By Rachel Ellsworth – A frantic whispered phone call from BYU, from my oldest (returned missionary) son, begged for advice. It went something like this:
“Mom, should I ask her to marry me? I think she’d say yes.”
“What?! You just told me that you’re whispering in the bushes behind your apartment – because you’re hiding from her!. No! I don’t think you should ask her. I think it would be unfair to both of you.”
There was a long, choked pause.
“….but, Mom? What if it’s my only chance?”
I knew in that moment that my son was silently confirming every suspicion we, as parents, had ever had. Since the tender age of two, my husband and I had held many conversations about this son of ours. Conversations that were mainly just scared voices asking ‘what if’ into the dark.
But, these conversations were only held during secret midnight hours. We didn’t dare voice it during daylight – you know, in case we accidentally piloted him in that direction.
He was also finally answering the question asked six years prior, that I had hesitantly posed to him at the age of seventeen.
Did he even like girls?
At the time, both of us had uncomfortably pushed responding –or hearing the response in the void– into the distant land of ambiguity.
In fact, even this current phone conversation was evading the obvious.
It was just easier that way.
Until it wasn’t.
He broke up with the girl, but the depression, anxiety and frustration seemed to compound for all of us over the following months of stagnation and avoidance.
Finally nine months later, after carrying the weight full term, Justin came out of hiding.
And through his courage, so did I.
Coming out of hiding looked a lot like research.
We were desperately seeking answers. A life was at stake. Even more importantly – ‘Eternal Life’. I am of the opinion, that there is no more thorough research done than that which is done to save a life, or a life of one that you love.
While Justin was a month or two ahead of me, we both were led to the same path – Science.
Religion held no consistent or helpful answers. It was as fickle as the changing seasons. Answers were one thing one year, and another the next. The only path that had consistent studies and results, that sought to understand the LGBTQ experience through facts, dedicated line upon line investigations and conclusions was not coming through prophets, seers, and revelators – but through scientists.
It could not be ignored.
I’d known my son since birth. I’d home schooled and spent almost every waking moment with him and his six siblings. I knew that this had never been a choice like some religious leaders had revealed. Especially one made by the age of two, when my husband and I had first held our midnight conversations. I also knew it was not taught. Nor was it because of trauma or parental abuse – which many, including our bishop, insinuated. Scientists were confirming our very real experience, with church teachings lagging behind at a deplorable pace.
But, what about our former beliefs? Ones that were tightly held and cherished? Ones that offered hope and salvation! The problem was that they no longer held hope and salvation for a virtuous son. A son who didn’t want to be somebody different in the after life. A son who we would have been devastated to lose to something/somebody different in the hereafter. And if they didn’t offer it for one, was it really as they stated, ‘for all’?
The answer to the equation was glaring, painful and unavoidable. But at the same time, it was the most beautiful new beginning ever imaginable. I was/am in awe.
Looking back, I wish it could have been the other way around. I wish that, as Justin’s mother, I could have been the strong one for him to lean on in his youth. Instead, I was the one leaning on his silence to protect me.
I find a bit of reassurance and comfort in the fact, that if I am ever fortunate enough to have other LGBTQ children or family members – they will learn from both Justin and I that there is life beyond being scared. That there is hope, happiness and salvation in loving openly, freely and without hesitation – as a mother, and as a gay son.
There will be no more hiding in the bushes.
There will be no more whispered phone calls.
And there are no longer whispered conversations in the dark midnight hours.