Updated: Aug 17
By Carol Colvin
My name is Carol and I have two adult children who made me a mama dragon. My oldest son, Jonathan, knew when he was about 12 that he was attracted to boys. He kept it to himself. He was a fabulous student, especially skilled in math and business/marketing, and was active in sports. He loved baseball and soccer, and he really excelled at individual sports like ping pong, bowling, and skateboarding. He had lots of friends and was well liked by his teachers.
The only indication that something was different about Jonathan was that he seemed sullen and angry at times. He sometimes lashed out physically. He threw things, kicked a hole in a door, and one time he hit me in the arm hard enough for my husband to decide to ask the police to come to our house to talk to him. At age 18 he got a job at a pizza place that required some Sunday work and he drifted away from attending our church. When he was 20 he decided to enlist in the Air Force. He later told me that he joined the military as an attempt to make himself straight. When he was 21 and had a place to live, a career, and was in relationship he felt was stable, he finally told us that he was gay. It was a shock for a couple reasons. First, our family was Mormon – members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We couldn’t possibly have a gay son. That just didn’t make sense. Second, Jonathan was so into BOY things, and he wasn’t at all effeminate. I had a lot to learn.
Over the next seven years, from the day Jonathan came out in 2007 until a pivotal moment in 2014, I struggled with my religious beliefs, I debated with my son, and I did a lot of research on the roots of homosexuality. I looked everywhere for answers. For my entire life up until 2007, I had been living in a fantasy world where I had control of everything and could find the answer to any question or problem that popped up by consulting books written by smart people. Having a gay son in my Mormon home was a puzzle I couldn’t solve that way – and I didn’t even have the box with the picture on it showing me how the puzzle was supposed to look when I finished it. I was lost. Then one day in 2014 at a training I attended, I met a lovely woman who told me about a Facebook group for LDS parents of gay kids and about a group called Affirmation. I flew into action and found both. I joined the Facebook group, which is called “I’ll Walk With You,” and I registered for Affirmation’s next conference, which was just a few months away. I asked my son to attend the conference with me, and he accepted.
The Affirmation conference changed me, and it healed my relationship with Jonathan. Prior to attending, my goal had been to either assist Jonathan in changing his orientation so that he would choose to marry a girl (in my defense, he told me at first that he was bisexual, which left marrying a girl a possible option), or to convince him that he could still be an active member of the church and be gay. After spending only one day learning from other LGBTQ Mormons and former Mormons, and from their parents, I knew in my heart that God loved my son exactly the way he was and that there was no reason or need for him to change – and that it was never a choice in the first place. I felt the Spirit of God so strong with the members of Affirmation. All I wanted to do after the conference was to share the love I felt for LGBTQ people with everyone I knew – especially other members of my church.
Being an ally was, at times, emotionally exhausting, especially when church friends and leaders expressed discomfort with the effusive love I expressed for my new LGBTQ friends. It was such a relief to discover the Mama Dragons – a group of other moms with LGBTQ children who gave me a place to say anything I felt with no judgment. These women were my safe place, and they were my teachers as I transitioned from ally to advocate. Over the next couple years I spoke in my local congregation, I participated in hugging booths at Pride events with Mama Dragons and Mormons Building Bridges, I held support group meetings in my home for other parents, and I coordinated events for people to learn how to be allies to the LGBTQ community. I continued to bump into the fears and the discomfort of some leaders and members of my church, but I kept going. I found that it was impossible to go back into the box I had previously occupied when it came to my religious beliefs. My faith in God was as strong as ever, if not stronger – but my perfectly packaged set of beliefs and its accompanying to-do list went out the window, victims of unresolved cognitive dissonance.
Fast forward with me to 2018. I had adjusted and settled into my new and more enlightened life with my husband of 35 years (his journey as a parent of a gay son is another story), a gay son (still single – trying to find him a good man), a straight son (married with children), and my daughter Natalie, recently engaged to her sweetheart and planning a wedding in August 2019. Out of the blue, my daughter called and asked if I was really serious about wanting a “do over” parenting a gay kid. (I had said many times over prior years that I wished I could go back to 1997 or so KNOWING I had a gay son so that I could prevent all the ignorant things I said and did for the 12 years before Jonathan came out. It would have spared him so much.) To make a long story short, Natalie tearfully revealed that she, too, was gay. It had become clear to her since her engagement – after many panic attacks and bouts of depression – that she could not marry a man. Her journey since then is another long story and it’s hers to tell, but I’m happy to say that she is learning to love and accept herself as a queer woman. Her big brother Jonathan moved across the country a year ago to help her navigate her next steps. I love how they care for each other.
I am so grateful and feel honored to have been blessed with two LGBTQ children. They have taught me how to love bigger and better than I could have imagined. They have been the spark that started me on a journey toward greater faith and trust in God. I am transformed. I feel confident in pursuing my advocacy for greater inclusion of LGBTQ people in my church, and I have hope that hearts will break open and love will win the day.