature of homosexuality, but in no way is it anyone’s right to project limiting beliefs on others. My prayer is that one day there will be no need for mothers to have to turn into dragons to protect their children from their religious community. Until then, I’m glad that God has given these women the courage, talons, and fire needed to protect His LGBT sons and daughters from harm.
aren’t we all Children of our ABBA, our Father in Heaven? In my heart, mind and soul there is no gay, no white, no black, no poor, no rich, we all are Children, aren’t we?
FOr me, it has been a blessing to know many people, and there are few who are part of the LGBT community. They are souls, precious souls, each one of them strives towards a better understanding of what he or she is. I know what the scriptures say, and wonder, whether we all really understand when we bring up the subject of gay people. I had to learn to remove my theological filters, to see beyond, the see how ABBA sees us.
And one of the first questions that unveiled was: “How does my loving Father in Heaven view this particular soul?”……it changed me, my thinking, my belief, my faith.
thanks for sharing, I look forward to reading more here…..it has been a tremendous help for me, as I struggle with some of my LDS beliefs.
“How does my loving Father in Heaven view this particular soul?”
Really, that is at the heart of it isn’t it? Thanks for your beautiful comment and sentiments.
You can click on “All posts by Lori Burkman” under my bio for more of my posts if you’re interested. There are lots of great authors here at rational faiths and I hope you find useful information and points of view here!
Beautiful post. While reading it I realized that I have been trying to be a Mama Dragon to my little brother since he came out, because our own mother will not. It breaks my heart, and as his oldest sibling I have always taken care of him in the absence of our mother. But an older sister is a poor substitute for a mother’s love. 🙁 No matter how fierce I am as a sister, it doesn’t change our parent’s attitude, and I can’t imagine having to live with that for the rest of his life. So much love to all of you Mama Dragons out there who are fighting the good fight.
My love to you and your brother, Bad Wolf. It’s hard to feel helpless.
I’m sure that your support means the world to him! Thanks so much for sharing your story, I’m glad you enjoyed the article and I wish you and your family the best.
This group of women has my utmost respect and admiration. I don’t know any of them personally, but I see what they are doing through various blogs/facebook posts. I am grateful that there are people like this associated with the church. Please know that your influence is widespread, and you are making differences that you aren’t even aware of. Keep up the good work!
Yes!!! I am constantly amazed by the Mama Dragons and those who go out of their way to support them and their children. This will change the world for the better.
Wonderful article! You are right. I wish I never had to have the thought (that first night my son came out) that I now needed to be a mama dragon, because mama bear just wasn't a fierce enough title. I should never have had to even have that though. Thank you for this. It really is amazing how our (mama dragon) numbers have grown! Now, let's make the world the sort of place that we are not needed.
You are a fabulous Mama Dragon. I’m so happy to have gotten to know you through your efforts online!
As others have stated, this is a great article. But for me, it’s great for a different reason. My soon to be wife and I, both raised in the LDS church, both served missions, have struggled with our families “luke warm” acceptance. They talk to us. We are welcome at family functions. But even after all these years, there is no real movement to fully accept… Even though my own mother KNOWS and has stated that I was born gay. In reading the article, it hit me very hard that they are being essentially black mailed by the leaders. I really wasn’t aware that they could lose their Temple Recommends just for being supportive!! So thank you. I have had my eyes opened a bit to their plight. It’s no wonder we can’t quite get them to love us like they did before we came out. Sad….
I’m glad you haven’t been rejected from your family, but I can totally see how half-acceptance or just mild non-rejection could be hurtful as well. With the current stance of most all of the leadership in the church, people truly do feel torn as to how to love their LGBT children or friends. It’s apparent that change from the top is going to take much, much longer than the love we can show from the ground up. I hope you have support around you and know that you are loved!
Also, thanks for sharing your story and leaving such a great comment. I’m glad you liked the article and I hope it can be a resource for you.
Great work Lori! You are a most effective ally. You strengthen my resolve.
Thanks so much Daniel! I wish I were doing more than being a voice online–but at least I’m that! I honestly don’t know how to be more effectual in my ward, but I am going to find a way to help more at the local level.
I’m glad you liked the piece, thanks for your comment!
Well I guess that makes me an auntie dragon. I have an absolutely moral, kind, loving,intelligent nephew who has a partner whose values and humor make him an absolute joy to be with. Life is hard enough without hating someone because they LOVE someone. Hate takes a lot of energy,love brings joy and happiness to all who give it and the positive energy it projects brings strength to humanity.
I am a non Mormon who loves lots of Mormons and they love me. Let us bathe in the eternal light of love together.
Auntie Dragons are essential!!! I’m so glad that you are loving and supportive. Thanks for your lovely comment and sentiments.
Lovin' my Mama Dragon. She stands strong.
Three cheers for mama dragons! I’m glad you have one–I’m sure she’s changing the world for the better.
There is so much we do not know about human sexuality. Certainly, people just can't be fit into neat little boxes. I'm encouraged by the 9th Article of Faith …"and God will yet reveal…"
Meantime, there are 2 great commandments: Love God and love neighbors (all) as selves.
