Updated: Oct 17, 2021
I can honestly say having a gay son has changed my life for the better. My opinion, values and views have been altered. I am more keenly aware of “the least of these” who live among us, not only in the LGBTQ community, but all those who are marginalized and feel unwanted in our society. Though our journey has had tears and trials, I would not want to go back to the person I was before my heart and eyes were opened.
My oldest child, Jordan, came out to us in 2008, his first year of university. I was seven months pregnant with our fifth child, a surprise baby, born several years after the last child, and 19 years after Jordan. I wondered why Heavenly Father would send us this child at such a time of stress and anxiety. Just one more thing to worry about! But the answer to that would come later. Jordan’s orientation was not a complete surprise to me. The impression that he was gay had come to me many times since he was little, but I had pushed it aside because I thought that didn’t happen in good Mormon families. We had raised him right, so I knew he wouldn’t “choose” that lifestyle. How naïve I was, but a product of my religious upbringing. I am so grateful for those little impressions that seemed ridiculous at the time. Even though I rejected them, I now know that those impressions were part of Heavenly Father’s steps in preparing me and softening my heart so I could accept my son’s orientation.
I wish I could say that I handled his coming out perfectly, but I did not. Unfortunately, fear, confusion and lack of understanding guided my initial reaction. There was not a moment I did not love and accept HIM, but I still clung to the teachings of my religion, that there was only one way to live and be happy. I feared for his future, both now and eternally. How would people treat him? Would family and friends reject him? What did this mean for his eternal life? All these fears for his well-being enveloped me. And, if I’m honest, I feared what people would think of me, and of our family. We would become “that family”… the odd one that would cause people to whisper about us and wonder where we had gone wrong. Even as these thoughts swirled through my mind, I was ashamed of them. I knew that my insecurities were hurting my son. He was going through his own journey of finding out where he fit in and searching for belonging – and he felt like he was disappointing me. Seeing him in that pain and knowing that I was contributing to it was just the impetus I needed to start my own journey, seek my own answers and rely on my own inspiration.
I prayed for guidance. How could I reconcile a faith that taught me that being gay was a sin, while supporting my beautiful son, who I just knew was not broken, wrong or disgusting (all things he and I had heard in church)? Until then, I definitely wasn’t a strong, independent thinker. I believed whole-heartedly what I was taught at church. Everything was black and white and I never questioned. But now I had to find my own way on this private journey. I felt angry and confused. I was being pulled in two different directions – the church or my son. But I found my answers in a remarkably personal way. I woke up suddenly one night with a feeling of absolute darkness surrounding me. It’s hard to accurately describe what it felt like, but even now I still vividly remember it. Although it only lasted a few seconds, the feeling was overwhelming and I was terrified. Immediately after it was gone, an impression came to my mind that was just as overwhelming and real as the darkness had been. That deep and terrifying darkness was what Jordan would feel if we didn’t accept and love him unconditionally.
In the peace that followed, there was such a clear revelation that Jordan was exactly who God wanted him to be. I didn’t need to worry about the eternities. It was in God’s hands, not mine. He wasn’t broken and didn’t need to be fixed. It was me who needed to change, not my son. I never looked back after that moment. I knew I never wanted to be responsible for my child feeling that utter darkness that I had experienced. Love him. That was my answer. LOVE. What a simple answer to such complicated questions.
I am forever changed. I no longer live in a world of absolutes. I am much less judgmental and more compassionate. I want to learn more and understand people’s individual lives and validate their feelings and experiences. My eyes and heart have been opened and I’ve learned so much from it. The world is not black and white like I’d thought it was. There are a lot of gray areas in our lives and I love those gray areas! The world is actually a brighter place, with amazing experiences waiting for us when we explore the gray. I’ve learned that each person’s unique experience should be honored and validated, not minimized or criticized. I’ve learned to love and accept unconditionally and that loving someone brings more joy into my life than judging someone. I’ve learned it is much more gratifying to hold someone’s hand on their journey, than to critically watch their pain, in silence. Because of my son, I am not the same person I was years ago and how grateful I am for that!
I am extremely lucky. I am not on this journey alone. Our family has grown since Jordan came out, to include a daughter-in-law, son-in-law and two grandsons. Every one of our family members understands the meaning of loving unconditionally and the power we have to change lives.
And that little baby who I was so worried about bringing into our lives? Well, she came at the perfect time. Jordan has said she came to save him. She has lifted him through dark times. They are best friends, 19 years apart. She knew instinctively how to love unconditionally. Love is always the answer.