By Wendy Williams Montgomery
We are a supportive group of mothers. We are champions of faith, family, and LGBTQIA+ communities. We are sisters. We are MAMA DRAGONS. Mama Dragons began with just half a dozen women in the Fall of 2013. Now we number over 3,000. We began as a group of Mormon moms but are now inclusive of all religious and non-religious paths.
WHERE DID WE COME FROM?
In the fall of 2013, Gina Crivello was trying to start a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) at the Utah high school where she works; running into countless roadblocks by the school, parents and even the city council. When one of Gina’s queer students came to her for advice, she started a private message thread on Facebook with several women she knew who had LGBTQIA+ children. We helped, advised and supported her as best we could. After that, the PM thread continued. It quickly became our safe space. Sometimes the PM feed would have several conversations going on at once. It turned into our protected outlet where we shared raw and tender feelings with other women who truly understood. We shared our successes and failures, our triumphs and heartbreaks. We laughed until our sides hurt, and we cried until we had no more tears left to shed. We asked hard and sometimes scary questions, and we listened to each other’s experiences. This private message thread became our lifeline. It was oxygen to us when we had moments where we couldn’t keep our heads above water. Because it became hard to follow multiple conversations happening on a single PM Feed, Gina started a Facebook group in January 2014. We called that FB group the Mama Dragon Council (MDC). During that year, others we met or knew personally who had LGBTQIA+ children were added to the Mama Dragon Council. It was a safe, slowly growing group. There were a few mentions of our small group in blogs and Facebook posts. Then we were mentioned in a couple news articles. But we were still a small, relatively unknown group of women. Yet near the end of 2014, articles that were specifically about or written by Mama Dragons started popping up all over the place – in the Salt Lake Tribune, Rational Faiths, Huffington Post, Associated Press, etc. With increased news coverage, our numbers began to grow rapidly. This spoke to the massive need for a group like ours. As our numbers started to grow, other women joining us began to learn that they were not alone. They saw a whole army of women who thought and believed the way they did, and who were willing to fight for their children. A group like ours was unheard of in the LDS Church before 2014. Speaking from my own experience, I know how isolating and lonely it can feel to have a queer child in the Mormon church. It felt incredibly empowering and energizing to link our stories together and to support each other in such a strong way.
WHY ARE WE CALLED MAMA DRAGONS?
We chose the name “Mama Dragons” because the phrase “Mama Bear” didn’t seem strong enough or protective enough for us after our children came out to us as LGBTQIA+. We were determined to protect our kids from being seen as “less than,” or be treated in an unkind or unfair way. Meg Hendrix was the brilliant woman who coined the phrase “Mama Dragon,” a title that thousands of us fiercely claim today.
Parents are the first line of support and protection for their children. We have seen the tremendous positive impact parents can have on their children by loving and accepting who they are, even when it can be a struggle for them to come to terms with this new reality in their life. Siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and other extended family can also be deeply influential in helping gay and trans people feel loved within their family. Family acceptance is the #1 factor in keeping LGBTQIA+ kids and teens healthy and happy.
WHAT DO WE DO AS MAMA DRAGONS?
Sometimes we can help in person. Sometimes it’s through social media, texts, emails or phone calls. We have attended same-sex weddings and celebrated with the new couple. We have buoyed each other up when unjust things have happened to our children. We have met with some of the highest leaders in the LDS Church, asking for more visibility and promotion of the church-sponsored Mormons & Gays website, and increased compassion and inclusivity in their talks about LGBTQIA+ people. We have met with our local ward and stake leaders. We have attended funerals of gay suicide victims and mourned with their bereaved families. We have written articles about our experiences that have helped to open the eyes and hearts of the people who read them. We have done podcasts, press interviews, documentaries, YouTube videos, etc. in the hopes of furthering our message of unconditional love, full acceptance and equality, as well as education of church leaders and members. We work hard EVERY DAY to make things better for LGBTQIA+ people, especially the youth. They are our most vulnerable. And unfortunately, the most invisible.
WHEN RELIGION CREATES DRAGONS
Because of some policies, practices and the often pervasive culture in Mormonism, our religion has unintentionally contributed to creating us – a group of fierce loving women who are committed to protecting our children, and the children of others who do not have the same family support. I hope that one day there will be no need for Mama Dragons. I hope that our children will be fully loved and wanted in their religious communities, instead of needing to be protected from it. Sadly, today is not that day. So we keep pressing forward in this beautiful cause. I am grateful for the work these women do; and that they have the courage, talons, and fire needed to protect God’s LGBTQIA+ children from harm.
I have been a Mama Dragon since its inception. It has been one of the great honors of my life to be associated with these women. They are some of the strongest, fiercest, most loving and tender women I have ever known.
Our religion didn’t teach us how to love. Our children did.