Amen William! Thanks for your great comment.
Six years ago I was teaching high school seniors in Sunday School and I had a large class. I shared with them how a (former LDS) mom of a gay son had thanked me for loving her boy "even though I was Mormon." My words to my class that Sunday: That mother and I should NEVER have had that conversation! Me loving her son should not be remarkable because I am a Mormon. We are doing the wrong thing if a returned – missionary, married in the temple mom leaves the church and takes her boy with her because of how Mormons treat gay people." I hope every day that my words stay with them. And Lori, your article is excellent in describing who we are and why!
Being a Mama Dragon, as a ferocious ally, is where I am surrounded by the women I trust most in the whole world. And their children are protected and shielded and empowered by the love of every single Mama Dragon. I have called upon them in the middle of the night to help in the rescue of a distraught and hopeless young person, who lives states away from me, when I could not get to him fast enough. These Mama Dragons move mountains in their flights of rescue for their children and the children of others. Heroes, all of them.
Oh man, I got chills reading your comment! I’m sure your support has meant the world to many. Thanks so much for sharing here.
Lori, I loved your post about being on the right side of history! It was one of the first things I read after I was introduced to the Mama Dragons. I have no doubt that I was lead by the Spirit to this incredible group of ladies. They welcomed me with open arms and through their absolute and unconditional love, I understand what the pure love of Christ feels like! I am priveleged to be able to count myself among such beautiful people! 🙂
I’m so glad to hear it Rosie! And I’m so glad that my post spoke to you. I’m thrilled you know the mama dragons, god bless you all!
Kudos to the Mama Dragons! I applaud them. I stand up for my son going against the “Mormon mold” and wanting to grow his hair to his toes and loving the color hot pink. I celebrate those things about him and love that at 7 years old (almost 8) he is confident in expressing who he is and what he likes. And if anyone wants to give him a hard time about his long hair or pink shirts, they have me to deal with (though he is pretty good about standing up for himself; we’ve roll-played.) Now, I haven’t seen any signs that he is gay, but, hypothetically, if he turned out to be so, I will celebrate that part of him as well. I will teach him that he is of great worth – just the way God made him. I will let him know what leaders in the church have said, but will also share what I have come to believe through study and prayer, and then teach him to study and pray to know for himself what is truth, and what is God’s plan for him. And I will be there to support him. And if it ever comes down to choosing between the church I love and the son I love more, I will choose my son.
My four year old is a very fancy dresser and we get comments (compliments, but some stares too) wherever we go. I relate with what you’re saying here. I have no idea if my son is gay, but if he is I have the same game plan. I’m happy to hear that your gem of an 8 year old has such a fabulous, supportive mom!
This article was sad and disheartening to me for many reasons. I feel sad for any parent who ends up seeing their children arrive to the point of being bullied, feeling isolated, and going through hard core depression, and even turns to drugs or suicide. From reading this article, I will say there are certain parts I am in agreement with and other parts I am not in agreement with. One of the parts I agree with is I think as members of the LDS Church and faith we can step up and do a better job being more tolerant and more Christlike in our interactions with those other members that communicate they have same sex attraction, gay, or apart of the LGBT community. But not limited to just those that communicate that, we need to be more tolerant to other things people say and do that would cause us as people to choose to be intolerant toward each other. On the other hand, from this article, I also do feel strongly that how we respond appropriately to others' choices should foremost be based on the LDS Church's doctrine on different matters and issues. In order to do so, people have to gain a testimony of the doctrine. If a person doesn't have a witness or testimony of a certain doctrine in the LDS Church, it is very hard to respond appropriately. Faith in the Church leaders' testimonies themselves may be sufficient for many, but I do feel your best bet is having a testimony on many doctrines of the gospel yourself. We also need to remember that the LDS church has not just doctrines they follow but also policies. Having said that, one in the LDS church or outside the LDS church need to understand "policies" can be changed when needed but "doctrines" don't work that way. The belief is "doctrines" are absolute eternal truths that stay constant.
Thank you for your consideration in your thoughtful response.
” I also do feel strongly that how we respond appropriately to others’ choices should foremost be based on the LDS Church’s doctrine on different matters and issues.”
1) how you respond to yourself and your own choices should be based on LDS doctrine. Not how you respond to others. You have no idea what they face, what their own personal revelations from god have been, or what they need in this life or what Christ’s plan is for them. Your only responsibility to others is to love and accept them fully.
2) LDS doctrine has changed in HUGE ways; especially the doctrines that were at the time expressed as unchanging and eternal. In fact, I have yet to find an LDS doctrine that has not changed in some way since its introduction. And the biggest ones have changed dramatically. I feel no obligation to make God as small as our current canon denotes. I invite others to do the same.
Lori….you’re a badass. Thank you for this post. My faith crisis started when I realized how wrong the LDS church was with regards to homosexuality. I am happy that the mama dragons are around to help out those that need it!
You can count on me Garrett, thanks for the support 🙂