Updated: Oct 17, 2021
I will always regret the way I acted the day my daughter, Jolayna, came out to me as bisexual. I will always recall my reaction with a lot of shame and guilt. Thankfully, I am a completely different person today than I was then…all because my daughter loved herself enough to tell me that I was too toxic to have in her life. I will always be grateful that she said those sobering words to me.
I grew up up in a church that had taught me that homosexuality was a sin and that God did not love his LGBTQ children the way he loves everyone else. Sadly, I believed this, as it was pumped into me from birth. My oldest child, Jolayna, knew this was what I believed and, unbeknownst to me, was struggling to figure out and come to terms with her own orientation. Knowing that her mother was not open-minded made it difficult for her, to say the least, to be honest with me, being as she wasn’t sure how I would react.
Sometime after returning from her year and a half mission for our church, she and I were out to lunch one day. She tested the waters by asking me how I viewed LGBTQ people in general, and unfortunately my views at the time were very discriminatory. Somehow she found the strength to tell me she identified as bisexual and then asked if what I had just said was how I felt about her. I was stunned into silence. When I eventually found my voice, I told her that I loved her but that I still didn’t support that “lifestyle”. I basically assured her that we could agree to disagree. Little did I know how much I had deeply hurt her that day.
Life went on. I believed in my heart that because Jolayna had told me that she preferred dating men, that she would probably meet and marry a nice guy and I could sweep the whole issue of bisexuality under the rug. Jolayna and I never really talked about it after that initial discussion and I thought everything was fine. I had no idea she was harboring resentment toward me and that it was growing stronger day by day. Finally, a few years down the road, she couldn’t take it any longer and decided she needed to cut off communication with me for a while. At this point she was living out of state and we pretty much only communicated via text and phone calls. She told me in a text that she needed space and that she would let me know when she was ready to talk.
A month passed before I heard from her again and it was one of the darkest and most depressing times of my life. I was completely broken and devastated. I didn’t know for sure what the problem was but I wondered if it had something to do with my not fully accepting her for who she is. All I could think was that my life was empty without her in it and whatever the problem was, I would do anything and everything I had to do to fix it. I never wanted to feel that emptiness ever again.
When I finally heard from Jolayna, she told me that she felt I didn’t accept her for who she is and didn’t love her as much as her siblings (a sister and two brothers). She said I was toxic to her and that she couldn’t have a relationship with me because it was just too painful for her. Her words were devastating to hear, and through tears I told her how truly regretful and sorry I was for ever making her feel that way. I also told her I was determined to change. After that difficult conversation we didn’t talk again for a while, but I knew I couldn’t come back to her with anything less than a full change of heart. And I knew that was going to take a lot of work on my part – to unlearn everything I had been taught my whole life.
My other daughter, Addie, was a great help and guide to me during this process. We would go to lunch and take walks and talk about her sister. I would ask her how I could reconcile my beliefs in my church, with my acceptance of my child. I didn’t know how to bridge the huge chasm I felt between the religion that I fully believed in my whole life, and the hurt I was causing my beloved child. Addie helped me understand that Jolayna just wanted to be seen and accepted for who she is. She also asked me a very poignant and earth-shattering question. She queried, “Mom, when you put aside the things the church says, and you just look into your heart, what does it tell you?” I told her that I believed with all my heart that God loves all his children and that everyone should be free to love whoever they want. What a breakthrough!
I began reading books, watching pro-LGBTQ media, listening to insightful podcasts, and joining Facebook support groups. Jolayna actually referred me to the Mama Dragons! Over time, I came to the realization that a loving God would not be so discriminatory of his children, especially the LGBTQ community, who truly are the best of us. I realized that my views had been shaped from teachings that sometimes stripped the humanity out of the equation and that I hadn’t been taught to see that LGBTQ people just want what everyone else wants – to love and be loved! I wrote Jolayna an email and told her that my heart had grown three sizes in one day, just like the Grinch! I told her that I see her and love her unconditionally and that she is perfect just the way she is – amazing and wonderfully made, just the way God intended her to be.
I’m so grateful for my incredibly strong queer daughter, who was brave enough to stand up for what she knew was right and speak her truth. I’m grateful she has forgiven me and that we are rebuilding our relationship. Because of this experience, I truly am changed for the better. I am a much more accepting and much less judgmental person. As a member of Mama Dragons, I consider myself to be an advocate and ally, not only to my own child, but to all of the LGBTQ community.
My children are all grown and out of the house, but my Mama Dragon heart still has more love to give! And I hope one day to open my home to foster kids, especially LGBTQ youth who need someone to love them JUST the way they are. I now believe that love is love and that’s really all that matters.