By Chrisann Toelupe – I guess I’ve always suspected that our oldest son, Christian, was gay. His development was atypical of most boys. He loved The Little Mermaid and wrapping blankets around himself to mimic dresses. We tried gently nudging him into sports, and other “manly” activities. The more we nudged, the more shame he felt. We decided it was better to support him in his interests and let him be who he was meant to be. He started flourishing in music: playing the violin, singing, writing, and producing songs. Not fitting the gender norms was definitely challenging, but Christian still thrived because he was true to himself.
When Christian came out to our family, we let him know of our unwavering love for him and told him we would walk this road together. Although I was not surprised by the news, I was scared for what this meant for our perfect Mormon family. I was even more afraid when I found out we had another gay son, Micah. Surely we were the only Mormon family with two gay kids (I since have learned there are many wonderful Mormon families with more than one LGBTQ child.)
I remember one night being overwhelmed by it all and Googling, “Mormon mom with gay sons.” I was drawn to a podcast about The Mama Dragons Story Project. I cried as each of these strong, brave mamas told her story about being a Mormon mom with an LGBTQ child. At last, I wasn’t alone—there were other women out there who had an unwavering love for their LGBTQ children and had an inherent desire to protect them.
I immediately contacted the group, and two amazing Mama Dragons took me to lunch. They listened as I talked, cried, and then talked some more about my family. They answered my naive questions. It was so nice to be able to talk to others openly about my gay boys and have instant love and support for my family. They gave me many resources which have become instrumental in my family’s journey. These women are my ministering angels, and I will be forever grateful for their love and support.
Although both of my boys are doing well now, that hasn’t always been the case. A few years ago, Micah sank into a deep depression and was hospitalized for suicidal ideation. Sadly, this is a reality for many LGBTQ youth. Suicide is the leading cause of death for teenagers in our home state of Utah. LGBTQ youth are three times more likely to commit suicide than their cisgender/heterosexual peers and eight times more likely if they don’t have loving and supportive families. Micah is now thriving as a result of intensive therapy, counseling, medication, and the many LGBTQ resources available in Utah. Sadly, he has had to step away from our church. He is not bitter; he has come to the realization that for his mental and spiritual health it is better for him not to attend a church that teaches him that being true to himself is sinful.
One core principle of our church’s doctrine is that families are forever. We believe families are essential to God’s plan. I still believe that. Our church always talks about “protecting families.” Sadly, this phrase is often used to demonize the legalization of same-sex marriage. This is hurtful to many families like mine. Let’s protect ALL families, including families like mine. When we hear the traditional family is under attack because of the LGBTQ community wanting basic human rights, we feel like our family is under attack. Why is our family not considered a traditional family? Is it because we have gay family members? We have built our family around traditional family values. We love and honor each member of our family. We work together toward common goals. We support each other in our interests. We listen and help each other when one of us is struggling. We pray together, laugh together, and once in a while we annoy each other. I love my eternal family and wouldn’t change anything about us. Let’s honor all families and truly become the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12).
Having gay sons has been a huge blessing in my life. It has also had its challenges. As I’ve wondered how to navigate in this new space, one scripture has led my actions and feelings. It is found in 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” There are so many things to fear when you have gay children. You fear for their safety. You fear they will be rejected by your family, friends, religion, and community. You fear your whole family will be rejected. When I start to feel this torment, I turn to love. I love my gay sons. I love the LGBTQ community. I love everyone who reaches out to my family including the Christian community who has learned that following Christ means loving and supporting our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. I love that when we share our family’s story, others reach out to us to share theirs. We are all connected and in need of love. I am grateful I have two gay sons who have taught me that love is what matters most.