Updated: Jul 29, 2021
By Kristin Higham Walters
I grew up youngest of three in Utah County with parents who raised us in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and who worked hard to provide a great life for my siblings and me. Having an older brother with severe brain damage (from a vaccine he got when he was a baby) impacted me and touched me in far-reaching ways that permeate my life to this day.
Because he was in and out of the hospital so frequently, my sister and I were raised by a plethora of people – from aunts and uncles, our grandparents, and even neighbors. We relied on a small village to lift and fill a need where there was one. I quietly observed my courageous mother be an instrument in fighting for rights for those with disabilities. I grew up with her as my example of someone standing up for what was right – even when it wasn’t easy. And it often wasn’t easy. Even in our church my family was sometimes turned away and didn’t receive the help or support we needed, because church members struggled to know how to help my brother or family with our very special needs. My parents strove to educate others and help my brother have as normal and happy a life as he could have and that’s left a significant impression on me.
My husband and I were married in 2003 during one of the worst blizzards Utah had seen in a decade. We were excited to start a family and have children. On my husband’s father’s side of the family, no girls had been born in a few generations so we felt the odds of having a girl might be stacked against us. We told ourselves we would have up to four children, but as soon as we had one of each gender we would stop. In 2005 we welcomed our first child, Tanner, who is a sweet, old soul. We say he was born in his mid-40’s and gets more middle-aged every year. In 2007, we welcomed our daughter, Mylie, who was a sweet baby and child, always wanting to include everyone no matter what. We decided God agreed with our plans and our family was complete.
In 2009, my husband lost his job so we decided to move to San Antonio for better job opportunities. He was able to get a great offer with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service on the military bases, and in August we found out our duty station would be in Vicenza, Italy for the next three years. How excited we were for this new adventure! Three months after our move we found out we were expecting another baby and soon enough we welcomed our wonderful daughter Melinda into our family.
Our middle daughter Mylie has always had a heart for the underdog and sought to advocate for equal rights for everyone. She is very vocal about injustices she sees whether at church, school, online, in our home, or anywhere. She is passionate and kind and aware of those around her. When she was eleven she came to me and bravely shared that she thought she might be bisexual. I told her she was young and I didn’t want her to have romantic feelings for anyone, but that her father and I would love and support her no matter what. I struggled for a while with the path this would put her on. As a parent, you want your child to have a happy, easy life. Being in a very conservative religious area I knew how difficult this would be.
On Mother’s Day of 2020 Mylie informed us that she believes she is actually lesbian and possibly a type of gender fluid. I told her that if that’s who she is, that’s who she is. She then asked what would happen if she chose to leave our religion, to which we told her we would rather our daughter be happy and who she is than stay somewhere that makes her feel uncomfortable and bad about herself. She may leave our religion, but we ask that she be respectful of those who stay in the church.
I have personally been struggling with church policies that don’t support our LGBTQ+ friends and loved ones. I know how much I love this daughter of mine and I know that our Heavenly Father/God loves her more than I can ever comprehend – and that this same loving and understanding God has a plan for her. Mylie has been deeply instrumental in our education and understanding of those who are LGBTQ+. Without her, I’m afraid I would still be very closed-minded and naive. I am grateful for my daughter and the vulnerability andcourage she has displayed – to be herself. For being so young, she has an incredible amount of courage and passion in her soul. I know that through her, we will be able to make a difference and be helpful allies to the LGBTQ+ youth and community. As we have made more of our story about Mylie public within our family we have felt nothing but an outpouring of love, support and efforts to understand. As I have participated in the Mama Dragons Facebook groups, our education, understandingand love has increased in remarkable ways that hopefully will impact those around us. Thank you, Mylie.